Agnes

Agnes stepped out of the shower and wrapped a fluffy white towel around her thin frame and another around her hair. She passed by the foggy mirror without a glance and stood in front of the bed with its hideous blue floral comforter, stiff white sheets and pillows so hard they made her neck ache that morning. She stared at the rumpled sheets and wondered what she was doing.

Why are there flowers mama?

The towel around her body started to slip. She let it fall. The curtains were closed, but she was on the fourth floor. Who would see her anyway?

What is that on your belly mama?

The towel on her head grew heavy, so she shook it off and let it fall next to the first towel. The cold rushing from the noisy air conditioner made her shiver and her skin crawled with goosebumps.

Why are they goosebumps mama?

She closed her eyes, tight, and rubbed her arms to produce a lame imitation of warmth. She willed the little voice out of her head.

When the voice was gone, she opened her eyes and immediately focused on the shoulder bag she’d grabbed at the last moment before she’d run out the door the night before. She remembered grabbing it and stuffing a few things inside, but she couldn’t remember what she had grabbed. The bag was calling to her. She had to know what was inside.

Agnes dumped the contents on the bed and sat cross-legged in front of them. At the top of the pile was the book she’d been trying to read for months. She tossed it aside. There was the sweater she’d bought a few months ago, the one Charles had hated. She tossed it aside.

Her next breath caught in her throat. Suddenly she felt as if the walls of the hotel room were slowly closing in. She coughed, forcing breath in and out, in and out. She had to get out of that room. She felt the panic rising inside of her, the desperate need to get away. The same feeling that had attacked her last night and caused this exodus.

But she wasn’t dressed. And she wasn’t crazy enough to be the naked lady running down the hallways of the hotel. Not this hotel. Crazy naked people didn’t stay at hotels like this one.

She jumped off the bed, threw on the clothes she’d been wearing last night, the clothes still wrinkled from having been slept in. She was conscious that the shirt was possibly inside out, but she didn’t care. She didn’t have time to change it. When she had clothes on, she ran out of the hotel room. She ran down four flights of stairs and emerged into the lobby, out of breath and wide eyed. She charged out the front doors, where the valets were running back and forth to bring guests their cars. She was vaguely aware she was being watched, her hair still dripping, creating an uncomfortable wet spot in the middle of her back where it pressed against her tee-shirt.

She bent at the waist and placed her hands on her knees. She concentrated on her breathing. In and out. In and out. She took the salty air into her lungs and tried to let the anxiety be released on the exhale. Breathing techniques she’d learned years ago from someone she couldn’t even remember.

When her heart stopped pounding and the breathing felt easier, she stood tall and walked away from the hotel. She walked and walked until there was sand beneath her feet and she could feel the splash of the waves on her face. She stared out into the ocean, digging her bare feet into the wet sand.

She determined she would stay on that beach until she either knew what she was doing there, or when she thought it would be safe to return to the hotel room and face those tiny pink baby shoes without another panic attack.

Or maybe she’d just call up the concierge to switch her rooms, with strict instructions to only move her wallet into the new room.

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This was written on a prompt from The Red Dress Club. “One of my favorite parts of summer is THE SHOES. So for your prompt this week I’d like you to write about your character (or yourself) and a pair of his or her shoes.”

You can read another part of the story here: The Woman in the Photograph.

Constructive criticism is always welcome, and in fact I would love to know what you think.

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