The city was vast. Much more so than Tiyana expected. It seemed so small from the water, and she didn’t see much of it on her trip from the shuttleport to the mansion. She was completely lost and worse, people avoided her whenever she approached them for directions.
She passed a building resembling a huge mirror and quickly covered herself with her arms when she saw her reflection. No wonder people wouldn’t come near her. The poor excuse for a cloth covering the Edonists had wrapped her in left her body completely exposed now that it had been soaked through from her swim. She ran to the closest alley and hid in the shadows.
“What do I do now?” she said, sinking to the ground and pulling her knees to her chest.
It was hopeless. Tiyana couldn’t allow herself to be seen in public dressed as she was. She was surprised the peacekeepers hadn’t arrested her yet for indecent exposure. Her vision blurred, but she bit her lip to keep the tears from coming. Crying was not going to get her out of this mess. She had to think. Her father would tell her to focus on the solution to her problem. She had to consider her options.
Tiyana took a deep breath, clearing her thoughts. “I can’t allow myself to be seen dressed this way. I need clothing, but how will I get clothing without being seen? Plus, I have no money. The Edonists have my belongings.”
Speaking out loud sometimes helped her think, but then Tiyana remembered where she was and looked around. The last thing she needed was to draw unwanted attention to herself. People might think she had escaped from a sanatorium if they saw her talking to herself, especially dressed as she was. Thankfully, there was no one close enough to hear her.
Logically, if she couldn’t be seen, she would have to wait until nightfall to move around the city. No doubt there would still be people around in the city center, but if she stuck to the alleyways, she could avoid being seen that way. Also, her coverings would have time to dry and maybe they wouldn’t be as see-through as they were now. Considering the kind of people who prowled the city at night, they might not notice her anyway.
By the time the sun set, another problem had emerged. Tiyana’s stomach had been growling so loudly all afternoon, she was surprised the entire block hadn’t heard it.
“Clothing first,” she whispered to her stomach. If she could find clothes, she could get to the shuttleport and catch a transport home before dawn. Once she was safely away from Oshea, then she would worry about eating.
The streets in the business district had begun clearing in the late afternoon as people made their way home from their places of work. Still, Tiyana didn’t feel comfortable enough to leave her hiding place until darkness had settled over the city. Her stomach let out a gurgle of protest and she couldn’t help but imagine her family sitting down to dinner at that very moment. Then she remembered the time difference. It was probably closer to lunchtime there. She sighed wistfully.
“I shouldn’t have come.”
It was too late to worry about that now. Tiyana had to keep her mind on her task. It was time to find clothing. The streets in this district were dark enough now for her to venture out. Most of the buildings had been emptied and only the occasional pedestrian could be seen.
On the corner of the street, she found a city directory. She sighed as she scanned it. The residential district was on the other side of the shopping district. If she could make it to the residential district, maybe she would find something that had been hung out to dry. She hated the thought of stealing, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
Unfortunately, the shopping district would be brightly lit and loaded with people. Not only were there retail shops, but most of the popular taverns and restaurants would be in that district as well.
Tiyana’s only other option was to go around it, through the seaport and warehouse district, which would add a lot of time to her venture. As big as the shopping district was, it might take her all night to make it to the residential district and she would have to spend another day hiding out if she didn’t find something to wear before dawn. The shopping district would have lots of clothing shops, but it wasn’t as though she could just walk in and buy something.
She rubbed her arms as she considered what she should do. Finally, she decided it would be better to play it safe. Going through the seaport and warehouse district might take longer, but she would have less chance of being seen. Besides, if she had to steal clothing, she would rather not steal from a shop where she would have a greater chance of being caught.
The night air grew colder. By the time Tiyana reached the seaport, she was shivering. The cold was forgotten when she heard male voices headed in her direction. She took cover behind one of the large shipping crates on the dock.
“Are you sure?” She heard one of the men say when he was close enough to make out their words.
“She couldn’t have gotten far, Brant. She isn’t exactly dressed appropriately, and we have eyes on the shuttleport. If she tries to leave Oshea, we will have her.”
Tiyana stiffened. Were they talking about her? She bit her lip and hugged herself. Of course, they were. Who else would they be talking about?
Now, what would she do? Even if she found something to wear, she couldn’t leave the island by the shuttleport. They were waiting for her there. Another idea formed as she gazed at the docked ships.