Woman at the Window

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She was there again.

Jimmy Greer had made it a bedtime habit to creep out of his bed, tiptoe across the hardwood floor of his bedroom with as much stealth as his seven year old body was capable of, slowly pull the edge of one Adventure Time curtain back, and peer through the small gap at the world beyond. He’d been doing it for three weeks now, and out of those twenty one days, seventeen of them, he’d seen her.

The first time had been an accident. He had thought he’d heard a dog barking or a car backfiring or some other noise that had roused him from sleep and made him double check to be sure zombies weren’t invading the neighborhood. He’d seen no zombies, merely one old (maybe) woman standing under the street light at the corner. Nothing particularly odd, even if it was late at night; lots of the people in his parent’s apartment building worked nights or kept weird schedules for some other reason. But his skin had been crawling just the same, rippling with gooseflesh at the sight of her.

Just a woman in loose green slacks and a black sweatshirt, deep creases in her face that might have been old age, stress or a generally nasty disposition. The kind of person you saw standing in the corner at the market, glaring at you like she just knew you were there to steal something, break something, or both. Not friendly looking, especially since he couldn’t see her mouth - she was holding her hand in front of it, for some reason - but nothing that should be making him feel like he had to pee, or that he was in mortal danger. But that’s how he felt just the same.

He’d tried to break his gaze from her, to let the curtain go and just go back to bed and not think about it, but he’d been frozen. Then she’d tilted her head and looked up, locking her weird gray eyes on his, and he knew, just knew, that she’d seen him. How that could be, he wasn’t sure; he was in a dark room and the only lighting on this part of the street was coming from behind her, but some part of his brain - probably the part that his dad would call a “lizard-brain” - was certain she wasn’t just looking at a dark window in a building full of them, but was looking right at him.

He’d seen her cheeks twitch, and even though her hand was still in the way, Jimmy was pretty sure she’d smiled at him. Not the nice smile, the kind that says “Yeah, I may look old and mean, but I might have a cookie somewhere in my pocket,” but the kind that says “I have the bones of six or seven other little boys in my basement.”

That first time, Jimmy hadn’t been able to stop it. He’d made water in his pants. The rush of wet heat, followed by cold as the air hit the spreading, foul smelling spot, had broken his paralysis. He could have screamed for his parents, could have run to the bathroom, but did neither. He had leapt back into bed, and had stayed there, shivering, for hours. Until the sun had finally come up he had been somehow certain that if he looked at the window, he’d see her peeking back in at him, waiting for him to let her in so she could do something to him.

The night after, he’d checked the window. Almost against his will. She hadn’t been there. His relief had been greater than anything he’d known in his seven - almost eight! - years on this earth. But the night after that, he’d checked again - chiding himself the whole while, that it was silly, that there was no ax-murdering old woman watching him - and she’d been there again. Only instead of at the corner down the road, she had been a few steps closer. And instead of turning up to look at him when he’d opened the window, she had already been staring. As though she’d been there for hours, just waiting for him to look out.

Since then, every time he saw her, she was a little closer. Always staring up at him, and always that little cheek twitch when he peeked out, even though he was sure the small movements of his curtains weren’t really enough to give him away.

Tonight she was directly below the building, looking straight up at him. Jimmy could see, now that she was close enough, that her mouth was moving constantly behind that obscuring hand. He thought she might be talking, but he couldn't hear her if she was. The thick glass, the distance, and the wet, heavy air of the October night made sure of that. Jimmy wasn't sure he wanted to hear what she might be saying. It was probably something that would only make her behavior even worse. "I'm going to eat you, Jimmy," maybe. Or "I know about the rabbit, Jimmy!"

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