The fiery red orb of light slowly sank beneath the horizon bidding adieu …..The sky was now pitch black , barring a few specks of sequin-silver ,that dotted it ,here and there…The pale globe of silvery light ,lay hidden behind the clouds …As the night emerged in full splendour ,adorning a black cape , it’s darkness seemed all consuming – swallowing everything that came in it’s way….
And Rachel , desperate to escape it’s evil fangs , plodded her way through the dark alleyway. She had never been this late from work. But then ,today wasn’t any other day…Miss Richardson , her most important client , had chosen her for the task…it was a matter of pride for someone like her….
Rachel’s hair salon was named ‘The elixir for your locks’ and it was, certainly one ,especially for those with lack lustre ,dull or damaged hair….Rachel had the ‘Midas touch’ when it came to hair..A strand of hair had only to be caressed by her soft ,warm fingers ,to shine ,with a life of their own !!!
No wonder Rachel’s hair salon had become one of the most sought after , in town . About six months back , she had the most unexpected client …a celebrity in her own right…Miss Jenny Richardson , an author to a bestselling novel and a social activist..
What more was required to have an ordinary small town salon ,with humble origins,,to skyrocket it’s way to fame ! The news of a popular ,bestselling author ,visiting a modest salon,was the talk of the town….and the images of it were splashed generously in every fashion and lifestyle magazine..Rachel was a celebrity hair stylist overnight !!!
But as they say ‘with great power ,comes great responsibility !! ‘ . Business prospered ,but so did her workload . Rachel hired a few more hands to share her increasing burden ,but when it came to important clients , she was obligated to provide her own ‘exclusive’ service….,sometimes to suit their busy lives ,making her work schedule ,erratic…
Work now extended beyond the standard 6 pm time …But today was the longest she had been at the salon…
The alleys were usually desolate , with an occasional tramp sleeping in a corner or a lovelorn couple , relying on it’s privacy to make up for the lost time. Usually ,Rachel strolled through these narrow bylanes, indifferent to it’s occupants , much like she passed by the mannequins in a shop , conscious but uninterested….And today would not have been any different…………
As Rachel walked briskly in the direction of her home ,she heard a thudding behind her. Alarmed ,she turned to look around and pricked up her ears…nothing ….An eerie silence hung in the air.. Then, dismissing it as a figment of her ” wild and famished” imagination , she started to walk again. A few seconds later , the thudding resumed. Rachel froze in her tracks , panic -stricken …Someone was following her ,she realized , her heart pounding . The air around her seemed to thicken..
Rachel stood still , then ,as if by instinct, she darted towards her left , and disappeared into one of the narrow bylanes of the street . She was quivering all over , like a dish of jelly on a rickety table …As she scuttled in the darkness , heaving and panting , her lithe body ,hit against something firm and staggered… It was only when a pair of arms came to her rescue ,that she realized it was a man….
Though his body was obscured by the darkness of the alleyway , the glistening silver light of the moon, streamed on his face , highlighting its well sculpted features …
And the world came to a standstill…atleast for Rachel. Never had she come across such perfectly chiseled features …Those eyes ,the colour of dark chocolate ,with flecks of hazelnut..,looked at her bewildered. The forehead was partially concealed by a blanket of hair ,the colour of midnight sky ,resting on it…..Dark , luxuriant hair , that seemed to glow under the luminescence of the ‘lune’ ...It seemed to her as if a thousand fireflies were dancing underneath that glossy mane….
Rachel stood gazing at the electrifying apparition in front of her ,mesmerized….
Then abruptly , the ‘orb of the night’ was beclouded and the alleyway was lightless again…
Once the cloud had passed , the moon was out…but the ”mystery man” had vanished…like a ghost before the sun…poof !!!
Thoroughly dismayed by the unexpected turn of events, Rachel resumed her stride…But this time she sauntered ,as if in a trance….as if she was sleepwalking…!
Having reached her home , she rested her self on the couch , replaying the events of the evening…All her famishment…her appetite seemed to have disappeared , and she wasn’t surprised..
Rachel sat up all night….wide eyed….and the ”bewitching face” in the alleyway never left her thoughts….It was to haunt her for many days to come…..
From then on , every evening ,Rachel ambled through those alleys ,watching every passerby ,with a keen eye…in search of that one face …the face that stole her heart away….
As he walked back through the dingy alley , he smiled….a sinister ,almost devilish smile…And all of a sudden , those soft delicate features seemed to have hardened ,( a little distorted )…a metamorphosis , it was…..He was the same man, yet if Rachel was to see him now ,she wouldn’t recognise him. Such was the transformation.
He clasped a gold chain with a diamond pendant , in one hand , which he swung from side to side, like a pendulum . With his other hand he clenched tightly , a wad of crisp currency , that he thrust into the pocket of his trousers .
He hadn’t found a suitable game in sometime….his last penny having been spent on his meagre meal….He was a pauper now ..and was contemplating his next move , when he saw her approach.. Looking a little scared and vulnerable , she seemed like a perfect target to polish his skills on.. ..
He had seen her before..’Aah..yess..’ he remembered…’On the cover page of a fashion magazine on display, in the streetside shop.’ he recalled….Somewhere in the corner of his thick skull , a bulb flashed …and he knew his next move….
Without a moment’s hesitation ,he started following his ‘possible prey’ in the hope of leading her to a corner and mugging her….But , she heard him and on a sudden impulse ,made a dash in the darkness…He was caught offguard…but regained his senses immediately and chose to take a short cut , that took him face to face with his target ,as she bumped on him.. ‘The lord is generous…!!’ he thought to himself…
Being an experienced pickpocket , his nimble fingers were quick to do the deed , his victim staring at him fascinated,completely oblivious of what transpired….He had always taken pride in his good looks ,but today it worked to his disadvantage…Just when he began to doubt his chance to escape ,nature took its course ,( with the moon blotting out ).Taking advantage of the sudden darkness , he quickly made his exit …..
Now , looking at his booty , he wondered if his victim ,would ever discover what actually happened , that night,in the tenebrosity of the alleyway . And then….. he laughed…a maleficent laugh , that echoed through the bylanes of the sleepy town…
Somewhere in the distance , a woman winced in her sleep. It would take her several more days, perhaps months ,to realize , that the ”man in the alleyway” had stolen… more than her heart…………………