Secret

Catherine was staring absent-minded at the magazine rack when she felt a touch on her arm. “I just have to say,” the stranger said, “I love your hair.”

“Oh,” Catherine brightened immediately. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s got such incredible texture,” the other woman continued. “What’s your secret?”

Catherine’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you asking?”

The other woman cocked her head, smile fading. “What?”

Catherine looked the intruder up and down. “I don’t know you. I’m not telling you anything.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the other said, trying to lay a conciliatory hand on the shoulder of the woman who was flinching away from her. “I think you’re getting carried away. I was just saying,”

“I know what you were saying,” Catherine spat, “and you can forget about it. Nothing. You’re getting nothing out of me.” Then she turned sharply and marched away abandoning her groceries in the checkout line, barely looking over her shoulder to shout out one more time, “Nothing!”

She drove home at reckless speed, left the car running in the driveway and tumbled down the basement stairs to the safe. She pressed her ear to cold metal and heard the rhythmic heartbeat. “Good,” she whispered. “Still there.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox