“Aye, that’s the one.”
The man was from Glasgow, there was no doubt about it. Emily edged closer and watched from her position behind a shelf of roughly stacked second-hand books. They smelled of old people, and she hated old people. She hated the smell of them and their old-old clothes and their old-old books.
“Will that be all then?” The friendly staff member at the counter flashed a smile at the old man from Glasgow, but Emily could see her lips clamp tightly as she forced her mouth to crease into the pink-lipsticked curve. Could she smell him too? Was she fighting the urge to turn away and throw up into the nearest bin?
Emily edged even closer to the counter until she was standing a mere half metre behind the broad grey-coated man. Even his coat stank. Emily resisted the urge to pull a face at the girl behind the counter and share that knowing stare that conveyed a struggle to stay calm despite such injury to the sensory system. No. That would attract too much attention.
Not daring to move any closer – not that she would have liked to anyway – Emily smoothly moved her arm out as if to check the time on her glittery green watch. As her slender fingers opened up, a tiny silver sphere rolled out and fell into the old man’s grey pocket. Perfect. No sound, no calamity.
The job done, Emily edged away from the stinky old man and the friendly girl behind the counter. But at this point the smell seemed to change direction and Emily realised all too late the man had begun to move in the direction of the door, a tattered blue book wrapped in his shaky hands.
“Sorry for the wait, sweetheart. What is it I can help you with?” Two bright blue eyes and the pink lipstick stared in her direction. Emily gulped.
She had just been spoken too. They had told her not to engage in conversation. If only she had moved swifter, all of this could have been avoided. But it was too late now. If she made a dash for it, at the least, the girl would think she was strange; at most, she would call the police on suspected robbery. Which Emily hadn’t attempted, and wasn’t going to. She hadn’t been sent here for that. What had she been sent here to do? Her mind hazed over momentarily and then her vision cleared. She was to go home to the west.
They hadn’t taught her how to deal with conversants. Instead, Emily flashed the girl a smile, shook her head in what she hoped was a valid social gesture, and skipped out of the store. Outside, she reached for and rubbed the back of her neck. It came back sticky and wet. How long would it be before the sore spot healed?
Shrugging, Emily headed west, directing her gaze to the set of tall concrete buildings emerging out of the fading orange sunset.
Writing order: Anna Zhigareva (Scot), Ray Stone (Cyprus), Sumanda Maritz (SA), Vatsal Shah (Ind), Roseyn (Aus), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Donna McTavish (NZ) Angela Shaw (NZ), Hemali Ajmera (Ind), Sameer Nagarajan (Ind)