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By Tammi VanBuskirk 

Jo awoke with a start, though she hadn’t even known she’d fallen asleep. She had begun falling asleep while sitting half-dressed at the end of her unmade bed, folding the last load of laundry. She was married to a military man who was currently deployed, and with three busy kids in the house, laundry certainly never slept.

What awoke her was the sound of a door slamming somewhere in the house. Hard. Her first thought was to check the kids’ rooms, and then the house. Even though she lived in military housing, intruders were not unheard of.

She quickly grabbed a tee shirt and the baseball bat from behind the bedroom door, and ran towards the hallway while hastily donning the shirt. Adrenaline coursed through her veins and rocketed her into full-on protection mode. The lights weren’t on, and the only sounds she heard were those of her children sleeping as she searched each room. The kids were safe, so that was a relief. But who slammed the door?

The rest of the house waited silently to be searched.

Holding her breath, and wielding the bat in a fashion Babe Ruth would have envied, she began to creep the rest of the way down the hall. The floor plan prevented her from seeing very far into the kitchen and living room; the two rooms were divided by a tall pantry which allowed easy access to both rooms from either side. She would have to choose which room to search first, and pray that the intruder wouldn’t ambush her from behind. She instinctively chose the kitchen because of the additional “weaponry” to be found there. Frying pans, kitchen knives, all manor of possible devices to inflict harm. Not that she had any training in the art of self-defense. (She made a quick mental note to look into those classes if she survived this, whatever “this” was.)

Cautiously, she felt her way through the dark, and reached for the light switch. She could barely breathe. She quickly flipped the switch and then returned to her previous stance with the bat held high.

Nothing. Nothing out of place, no menacing figure lurking in here. She began to relax a bit, but then quickly remembered that she still had to inspect the living room, the last place for anyone to hide. Listening intently for anything out of the ordinary, she wished she had placed a lamp closer to this end of the sofa. This meant she would have to hope to get to it before the intruder did, and that left a lot of time for her to be exposed. Fortunately, dim lighting from the kitchen provided a bit of illumination as she crept into the room, heart pounding faster than ever in her life.

She gingerly reached for the lamp switch, and just as her fingers brushed the knob, something rustled in the far corner, somewhere near the potted ficus tree. She froze, slick with fear now, and suddenly aware of just how far away her children lay sleeping. What would happen to them if anything happened to her? What were his plans for them?

Thinking of the children gave her strength, and more than a little anger. It’s funny how quickly you can shift gears to protect the ones you love. In the bravest voice she could muster, she yelled, “Who’s there?”

No answer. Just another rustle. She grew more angry, so she demanded again, “Who are you?”

Still no answer, so she decided to turn on the light. The phone was on the table next to the lamp, and she thought she might stand a chance between her bat and 911. She turned on the light, and to her surprise, there wasn’t a big scary intruder.

It was the cat. The damned cat. And finally, the adrenaline began to recede, and the tears began to fall. She had been terrified, angry, and fiercely protective of her babies. The threat, real or imagined, felt real and had awakened emotions she hadn’t felt in years.

She sat on the sofa, crying, and realizing that she also had felt so alone with no one to protect her. It was the first time she had had to be in this role, and it left her ragged and exhausted. It was time to clear the laundry off of the bed and finally get some much needed rest.

She climbed into bed without the sheets, grabbed a blanket and pillow, and closed her eyes to rethink the evening’s events. As she lay there, once again dozing off, her eyes opened wide as she realized, the doors were locked from the inside, but she still didn’t know why the door slammed.

She didn’t sleep the rest of the night.

 

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