Duke clutched his stomach as his heart accelerated. He pressed his shoes firmly into the sidewalk, encouraging his fear to subside. As he continued his steps, the woman came into full view. Her vibrant red jacket was partially buttoned revealing a lace black gown underneath. He could feel the warmness arise in his cheeks despite the predicament, his thoughts racing before he jolted to her side, checking for signs of life. Her long black hair was matted to her forehead, and within seconds Duke found a tear threatening to form. She appeared almost frozen, her lifeless figure screamed of an unfulfilled life. “Damn them’ Duke groaned. “Left in the street like trash...’ Duke slowly pressed his fingers to her neck to search for a pulse, suddenly noticing her champagne shade of lipstick that was perfectly applied to her lips. Suddenly a scream erupted.
’Ahhh!” Duke jumped to his feet, confusion filled him as he tried to decipher whether the scream had escaped for his lips
He gasped as the scream erupted again, and within in seconds he had regained composure. The woman was screaming at the top of her lungs. He began to cover his ears but the screams had subsided. The woman was now slowly sitting up, gasping gently, a cough escaping her lips repeatedly.
Duke’s eyes widened as he realized a very important detail: he was unarmed. Not that he would ever hurt a woman in his life, but she could lash out. She could have a knife hidden in that long red jacket of hers or even a gun. He shuddered gently against the cold as the silence became deafening.
“Who…are you?” she asked softly. Her head turned towards him in alarm. Duke took a step back. “I… saw you laying here…I didn’t know whether you we’re’ Duke stammered to make a sentence. Was she victim of rape? A night crawler? A hooker waiting for her next customer?
She then sighed before letting out a laugh. He saw a hint of tears leaving her face. “I need to go home’ she spoke through the laugher, her cheeks now wet with tears.
“Yes…yes of course’ Duke spoke as he eyed her “Perhaps she’s drunk…or insane?”
’Where is home?”
Her laughter had stopped simultaneously; her face scrunched into a frown. She glanced at him with a look of utter desperation, her large brown eyes searching his endlessly.
Duke sighed softly as he placed his hands into his pockets, feeling the security of his cell phone.
’Look miss I…”
“Home! I need to go home!” The woman was now struggling to get into standing position. He rushed over to her offering support as she stood.
This was the closest he’d been to her since the few initial moments of panic had hit his system. She had no smell alcohol, in fact her scent reminded him of vanilla and pine. For a second he felt slightly intoxicated it by it alone.
Her eyes then gazed into his, they were a soft honey brown hue. “Are you my husband?′ she asked softly.
Duke backed away from her instantanously.
“No....look you need a doctor”
She blushed looking down at the ground, her lips pursed like a detective looking for clues.
“But...I am not sick...I feel fine...freezing but fine...and if you’re not my husband then where is he?”
“I don’t know” Duke sighed shaking his head softly.
“But you must know...” she pleaded.
“Look the hospital is that way...I’ll escort you...are you sure you aren’t hurt...we’re you...” Duke stopped in mid sentence. He couldn’t manage to let the word “raped” come from his lips. The thought alone made him feel queasy.
She then threw her arms up in the air in frustration. “I don’t need a hospital!”
Duke felt the soft vibration of his cell phone in his pocket, and for a second he wondered if he should answer it. “Excuse me...” he mumbled as he took out the phone. A warm familiar voice filled his ears.
“Gwen...I’m sorry...” he spoke. “I ran into an emergency."
The woman had maintained eye contact on his phone, causing him to feel a slight tension.
“Look I’ll be home soon, I have to go, I’ll explain later..” “Yes I’m fine...sorry I hung up on you..”
“I love you too...” he sighed as he snapped the phone shut.
“Wife?” she asked curiosuly
“Girlfriend” he nodded. Gwen Parsons had been his girlfriend for approximately one year and 5 months...or she would insist that it was one year and 7 months. He had met her in a bar on one cold lonely night. He remembered the exact moment of initial chemistry. She was drunk and bitterly going on about an ex-boyfriend named “Peter”, whom had broken up with her by written letter a few weeks before their vacation to Paris.
“What!?” Duke glared at her “Of course...” he fumbled. “I have to go home..."
“You’re going to leave me out here in the cold then!” she snapped.
She stomped toward him, her red heels clicking against the side walk. “Thanks for nothing! I will find my own way home!”
Her defiance shocked him, she had a variety of emotional responses but up until this moment, anger had no been one of them.
He watched her walk away, her hips swaying back and forth dramatically. She didn’t seem to be injured in any way.
“No...no...let me walk you” Duke sighed. “Damn” he muttered. He was a gentlemen by nature despite the danger.
The woman stopped in her tracks, turning to give him a slight glare. “And you will take me home?”
“Yes...” Duke nodded. “Duke Masters...hero or idiot?“.
“On the condition that you go to a clinic or hospital, there’s a 24 hour care center not to far away”
She suddenly smiled “It’s a deal”
Duke relunctantly smile back, the wind chill had almost frozen his facial features.
She walked toward him, “Where is this clinic?”
“A few blocks down” he nodded still eyeing her coat for possibly weaponry.
She took a soft breath, stepping closer, before moving forward towards the direction of the clinic, she gave him another beaming smile before passing.
Duke paused as he watched her, her red coat swaying gently against the gentle winter wind.
“I guess I’m losing it too”
Duke shook his head, putting his hands into the pocket of his jacket and wrapping his hand around his cell phone, pondering on whether the police should get involved. The thought quickly passed and in a moment’s notice he found himself jogging to catch up with her.
“Slow down...” he muttered.
“Well I have to get to this hospital so I can get home” she mumbled, fastening the jacket buttoms up to her neck.
“I just want to make sure you’re alright...and what the hell we’re you doing out alone...in...“Duke stopped feeling the blush on his cheeks. A woman wearing only a jacket and a lace gown whom was either drunk or insane probably wouldn’t want to be questioned.
She gave him another smile as they neared the hospital, she was nearly prancing on the streets. “Home is where the heart lies you know...” she laughed.
“Right...” Duke gave her a strained smile as they walked down the emptying streets.