Last night we were on hurricane watch. We expected high winds, a lot of rain, perhaps a loss of power. But what actually happened last night....well, I don't think I'll ever forget it.
It all started at 1:30am. I know what time it was because I sleep with my phone on my night stand. And as soon as I hear one of my children start to stir, I grab my phone and check my email while I wait for them to settle back in (how did the pioneer women do this WITHOUT EMAIL ON THEIR PHONE?)
At 1:30am, Carter started to make some noise, so I was awake and piddling around on my phone. When his slight whining began to escalate into a frantic I'm-going-to-wake-up-Addison cry, I reluctantly pushed aside my heavy comforter and shivered when the cold night air hit me.
Moving as quickly as possible, but in a half-asleep sort of way, I stumbled over a stuffed animal that Addison left perched against my dresser. I breathed a short sigh of thankfulness that it wasn't a Lego embedded in the small of my foot (like last time).
Carter started crying even harder.
I walked swiftly down the hallway toward the kitchen shaking from the cold and wishing that I had grabbed a sweatshirt on my way by my closet. The wind outside sounded like it was starting to pick up, and for a minute I felt like it was calling my name "Deanna. Deeeeeeaaaaannnnaaa"
Ridiculous nature of my imagination firmly pushed aside, I continued on my errand to find a bottle of milk for my apparently starving son.
As I passed through the Living Room, a light from traffic shone right into the front of my house, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving on our front deck. A shadow? I couldn't really tell, and the light faded quickly so I kept moving. It was probably whatever animal ate trash off of the back deck whenever I forgot it out there. Or perhaps the wind blew in something from the street.
Stumbling at long last into the kitchen, I grabbed a clean bottle, put a little milk in it but then filled it up the rest of the way with water, feeling guilty that my fourteen month old was still requiring an occasional night feeding.
I walked back to the Living Room, faced out toward the front of the house, and looked back out onto the deck. I stood still for a minute holding the bottle and contemplating my guilt. Carter was quiet for a second (of course he WOULD be going back to sleep now), and I think I fell asleep on my feel for just a minute. Either that or I just gave into the shivering and started the slow process of freezing to death.
Another set of headlights chose that moment to flash into my house, and the brightness snapped me back to attention, but then I quickly wish it hadn't. The wind continued to howl, and I heard the rain pick up pace, but I was no longer paying attention to the weather.
My hand holding the bottle went numb, so it fell to the ground. The full bottle burst and slowly began seeping onto the floor underfoot. My mouth gaped with shock. Every nerve in my body snapped to attention, and my last vestige of sleepiness disappeared. I wanted to run, but I couldn't even move.
Facing the front door with the large oval window that I picked out a few years ago, I saw something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
A face in the window. Staring back at me.
It was quickly dark again, and I started to run away from the living room towards our room. Carter must have heard me because he started screaming again. Harder. Longer. With more urgency. Was someone- in his room? The wind increased dramatically with a wail sufficient enough to be Carter's duet partner.
"Aaron" I hissed, flinging myself into our bedroom, stumbling over the same stuffed animal that I forgot to move the first time around.
"AARON. GET YOUR GUN." I started shaking him, but he lay still; comatose; drooling onto my pillow.
In true "nighttime parenting" fashion, he would not be roused. I fumbled for his gun case, wishing that I had taken him up on one of those dates at the shooting range so that I would know what to do with this black piece of plastic.
"WAKE UP." I elbowed him (with the arm NOT holding the gun) "Where are your bullets?"
He mumbled something about the irrigation system going bad, and then he rolled over. Carter's screams shot up another octave while an ominous roll of thunder joined the chorus. There was no time.
I held the gun at an arm's length in front of me like I saw on that new Charlie's Angel's show that they canceled after only a few awesome episodes and walked back down the hallway toward the living room.
I was trembling. My heart was racing. I tried to hold my breath so that man couldn't hear me coming back, but when my foot caught on an errant block, kicking it the length of the hallway with toddler-loud elegance, I knew that sneaking around was futile.
Finally back in the dark living room, I reached over with one arm and turned on the one lamp that didn't have a burnt out bulb (curses for forgetting to go to the hardware store and buy light bulbs), and slowly I turned back toward the window.
