“Ha! What do we have here?”
Julia woke with a start. A beautiful man was staring at her. This wasn’t good for many reasons.
For starters, it meant that her plan to rest and then escape quietly had fallen to pieces. Secondly, any strange man was a danger. But thirdly, a beautiful man was even more dangerous.
Julia’s Gran had taught her to always look for a boyfriend who was beautiful but didn’t know it. Many guys who were beautiful knew it, and thus had a very high sense of entitlement. Little did they realize that often the only thing they had going for them was their looks. They were often incompetent in every other area because they hadn’t needed to develop any part of their inner self. The exterior was all that mattered, because it is what got them attention.
When these beautiful men started to get older their looks started to go and so did their confidence. They tended to make up for it by being complete jerks to everyone around them. They treated everyone as lesser than them.
The fact that this man was Quality made it all the worse. He had two strikes against him, although he sure didn’t think of it that way. He was dangerous and didn’t even know it.
Being able to size people up like this was critical to a Visitor. Gran had taught her well for this life, even though she never meant to. Julia had a good idea how to act around him in a way that would keep her safe. Maybe even away from the authorities too.
She could tell this man had an undeservedly high opinion of himself, and she was going to have to tread very carefully. Not like she was treading at all right now. She didn’t exactly have her back up against the wall but it was just as bad. She was still in the bed and a little entangled in the sheets. Hopefully because of this he wouldn’t see her as a threat. But more importantly, she hoped that he wouldn’t feel the need to be threatening at all. You never knew with these kinds of encounters. Julia hadn’t had a lot of them, but any unintentional run-in with Quality was one too many.
He was about average height, less than 6 feet tall. His hair was salt-and-pepper. To be honest, it was more salt than pepper. He had it pulled back into a ponytail. This let her know even more about him. Her Gran always said “Any man who thought he was something was really nothing.”
She said a quiet prayer to her Gran right now to know what to do.
She didn’t have much time to finish her prayer before the man decided for her. He grabbed her by one ankle and dragged her out of the bed.
“Get out of here! This isn’t your home! The Lady is coming home soon, you hear?”
Her breath was knocked out of her when she landed on the floor. So much for plush carpets – they didn’t soften the blow one bit. Scrambling, she grabbed the spare dress she’d taken from the last room and ran headlong out of the bedroom and downstairs. She headed for the front door rather than try to find the servant’s entrance.
It was locked. Of course. Because that would keep out Visitors. Don’t these people know anything?
Fumbling with the latch and the deadbolt, she was out, nearly tripping over the stone statue of a lion next to the immaculately trimmed shrubbery. Must be nice to have that much money and time. Oh wait – they didn’t. It was all stolen.
She tried not to be bitter about how unfair it all was. And they accused Visitors of being thieves! Time to move on. This kind of thinking would just keep her distracted, and she needed to keep her wits about her. She was in foreign territory.
Julia had time to think about that encounter on her walk away from the home. She was walking, not running. Running would call too much attention to her. She was dressed well enough, having taken some sensible shoes from the closet in the last Room. She could play the part, now she was dressed like it. Walking would clear her mind and help her blend in.
Quality walked their neighborhoods. For exercise maybe? Maybe to see their neighbors? Maybe as part of a patrol? Nobody ever knew about them. The Visitors watched and studied them like the threats they were. These people had suddenly gone up in status but not in brains. They didn’t make much sense to anybody, least of all themselves.
He’d been worried about the Lady. That was odd. Julia wondered about that. Another case where the relationship was unequal? Sometimes the couple was just posing as a couple. Sometimes they didn’t know each other well and had decided to occupy an abandoned house together, as uneasy roommates. Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes the houses were big enough that they could live together there and not ever see each other. That seemed to work out well.
Julia kept walking towards the city. There’d be no opportunity to find another Door in the suburbs. It wasn’t like she could just knock on some stranger’s door and ask to use their inter-dimensional portal.
If they had one. If they knew they had one.
Come to think of it, how did that last Lady know where the Door was? Was she a Visitor, posing as Quality? Or had other Visitors come through there?
That was a question for another day.
Now, to find a municipal building or a store – some place she was allowed to walk in unquestioned. She had to get back to Rob and Mickey. There was time yet, but in this life you had to make the best use of the time you had. You never knew what was going to happen next on the Walks.