I barely escaped his grasp, thanks to Christine. She had leaped to my rescue in the nick of time, locking her jaws around his forearm just before he had his hold on me. I could hear the struggle between them ensuing inside the house as I stood in the pouring rain, my mind racing. I heard Christine’s yelp of pain and almost ran back into the house. I stopped, telling myself not to react, I needed to think.
Creeping around to the back of the house, I sank to my knees, trying desperately to hold back the tears unsuccessfully. Christine had tried to warn me right from the beginning but I had ignored her signals and now she was paying for my stupidity. I wanted to turn back the clock to when I saw his car pull over to the side of the road half a mile from my home. I wanted to reach for the phone instead the binoculars. I wanted to call Joe and tell him there was a car broke down on the road and ask if he could come out and check it out. I wanted to be in my home during this storm, calming Christine’s nerves. I wanted to be dry and lonely and safe! But I couldn’t turn back the clock. I couldn’t wake from a nightmare that had escaped the dreamworld and materialized into reality.
I was barefoot, wearing only shorts and a tank top and was already soaked to the bone. The storm that had come on so suddenly was in full force, the angry clouds blocking any semblance of moonlight or starlight, the only light coming from the repeated flashes of lightning. Not that the bright flashes helped my sight at all. The wind and rain pelting my face left me seeing only blurry shadows. Help is what I needed. Town was 15 miles away. On a good day, in good shoes it would take me 4 or more hours to make the hike. In bare feet in the dark and blinding rain it would take me at least twice or more likely three times the time. There were a few homes along the way but all of them were within 5 miles of town. I could make the highway in an hour but in this storm, I’d be hit by anyone who was foolish enough to be traveling in this weather before I could hitch a ride. As much as my reflexes wanted to flee, walking anywhere wasn’t an option. My mind turned to my little Honda parked in the driveway. It was only a large hunk of metal, glass, vinyl and wires without keys and I could see in my mind’s eye my keys hanging on a hook beside the back door…inside the house.
I needed a weapon. If I could hold him off long enough to grab my keys, I could be out of here. On my way to town, on my way to help. I didn’t own a gun. I hated them. My dad taught me to shoot a .22 rifle when I was a kid. I never liked the weight of it in my hands, the kick back of it against my shoulder. I saw them as death and refused to keep one. What I wouldn’t give for that weight in my hands right now. Fuck, hindsight is fucking 20/20 and I was wasting my time with would’ve, could’ve, should’ves. Focusing on the here and now, I steadied myself, swallowed back my tears and dug deep for a semblance of resolve. I pushed the hair off my forehead, wiped the rain from my face and waited for the lightning to illuminate my surroundings again.
I didn’t have to wait long. The sky brightened again casting shadows from the trees around the back yard. I scanned the ground quickly. I don’t know what I was thinking. The lawn was perfectly manicured, not a rock in sight. I had worked hard to make my surroundings beautiful and the only stones left in the yard were firmly cemented to the foundation of the old house. The next flash seemed to zero in on the garden shed. The garden shed! It was full of sharp tools including an axe and numerous sharp gardening tools! I made my way across the yard, hoping that I hadn’t fastened the padlock that kept the many expensive tools safe against thieves. Another habit I had brought with me from the city. Thieves….in the middle of nowhere. What the hell had I been afraid of? As I pulled on the lock fastened tightly to the door, my heart sunk once again. The keys to the lock were on the same keychain as my car keys.
I pulled the padlock frantically, pounding on the door of the shed cursing and crying my disappointment as if my anger and fear would make it suddenly open for me. My cry of despair was drowned out by the baritone thunder of the storm and tears sprang to my eyes once again to mix with the driving rain. My hand still clenched around the lock, I sank to my knees sobbing openly. I was about to lose hope when the angry sky brightened once again with electricity and my eye caught the form of a shovel resting against the side of the shed. I had left it out during the last storm and it had rusted before I had a chance to clean it and put it away. I had replaced it a month ago but had left the rusty tool against the shed, meaning to load it in the car and take it to the dump. My heart leaped into my throat. It wasn’t much but it was something! The handle had weathered in the heat of the sun since leaving it here and as I gripped it in my hands, I felt half a dozen slivers enter my palm. Ignoring the pain, I clutched my new found weapon close to my chest and made my way across the yard back toward the house.
I was just about to step around the corner leading to the side patio and door when the outdoor light came on suddenly. I hadn’t bothered with motion lights so I knew it was him. I darted back into the shadows at the back of the house. The shovel in my hands failing pitifully to give me any courage. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so afraid before. My whole body was shaking violently and I leaned against the house to keep myself upright. My stomach was twisted in knots and I fought the waves of cramps and nausea that were overtaking me. I prayed to a God that I didn’t believe in to please, please, please don’t let him hear my knees knocking together or my chattering teeth. I held my breath, clenched my jaw and strained to listen for any noise that would indicate he had silently crept from the house and was making his way toward me.
A moment later, I heard the door open and a loud thump as something landed on the patio. I risked a peek around the corner to see Christine, spotlighted in the patio light, lying motionless on the concrete pavers. I bit hard on the inside of my cheeks to keep my scream at bay. The door opened again and I saw him exit. He was muttering something I couldn’t make out. Then the flash of my Honda’s headlights as he used the fob to unlock the doors. His stride was brisk and angry as he made his way to my little car and I ducked out of sight again as he opened the door. I waited as I heard it start then spew gravel as he hit the gas hard and backed it out of the driveway. I dared another peek to see the cars headlights veer toward the road toward town and watched as they disappeared behind the trees that lined the road in front of the house.
As soon as the car was out of sight I ran toward the patio and Christine. Dropping the shovel, I knelt beside her. Her tail wagged weakly. She was hurt badly but still alive! The patio light exposed the garish difference between the puddles of water filling from the rain and the crimson river that was pooling under her long coat.
“Oh baby,” I sobbed. “I’m so sorry.” I spoke to her as my hands moved over her, trying to assess the damage he had done to her. A low growl sounded in her throat.
“I know it hurts, sweetie,” I comforted. “I’m going to get you some help, honey. You’re going to be all right.” The growl deepened and was accompanied by a snarl. I had been intently looking over her body, inspecting the wounds that had torn her open before I glanced up at her face. My heart stopped when I saw that she wasn’t looking at me, instead her eyes were fixed beyond me. I turned my head just in time to see the spade of the shovel that I had dropped in my rush to Christine’s side swinging toward my face. I had no time to think or react before the impact. I felt an explosion of pain between my eyes as the spade broke my nose and flung my body away from Christine and left me lying on my back. There was a loud ringing in my ears and I could see the rain falling toward me. It was surreal. Time seemed to slow as I lay there dazed, watching the individual plump droplets of rain falling toward me against the black backdrop of the sky. A dark silhouette entered my peripheral vision just before everything went completely black and I saw nothing else.
Coming soon – Home Sweet Home – The Aftermath – Part 4