Ruby Prince took a drag from her cigarette with her back against the damp exterior of a jagged brick wall. Her optimism was waning as well as her endearing patience. She opened her eyes and simotaneously opened her mouth slowly, letting the smoke escape in thick, velvety curls that masked her face.
The cigarette fizzled, and she pinched the end and puffed a few last sips of smoke before flicking the remains into a murky puddle that had dripped and gathered from an overhead fire escape. She looked up to meet the dim overcast sky that blanketed the city in an afternoon of bleak desolation.
If there was one thing that sent Ruby Prince spiraling into the depths of despair, it was a day full of grey skies.
Ruby dug through her bag for another cigarette, only to find her pack of American Spirits crumpled and empty. She extracted it and held it for a moment, feeling the contours of every wrinkle in the yellow exterior. She shook it upside down, and a few remant flakes fluttered down silently to her feet before she let it drop into its grave.
She couldn't afford another pack of cigarettes, let alone even something decent to eat. She was down to a few packages of pork flavored ramen that littered her kitchen cabinets and a half empty pitcher of grape Kool Aid in her fridge. Pay day was still nearly six days away and the only cash Ruby had were the coins that she would later be digging desperately from under her couch cushions.
She dug through her purse again and extracted a stick of gum that someone had offered her last week, and she had taken only to be polite. Ruby chewed menacingly as she walked, thinking about all the delicious things she would be eating when she finally got paid. She dreamed that the gum she was chewing would suddenly become a greasy cheeseburger or a fresh doughnut with pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles, something absolutely unhealthy and loaded with fat.
Ruby trudged on, tired and stooped over slightly from a long day at work. She was glad she had brought along her Converse sneakers for the walk home, her feet felt like boulders that she shuffled wearily in as she passed the sweet smells that drifted out of bakery doors.
Ruby stopped for a moment to gaze at her reflection in a bakery window. She pushed away a few stray hairs and frowned at the tired look in her eyes. She didn't however, notice the bicylist that had jumped the curb to avoid being hit by a FedEx truck.
Ruby Prince never saw it coming. In fact, she really didn't feel a thing until she came to moments later,surrounded by onlookers.
Ruby awoke to a sea of faces above her, blocking the sky like a flock of passenger pigeons. Their mouths were moving, but she couldn't hear anything except a buzzing sound and was soon overwhelmed by a sharp pain in her forehead that made sitting up near to impossible. She slumped back down, and quickly eyed the gash in her stockings and cried out.
"Are you in any pain?" A man in a bicycle helmet asked her slowly, with false ease.
"My stockings..." She said frantically, groping at her leg for the ripped nylon.
"She's obviously in shock," the bicylist announced to the crowd as if he were an expert in such matters, "Everyone stay calm."
The man's shorts made strange sqeaking noises whenever he moved and Ruby found them quite hynotic.
"I believe she might have a concussion," the man announced again. People mumbled and motioned for Ruby not to move but that only made her want to move more, to get up and run away from these horrible people gawking at her misfortune.
"I have to get home," she slurred, bracing herself against the pavement.
"No, Miss. Please don't move, concussions are serious business and should be dealt with accordingly. Please wait, I just called for help. Really, you're bleeding, please don't move."
The man pleaded, and reached down to restrain her.
"No!" Ruby yelled, pulling herself quickly away from his grasp. The crowd's mumbling grew steadily. Ruby tried to get up, but the effect of the blow had reduced her to the same state as if she had taken fifteen vodka shots and she manuevered herself dangerously to her feet and stumbled and limped her way through the crowd. The sea of faces quickly parted to grant her passage, and gave swift looks of horror in her direction.
It was then that Ruby noticed the blood dripping down her face, staining the collar of her shirt and matting itself into her hair, coating her skin in a sticky crimson mask..
"You're going to need stiches, Miss!" The man said, running after her. Ruby could not garner the strength to utter another word, but waved him away with her hand as she ran awkwardly as fast as she could in a direction far from her previous mishap.
She stopped when she knew she had put enough distance between herself and the crowd and dipped into a small dark alley space to gain composure.
Ruby pulled out her compact mirror and held it up to her face. It was not the same face she had seen just a moment ago, a silent, tired face in a reflection of a window. It was something new, something monstrous. The whole right side coated in blood and matted black hair with a gash just above the right eye, open and oozing out crimson. Ruby breathed for a moment, long and sharp before she folded the compact and returned it to her bag.
She couldn't feel any real pain, just a dull throbbing sensation above her eye like a migraine headache. Ruby knew she couldn't walk home this way, so she dug through her purse once more and extracted a long black silk scarf and draped it over her head, and then down over her shoulders, and put on a pair of sunglasses before making her way back to the sidewalk.
As she walked, she left a small trail of blood behind her that nobody seemed to notice.