Anna always had an aversion to darkness. The night time made her feel uneasy. She hated not being able to see as well as she could during the day. The cool dampness of the night air made her feel like she was suffocating. Part of her problem was an overactive imagination. She could easily imagine killers lurking in shadows, making her pick up the pace and sprint to the bus stop. Even standing under street lights didn't help much
But no matter how dark the night was, Anna always enjoyed visiting the river. There was a little flight of stairs which led to a landing. In the middle of the landing there was a bench, flanked by two street lamps. She loved sitting on the bench to watch the water and think. Often times, Anna's mind wandered to her husband, John, who loved the river, or any body of water, even more than she did.
John was having a love affair with the ocean. They made trips up to Shell Beach whenever they could, often on Anna's days off. John was constantly in the water: swimming, boating, and fishing. It was hard to get him to leave, and often they had to run to catch the last bus back into the city. John loved to come to the river landing as well. He said he had fond memories of the place, but never specified what. Anna tried not to let that bother her too much. She wanted to live in the moment with John, creating memories all their own. What was the point of dwelling on the past?
"Beautiful, yes?" A voice behind her made Anna jump. She spun around and saw a man in a long black and tailored overcoat. An expensive looking fedora sat on his head, which she could see had no side burns of any sort. He was probably bald. It was his piercing blue eyes that caught her attention immediately. The man smiled a moment, and then motioned at the bench. "May I sit?"
"Of course!" Anna said, a bit warily. The man sat on the other end of the bench, leaving space between them. In her head, Anna was glad. If he had sat right beside her, she would have made an excuse to leave.
"I like watching the city lights on the water," the man was saying. "I often come here to think."
"I do too!" Anna exclaimed in the friendly voice she used with customers. "I find the water soothing."
The man smiled again. "I myself do not enjoy water. I prefer being alone, having time for myself. People rarely come here so late."
Anna nodded in understanding. She knew what it was like to get sick of the water and could sympathize with not liking it. "I got off a late shift," she said almost remorsefully, as if apologizing for interrupting this stranger's alone time, "I wanted to come here before going home."
"Do you live close by?"
"No, actually. I have to take the Shell Beach bus home. We live in the middle of my work and the beach."
The man turned to look at her better. "We?" His tone was polite.
"My husband and I."
The man inclined his head. "Ah."
"My name is Anna. You are...?"
"Hand," the man replied, offering to shake but not a first name. "Mr. Hand."
She shook his hand, gloved in black leather. "Pleased to meet you."
Mr. Hand stood up slowly, as if it pained him. "Back to you, Ms. Anna. I must be off. Maybe I'll see you some other time, yes." What should have been a question was said like a statement. Anna found herself agreeing, telling him to stop by the landing tomorrow. Mr. Hand tipped his hat to her once, revealing her assumption about his lack of hair was correct. She watched him stride off, his steps purposeful and oddly graceful. Then she checked her watch. Her bus would arrive in ten minutes. Gathering her purse, Anna hurried to the bus stop.