The tone of voice, the terror implied nearly stopped my heart. Why was my little girl screaming like that at 2:00 in the morning? She had not had nightmares for ages and she just kept screaming, "Mom, Mom, Mom!"
I grabbed a shoe, not clear why I needed it, but it was the first weapon handy. My baby needed protection from something.
I raced up the stairs, mentally cursing the number. When we bought the home I was enthralled by how beautiful the high ceilings were in this 100 year old building. So much character comes with older homes.
I finally reached Sarah's room to find her huddled in the center of the bed, sheets and blankets pulled up to eye level. She was staring at the open door to the porch just off of her room. That porch was another quirk of the home. There were no trees next to it and climbing over the rail only led to a steep roof. No sneaking out after dark. So, what was she looking at?
"Mom, I saw someone!"
"What do you mean you saw someone?" No one was in the house but me, my husband Matt who was still sleeping, and Sarah.
"Right there, in the doorway! An ugly man peeked around the corner! But, I didn't hear anyone run away." This last line was delivered very solemnly. She knew that for someone to run away there were obstacles in the way. First, dry leaves. They were everywhere on that porch. They got trapped by the railing. Second, the location. There would have to be slipping and possible thuds from falls. No auditory clues reached our ears.
Slowly, I approached the door, shoe at the ready. I didn't know how some pervert had gotten up there, but he would pay. Common sense said Matt would be a better weapon than my shoe, but between the flight up the stairs and my mothering instinct, I was ready for anything.
I noticed the dead leaves on the floor, trailing from the open door. They weren't there when I tucked Sarah in. I managed to whisper to Sarah, "Get your father."
The door was close now. I could touch the knob, slowly gripping it. My muscle tensed, preparing to smack the daylights out of him. I knew my anger and forthcoming actions were justified. Perhaps Matt would have to stop me.
I yanked open the door, unsure if I would encounter someone preparing to escape or someone still set to intrude on my world. I stepped over the threshold and found...nothing. The wind blew gently, Sarah and Matt came behind me, each needing an explanation, and the invisible fingers of ice began their dance on my spine. No one was there. No one had been there. Except for an ugly face and an even uglier beginning to episodes where I can feel the ice fingers right before objects fall from sturdy shelves or leaves blow across the empty bedroom floor.