This story is by Casey Gibbs and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It’s 2:00 AM, and the streets are empty. It’s deafeningly quiet; all I can hear is my heart pounding. I have broken into countless homes, and yet it never gets easier. I actually hate breaking into homes. If I didn’t owe so much, I wouldn’t be here. I chose tonight because the owners are away. If I’m going to invade someone’s private space, I’d rather they not see it firsthand. I’ve experienced that fear, and I can’t do it to someone else. Hopefully, the neighbors won’t see me.
I circle the house. There is a sliding door in the backyard, and next to that, a slightly open window. People are too trusting. They think, “Aww, it’ll be ok. No one will notice this small, opened window.” If I’ve learned anything from my life, it’s to lock the house up tight when I’m away. There are some crazy people out there! I remove the window screen, then raise the window just a little bit more. I reach up and unlock the sliding door.
I’d been casing the house for a few days. I borrowed money a few months ago, and they want it back. Now. The owners are a young couple. There are no kids, no pets. I saw them load the car with luggage this morning, and drive away. It looked like they were taking a weekend vacation, which is perfect.
I walk through the kitchen and dining room, and I stand at the bottom of the spiral staircase. As I’m walking up, I hear what sounds like footsteps upstairs and freeze. That can’t be right; it must just be my nerves. I begin again, but as I get closer to the top, I see her.
“Wh-what?” I whisper out loud. All I can do is stare at her eyes. They are beautiful. She is staring right at me; her eyes locked to mine. She looks like she’s in total fear. I’m so glad I’m wearing a black ski mask. After what seems like eternity, I turn and run back out through the sliding door. I have never run so fast.
At home, I pull off my mask and stare in the mirror. How the hell did this happen? She left! Right?! I replay the time I spent casing the house. I was across the street, hiding behind the bush of a house I knew was empty. I saw the couple load luggage into the trunk, and…Shit! My phone rang!! I looked away to check it! I just assumed they were both in the car, but apparently, I was wrong. I think about seeing the woman at the top of the stairs, and I can’t get the image of her beautiful, fearful eyes out of my mind. I spend the rest of my sleepless night staring at the ceiling.
Once the sun is up, I feel compelled to see the woman again. I wait across the street of her home to see if she leaves. At 8:30 AM, she gets into her car and drives away. I follow her, but not too close to be noticed. About 15 minutes later, she parks at Starbucks, and walks in. Since she did not go through the drive-thru, I assume she is drinking inside. A few minutes later, I follow her in.
I spot her sitting in a chair close to the window, her knees pulled up to her chest, listening to what looks like an iPod, and drinking a Venti something. I order my coffee and sit across from her. I try to make eye contact, but her eyes are closed. Finally, she raises her head and looks directly at me. I feel a bolt of lightning course through my body. She stares at me motionless. Oh no! Does she recognize me? She can’t! She only saw my eyes last night.
Suddenly, she smiles. She has a beautiful smile. Simply stunning. “Hi”, she says softly.
“Hi.” We both blush. “Do you come here often?” I realize immediately how corny that sounds, and I blush even more.
“Every morning that my husband is away.” She is still smiling.
“Does your husband leave often?”
Her smile fades. “Yes”, she says quietly. “He’s in sales. He’s hardly ever home. But I always am. I’m not allowed to work. He doesn’t like it. He thinks that since he’s ‘the man’, the responsibility is on him. He doesn’t want me to have my own life. He wants me to solely depend on him. He says he loves me, but I know he doesn’t. He won’t even come home if I call him, needing him home.” A single tear streams down her face. “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I told you all of that. I don’t even know you”, she says, turning her face towards the window, wiping the tear away.
“May I join you?”
She turns her head towards me and whispers, “Yes.”
I move next to her. I am so drawn to her. But I notice a veil has fallen over her eyes.
“Are you ok?” I ask gently.
“I was alone last night, and someone broke in in the middle of the night. He was wearing all black and a mask. The police said he must have gotten in through the sliding door in the kitchen. But other than the open door and the window screen on the ground, there was nothing else to say he was there. I don’t know why he was there. Nothing had been taken. I saw him on the stairs. The cops think he was on his way to my room. That idea terrifies me. We saw each other, though. I don’t think he was there to hurt me, but you never know.
“I called my husband later that night, but he’s not coming home. Since I wasn’t ‘hurt’, I’m not worth his time. His work is more important. He’s probably not even working. He’s probably seeing someone else. I’d leave him, but I have nowhere to go. I’m sorry I’m throwing all of this on you”, she says with a nervous giggle. “There’s just something about you I feel comfortable with. I feel like you’re truly listening.”
I can’t take my eyes away from her. I am filled with various emotions. I’ve heard of love at first sight, but I’ve never seen or experienced it. Until now. But I’m heartbroken, too, because I know I caused her this pain. I never meant to hurt anyone. That’s why I always make sure the owners are gone before I enter their house!
I blurt out, “Would you like to spend the day with me?”
“I would love to.” There’s that smile again.
I stand and reach to help her up. She takes my hand, and electricity fires through me, and I think through her, too, based on her expression. When she stands, she doesn’t let go. This is incredible. I have never felt this way my entire life.
I follow her home so that she can leave her car there. Seeing the house now hurts me even more. I’ve heard directly how I made her feel last night. I shake off the memory as she gets into my car. She reaches for my hand once again. Fire. We decide to go to the city park. There’s a lake there that we decide to walk around. The weather is perfect. There is a crystal blue sky, with cotton ball-like clouds. Fall leaves softly rustle across the sidewalk. There is a slight chill in the gentle breeze. We talk like we’ve known each other for years. She tells me about her childhood and what got her where she is, and I tell her…almost everything. I can’t bring myself to tell her that it was me last night. I just found her; I don’t want to lose her.
At the end of the day, I walk her to her door. We stare into each other’s eyes, and she closes in slowly and kisses me so softly. Her lips are moist and taste like cherries. My God…can this be real? “Can I see you tomorrow?” I ask tenderly. She nods yes.
Walking away, my eyes get misty. I can’t face what I’ve done; she can’t love me. I need her to let me go.
A few days later, she receives a letter in the mail. There is no return address, but it is handwritten, so she opens it. It’s from him. She was angry because he never showed up like he said he would, so she is reluctant to read it. But curiosity always wins. This is a suicide note, she thinks to herself. It explains how he can’t live with what he did to her, and that he is so very sorry. In tears, she scrunches up the letter and yells, “I knew it was you! I recognized your eyes!! I forgave you! You didn’t have to do this!” And just like that, her happiness is gone.