In Too Deep

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Nova hated taking the subway; she much preferred taking the bus instead. After finishing her shift as a waitress in a bar, she took the train back home. She had been anxious to get off work because she was meeting with someone. The train was a bit crowded, but she was glad she was able to get a seat before they were all occupied.

With her head leaned against the seat, she sighed and checked her watch again. She knew she was going to be late. Maybe she shouldn't have made her manager kept her for a while, and the person she was going to meet might assume she wasn't going to show up, so she sent a quick text to her.

Nova glanced at the person sitting next to her; an older woman wearing a dress and a hat. She was sleeping and snoring a little bit, her bag sandwiched between her arms protectively. Next to Nova was a businessman, dressed in a suit and reading a newspaper. Everywhere she turned, there were different people enjoying different things; teenagers listening to music on their iPods, playing games or chatting with their friends; businessmen and businesswomen were either reading newspapers, talking on the phone or looking through their phones; parents were trying hard not to get annoyed at their kids or talking to them. Everyone was going on about their business, so why was this man, standing a bit far from her with his hands on the railings looking at her?

She had noticed that he had been looking at her for ten minutes, and every time she made eye contact, he would pretend to look somewhere else. Nova knew he was watching her? Why would he? He didn't look like the type of man that she knew; he was big and packed mean muscles. He had tattoos all over his arms and neck with a few inked on his face. Nothing about him was familiar. Everything about him screamed danger. So she avoided looking at him again, clutched her bag to her chest as she tried to calm her beating heart.

When the train came to a halt, she quickly followed people out of the train, but spared a quick glance at the man again, finding him looking right back at her. He still hadn't moved or made any attempt to get off the train. Even when the doors closed, he was still watching her. Nova didn't release a breath until the train had started to move again and she was assured the man hadn't gone off it.

In the evening and almost every other day, the subway station was crowded, but the sound of the train moving always rang in her ears, tuning out all the people. She started to walk amidst the crowd, brushing her shoulders with others as she passed them.

Suddenly, she knocked into someone, but before she could apologize, he was already walking away and the only thing she could see was a grey hoodie.

Nova started to walk down the tunnel, checking her phone for a text message but there was nothing. And once again, someone pushed her, and Nova almost went down to the ground if she hadn't gotten her balance back in time. Angrily turning around to confront the person, she was only met with their back; again, someone wearing a grey hoodie. This is nothing, she thought when fear clutched her heart. A lot of people wore grey hoodies. There was nothing to it. It couldn't even be the same person.

Even though it might not be anything, it didn't stop Nova from walking fast, trying to get far away from the train station. Suddenly, adrenaline flooded through her as she turned abruptly to stare at the platform behind her. A man wearing a grey hoodie that covered his face was leaned against a wall, watching her. Her heart pounded and chills ran through her. She quickly faced forward and quickened her pace.

She could breathe again when she was safely in the cab; releasing a heavy breath with her head leaned against the seat. Her heart was still beating in her chest, but her mind clouded with confusion. What the hell happened? Or had that been simply a coincidence? Yeah, she definitely shouldn't read too much into it. If she obsessed over it, she would just start to lose her mind. And right now, she needed to focus. The only thing she needed to think about was getting the money for Grant. Hopefully, when she meets with this woman, Nova could get the amount of the money Grant was owed or the whole money. Depending on how valuable the items Nova had with her.

The address the cab dropped her was right in front of an antique shop with a vintage welcome sign. There was a chime of bells as the door shop opened, voices of customers discussing pieces, floorboards creaking and soft clinks and thumps as items are sorted or moved. The shop smelled of wood, dust and old things. There were painting carved frames hanging on the walls, narrow walking aisles with table displays on both sides, antique wood cabinets filled with figurines, dolls, collectible plates, and china plates; statues, masks, and carvings from different cultures and countries, exotic wood jewelries, religious statuettes and symbols lining mantels and bookcases.

There were so many things in the antique shop and Nova headed straight to the counter with rare items under glass and a cash register. There was a woman behind the counter, showing and discussing bronze candlesticks, so Nova had to wait until the woman was done and she wrapped the purchase, handing it over to the customer.

Nova approached her. "Hi."

The woman was old, wearing so many pieces of jewelry around her neck and wrists. She smiled at Nova with slight crooked, yellow teeth. "Hello, what can I help you with today?"

"Are you Eloise? I'm Nova. We talked on the phone earlier?"

Recognition flickered in Eloise's eyes. "Ah, yes. I remember. I thought you weren't coming." She arched a brow. Nova mumbled a quick apology and Eloise responded, "I got the items you sent. Let me bring them out and we can see how much they're worth." She walked around the counter and into a door Nova assumed was a storage room.

Eloise came back with a large bag that she dumped on the counter, unzipping it and slowly bringing out the items inside. Nova felt like bouncing on her feet as she anxiously rubbed her hands together, biting her lips slowly. Eloise inspected the watch she was holding in her hand carefully before she looked at Nova.

"For this watch, I'll give you six hundred. It's a little bit worn out," she said.

"Six hundred?" Nova repeated, dishearted. The watch was worth more than that to her. It was her dad's watch that he inherited from his father. If Nova didn't need the money desperately, she wouldn't have sold it. Damn Grant. Most of the things she was selling today were from her parents. Neither of the items deserved to be sold. The rest of the items were mostly china plates, figurines and old coins that her father had collected over the years. Her great grandmother's jewelry and pearl hair combs. Each thing she sold took a piece of her heart.

So far, she made three thousand and seven hundred dollars. And by the time she sold two more items, Nova had five thousand and two hundred dollars. It wasn't what she hoped for, but it was progress.

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