She closed her eyes, inhaled slowly, and counted to three. This, she thought, is supposed to calm me. If I inhale slowly and count to three, I will not injure the person in front of me. Both words and fists will be contained.
She opened her eyes. The others looked at her. They saw the inhale. They felt the count. And they said nothing.
She knew they knew and suddenly her moment of calm was gone. No one breathes that deeply unless they are ready to explode and in the most uncanny way, this breath, the calm before the storm, terrifies the bystanders much more than the explosion could. It is the suspension of time. It is the nauseating anticipation of the unknown. It is, though void of any real action, an insult, a challenge, and a defeat.
She owned the victory. It felt delicious and, as people do when they experience delectable things, she smiled. The smile silently echoed around the room drowning out the chorus of voices that provoked the first deep breath until suddenly everything was silent in unison. Then, satisfied with the terror she invoked, the woman walked away.