THE GIRL ON THE WHITE SCOOTER
Chapter 1: Characters' True Color
A loud bang, pop, then a clap/boom followed with lightning-white flashes gave Leigha a start. Awake but not coherent, she bolted upright in bed. With an eye out the back window curtain, she could see an orange flickering reflection on the tall brick buildings across the entire length of the alleyway. All the familiar trash bins were outside each alley metal door, but no unrecognizable shadows. The sounds from the front street were a cacophony of shouts, cracks, and distant sirens. Now fully awake, the girl took a quick breath, pinched her lips together tightly, and cautiously tiptoed to the front curtain, fearful of what might be seen out the apartment window. Her clouded mind couldn’t comprehend the hazard fully, but a faint pungent odor filled the room.
For fear of being seen, it was a fast glance between the curtains. In the backdrop of a flaming car with billowing smoke, she saw shadows moving across the building façades. Through the curtains those same shadows morphed and cast grotesquely across her apartment living room. In her mind, it recanted images of a hooded grim reaper as it paced flatly across the stucco walls. A rapid heartbeat thumped in her ears as she grabbed her jacket from the hook, pulled it on, and overlapped the front. She paused mid-step, closed her eyes, and whispered in a shockingly calm voice, “You are brave.” It was a wise impulse to snatch the bedside mini flashlight and pepper spray- she pushed it deep into her pocket. With a cautious eye out the apartment door that led to the staircase- the familiar dim hallway was quiet. For two years now, Leigha liked that her cozy apartment was directly above the coffeehouse café and kitchen. That setup enabled her to focus both on the coffeehouse business and her online studies in the same building. As a single young woman, she felt safe there, which was important to her.
The inner staircase was dimly lit and safe, but from the kitchen she could discern street clamor and chanting. The bitter odor became more notable with each step. Leigha automatically reached for the light switch… stopped, pulled her hand back, gripped the pocketed pepper spray tighter, and stepped through the dark, familiar kitchen. The floor was cool under her bare feet and with each step the muffled noise grew louder. She purposefully touched the steel counters for guidance, then paused to hug the coffeeshop inner doorway frame. Counter-intuitively, she braced herself, gripped the doorknob, unlocked, and ventured a guarded peek into her coffeeshop. The fire-like shimmer and street smoke caused a surge of senses. Visual discord and outside noise clashed, then melded into a disruptive kaleidoscope within. This once-quiet, harmless coffeehouse had become a bizarre war zone with enraged individuals shouting something indistinguishable in the street directly outside her storefront. Leigha took deliberate breaths to stop the sudden sway in her head, relocked the door and turned with her back against the wall. With eyes tightly shut she rode the dark kitchen wall all the way to the cool floor, rested her forehead on her knees… grieved and prayed. With steel resolve she kept vigilance at the doorway until the fury abated.