Pink Laces and Orange Stitches

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story told entirely through one chase scene.... view prompt

3 comments

General

Jamie thanked God for the tennis shoes she’d impulse bought last weekend, the ones with the ugly pink laces and orange stitching that Tobias had told her not to get. Forty-five dollars and a significant loss in girlfriend points were the cost. Jamie was pretty sure her new runners might have given Tobias enough reason to finally cheat on her; that, or she was just being pessimistically paranoid again.

And those ugly shoes had found their way onto Jamie’s feet earlier this evening, when she’d decided a two-am Sonic run was just the thing she needed to fix whatever was keeping her up most nights. Rather than try any harder to get to bed or, I don’t know, take any medicine, Jamie decided six-dollar burgers were a better solution than another doctor visit. Tobias was probably still asleep; she didn’t want to bug him any more than she normally did.

So when the guy in the hoodie decided to follow her that night, Jamie sent up a silent prayer to whatever God existed for her shopping problem. A part of her, some twisted part that had always wanted something exciting to happen in her boring life, relished the idea of being chased around. It could be like something out of a Tom Cruise movie, right? He’d follow her, all mysterious-like, hooded, unreadable, but she’d be so fast that he’d never catch her. Maybe she’d discover some dormant super-power that she’d never known existed; that is, until she put on the shoes.

Or maybe she just had an overactive imagination...

...Because this guy wasn’t from a Tom Cruise movie. He wasn’t a villain, and she didn’t have any super powers. In fact, as he pulled out a switchblade knife from his jacket pocket--blade glinting in the orange glow of the street lamps--Jamie’s imagination, instincts, and basic brain functions all managed to shut off at the exact same time. Ice cold fear crawled from inside her chest, spreading to her limbs and face, freezing her from the inside out.

He walked forward a step. Then another. No sudden moves, no lunging. Like he knew what was happening to her. Did he do this? Could he do this? Maybe he was the one with superpowers.

That thought was, somehow, enough to break the spell. The ice retreated to a cold, hard spot between Jamie’s ribs. It sat there, screaming, pounding in her heart: run. Run. RUN!

And she did. She turned, spinning on those orange-stitched heels, and ran harder than she had during her six-minute mile back in eighth grade P.E. class. It must’ve been cold out because her breath came fast and hard in visible puffs of air. Her body didn’t register any of it: not the cold, not the pain. All she heard was run Run RUN!

That, and the sounds of not one, but TWO, pairs of footsteps. Getting faster. And faster. She didn’t have to look to know he was there. She could feel him, attached to her like her own shadow, never getting too close but never falling behind. There was no place to hide, nowhere to ditch him. He was right there, waiting.

Waiting for what?

A mile, maybe two, maybe only a hundred feet stretched out behind them. Jamie and her new friend, Adrenaline, managed to keep moving long past when she would normally have stopped. Well, it’s not every day one gets chased by a psychotic killer; maybe that was just the motivation she needed to get that daily cardio in.

No, what was she saying? Was she losing it already? Focus. He’s right behind her! Think, Jamie, think.

Now she could hear his breath. He had a deep voice, but it wasn’t nearly as winded as Jamie’s. His breath was even, calm, almost relaxed. Seriously?

Putting on the gas, Jamie managed to pull ahead. Her pink shoelaces stayed nice and tight, glowing almost neon under the fluorescent lighting. She sent up another silent thanks. If she fell now, it would be over.

Rounding the corner, a strip of restaurants line each side of the street. Most, if not all, are dark and closed, locked up tight for the evening. Jamie debates stopping at one, but decides against it. What if no one heard her? If she got stuck, begging and crying at the door of some greasy fast food joint, Hoodie Man would have the perfect opportunity to slice her throat, stab her in the back, or do whatever-the-hell he was trying to do to her. No, it was suicide to stop running now.

But seeing the restaurants, usually so busy and full of people, closed and quiet for the night only pissed Jamie off. Of all the times to be chased around by a psychotic murderer, why now? Why at two-am? Why wouldn’t he have done this four hours ago, when places were still open and someone could’ve been here to help her?

Some ridiculous part of that logic found its way into Jamie’s thoughts. Fear turned to anger, and her friend Adrenaline became Bravery. Without slowing, she turned her head just enough to call over her shoulder.

“What… do you… WANT?”

No response. His footsteps never broke stride.

“Fuck! Can you just… get this… OVER with?”

A chuckle. A chuckle! Did he just laugh? The fear-turned-anger bubbled up higher inside. Jamie wanted to turn around, face him, maybe get a punch or two in before her life was over. It would be enough if it would just be over already.

She had almost made up her mind to do it when she had an idea. A real, not distracted or angel-fuel idea that might, might, just save her life. He had laughed at her, somehow. This was a game, obviously, but she had done something to offset his rhythm. Could she do it again?

