Prompt: A woman who works in a used bookstore finds a photograph of herself in one of the books brought in for resale. She looks outside and sees the man who just sold them to her watching her. She is afraid she is being stalked.
It was sweltering - you could almost see the humidity in the air. The atmospheric moisture made the air seem to shimmer as the sun shone through it. It was a little cooler in the bookstore, though not much drier. The yellow sunshine coming through the front window turned the books gold and revealed a billion tiny dust particles floating in the air.
Emma hummed a little - a tuneless mixture of old songs - as she worked. Her hair was falling down from its loose bun, turning into ringlets around her face. She picked up a book from the newly purchased pile - a compilation of Aesop's fables - and flipped through it to dislodge any bookmarks or loose papers. Finding it empty, she paused to admire a particularly charming illustration before pricing the book and setting it aside to be shelved.
She picked up the next book - a collection of fairytales - and began aimlessly flipping through it. Emma read a few lines from a story about a girl who collected fallen stars before continuing on. The picture was backwards, wedged in the spine of the book. It marked the beginning of another story.
It had some numbers neatly penciled on the back. Emma extracted it for a closer look. It took a moment to realize what she was looking out. It was early spring in the picture, she could tell by the bookstore display. It looked like it was overcast, but the bookstore window had cheap fake flowers lying among the books. Definitely spring. And she was locking up.
It was a day she didn't remember. She didn't specifically wearing her hair up like that paired with those earrings. She had gotten rid of that coat after spilling nail polish remover on a sleeve. But it was definitely her.
Emma leaned against the counter, suddenly feeling weak. She grabbed the next book in the pile, flipping through it to see if it had any hidden photographs. It was empty. She reached for the next and then the next, scattering the books and tearing pages in her panicked haste.
Then she paused, her breathing echoing in the heavy air of the bookstore. It was a man who had sold her those books. Emma looked out of the bookstore window. He was standing across the street, smoking. Their eyes met when she looked at him. She looked away quickly, mind spinning.
She walked as fast as she dared as she locked the bookstore door, keeping her eye on the man across the street. He didn't move. She didn't look at his face to check if he was still watching.
Emma grabbed the store phone from the counter and slid down against the hard surface. Crouching there she was more protected, she told herself, but that rationalization did not stop her from shaking.
Though he could not see her, Emma still felt his gaze as she dialed 911.