Chapter 2

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With a huff, I pushed the door closed and locked it, my bag dropping onto the floor simultaneously. In haste I shed my jacket and kicked off my shoes, falling onto the bed with a sigh.

My body relaxed into the bed, thankful that a studio apartment meant a bed near the door.

This day had dragged on, pushing me deeper into a hole. It felt like I'd endured a storm, but nothing had come my way at all. The urge to sleep was rare for me, but right now my body craved it. So I lay on my bed with my eyes closed and willed my body to shut down for a little while. Though the hours seemed like they were passing, I didn't gain one wink of sleep. Sighing, I fish my phone from my back pocket, opened my eyes, and saw only half an hour had passed.

Groaning, I rolled onto my stomach and pushed myself up. Sitting up, I slapped my hands against face, trying to get out of my haze. It didn't do much, another failed attempt of the day, but I pushed off the bed and grabbed my book bag. I retrieved my laptop and set up to do some work, but the tab for Hulu called me. The pull was strong too; I clicked on and ended up streaming the next episode of the show I had started. All of my attention was on the screen, watching as the chaos of the comedy unfolded.

As I laughed to myself at a joke, I realized how bad it was. "I need to get out more."

That triggered memories. Things that had happened over a year or more ago sprang forth. I missed the people, the interactions, how I'd had adventures that would leave me drained and excited all at once. I missed having someone I loved and who so openly cared about me too.

It was pathetic to miss someone like this. Pathetic to not be completely over the situation and still wishing I could change my mistakes before things fell through. There I stood in front of the airport security checkpoint being told how we didn't work anymore, and I experienced the pain all over again. My eyes snapped open. That wasn't how we'd broken up. We'd been thousands of miles apart, talking via text message.

Confusion overtook me, but with a shake of my head, I tried not to overthink it. Overactive imagination must have been to blame.

For the next few hours, I sat there, switching between lying down and sitting up. I'd found more shows I'd missed episodes of. At last noticing the darkness of the room and that no light shone from my window, I snapped out of my trance. My clock informed me the time was 7:35 p.m. My stomach reminded me I had yet to consume much today. I chided myself, knowing I needed to get better about this whole eating thing. It was worse than my sleeping habits even though that problem was mostly not my fault.

Sliding out of bed, I headed to the fridge, yanking the door open and scanning the contents. I needed to go shopping soon. It only held milk, cheese, pickles, my water pitcher, and eggs. The end of the month neared, and I'd wait for the day I got paid for a true overhaul.

Closing the door, I looked out the window and decided to go out. I slipped on my shoes and coat, throwing my purse over my shoulder, and made my exit. Plugging in my headphones, I went down the stairs two at a time, nearly falling as I descended the three flights.

As soon as I stepped outside, my eyes scanned the area, looking for anyone who was possibly a threat. It was hard to fight off the discomfort of feeling watched, which I'd been trying to do for a year. As of recent, it seemed the paranoia was more frequent and much stronger. With a sigh, I pushed on, walking down my dark block, wishing they'd get better lighting, and scanning the area. My pace was quick, heading towards the well-lit, busy main street. My shoulders dropped, my body relaxing and my pace slowing. Being around other people had a calming effect.

The cold seeped through my clothes as I reached the corner, forcing me to stuff my hands in my pockets. As I walked, I debated on what I wanted, glancing around at the restaurants and stores. There was a Walgreens on the corner I could get junk food from, and I'd been craving pizza for a few days now. It seemed like a good idea.

My feet carried me there, my scanning becoming more infrequent as I walked. Soon my eyes were squinting behind glasses as they adjusted to the bright and slightly flickering fluorescent lights in the store. A few rapid blinks and my eyes adjusted to the harshness as I grabbed a basket.

Every shelf held brightly colored packages that beckoned me closer, but I knew I needed none of it. On a mission I headed to the back aisles, grabbing chips and candy. Halfway up to the front I remembered drinks and jogged back to get a Gatorade and a pop. In and out in five minutes, my fastest trip to date.

Bags in hand I ventured down the street, I saw a massive group of people entering my preferred pizza place. It was enough to send me to another place I liked a little farther away.

I walked up the street, keeping my eyes downcast, not making eye contact, and still taking in the surrounding space. It was a busy night, people roaming by themselves, in groups or couples. Taking in those around me, I sighed, loneliness sneaking up on meI tried to snap myself out of it though, fishing my phone from my pocket and changing the song to something upbeat. In moments I was mumbling and humming the words to a song while walking quickly down the street.

A weird feeling overcame me, making me shudder.

For a moment, I glanced around, looking much closer at my surroundings and the surrounding people. With no one standing out, I moved forth and kept walking towards the pizza place; it wasn't that much farther. As I reached the corner, a group of people emerged from a restaurant. In the chaos of trying to dodge them, something yanked me back, and the discomfort became stronger. My fingernails dug into the palm of my hand, and I chewed on my bottom lip, looking around in a way that had a few looking at me as if I were crazy. I dropped all plans of heading for food, and turned back towards my apartment

My pace was quick, my heart beating erratically. My head whipped from side to side, but then I reined myself in, and realized if my paranoia was right, I didn't need to make the panic obvious. Taking a breath, I watched closely but tried to seem calm or nonchalant about it. As I turned a corner, I noticed a guy I'd seen before; he stood across the street but kept looking over at me when he thought my attention wasn't on him

It was getting hard to not go into a full-blown panic attack in the middle of the sidewalk, my breathing growing shaky and labored. I kept my gaze moving around, but it flickered towards him every so often.

When I got to the end of the block, I stopped and stood there for a moment. The limited lighting made me wary of venturing down the street by myself, so I hoped people would turn down with me, so I could walk with them. As I fidgeted with my phone, I kept my gaze searching. The guy had moved and was now on the block in front of me, talking on his phone. He'd begun to pace, slowly moving closer, and it sent me walking down the street without another thought.

My knee throbbed, but I ran all the way down the street with my keys in my hand. I glanced back every so often and saw him on the other side of the street, seemingly trying to keep far away. A group came out of one of the houses and overtook him. I paused and pretended to turn into another apartment building before he visually lost me. Then I was running again, using shaky hands to unlock the door to my apartment building. I almost dropped the keys like the basic scary movie victim, but I caught them just in time. Shoving the key into the lock, I rushed into the building, pushing the door closed behind me. Up the stairs I sprinted, reaching the third floor in half the time it normally took.

My paranoia never eased, even as I sat on the floor in front of my locked apartment door. 

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