Anika took her life very seriously. Everyday when she went to work she bound her long, frizzy hair back into a tight bun, the loose strands viscously pinned close to her scalp. She didn't stand for flyaways.
She wore her uniform as if she had been born into it,. Every morning she would press her shirt and slacks and polish her black shoes to a mirror-like sheen. She brushed her blue cap with a scratchy brush to remove and dirt or lint that might accumulate on it. Her friends called her 'Annie'. Her close friends called her 'Nik'.
She had been married once. She hadn't cared for it.
She dressed with a military precision, making the simple act of attiring appear infinitely complicated. She smoothed her bangs across her forehead with gel and held them in place with a black barrette.
When she was ready to go, she grabbed her belt and fastening it around her slim hips. Then she closed the door behind her, locking it quietly.
The girl across the street observed these actions without reaction.
Anika padded down her front steps silently, cap pulled down over her eyes. She slid into he car, keys in her hand, and she was about to turn them in the ignition when she saw her.
The girl across the street, discovered, said and did nothing.
Anika slowly stepped out of her car. For a few second they seemed the only two alive, not even a birdcall broke the increasingly ominous silence between them as they studied each other. Anika crossed to her, chocolate eyes never leaving cool turquoise.
"Imogene." She said.
The blonde girl cocked her head, and replied, "Anika."
Anika sighed heavily and removed her cap, absently smoothing her hair as she took in the other woman.
Her blonde - nay, white - hair was long, easily to her waist, and hung, lank and greasy around her sharply boned face. The flesh around her eyes was dark, somewhat from the makeup she wore, but more from the shadow cast by her brow. The skin was pulled tight over bone. A bruise darkened her cheek bone. She wore only a tank top and shorts, despite the near-frigid weather. Her feet were bare, her frame little more than a skeleton wrapped in wax-paper thin flesh.
"Imogene," Anika said, "what are you doing here?"
"Freezing." The blonde answered sensibly.
Anika's nimble, mocha-colored fingers unbuttoned her uniform shirt, sliding it over her shoulders and onto the other girl's, leaving herself in a white tee shirt. Anika had never been bothered by the cold.
"You always took great care of me, Anika." The blonde joked.
"No." Anika replied. "You took care of yourself."
"Maybe." Was the cryptic response.
Another heavy sigh issued from Anika's lips. "What do you want here, Imogene?"
"I grew up here."
"And then you ran away."
Imogene laughed silently, digging in the pocket of her shorts and withdrawing a packet of cigarettes and a book of matches. "Still bitter, Nik? That isn't like you."
"I've changed." The chocolate eyes narrowed.
Imogene grinned as she lit a cigarette and shook out the match. "So have I."
No, you haven't.Anika thought, but aloud she said, "Didn't anyone ever tell you that those will kill you?"
Imogene smiled as she took a long drag. "I doubt I'll lie long enough to die from these." She replied, her works escaping as a puff of grey-white smoke.
Something caught Anika's eye, and her hand shot out, grasping Imogene's wrist and pulling it out from under her own shirt. Carefully she ran her fingers over the gnarled brown lumps at the junction of her elbow. "What are these?" She asked.
"What do they look like?" Imogene growled, trying to tug her arm back. Anika squeezed her wrist, hard. "Ow! They're tracks, okay? I'm a damn junkie! Is that what you wanted to hear, officer?"
Anika released her wrist. She took a step back. "No. It's not what I wanted to hear." She said. "Is this what you've been doing for 15 years?"
"What you really want to know is who I've been doing for 15 years." Imogene laughed, bringing her newly freed hand to her lips to drag on her cigarette.
"I don't care."
"Don't you?" She replied. "You, who always thought you could protect me."
"I've got other people to protect now."
Imogene chuckled and dropped her cigarette, almost crushing it beneath her heel before recalling that she was barefoot. She moved her foot back a step. "Protect and serve." She muttered, running a hand through her matted hair. "But I'll bet you don't serve people like me, Nik."
Anika pulled her cap back over her black hair. "And you wouldn't want me to."
Imogene didn't even offer to return the shirt as she turned away. Anika took in the greasy blonde hair tumbling over her blue shirt collar as if she would never see it again.
"Run, Imogene." Anika called.
"I guess I'll see you in another 15 years." She replied.