AN: This chapter follows chapter 2. If it wasn’t clear, Chapter 1 occurs after these chapters time wise.
Her feet were pounding the stairs as she all but flew up them. Her knees ached and screamed. Her breath was painful but she had to make it. She had to make it toward the rooftop. Behind her, she heard the loud and distorted thumps of footsteps. Although, they were below her, she could feel them right at her tail. The loud thumps moved almost lazily even at their rapid rate. It made Anita run faster.
Her muscles burned but the sight of the grey dirty door compelled her. She slammed into it. The door was locked. She didn’t hesitate. The gun was out in a second and firing in another. The thumps were still behind her, moving along lazily,trailing her, and getting stronger. The lock and door blew apart but it was enough. She ran past it, hands protesting as the distorted and broken material bore into her palm.
The light blinded her momentarily.
The sun was high in the sky. She ran toward the middle of the building, feeling almost alive under the impossibly intense rays. The thumps were now in time with her racing heart. She turned toward the door, gun drawn. The thumps stopped. Anita glanced; the figure was hidden in the shadows; her eyes couldn’t adjust quickly enough. It did not move toward her.
The gun fired. When figure did not recoil when the slug hit it, instead it opened what Anita thought was its mouth. Before she could realize what it was saying she found herself flying. The gun was soaring out of her grip and she was looking up at the impossibly blue sky. She should have been in no danger in the sun.
She saw the ledge go beyond her reach, by then she felt the hit.
Her stomach was wet. Sticky where the Kevlar should have protected her. She wasn’t sure if it was her blood or something else. No, not with the way the fire escape moved past her, almost blurring in a beautiful kaleidoscope. There was a surge of panic and horror in her mind that she barely registered with her own. She could distinctly hear two voices yelling “ANITA!” when she hit the ground.
The rush of blood to her mouth was expelled at the same moment she saw something drifting slowly and lazily toward her. A snowflake hit her nose. She blinked.
The light from the desk was dim. Her roommate was still cramming for an impromptu exam. Anita blinked again, lazily. She wasn’t sweating. Her heart was racing and she almost didn’t believe it when she felt the air rush into her lungs so easily. She slowly sat up. The worn sheets slid down as she got up. Her legs were surprisingly firm this time.
Anita looked at Bethany, the girl was propped on two textbooks, hand lazily gripping a pen on half finished notes. Anita didn’t know whether or not to shake the girl awake but decided against it. The dream had been too intense tonight. She needed it to be quiet. Bethany would be too loud if she was awake, scurrying around, squawking and generally filling the room with such vibrant energy it always made her twitchy.
The room was blissfully calm and it felt like a church any given afternoon other than Sunday. Anita had entered enough of them in Sunnydale even if she wasn’t religious. No one is Sunnydale really was, at least not that she knew. Anita moved toward the window.
She had set up an appointment with the counselor for next week. Anita would be going after class and talking to a stranger about things that she felt and knew would be considered crazy. Except, Anita needed someone to talk to. She needed answers, anything to make it feel like the world wasn’t crumbling around her. She needed to know St. Louis was still as sleepy as it felt. She didn’t need to worry about going out after dark or alone. She needed answers.
Anita ran her hand over the glass. Tonight was chilly and the window’s cool surface was testament to that. Anita’s hand recoiled as a brief, alien sensation passed through her.
Pale skin as cold as the window under her hand.
Anita shuddered as she tried to recover the memory. There was nothing. It was gone and her feelings with it.
Anita’s eyes settled on a passing couple and she thought. She needed to call her parents. The distance was taking its toll on her and them.
Mom had sounded so sad. She thought. Dad was angry the last time he spoke to me. Xander has sounded so much like them.
Anita knew she had called during a fight. It had been bad timing on her part but she needed to hear their voices. She remembered Tony’s eyes when she had left and smiled. It had only been bad timing.
Sometimes things had such simple answers.
When Wednesday came, Anita ran to the student health center. The receptionist, someone Anita would bet was no older than she was, had given her a stack of paperwork to fill out. Anita filled it out quickly, eager to get started. Maybe she would start getting her answers.
“Thank you,” The receptionist said with a fake smile. “Dr. Ross will call you in shortly.”
Anita nodded trying to sort through her thoughts. Anita’s stomach churned, sometimes she wanted to go back to Sunnydale where things were simpler and the local college wouldn’t think she was crazy even if she was crazy. They would understand what she was feeling.
Anita remembered why she had left and knew that maybe, just maybe under all the odd things, they wouldn’t have understood.
When Anita had applied to St. Louis two things had crossed her mind. Number 1 was that she needed to get out of Sunnydale, there was too much death in the town and that man had been following her for so long she began expecting him to appear behind the shower curtain, and Number 2 was the feeling that she needed to leave. Anita had applied to as many colleges as possible in the city. St. Louis had called to her like a siren’s. A call so strong that even stuffing her ears with wax wouldn’t have drowned the feeling.