He was walking up the stairs of a subway when he heard clicking of heels. He looked up and saw a woman appearing on the top landing. Nicely curved silhouette, outlined against the setting sun. Her face was barely visible due to the bright light, but he made out her chubby cheeks. She started down the stairs, her ponytail swaying back and forth. The subway was deserted and the only thing disturbing the silence was the clicking of her heels. He hesitated, stopped, then looked at his watch. A strange thought had just crossed his mind, making him feel uncomfortable.
She was wearing black sling back heels that accentuated the slimness of her ankles. The strange thought urged him to look up at her face again. His heart was racing. Blue eyes, dark blonde hair and these chubby cheeks that made her look childish. He looked away, feeling nervous. He was sure he had seen her before. A vague memory gnawed at him. He stole another glance. Their eyes met for a second, and however brief that moment was, he thought he saw a flicker of recognition on her face. They were so close to each other that he could smell her perfume. She was biting her lower lip, her eyes narrowed. There was a small spot on the sleeve of her white shirt. Coffee maybe. Her black knee–length skirt was hugging her slender hips. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. They passed each other in silence.
He wanted to look back, but thought that would be inappropriate. Then he realized that he can no longer hear the clicking of her shoes. A strange sensation made his back tingle. He turned. She was standing in the middle of the staircase, looking back over her shoulder with a puzzled expression on her face. She quickly averted her gaze as if caught doing something wrong, and set her foot on the next step. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that she wasn’t watching her step, but whatever it was, she tripped. Her heel scraped against the stone and her ankle wobbled. A soft whimper escaped her lips as she lurched forward.
She tumbled down the stairs, her face pale, her arms flailing helplessly. It all happened so suddenly that he didn’t have time to make a sound. His arms were outstretched, as if he could catch her.
She was lying face down at the bottom of the stairs, breathing in short gasps, trembling all over. He ran down the stairs, muttering a prayer. By the time he got to her, she was trying to push herself up. Her palms pressed against the floor, her elbows sticking out. The contents of her handbag were strewn across the tiles, and her left shoe was missing.
‘Did you hurt yourself?’ he asked, touching her back lightly.
She turned on her side, took a deep breath, then looked up at him. Her eyes seemed slightly unfocused.
‘I… think I’m all right. Oh, I’m so clumsy,’ she said and cradled her left arm in her lap, rubbing her wrist. He helped her sit up, not taking his eyes off her. A pained crease had formed on her forehead, but there were no visible injuries.
She noticed that her belongings are scattered and snorted angrily. He helped her pick up the spilled contents of her bag, wondering why this should be the first thing to do.
‘I think you should see a doctor. It was a bad fall…
‘I’m fine, thank you. I just bruised my wrist a little’
She drew her knees up to her chest, getting ready to stand up. Then she realized that her left shoe was missing. Her eyes darkened, and her lips pouted childishly.
‘I’ll bring it right away,’ he said and looked around.
‘Thanks.’ She nodded, and then wiggled her toes impatiently.
The shoe was lying on its side, about twenty feet up the stairs. He took it up, then checked if the heel was broken. It wasn’t. The insole was still carrying the heat of her foot, and he could sense a nice leathery smell. The size stamped on the insole was 6.
She ran her hands down her legs, inspecting her stockings. They obviously weren’t laddered, because she smiled contentedly.
‘It wasn’t that bad after all,’ she said and reached out to take the shoe. ‘Thank you!’
‘Do you feel any pain?’ he asked, checking if her brow was still furrowed. ‘It looked scary…’
She glanced up at him, her blue eyes twinkling with amusement.
‘Don’t worry about me, I’m a big girl,’ she said and extended her foot to slip the shoe on. For a brief moment he thought he had seen these cute little toes before, even though they were barely visible now, hidden under the black stocking.
He offered her a hand, but she pushed herself to her feet, pretending that she hadn’t seen it. He withdrew his hand, blushing noticeably. The woman twisted her head around, as if she had a crick in her neck, then adjusted her skirt, which had ridden up her thighs. She took out her phone and looked at it, while at the same time rubbing her sore bottom.
‘It’s not broken,’ she said, the corners of her mouth twitching up.
‘My phone… not a scratch on it.’
‘Oh, this is great!’
She casted a sideways glance at him, and said, ‘I …I have to go. You were very kind to me. Thank you.’ She was about to turn on her heels and leave, when he mumbled, ‘I think we have seen each…’
She took a step, then froze. A moan escaped her lips and her body swayed, as if blown by a strong wind. She looked back over her shoulder, her face contorted.
‘What?’ he asked, and then noticed that her left knee was bent with her foot barely touching the ground, unable to support her weight.
She turned clumsily, making whimpering sounds, reaching out her arms to him. ‘I think I’m going to fall!’
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