She whipped round: the lobby was empty. She went to the doors and peered out; students and lecturers were strolling around, that was all.
The voice came from the desk. She introduced herself, trying to control the tremor in her voice, was ticked off a list and given the key to her room: second floor, she could take the lift. No, she’d rather walk – call it a dislike of confined spaces. Other students, perhaps on her course, were coming down the stairs; she smiled but didn’t speak. It did seem hard that her room was at the end of the corridor but she was here for a clean slate. It was time to be brave. Best foot forward. What would her mother say? Wheesht, ye great bawby, awa’ wi ye an’ git on! Words to that effect. Taking a deep breath, she turned the key in the lock. Her phone beeped again. She shut the door and put down her suitcase; she wouldn’t look at it, not yet.
Across the yard there was a cafe. She decided to get a cup of tea, maybe find some others from her course. Sitting at the table, she realised the others had name tags, meaning she probably had one somewhere in the welcome pack. Should she go and get it?
A woman in her forties was standing opposite. ‘Anyone sitting here?’ Anna smiled and shook her head; then reading the woman’s name tag, said ‘I’m Science too.’
The woman reached a hand across the table. ‘I’m Phyl.’
Anna looked at the name on the tag. Phyllis Norwood.
‘Horrid name, isn’t it? I’ve been Phyl since I was twelve.’
Anna introduced herself, said she’d forgotten her tag.
Pretty soon she and Phyl were chatting like old friends. Phyl didn’t say, but Anna wondered if she’d had some of the same experiences. She seemed confident, like she’d put it far behind her, but you could always tell: something behind the eyes. Like a bruise. They made arrangements to meet for dinner, then Anna went to her room for a lie down. As she opened the door there was a rustle. She picked up a piece of paper. It simply said in large red capitals: DID YOU SEE ME? She picked up the phone and pressed speed dial.
‘Try to ignore it,’ said Nadia. ‘If it’s him, he wants you frightened.’
‘I am frightened. How did he know where I was?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Nadia grimly. ‘But we’re on it. Just leave it with us. Have you got your alarm?’
‘In my bag.’
‘Don’t go out without it. Stay safe and try to enjoy your course, OK? Otherwise he’s won.’
As she was about to go down to dinner Nadia called back. ‘It isn’t him.’
‘It isn’t him.’
‘How do you -?’
‘He’s here. In custody. Assault on a minor. Poor kid, turns out after you left he went for a younger model. She was only 16.’
Anna sat down abruptly on the bed. ‘Are you -?’
‘Am I sure? I saw him, Anna. It’s him all right.’
‘So whoever is leaving those notes, it’s not him.’
Anna didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t understand it. Nadia just told her to keep her eyes peeled and report any further messages. She rang off. No sooner had she done so than another text came. LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW.
No. Anna was not going to indulge these requests; she opened a folder labelled SPAM and saved all the texts to it. That felt good.
Comments welcome as ever.