A stern face framed by silver hair was still staring through the window. Rain was dripping from his his forehead onto his nose, but he didn't lift a hand to wipe it away.
"I'VE GOT A GUN!" I yelled, trying to sound convincing that I had bullets too.
His thin lips pressed into small smirk and then quickly returned to a tightened glare, matching the squinting of his black eyes. Other than that quick motion he didn't move. He just stood there. A bolt of lightening lit up the nightscape behind him, showing me what I already knew. No one was out there to help me.
"What do you want?" I asked, feeling the milk from the spilled bottle start to trickle down by my bare feet and feeling fear that Carter was suddenly quiet again. "Deeeeeeaaaaannnnnaaaaa" the wind howled.
I saw him raise one hand and grab the doorknob. I breathed a sigh of relief that at least the door was locked. I know for a fact that I checked this doorknob ten times before going to bed (it's kind of an obsession) just a few hours ago.
But now I saw it easily turning, and the door swung open until the only thing between us was open space. Well, that and the gun that didn't have any bullets that I was still holding an arms length in front of me.
My phone. Where's my phone? I need to call 911. But in true pioneer woman fashion, I no longer had a cell phone. I had no idea where I left it during my stumble to the kitchen.
He just stood there in the doorway, his smirk returning. A smell of rotten eggs combined with sewer rot combined with body odor wafted toward me.
"AARON!" I screamed. No response. I silently cursed my nighttime terrors habit because no doubt Aaron assumed that this was just another nightmare.
The intruder stepped up into the house in slow motion, and I noticed for the first time how tall he was. Easily over six foot, he was solid and looked to be built of solid muscle. I wished that I had been taking Karate instead of Zumba these past few months.
I waved the gun at him as if I was going to vaporize him with the motion. It had no effect whatsoever.
He took a step toward me, putting his hand in his pocket. Just then I heard a tiny pitter patter of feet in the hallway. NO.
I turned and saw Carter in his green and brown sleeper, toddling towards me with a smile on his face. "Ma-ma" he said. How did he get out of his crib? Was someone else already in the house?
"No, Carter. STOP." But he ignored me, just like he ignored me the other 100 times that day.
"Go get your Daddy." I hissed.
"Da-da" He obediently said, but he kept running toward me. His beautiful face was smiling and his arms were held out for me to scoop him up like I always do. I wondered if this was the last time I would get to see that smile.
I glanced back at the white haired man and saw something shiny glint at his side. Did he- did he have a knife?
He was closer now. A few more steps and I could almost reach out and touch him. The smell of rotteness was overwhelming. I fought against extreme nausea and dizziness.
"Please. Please don't hurt my baby" I must have said, but I'm not sure how because my jaw was clenched shut from fear.
"Ma-ma" Carter chirped. "Deeeeeeeaaaaannnnnaaa" the wind was now whispering. I heard Addison randomly shout "SIGNING TIME" in her sleep. Curses that she got the sleep-talking gene from me. But still no sound from Aaron.
The next ten seconds stretched into a lifetime. I remembered all of the bad that I had ever done, and I wished that I had cherished the good with more fervency.
Carter reached me, noticed the stranger, and decided that this new guy looked more promising than Mommy. The wind started whipping rain into the house just as Carter ran towards him with a smile.
"NO Carter. NO!" I screamed, but my screams only made him run faster.
The unwelcome visitor smiled at Carter, a slow smile of pure evil. I had a Criminals Minds thought that perhaps he collected eyes and was pleased with Carter's gorgeous blue ones.
I forced my frozen legs to move toward Carter. To throw myself in front of him so that my little boy could somehow get away. But just then, the stranger picked Carter up and turned away from me.
WHAT WAS HE DOING TO MY BABY????
I saw another glint of silver, and I knew the worst as about to happen. Forcing myself to MOVE TOWARD THEM FASTER, I saw a handful of shiny objects fall to the floor. With one smooth motion from the man, Carter was now on the floor gathering them. I looked closer and saw miniature Three Musketeers bars.
Just as my son was about to eat the poison candy and those smelly hands of steel were about to reach around my throat, I closed my eyes and whispered