This must be the wrong address. I need to get out of here.
Misty turned to hurry away out of the dark, deserted corridor. But, before she reached the alley entrance, she heard a familiar voice call out.
“Misty, here, right here.” The greeting was joined by her friend’s smile and raised hand, waving to signal her presence in the doorway. Emma invited her inside as if they were accustomed to meeting here frequently. Centuries of silence passed before they embraced as in the past. The childhood friend she remembered would be too proud to live in this shabby neighborhood. And with an outfit that matched the environment, no less. Misty camouflaged her face to cover the puzzlement over her friend’s new basement level lifestyle. She felt miles away from her comfort zone. Her familiar daily garb, a tailored, dark-colored business suit embracing a colorful silk shell, made her feel out-of-touch. Gucci shoes and handbag, along with perfectly accessorized jewelry felt like binding chains encircling her wrists and ankles. Her flawless coiffure, manicured nails, and make-up resembling an airbrushed celebrity photo, belonged on a billboard in this rundown neighborhood instead of a visitor coming to call.
“Uh, I can’t believe it’s been over five years since we’ve seen each other. How’ve you been?” Misty wanted to roll the last sentence back with her tongue like a charmed snake, realizing the answer was all too obvious.
Saving her college pal from an unimaginable amount of embarrassment, Emma skipped right on to her cheery answer. “Great, Misty. I’m so happy to see you. Glad you could break away from the studio to visit.”
“How long have you lived here in the city, Emma? Last I heard you were ‘Miss Hoity-Toity Society’ in Baltimore.” Her forced giggle would fool no one, but her friend laughed along with her as though they had been exchanging girlie jabs for a lifetime.
“Not long. A few weeks, I think. I was tired of the phony life, phony friends and paparazzi. I needed to get back to my passion for writing.”
“Is that what this is all about?” Misty did a half-turn sweeping her arm around to suggest the bleak apartment’s furnishings. “Gathering research or living your research, I should say.”
“Heavens no. I’m a realist, remember? Not a fantasy writer.” Emma chuckled slightly with the words but her smile faded quickly along with the sentence’s volume. Her face now revealed the pain she tried desperately to mask from her friend.
“What is it? What’s wrong”?
“I didn’t bring you here to feel sorry for me, Misty. I just wanted someone to know where I am. And why, in case I disappear.”
“My God, Emma. What or who is so terrible to bring you to this?