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The scent of lavender hung in the air, a delicate fragrance that seemed comforting—familiar. A soft tune played in the background, wispy sounding notes ringing in Nina’s ears contrasted with the sharp sound of her own steps. There was the glimmer of the mirror just a few steps away as Nina’s heart pounded.

Two steps away and she felt a foreign sort of panic, distant yet still distinct. Her steps halted.

Green eyes stared back from a pale face—unwavering—and Nina knew it was wrong. Panic crept up, clawing at her throat in the form of a scream being muffled even as the placid look on the face that should have been Nina’s stayed in place.

She awoke with a start, heart still beating wildly in her chest and hands shaking so very slightly. The clock showed the time as being just past five and Nina felt already exhausted. It was a feeling that persisted for the rest of the day.

Nina felt her whole body ache as she sat at her kitchen table some hours later, a cup of coffee in front of her. Steam rose from it, carrying the usual, earthy scent that had never failed to soothe Nina. Even so, at that time it did nothing to rid her of the unease she’d carried from the moment she’d woken up.

“Breaking news, this morning the commissioner of the FDA passed away in the hospital. . . .”  The woman on the screen looked grim as she read the news. Nina only half listened, the voice sounding distant as her mind swam with thoughts of the oddness in her life.

Two days had passed since the dream. The one where Nina stared at a face that wasn’t her own and felt like screaming from the wrongness of it all. Two days since visions of the strangely familiar hallway—with it’s ever changing pictures hanging on the wall—began to interrupt Nina’s daily life, wearing at Nina’s already strained mind.

“. . . No motive for the attack has been found. . . .”

Her once comfortable apartment felt stifling. Nina, for the first time since she’d moved into the city and occupied the brightly lit apartment, felt trapped in her own home. Perhaps that was why she felt an overwhelming sense of relief that surprised even herself when she received a message from a friend.

This time it was from Natalia—or Nat, as she preferred to be called—someone Nina had known since they were both children living in a smaller town. Simply seeing her name brought the image of the tall young woman to mind, her brown eyes as sharp as her smile. Nat was a clever woman, but she was also kind, and Nina found that made for a good combination in a friend.

It was, Nina thought, just the type of friend she needed at the moment. Maybe that was why she found herself smiling when she read Nat’s message, asking if Nina would like to meet up. The timing couldn’t have been better.

After sending a quick reply, Nina readied herself, thinking perhaps the fresh air and company would be of help. Perhaps for a short while, the hallway that had come to haunt her would leave her mind.

As soon as she stepped out of the building, Nina felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders; swept away in the cool, late autumn breeze. She took a deep breath of the crisp air, took a look around at the scene of people simply going about their business all around her, and went on her way.

The place where she was to meet Nat was a short walk away. Normally, Nina would have driven there, but she needed some time to get out of the shaky frame of mind she’d been in as of late. Taking a walk always helped her clear her head, and at that moment, she found that simply being surrounded by others walking along that same street helped.

By the time Nina reached the coffee shop where Nat waited for her, she was feeling more like herself—or at least, like her old self. That was something that had become rare after the accident and the surgery. Nina liked to think it was simply because she was still recovering. She liked to think that things would get better.

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