“Asshole!” she said.
He grinned, turned on his heel, and walked away. As she watched him disappear around the corner, all the thoughts she absorbed today crept back into her mind, accompanied by a vague feeling of dread. Something was going on, and she needed to know what it was.
Hurrying down the sidewalk, she leaned around the edge of a building and spied Kay crossing the street up ahead. She merged with the crowd of pedestrians, keeping her head down as she followed him from the other side of the street.
Kay turned another corner. Angela waited for an opening in traffic and dashed across the street. She ran to the end of the block and around the corner.
She noticed the cloud of cigarette butts floating in the air ahead of her just seconds too late to avoid it. She turned her head away and they pelted the side of her face like a swarm of insects. She could taste ash in the corner of her mouth.
“Shit, sorry!” a man said.
He was wearing a reflective yellow vest and holding a garbage bag. The guy was pushing forty with dark, close-cropped hair and blue eyes.
Horrific scenes of violence flashed through Angela’s head, death and destruction on a desert battlefield, playing on a loop. The memories began to suffocate her, but images of his two daughters pulled her out of despair.
“Are you okay, ma’am?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, dusting off her shirt. “I think.”
He reached a hand out toward her and a cigarette butt flew out of her hair and into the garbage bag.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “You kind of came out of nowhere.”
She glanced around for any sign of Kay, but he was long gone. She wasn’t even sure anymore what she’d hoped to gain from following him.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I probably deserved it.”
He laughed awkwardly.
“Oh… well… you should be more careful, anyway,” he said.