Paolo fed me one last strawberry from the painted clay bowl. He let the juice drip down my chin and then kissed away every last trace. For a moment I was lost in the beauty of his herculean bronzed skin and the sound of the ocean crashing on the shore. A warm breeze blew into our gossamer paradise as Paolo began to remove his white linen shirt…
The sudden darkness shocked me as I awoke from my dream to sweat drenched sheets. I was alone in my bed and my heart was pounding. I threw off my heated blanket and slid closer to the frosted window to cool off. The glowing red clock on my husband’s side of the bed read 3:04am. Charley was not in bed sleeping next to me as he should have on this wintery Tuesday night.
I strained to hear the sound of his Playstation in the living room. Sometimes he would play in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep.
I could hear no sounds and could see no trace of light glowing from the crack under the bedroom door. The only light source I could see was from the red alarm clock shining against the closed closet door.
I climbed out of bed to search, checking the bathroom, living room and kitchen. Charley was not on the first floor.
That left only the basement if he was indeed in the house. I ascertained that his car was in the driveway and that all of the doors were locked.
Standing at the top of the basement stairs, I was still disoriented and only half awake when I realized that all of the lights were off in the basement. That was truly odd because Charley always insisted that we keep one of the lights on down there.
“Charley?” I meekly called out into the darkness below.
I received no response and my panic was growing. Where could he have gone? He would never have left without telling me.
We had just moved into this house about six months ago and I was still nervous about being in it alone. And I never went into the basement at night.
Taking a deep breath and pretending not to be scared, I started down the
basement stairs. As soon as I made it to the arid bottom, I flipped the light switch on.
The sudden surge of bright light blinded me for a few seconds. Once my eyes adjusted, I immediately saw Charley, asleep in his recliner. I exhaled deeply and chuckled.
“What are you doing down here?” I asked as I shook him awake.
Charley opened his kind eyes and smiled at me. “It was too hot and you would not stop talking in your sleep. I just needed some…” The sudden sound of creaking from upstairs stopped his train of thought and made us both look up in alarm.
“What the hell?” I asked. Charley jumped up from his chair and leaned toward the stairs to hear for more sounds.
Slowly we began the ascent from the basement to the kitchen. The lights were still off as Charley pulled a kitchen knife and began to survey each room in the house. I followed along behind until I noticed cold air coming from the front room.
My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach when I saw the front door open.
Cautiously, I looked outside and saw only one set of snowy footprints leading away from the door and disappearing into the clear streets.
Unable to speak, I pointed the footprints out to Charley. He grabbed his cell phone and called 911 as he shut and dead bolted the door.
I could hear him speaking with the operator as I slowly made my way back to my bed to sit down, still stunned, knowing someone had been in the house. But why? And where? That’s when I noticed the red glow of the clock alarm was no longer shining on the closet door. The closet door.
The closet door was wide open.