“Wait for me!” Kara jogged along Saint-Paul Street. She pressed her cell phone against her ear with a sweaty hand. “I’ll be there in two minutes!”
Her black ballet flats tapped the cobble stones as she avoided oncoming traffic. She jumped onto the sidewalk and ran through the crowd. Her portfolio swung at her side.
“I can’t believe you’re not here yet,” said the voice on the other line. “You had to pick today of all days to be late.”
“Okay, okay! I’m already freaking out about the presentation. You’re not exactly helping, Mat.”
A laugh came through the speaker. “I’m just saying…that this is supposed to be the most important day of your life. And you, Mademoiselle Nightingale, are late.”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time—MOTHER. My stupid alarm didn’t go off!” Kara dashed along the busy street. Her long brown hair bounced against her back. The smell of grease and beer from the pubs reached her nose. Her heart hammered at her chest. She knew if she missed the presentation, her hopes of landing a scholarship were over. She didn’t have any money for college. This was her only shot.
Thank God. I can see it now.
Over the heads of the crowd, Kara could just make out the sign, Une Galerie. Stenciled elegantly in bold black letters, the name hovered above the art gallery’s majestic glass doors. She could see shadows of people gathered inside. Her chest tightened. She was only a block away now.
“You know, the presentation won’t wait for you.”
“I swear I’m gonna kick your butt when I get there!” Kara growled into the phone.
She thought about getting off the sidewalk and running along the edge of the street. She looked back to see how bad the traffic was.
Then her heart skipped a beat.
Less than a half a block behind, a man stood motionless and indifferent to the wave of humanity that flowed around him. He was staring at her. His white hair stood out against his dark grey tailored suit. Kara frowned.
His eyes are black, she realized.
A chill rolled up her spine. The man melted into the crowd and vanished, as though he were a mere trick of the light. The hair on the back of Kara’s neck prickled.
“I think I’m being followed,” Kara spoke into her cell phone after a few seconds.
“You always think you’re being followed.”
“No! I’m serious! I swear—this guy is following me—some psycho with white hair. I—I think I’ve seen him before. Or at least my mother has—”
“We all know your mother is a little nutty sometimes. No offence, I love your mom, but she’s been seeing and talking to invisible people since we were five. I think it’s rubbing off on you.”
“Listen. I was with my mom yesterday on Saint-Catherine Street, and she said we were being followed by someone. What if this is the same guy? Maybe she’s not as crazy as everyone thinks.” She wondered if there was a little truth in her mother’s visions. She loved her mother very much, and she hated herself at times for thinking her mom belonged in a loony bin.
Mat laughed. “Are you serious? It’s bad enough that your mom sees spirits and demons. If you start believing in all that, they’ll lock you up.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Remind me why you’re my best friend again?” Kara decided to drop the subject. She focused on the gallery sign as she ran. “Okay—I can see you now.”
Mat was leaning against the gallery’s brick exterior. His head was turned toward the glass doors. He pulled his cigarette from his lips and blew smoke into his phone’s receiver. “I think it’s starting. Hurry up!”
Kara felt her cheeks burn. Her heart pounded in her ears and muffled the sounds around her. She took a deep breath, hoping it would calm the fluttering in her stomach, and she sprinted onto Saint Laurence Boulevard. Her cell phone slipped out of her hand. It hit the pavement.
“Crap!” Kara crouched down to grab her phone.
A flicker of movement appeared in the corner of her eye.
“WATCH OUT!” Someone shouted. She stood up and turned around.
A city bus hurtled towards her. She stared, transfixed. The bus kept coming.