Claudia Wolfe was late! Not good, not good at all!
She was now kicking herself for just ignoring her alarm, hitting that snooze button and letting herself roll back over and have ten more minutes tucked up in the heaven that was her bed. It had easy enough to let herself fall back into the land of nod and quickly let those precious extra ten minutes roll over and turned into another hour, which had meant that she was now running very late for work. She had haphazardly thrown the nearest clean clothes on and dashed out of the door with a piece of dry toast hanging from between her cracking lips.
This would now be her second strike alone this week and that was not taking into account the strikes she had previously received. This could not and would not end well for her. As Claudia doubted that Professor Walker would let slide by without some form of punishment. It hopefully was something small, that she could easily manage whether it was a docking a portion of her weekly wages or working an extra day unpaid.
Those were what she considered to be her best options. It was all that she could hope for right now, that or she could assume the worst and she did not want to even consider that an option right now.
She clutched the strap of her aging yet favorite bag tightly to her. Her knuckles slowly turning white as she struggled to rush through the mid-morning crowd. Each time, she pushed to move forward, she was pushed back. It felt as if she was only just taking one step forward only to pushed into taking two steps back.
Never once did Claudia notice the exotic looking woman tightly wrapped up for winter in a long navy pea coat seated upon a nearby bench whose graze continuously was glancing in her direction, taking in her every footstep, every motion that she made.
This woman's steely gaze was fixed upon her form like a hawk eyeing down its prey from a distance waiting for the right moment to the book as a shield, to hide behind as she pretended to read in order to prevent herself from being discovered.
A smirk pulled across her ruby red lips, she had finally found who she had been searching for, the first piece of the puzzle but for now she turned her attention back to the book she held in her hands as it was far too soon in the game to make the next move. It hadn't been easy to find her but now that she had her in sights, she wasn't going to let her get away.
Claudia disappeared round the corner, now out of sight. The queen moved across the figurative chess board, edging closer to the king who made her own move unconsciously trying to survive the game. One Claudia wasn't even aware she was now apart of and playing but not that she would be playing alone for much longer.
This day was slowly turning further into a nightmare as she continued on her way, trying to edge ever closer as she entered through the gates of the university. If only, she had gotten up with her alarm first started screaming at her then she wouldn't be facing this chaos. If she had gotten up as normal then be in the midst of the list of tasks and errands that started most mornings on campus. Instead she was facing another obstacle in her path, the hoard of students trying to move between morning lectures from one end of the campus to the other.
Normally she missed this and softly laugh at the ongoing buzz of student life that she had once herself been part of.
Claudia felt her phone buzz twice in her jacket pocket, she groaned as she tried to rummage for the ringing nightmare hopefully before it rung off. She was not that lucky as she pulled it out of her pocket, flipping it open, did it ring off. With her once busy social life rapidly dwindling over down to non-existent over the course of the past few months, that call could have only been from a handful of people. Her number might not have changed but people had mysterious and suddenly lost it when she tried to get in contact on multiple occasions.
Her parents maybe? No they were much too busy with their own lives even if they were only a few states away at all times. They rarely called, only really calling when one or both of them wished to express this dissatisfaction usually regarding her life choices which they looked down their noses at.
It didn't matter whether it be at how she was spending her life working as a research assistant in the relatively small history department in the university of Oregon or her ongoing lack of a suitable romantic partner or partners in her case not that they approved of that idea either. Her choices were not wanted they wanted for her if they had their own way.
Her mother had never given her on her campaign to get Claudia to return home and settle for a life that she knew she could never truly be happy in, she was not meant to be a housewife surrounded by numerous children and an absentee husband who was forever on a business trip. It wasn't where she envisioned herself going. Maybe one day settling down with the lovers of her choices and maybe having a child or two but for now all Claudia wanted to do was to continue her research into Irish and British folklore, whilst aiding Professor Walker with her own who would be supervising her every step of the way.
Her father had often professed that he had higher aspirations for his only daughter, wanting her to become a doctor or lawyer. A high flying career path but Claudia wanted to follow her heart. She wanted to one day become a writer and have a book or two published. Her father had quickly brushed that aside stating that it was nothing but a foolish dream, that it would leave her penniless and likely end her up on the streets with all the other hopeless dreamers.
It was what she wanted that mattered in the end, wasn't it? Claudia viewed this job was as a stepping stone towards achieving her dream. If she still had it by the end of the day that would be nothing short of a miracle. Her limited hours contract was a blessing in disguise one way as it meant that she had time to work on the manuscript for her novel. However it meant at times, she was terribly short for money and had to rely on her depleting savings just to eat and pay her half of the rent. Maybe it was time to consider finding another part time job to boost her earnings just to get through the coming months.
The next person on the relatively short list was her former best friend, the ever party girl and her part time roommate Tina who these days she rarely saw for more than about five minutes if that. There was a time when they had been almost like sisters, they were there when they needed a shoulder to cry on if they were going through a rough patch or in Tina's case more often than not, a bad break up with her most recent boyfriend if you call them that. Tina had been the one to open doors for her, she had been her first friend when she come to study history focusing on Mythology in Oregon then preceded to never leave. It was safe and away from her parents and their controlling ways.
Tina had been the one to suggest flat sharing to save on costs when they still have both been students. Tina had dropped out somewhere in the middle of their second semester, drifting between odd jobs in the years that followed. Things had changed since those idealist times nine or so years ago when they both had been different people.
