Flash Fiction: “Ajar”

I turn into the next room, first confused by the way the back door is left ajar.

The locked doors in my mind open swiftly:

Someone is in the house.

Shivers crawl up my spine, alarming each molecule — telling them to wake up. I didn’t move. I couldn’t move, there on the threshold between my living room and the kitchen. I believe if I stay positioned in this single place, with no inkling to move, the intruder won’t see me. Or, maybe, just maybe they won’t see me as a threat.

Months earlier, my Mom told me on repeat: “You shouldn’t live alone. I know you: one little thing will happen and you will be out the door running.” She was wrong — I’m paralyzed, from my bare feet to my burning face. Except for my eyes, which are running widely, looking at my open box of Cheerios laying on the floor, with tiny circles strewed about. Then, I catch a glimpse of my refrigerator door, smothered in a peanut butter and jelly finger-painted mess.

My breath stops for a second, hitching itself back into a regular, but harsh rhythm. I listen hard, forcing my ears to pick up any movement, any vibration of the air — but nothing is detected. No buzz from a fly, nor a cicada ticking away in the summer heat.

My shoulders falter for a brief flirtation with safety; until, just then, a warm breath from behind curdles in my nostrils.

“Hello, sweetheart.”

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