The bench fit her back well. Her back would not, however, fit the bench. She couldn't seem to keep from flinching her muscles away from the cold, wooden curve, even though she knew if she did, she could relax and the wood would warm. Her palms pushed against the beveled edge of the seat, her ungloved fingers curling under, the grip tightening and mindfully relaxing before mindlessly retightening. She might have hunched into the cowl of her cape, but she held her head erect, alert in the cold and wet and gathering gloom. She deliberately did not turn her head at every movement, though the wind caused many, rolling and tumbling and sliding unsecured chaff back and forth across the cobbled street, but she saw every angle around her in her unsettled mind's eye.
A large and alien looking leaf skated toward her, scraping the stones, unerringly bound for her as the marker on a ouija board. She clapped her foot down upon it, taking some unrealized satisfaction in it's dry crunching end.
The darkness was not yet. It seemed unwilling, waiting for a cue, unable to ultimately puncture and bleed into the light fog. So she could still see the few lategoing and always seemingly distant men as trees walking, and the passing masts of ships on the Thames as cryptic pointing fingers gliding past, pointing at nothing. In the row of houses across the street, few windows glowed, it being too early for such as lived in such squat and squalid dwellings to have arrived home from a Saturday's labor. Those that did offered no outside light. They only presented odd eyes in a wide, featureless face, revealing nothing of the minds inside, if there were minds inside.
She would not shiver at the cold, nor shudder at the portent.
She did not realize that she wished it dark. The threat of blackness was worse than the presence. For darkness would shrink her area of responsibility, alleviating her obligation to be aware but unconcerned of every far-flung happening. In the darkness, she could only see within the pool of light that would accompany the tardy lamplighter as commas, if not periods, if not question marks in his occupational sentence.
For now, she must remain relaxed, nonchalantly waiting for the hansom that would bear her home, into the light, away from the top page of the newspaper beside her that beat furiously in the wind's labored breathing, only to inexorably unfurl in the inhalation to reveal the words she would not read, but knew were there: the screaming speculative query of the identity of the latest dead woman and of the last person to see her terrified, despairing face alive.
But how now, as the night seemed to become willing to fulfill it's promise, did she begin to tremble despite her unconscious resolve? Some messenger of the city's panic crept as a Trojan within the deepening shadows. She abruptly and fiercely folded her arms under her breast, and her back stiffened even further away from the inviting bench.