Even though midnight had come and passed the Maryland summer night was sticky and oppressive. ‘Great,’ Gabrielle thought in response to the cloying heat, ‘just what I need is to feel a little taste of hell.’
She locked her front door and then listened to the sounds of her neighborhood in the night. In the relative quiet she could hear the never ending flow of traffic on I 270 and Rockville Pike but all seemed quiet in her immediate environs. Without destination in mind she turned left and headed up the street in the same direction she and Adriel had traveled over half a day earlier.
The sports shoes she wore enabled her to walk quietly and she allowed her mind to wander as she meandered. Thoughts of Adriel in his youthful strength brought a smile to her lips but the realization that she had cut him deeply in his time of greatest need made her change from romantic reminiscence to delightful daydream of a time in the not-so-distant future when her sight might be restored. Vision inward rather than out the voices that wafted in the distance barely registered on her mental radar as she walked along.
In the last two decades Maryland had gone big on housing developments featuring homes of various price and size. The high density street she lived on featured a few large stand-alone houses on zero lot lines, some three story row houses and then groups of homes that were more condominium than traditional single family units. The house she and Adriel had shared for 15 years was on the ground floor and featured a large single stall garage and had been made ADA, and thus Adriel, accessible with very few modifications.
The street the Gibeons lived on was comprised of newer homes but by walking a block or two in any direction one could find houses that were considerably older and less well maintained. Urban enough to rate a METRO bus stop just a few streets down it was far enough away from the Shady Grove METRO station to make a hike to or from the subway a daunting task. The neighborhood was mixed in many ways but other than fearing the careless she had always felt comfortable in and around her home. It was this comfort and her lack of focus on where she was that allowed her to be so caught off guard by the young men whose presence now registered within her psyche.
“Hey, girl! You need some company?” a saccharine, deep-south voice called out.
She had not realized there were people close at hand and the shock of discovery made her next step come down just a bit unevenly and she bobbled as she walked. “Hey, borracha I think you need somebody to take you home,” came a second voice, this one with an accent garnered from a life spent further south than the first’s.
“What’s the matter, honey? You deaf, or just too good for us?” asked a third man.
Gabrielle wasn’t certain of what was to come next but she was no longer daydreaming. She hoped that the loud-mouthed men were all banter and no bother but if they had chosen her for a victim they were about to find out that not all that is tiny is helpless- that many a minute spider has a powerful poisonous bite. For just a moment she thought back to her earlier conversation with Bill Finger when she had declared she was not Arachne. Her lip curled in response as she thought, ‘You know, maybe I just am.’