Maybe.

“Hey,” she called again over her shoulder. “Do you… like my new shoes?... My boyfriend says they’re… so ugly that… he’d consider a divorce… if I bought them-” HUFF -”and we’re not even… married.. yet.” Damn it was getting harder to breathe.

The breathing behind her broke rhythm. He laughed again, a little, somehow. His stride shifted; it was a microscopic change, but when you’ve been running for dear life from someone for what feels like an hour, you start to notice the little things.

Jamie kept going. “We’re still together… in case… you wanted to know.”

He remained silent. What was he thinking? Jamie felt her strides shorten, her speed drop down to a fast jog. Her new best friend, Adrenaline, was fading away fast. Pain crept up from below, from her ribcage, her knees, and even those damn shoes. Every step felt like a knife, a switchblade if you will, slicing into her calves from below.

This is it. This is how it ends.

She slowed, jogging for a bit, then a fast walk. Walking, slowly. Stopped. Jamie turned around, coming face-to-face with her pursuer. He had stopped too, just a few short feet away. Breathing hard, but not nearly as hard as she was.

Jamie stretched out her arms. The universal sign for “I GIVE UP. GET THIS OVER WITH ALREADY.” Her heart was pounding, not with fear, but with anticipation and exhaustion. Not a fun combo.

The man didn’t move. He was still holding the switchblade, but made no advances.

“Well?”

He didn’t answer. At least, not at first. Standing up straighter, the Hoodie Man cocked his head to one side.

A deep voice exuded from within the upturned hood. “Why did you stop?”

What?

Jamie started a sentence, stopped, then started another one. “Um… I guess I just got… tired? And mad, I think?” She paused. “Why were you chasing me?”

He shrugged, like it was no big thing. “I do this most nights, I guess. Town to town, victim to victim. It’s easy when it’s this late at night.”

“Uh-huh.”

She could feel him looking at her. “If I may ask,” he started, “why’d you come out here so late?”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Jamie stared down at her pink laces. “I needed a snack.”

“A… snack?” Hoodie Man made a noise not unlike a pig’s mating call. It took Jamie a long moment to realize it was laughter. He was laughing hard now, to the point of tears, wiping them with his over-sized sleeve.

Jamie stood there, covered in sweat under the orange glow, completely and totally dumbfounded. Facing a killer, or a rapist, or a whatever-the-hell-he-was as he laughed at her, after having chased around town her for the better part of her night. She had been prepared to die, but this? Not in her wildest imagination, which was very wild indeed.

Hoodie Man managed to compose himself, although a chuckle managed to escape every couple of seconds. “What’s your name?”

“Madison,” Jamie spat impulsively.

“Liar.”

“It’s Jamie.”

“Nice to meet you, Jamie.”

A cricket chirped somewhere behind them.

Hoodie Man looked down at his blade. He twirled it, picked something out from underneath his fingernail. Using it to point, he gestured to Jamie’s shoes.

“They really are ugly.”

Jamie nodded, a lump forming in her throat. Hoodie Man seemed lost in thought, probably wondering about the best way to kill her without anyone finding the body. Maybe he’d take her into one of those empty restaurants, frame some poor cook for the deed. She could see the headlines now: “Local Woman Found Dead in Town’s One-of-Three McDonald’s. Head Chef and Local Orphanage Manager Suspected of Crime on Ridiculous Evidence.” Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be that obvious, but there’s no way this guy could get away with it, right?

Although she guessed he already had, from what he’d said. What did that mean for her? For Tobias? Dammit, she’d die in these shoes! Anything but that, please.

He broke her train of thought by flipping his switchblade knife closed. Snap. With a cool twist of the wrist, he pocketed it. Silently, as mysteriously as he’d appeared, he turned and headed back the way they’d come. Jamie stayed completely still, sure this was some sort of trick or sick joke.

But the further away he got, the less sure she became. Before long, she could barely make him out in the dark.

“Wait!” she called. He stopped. “Why?”

He didn’t answer right away. Then he said something, but Jamie was too far away to hear it at first.

“What?”

“THEY’RE JUST… TOO… UGLY!” And he laughed.

July 11, 2020 00:29

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

3 comments

Roland Aucoin
17:21 Jul 24, 2020

I was wondering what new tennies with pink laces and orange stitching had to do with a potential mugging. Funny twist, Rachel. Good one. :) Your story read well. Tension built and then, "Too UGLY". great ending!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Sahara Carter
16:30 Jul 18, 2020

I like how you were able to relate a pair of shoes to a failing relationship! Lol very clever

Reply

Show 0 replies
M J
12:43 Jul 18, 2020

Hey Rachel! I really loved your story. It was packed with action and humor, and I was on the edge of my seat till the end. Great job!

Reply

Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.