Having noticed a streak of the setting sun come through the window at the landing, Petunia rushed up the stairs and pulled the curtain shut. How could I have missed that? Once she made sure the entire window was covered, she crouched down, carefully inched the bottom left corner of the curtain away, and peeked outside. A country road with trees and fields on both sides stretched in front of her eyes; no soul in sight.
Petunia scanned the view twice more and then made sure the window was completely covered before standing back up. Just because I didn’t spot anyone doesn’t mean that there’s no one out there. For the past few days, no matter what she did, Petunia couldn’t shake the feeling that someone had been watching her wherever she went.
At that moment, a creaking floorboard on the second floor reminded her of the reason why she began to climb the stairs in the first place. How did he get inside? I made sure all the doors and windows are locked. She would have called 911 the moment she heard the initial rustling upstairs, but she couldn’t find her phone anywhere. And so there she was – investigating the source of the disturbance herself.
Once she made it to the top of the stairs, Petunia froze in fear – she realized that she had no weapon to fight the intruder with, and if there was anyone in the house that meant her harm, her only chance of survival was to lock herself in a room and pray that someone hears her screams.
Petunia had always been aware of the fact that a woman living alone was an easy target, but she had never imagined that someone could come after her. She was a nobody. Plus, things like that didn’t happen in the country.
The sound of approaching steps knocked Petunia out of fear paralysis, and she ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She looked around desperately – a hand towel or a bar of soap didn’t stand out as prime examples of weaponry to Petunia. Even if I had something, I wouldn’t be able to overpower him anyway. Petunia laughed nervously.
The doorknob rattled, and Petunia pressed herself into the corner of the room.
“Let me in,” a male voice came from the other side of the door.
Petunia shook her head. He would have to come and take her. She wouldn’t make it easy on him. What was that? Petunia thought she heard a key turn.
To her terror, the doorknob turned, and a young man entered the bathroom. “What are you doing?” he asked.
Petunia wondered if she could kick the assailant in the crotch and run away, but her body didn’t seem to want to move. “What do you want from me?” she asked, ignoring his question. “Don’t come any closer, or I will scream.”
He was well-built and muscular. Petunia had no doubt that he could snap her in two like a twig if he wanted to. Maybe someone on a long walk with their dog will hear me… She screamed ‘Help!’ at the top of her lungs because she wasn’t the type of person to ever give up hope.
“Mom. It’s OK. Please, calm down. It’s Oliver – your son. Please stop.”
“No! Oliver lives in Nashville. And he would never harm me!”
“I’m not trying to harm you. I moved in with you last January to help you.” Oliver made a few more steps forward. He could touch Petunia now. “Come, let’s go downstairs. I’ll make you some chamomile tea. It usually calms you down.”
“If you really are Oliver, then you will know the answer to this question – What did you draw for me for Mother’s Day when you were ten?”
“I didn’t draw anything. I made you a macaroni necklace that you wore every year for Mother’s Day until I got my first paycheck and bought you a real one – the one you are wearing right now.”
Petunia hung her head and wept. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t recognize you.”
“I know, Mom… I know.” Oliver drew his mother close and held her tight for a minute before leading her back downstairs.
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