Scarlet Montgomery was lost and alone, in a world where she felt forgotten. At thirty years old, she had no family, no friends, and barely a place to call home. Her hopes and dreams were no longer existent. It was months ago when she had chosen a life of solitude, when she had decided to run away from the abusive place she had been forced to call home. She waited until he left for work, packed a bag, walked out the door, and never looked back.
Now, she spent her days locked inside an abandoned apartment complex. Where the town sign read Belmont. She never bothered anyone, no one ever bothered her. It was as close to paradise as she could get; the privacy and the life she had longed for.
It was at night when Scarlet would venture outside, walking the dark streets of the small town she found herself in, surrounded only by the shadows of buildings and street lamps. This was when she liked to be out, when everyone else was tucked away in their warm homes. She enjoyed the quietness of the night, the peacefulness. There was one lone store open during this time. They sold everything from groceries to clothing to housing. It was perfect. Never crowded. Only one bored employee. And they had everything she needed to survive.
On this particular cold and snowy evening, with Christmas only weeks away, Scarlet decided to risk going out before dark. It was a necessity because of the treacherous weather the town had experienced. It had been a week since she had gone out, so it was a risk she had no choice but to take. The cold temperatures would inevitably cause her harm if she didn’t find more suitable clothing and bedding. Sure, the small fireplace and thick blanket helped keep her warm, but she needed more. Plus, her food supply was beginning to run low.
The thought of being around people was nearly suffocating, so she was relieved to see very few people wandering the streets. She still had that slight fear of being found; one of the many reasons she chose to stay invisible. The idea of being forced back into her previous lifestyle terrified her. She could never go back to that.
Turning down the familiar Main Street of the small town, Scarlet was startled when she bumped into a solid figure. She looked up to find gentle eyes of a man, staring right back at her.
“My apologies, Miss,” came a kind voice.
She quickly gathered herself and started back on her way. Then she heard his voice again. “Miss, you dropped your scarf.”
Scarlet hesitantly turned to the stranger with an outstretched hand. “Thank you,” was all she could muster the courage to say, with her eyes remained on the ground below her.
“You seem troubled. Is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, not at all. I must be on my way.” Before he could say another word, she disappeared down the sidewalk.
Attempting to shake the encounter from her mind, Scarlet rushed to the familiar store. Keeping her head down and her pace quick, she gathered what she needed, and made her way to the cashier. She was thankful she still had money put away, for occasions such as this. All those months of saving and hiding money in an old shoe box had really come in handy. For six months, she hid the allowance she was given each week. The one perk of her former life, if you can even call it a perk. Money changed people. It made people ungrateful, bitter.
Back on the street, the snow began to fall harder. She decided the clothing could wait because the visibility of her surroundings became more and more limited. She continued on her way, knowing there was still had a good walk ahead.
Finally nearing her block, she was met with another surprise and abrupt encounter; the same gentleman from before.
“We must stop meeting like this,” the man all but chuckled. Scarlet couldn’t help but smile. “You have your hands full. Please, let me help you,” the stranger reached to help.
“Please, no, I’m fine. I’m almost home.” The man was insistent, but Scarlet was able to free herself from his kindness. After she was sure her belongings were in place, she nodded her head in thanks, and scurried away to the alleyway that lead to her home’s secluded door. Soon, she was safe in her home. Safe from the snow, safe from encounters, and safe from the world.