Her heart was starting to beat faster as the anxiety set in. She snuggled deeper into her husband’s chest, comforted by the warmth of his body. She sighed deeply telling herself she would be fine as soon as she got there. Agoraphobia would not get the best of her tonight.
It was midnight and worrying about going someplace she had never been before was not going to help. She had committed so she was going. End of story. Time for sleep.
All sense of serenity vanished. Eyes widened that were almost asleep.
“I don’t know what that was.”
They settled back into the pillows hoping it was just a child kicking the wall in their sleep. But it didn’t seem like that’s all it was. They both played the sound over again in their minds and cautiously got out of bed at the same time.
Pete stood in the hallway listening at the door of the boys’ bedroom. Kristi stared intently at him. He slowly opened the door and she heard the floor boards creak as he checked on the snoozing kids. Moments later he was back out.
“Neither one of them were even close to the wall. They’re both asleep though.” He turned as if ready to head back to bed. The panic started to rise in Kristi’s chest as she stared at their daughter’s door. The feeling to check on the little girl was intense.
Pete and Kristi only had to look at each other to know what the other was thinking. He started to say he was afraid to open the door because it stuck and made a loud scraping sound that may wake the little girl.
Kristi was already at the door whispering that she knew a trick to open it quietly. She lifted up as she turned the handle and the door opened almost silently. She stealthily crossed the room to see their daughter lying flat on her back, legs stretched out over toys and blankets, near the wall.
Maybe it was the little girl kicking the wall after all. But the sounds didn’t seem right. Pete and Kristi went back to bed, this time leaving the door open. Pete suggested maybe it was a small earthquake. He checked his Blackberry for info with no luck.
Kristi’s mind wandered back in time to high school when she lived with her grandparents. A strange earthquake happened in the early morning. At the time Kristi was sure it was her grandma stomping through the house slamming cupboard doors in the kitchen. Grandma was always so tiny but noisier than a bumbling elephant when she walked.
The next morning Grandma and Grandpa both swore they weren’t up in the night. The newscasters reported an earthquake where those who felt it described it as a feeling of someone in the house.
The strange thudding and bumping seemed so eerily similar to that high school earthquake. It had to have been an earthquake. The kids were all safe. Pete and Kristi attempted sleep again.
THUD. Pad pad pad.
Kristi’s heart ached it was beating so hard. She could barely breathe.
Without moving Pete hissed, “Now you’re turning me into an anxious mess!”
“I’m sorry!” Kristi breathed back.
“Who’s there!” Pete’s voice came out deeper than usual.
“Connor. I need to go potty.”
“Go potty then!” Kristi managed to keep the waver out of her voice.
The toilet immediately flushed, small footsteps quickly padded off, the door creaked again and shut hard.
Was that all that was going on all along? Kristi could not suppress the panic. Everything goes to bed at midnight, including rational thoughts. Kristi knew nobody was in the house but she couldn’t shake the thought.
Her mind wandered to a scene about a year ago. She was bringing the kids home from the playground. One was being obstinate and arguing with her. She couldn’t remember why. She just knew it was a chaotic moment with three young kids. She pushed the button on the garage door opener and noticed the strange man for the first time. He had been looking over the fence into the next door neighbor’s yard. When the garage opened he was surprised and quickly walked across the street to speed walk past Kristi and her kids and around the corner.
She never thought it was strange until she got all her kids back inside. Then it hit her. What was he doing? Why was he wearing khaki pants and a white golf shirt like some salesman but get so skittish over an opening garage? What was he doing looking over the fence where there was no gate? The pit in her stomach was heavy.
She got the kids eating lunch and walked to the former highway patrolman’s house to ask for advice. He wasn’t home. Pete had told Bill about the incident the next time he saw him. Bill shared a story of a home invasion where a woman called him while she was hiding in her bedroom. Bill, the cop, flushed the guy out of the house. The robber jumped over the wall by the canal to meet up with Bill’s shotgun aimed at the robber’s face.
Kristi could not stop thinking about these stories. It was unlikely someone would break in. Unfortunately, if anyone did they would be disappointed there was nothing worth stealing!
Pete’s sense of ESP kicked in again and he asked if Kristi wanted to check the house. Yes please! They went together and checked that every door was locked. Pete even locked the deadbolt on the door that leads to the garage, for good measure.
Eventually sleep overcame the family. The next morning it was a dim memory that felt more like a bad dream than reality.
(all names were changed in this post)