Alice woke to the mattress rising, like the feeling of someone getting out of bed. She reached her arm across the warm sheets to confirm it. John had gotten up. His feet shuffled quietly on the bathroom rug. So quiet, considerate. True, she was awake now, but he hadn’t even turned on the light to the bathroom. He learned early on in their relationship that the slightest noise, even a sliver of light sneaking under a closed door could wake Alice.
Reaching over the nightstand, she tapped her phone. “1:00 am” the blue light flashed. Underneath that, the date read Sunday, December 21st. She clicked off the screen then reignited it with a hurried tap. Sunday, December 21st! A rock of fear lodged in her throat. She froze, running through the last twenty four hours in her mind. She dropped John off at the airport herself. It couldn’t possibly be John in her bathroom.
Alice felt her fingertips go numb gripping the top of her blankets. Every organ in her body strained trying to sense what was happening inside. John had left yesterday, she was sure of it. Closing her eyelids tight, Alice hoped the sound was in her imagination. She lay there unmoving, unbreathing, only listening, trying desperately to hear. Hoping that soft shuffling sound was actually coming from outside. It wasn’t.
Suddenly she remembered very clearly the way he’d kissed her at the airport yesterday. Saying goodbye unwillingly, yet enjoying the rush of adrenaline in missing someone so much. She could still feel the pressure on her lips, remembered pausing at the wheel before she drove back to her studio apartment.
Listening…Listening. Trying not to breathe too loud so she could hear the intruder’s feet jangling in her ears. As if somehow hearing it clearly could help her. Quickly, she turned over on her stomach, wishing that whoever was pacing her bathroom would assume she was turning in her sleep. Sliding the phone under the pillow, biting her lip, she waited. The sounds of the intruder changed not at all, so she dipped her face under the pillow. Immediately, her ears began to warm. Terrified, she began to text the 9-1-1 service.
A loud click from the bathroom drew her out from under the pillow. But she had already contacted the authorities. There’s an intruder in my apartment, she wrote. I don’t know what to do. Alice struggled to keep an eyelid squinting to see if the intruder would come out.
They’ll be here soon. They’ll be here soon. She repeated this to herself, desperately depending on the words of the operator. She could feel the blood pounding in her head. And still the shuffling footsteps echoed from the bathroom.
Bang. Crash. There was a sound of glass shattering. She jumped upright and ran for the kitchen hoping to reach a knife. Lunging for the cutting board she grabbed the nearest blade, and she saw lights hovering around her front door. Flashlights hovering. The police!
She rushed to open the door, a thin serrated knife clutched in her hand. The police motioned to her, their eyes questioning. She nodded to the bathroom door. They approached carefully, tip-toeing before popping the doorknob off her bathroom door. Crashing into the bathroom, door swung wide, Alice could see a man crouched, so shocked he had grabbed onto the top of the toilet tank for support.
“Freeze!” the police shouted in unison. The man in the bathroom regained his balance and raised his hands over his head. Alice felt rather than heard her lungs pop, screaming. It was John, and he looked terrified. The broken pieces of the bathroom mirror, inexplicably shattered, crunched under their feet as they escorted him from the bathroom, pinching his upper arms.