Lingering Touch

The Stealing of Things [Chapter 2]

I did not go searching any further for the individual after they disappeared from sight. The entrances around the block into our gardens are guarded only by the discouragement of chain barriers with hangings signs on them noting that the facilities are closed for the night and that they are indeed patrolled by someone like myself.

I was sure it was a woman… maybe because of how petite she… they were, or maybe the softness or delicate smell of her approach.

I did not mention the woman to my coworker at the security booth, nor did I make a report in my written log. Why did I not record a report? She was likely just someone living on the street, trying to find a bathroom. But she didn’t seem like someone homeless. That wasn’t the feel or smell of one of those people. What was she wearing? I can only recall seeing the small, plain face and only for a moment before she… She must have been wearing all black because I couldn’t see her until she was in the light of the flashlight. Her hair was all black, as well.

The thought of the… indignity imposed upon me by that person kept me distracted all throughout the remainder of my shift. When the morning light brought about my second and final patrol of the grounds, I passed by the spot I saw the olive woman earlier in the night. Not a sign remained there of the struggle I had undergone, nor of any other wrongdoings the woman may have been attempting there in the dark hours of the night.

By the time I was home and making breakfast for my family, somehow the thought had been pushed to the back of my mind, replaced by the undeniable fulfillment that only being a mother and a wife can bring. Not long after, I was in bed, drifting off with all my cares on hold.

Some might worry that with my odd work schedule, I don’t have much quality time with my family. It is quite the contrary, with my parental blessings beginning with the two little ones serving as my alarm clock most afternoons. Don’t worry, Jamison makes sure that they don’t come barging in too early.

After dinner and family time, there is plenty of evening left over to read bedtime stories, tuck the kids into bed, and get one-on-one time with my better half. Being… intimate is hard with different bedtimes, but at the same time, we feel as if the two little ones we have so far are plenty.

Jamison and I were watching Johnny Carson on the living room sofa when a grasp of his hand on my shoulder and a kiss to the cheek brought suddenly back the memories of the night before. The hair stood on my neck and I reflexively pulled away. Jamison gave me a downtrodden look while I tried to calm my goosebumps. “Something the matter?”

I gritted my teeth and leaned back against his arm. “I don’t… look like a man, do I?”

“Liz,” He said with a concerned grimace, ready to defend my honor, shaking his head. “Was it someone from work who said that?”

“It was… It’s something I’ve heard before.”

Jamison’s lips curled up into a grin, and his arm snaked around my back and under my arm, taking up my breast to pump and gyrate it in his palm. “All it takes is one little look at these puppies and there’s no way they can say that.”

Despite the flattery, I pushed his arm away before I slid across the cushion slightly further away. “Yeah, sure, but I hope those men can see a woman for something other than her chest.”

Jamison shrugged. “I don’t take it your uniform at work is terribly… flattering.”

I looked down at my body, imagining the dark tan shirt. “Well, they obviously didn’t have one to fit a woman. And to fit these… puppies, as you say, I have to wear a terribly large one, tucked into my slacks for miles.”

“Oh, lovely,” Jamison said playfully, dragging his hand down my thigh.

“You stop that right now,” I said, the sound of the late show still going in the background. “Just let me relax and watch a little bit more before I have to go.”

Later that night, my shift at the museum began like any other. My evening patrol put me past the hallway where, just outside, I had been violated the previous night. I stood at the thick-paned windows, looking for any sign of… anything outside. The bushes glowed slightly in the hallway lights. They stood, rooted, completely still and certainly absent of any wrong-doers.

Right there was the hallway just outside the new exhibit with the things from the tomb— still behind curtains and heavy barriers and carefully-worded signs to redirect interest. The assumed resident of the tomb and what their origin or significance was had yet to be explained to me and I assumed that it never would be, being simply one of many to guard it. The workmen had been there several nights previous, setting up the display cases, most likely still empty there under the dusty and sun-aged curtains.

The centerpiece of the upcoming display, a fact much circulated by the museum, was the royal jewel that had come out of the tomb, something quite large and impressive if I had to guess. It had been delivered a week or so before, in the dark hours, complete with its own security outside our employ. I had to guess it was in the Museum’s vault at that point, being prepared to be shown off, but to me, it was just another thing to look after.

If I were ever to come back during the day for a normal tour, with Jamison and the two kids, I might even be able to be somewhat of a tour guide, even if it were only to know of the layout, free of any knowledge of the exhibits. Not that the chances of waking up before noon and returning to my place of work were that enticing. Maybe once the kids were older, I told myself in that moment.

Watching the clock at the security booth for midnight prepared me to head out on my patrol of the grounds. What was usually a quiet stroll in the fresh air under the stars had me tense, flashlight in hand with the beam shining across my field of view. Bathed in shadows, the flower beds and topiaries and statues were more imposing than normal, and I had to remind myself that it was not the dark I was supposed to be afraid of, but the things or people that lurked inside it.

Not far from the previous meeting spot, I slowed. The bushes were silent, leaving only my heavy footsteps to make a sound. The interior lights shining through the windows were just enough to affect my eyes which had adjusted to the dark. And I think they knew that as well.

“You’re right on time,” a silky but low voice spoke behind me, hiding an implacable accent.

I jerked back, flashlight in one hand and instinctively covering my mouth with the other. “Time… for what?” Were the only words I was able to get out past my hand.

The beam caught the face of the person— the same olive face as the previous night— causing her to step back out of the glare. She spoke up with what was none other than a woman’s voice. “So, do you patrol the gardens at this time every night?”

“That’s… not something for you to be worried about.”

“I’m not worried. You’re not armed,” she said under her dark clothing and dark, smooth-looking hair, arms at her sides in a relaxed state. “And this is a public space, isn’t it?”

I waved the flashlight out in front of myself like a lion tamer with a wooden chair. “Not down in the bushes. And certainly not if you’re going to… going to… attack people!”

“Attack?” She laughed, head leaning back slightly. “Silly. There is nothing going on like that. I will go now.”

With a flash of shiny hair in the beam of the flashlight, she waved about, the darkness seeming ready to swallow her up as if was where she had always belonged.

“You— you wait there, right now!” I said, imitating a tone I had taken before with my children.

A sliver of a face, like the crescent moon, glanced back but said nothing.

“Don’t think I am a man or something! I’m a woman, you know!”

A set of thin fingers found her lips, before a kiss to them was sent my way through the night, halting my approach. “I can see that quite plainly.”

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