It had only been as the altercation had begun that she had realized that there was someone following her. That realization left her shaken, left her staring in confusion and shock as she watched the homeless man, at least she assumed he was, raise a bottle, threatening the two others. The heavy door pressed against her as she peeked out, and she bit her lip.
She should call 911. The thought dawned on her, but for some reason her body would not respond normally. She could not get her hands to dig into her purse to try to locate her cell which always managed to end up buried at the bottom even when she put it in the pocket.
Things like this did not happen to her. She was boring, a nobody. At least she had been until she had decided to change that. And here she was having two men follow her into an alley, a third man protect her. All of them strangers. She might have seen the homeless man before, but it was in that moment that she realized that although she might have smiled at him, she had not truly seen him. It jarred her. An odd thing to focus on in the middle of witnessing violence, but it was the easiest thing to latch onto. It made sense, even if it upset her.
Then it was over, a woman coming from the end of the alley to attempt to intercede, sirens, an ambulance. It was then that she managed to gather her wits and slip back outside. She walked carefully, avoiding the broken glass, and knelt next to the older gentleman where he lay on the ground. There was no thought for her skirt, no concern for her shoes or her purse as they contacted the dirty pavement. Instead she offered a shakey smile to the older man and glanced at the other two women.
She offered her thanks, taking the older man's hand and squeezing it. It was obvious he was embarrassed, but equally obvious that he had recently made an effort to clean herself up.
Glancing at the other two women, she felt rather ashamed. She had done nothing, while these two women, not even involved at all, had managed to act. One even entered the fray, despite the fact that she was at a distinct disadvantage. The other, she assumed, had managed to call an ambulance.
As the older gentleman was hoisted onto the gurney and settled inside the ambulance, she turned to the other two women.
"Thank you. Both of you. I didn't... I didn't even know. I didn't know him. I don't know why he did that for me. I don't even know what those men wanted." She bit her lip, feeling silly as a tear trickled down her cheek. A quick swipe with her sleeve was the best she could do, and she felt like a child doing that.
Awkwardness took over. What do you say to total strangers who helped you when you can't even process the event that took place. She looked down, noting for the first time the stains on the hem of her skirt where she had knelt on it. A shakey laugh slipped past her lips, and she pushed herself to her feet. "I should go clean up. I'm probably already late."
She hesitated, wondering if she should get their names, talk to them. But she wanted familiarity, not more strangers. Not right now. They weren't even women she had seen before. Not even familiar strangers. Her eyes turned longingly to the door into her building and she offered an apologetic grimace before hurrying inside.
She managed to make it to a washroom before anyone saw her and dabbed at her skirt, knowing nothing was going to get it clean in the restroom. She had to hope for drycleaning.
Why was she worrying about her skirt? That man had been injured, and it had been while protecting her. She should have gotten his name, should have found out which hospital he was being taken to. But she hadn't. She should call the hospitals, she supposed. Or maybe someone in the office would know. A quick look in the mirror revealed that the flower in her hair that had looked so cheery that morning was looking dilapidated. Her skirt was stained, her face pale, and there were faint marks from the tears that had managed to leak out. It would have to do, though.
Pushing the door open, she peeked out into the hallway, hoping she could make it up to her office without running into anyone she knew, or even anyone she didn't know.