Tina's latest boyfriend. he was something else altogether. Jack August or Ace to his friends was leading Tina down a dangerous path. Encouraging her to stay out all night long, spend her rent money on drink and possible drugs which made it even more difficult when Claudia dared to broach the subject of money and what Tina owed that particular month. It always ended the same way with Jack putting his two cent, backing Claudia into a corner and verbal bullying her until she agreed to pay the entirety of the month's' rent. This could not go on from much longer as Jack and Tina were grating on her last nerve.
How long would it be before she cracked and said something to the two of them? Claudia doubted she would but it was clear that this arrangement was no longer working and after almost ten years it was time for Tina to move on especially since she was no longer paying her part of the rent or contributing to the food shopping.
Claudia was certain that it wouldn't be Tina calling not now as it was first two early for her but also because when she had crept out for the apartment this morning, Claudia had past the living room in which Tina had been using like an occasional bedroom after a long night out with Jack and his friends.
She had been spread out on the tiny sofa happily snoring away, still dressed in the same tight clothes she had worn out the night before. It would be some time before sleeping beauty rose from her slumber and pottered about the apartment. This left only one person, her supervisor and boss Professor Walker. This wasn't good, Professor Walker probably now thought that she was ignoring her.
She picked up her pace as she turned the left rounding the next corner moving away from the majority of the hustle and bustle. The building that housed the history department was now in sight. Claudia left out a sigh of relief before almost losing her footing on a loose branch that had fallen from a nearby overhanging tree. She cursed under her breath, wishing that she hadn't chosen to wear her heels in haste when she had rushed out to get out the apartment this morning with her chosen shoes in one hand. All she needed now was to trip up that would cap this terrible day off perfectly.
Once she had finally entered the building, Claudia felt somewhat lighter, she was almost there now and thankful that there wasn't any stairs to climb between the entrance and her destination that would have presented an interesting problem as Claudia plus heels plus stairs well would likely end one of two ways. Each would end with her either on her face or on her backside which was not a good look especially when wearing a skirt.
The history department was tucked away in the maze that made up the ground floor. She could count the number of times that she had gotten lost trying to find various offices including Professor Walker's when she had still studying herself but over time, Claudia still managed to get lost from time to time usually when she wasn't paying attention where she was going. This building, the history department was one of the few that could easily be labelled as a nightmare to navigate for students and faculty alike.
By the time that Claudia reached the door labelled PROFESSOR T WALKER, her auburn hair was sticking to her face, she was exhausted from carefully running across campus in her heels which she imagined had been a sight to behold for all the wrong reasons. She felt like a student once more, late for her lecture which had already started but as soon as she walked in, all the eyes of the entire auditorium would be staring down at her, both student and professor alike. Her anxiety was coming down on her hard and fast, her heart thumping against her chest like a drum.
She knew better that to linger outside this particular office for too long that would result in a lecture from Professor Walker and that was already heading her way, two in one day would not be ideal. Claudia knew that she needed to face her boss now and try to keep herself employed even if that meant she was on her knees begging to remain on as a research assistant.
All the time, not knowing that everything was about to change.
Fate had other plans for Miss Wolfe, ones she never would have dreamed or considered possible.
"I'm so sorry Professor for being this late" She said, already apologizing as she pushed the door open. Her eyes fixed upon the floor, not wanting to look into the judgmental eyes of Theresa Walker. It was best that remained almost mouse like, with her tail between her legs begging for forgiveness from her stern boss.
"I'll stay longer or even do an extra day to make up for lost time" Claudia continued to speak, her words almost rushed as she moved her eyes up from the floor. All the time hoping that Professor Walker wouldn't be too angry, too harsh with her punishment. The older woman always made her feel as if she was a naughty school girl facing the principal when she had made mistakes before, no matter how minor they might have been at the time.
"It won't happen again" She promised but instead of the stern face of Professor Theresa Walker, she was found herself face to face with the back of the leather chair. This really wasn't a good sign as it meant that she had seriously ticked her boss off. Claudia inched further into the room, closer to the desk. Her anxiety levels were climbing quicker than before. Soon they would be off the scale.
"Close the door" came from behind the desk, bring her back down to the here and now if but a moment. Claudia nodded before turning on her heel to carry out the task that she had been given without question.
As she closed the door, Claudia couldn't ponder on the fact that that Professor Walker's voice had sounded somewhat different, more exotic. She had known her voice anywhere but the person behind the desk vocal inflections were not the same of her bosses. No, it had to be Professor Walker sat in the chair as it would make a lick of sense that someone else would in this office with her right now. Maybe she just had a cold? Yes, that had to be it but still there would that really explain for this sudden and dramatic vocal change. Claudia pushed that thought aside, it was silly of her to think like that.
When she turned back around, so had the chair. Her eye's widened at the unfamiliar sight before her. "You're not Professor Walker! Who the hell are you!" Claudia proclaimed, her voice full of nerves as she shuttered over each word as she stared down a woman that she did not know and had no place being here. A woman with black choppy hair and a sinister smile stretched across her lips making her look like a snake eyeing down it's prey. She remained still as if she waiting for the right moment to strike. Claudia was trying to fight back her fear that swelled within her belly.
This woman's sudden and strange appearance with that almost foreboding smile of hers that unnerved her. Her voice was failing her, revealing the fact she was terrified to stranger before her. Something about this woman screamed danger, which told her that needed to flee from this place. Claudia didn't have to wait long before question was answered.
"I'm the last face you'll ever see"