“So I got out of there as fast as I could without alerting him,” she said as calmly but forcefully as she could. “I wasn’t really sure what else to do.”
Kevin looked at her as if she were crazy. He had gotten home early, but came home to find her nervous and on edge. “There’s no way. I remember being at the funeral.”
“Was it an open casket?” she asked.
“I don’t remember, I was four.” He couldn’t believe that they were even having this conversation.
“But you’re sure she died of cancer?” She asked.
“Yes,” he said without much conviction. His memory seemed clouded as if it didn’t want him to even look at it. He was sure that since his grandmother had died, he had known that she died of cancer, but he couldn’t remember her ever being in the hospital. “I’m pretty sure. I think your mind is just playing tricks on you.”
“Why would I make that up?” She spat back.
“I don’t know.” He was definitely making things worse. “Maybe he mixed things up. You said he had started talking to you about the squirrels before he said that.”
He hated it when they fought. It always made him feel like his parents when they fought. Right now, he wasn’t even sure why it was such a big deal.
“Maybe. He’s never mixed up his stories before,” she thought. “He sounded so calm about it.”
“See? There you go. Why would he be calm about admitting to murder?” He reasoned. He was happy that a calm was returning to her.
“I don’t know,” she admitted.
“Do you want me to go ask him how grandma died?” He asked. He hoped that she’d she no. He was slightly scared about what would happen if he did.
“No,” she admitted.
He let out the breath he didn’t even know he was holding. He was also pretty upset with himself that he even believed that his grandfather was a murder.
“I have to take Grandpa Jo his dinner, it’s already past 5. He’ll probably kill me,” he said, hoping to ease the moment with a joke.
He could tell by the look on her face that it was too soon to joke. “Sorry.”
“Not funny,” she said with a smile. Despite the fact that she didn’t seem happy with him right now, she did still love him.
He smiled at her, and she smiled back.
It had taken Stephanie much longer to get to sleep. Her mind had been racing all evening, and she had found it hard to focus. She had pretty much zoned out at dinner, and even now, she wasn’t sure what Kevin had been talking about the entire time.
She wasn’t sure why she had been so triggered by what the old man had said. She knew Kevin, and she had known Jo for a while now. She didn’t know the old man as well as she did her husband, but she knew him well enough.
Something else had just tugged at her mind all day.
She couldn’t put her finger on it, but if she had to guess it was the way that Jo had told her. She was sure that he had said that he slit his wife’s neck, and he had said it while relaxing.
She wanted to believe that he didn’t mean that, that he had gotten the story of the squirrel and his wife mixed up in his head somehow, but she didn’t. He knew exactly what he said to her, and that scared her the most.
She tried to relax her eyes when she realized that she was forcing them closed. That might be the reason why she couldn’t sleep, she thought as she tried to relax her lids. She breathed out a deep sigh that mixed the air pollution with Kevin’s deep breathing.
Kevin had been sound asleep for over an hour now, and she wondered why this hadn’t affected him more. She didn’t want to hold a grudge, but she knew she was. She loved her husband and really didn’t want to start out a marriage like this.
Just relax, she thought. Count sheep or something.
She had gotten to six floating sheep in her head when she heard the creak of the door.
Her eyes were tight again, and now she was holding her breath. She didn’t dare open her eyes in fear.
She listened to the world, as she struggled to fall asleep. She could hear the deep breathing of her husband still unaware of anything. She would have traded anything to be able to close her eyes and drift off to sleep like her husband.
But she couldn’t kick the feeling like someone else was in the room.
She tuned out the light snoring her husband and heard the door swing open. She laid in bed motionless, rigid. She waited for her death and listened for the footfalls of the intruder come to murder her.
Instead, she heard the shuffling of feet.
Her mind went wild with thoughts of how she was going to die.
She tried to give herself the confidence to look at the source shuffling sound. Slowly, she opened her eyes in the darkness.
She couldn’t make out anything at first. Moving would alert whoever it in the room. If there even was anyone there.
She reasoned with herself that the alarm hadn’t gone off, so it was highly likely that her mind was playing tricks on her.
But she knew that she heard the shuffling of feet.
She slowly craned her neck, careful not to make sudden movements. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the lack of light and she could see the tall and twisted body of Jo. He must have gotten lost on his way into the kitchen, she rationalized.
Still, she didn’t move. She watched as the old man shuffled his feet over towards her. It felt like time had been distorted because as slow as he went, the time seemed to take both forever and an instant.
He stood over her. She could feel his breath making its way down to her neck, her face. Now, she couldn’t move out of fear even if she wanted too.
He stood over her and didn’t move. He stood there for minutes until he finally shuffled his way out. She held her eyes shut tight, not knowing what would happen if she made eye contact.
Tears began to escape her tightly shut eyelids like prisoners escaping during a jailbreak. She turned over towards Kevin and clung to him for dear life.
“You should have woke me up,” he almost yelled at her.
“I don’t really want to fight about this,” Stephanie calmly said, her body needed the caffeine from the mug in front of her.
She hadn’t slept at all.
“Well I talked to him,” Kevin said. She had little patience for him right now, and she knew that she was about to just lay into him for something that wasn’t even his fault, but she couldn’t stop herself. “He said he got lost on the way to the kitchen. He really needed a drink.”
“Then why did he stand over me for so long?” She asked between sips of the only thing keeping her nerves calm.
“I didn’t ask,” He paused. “I think your mind is playing tricks on you.”
She took a deep breath, inhaling the heat coming from her mug.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel like all this adds up.” She had been trying to tell herself that she was making this up all night, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
“Baby, I love you. I want you to know that.” He grabbed her shoulder and looked her in the eye If you want me to kick my father out of this house so you can sleep, I will. I’ll figure something out.” He punctuated his claim by engulfing her in an embrace.
She tried to force a smile. He was right, she finally admitted, it was all in her head. If nothing else, he was an old man. She could just lock the door at night.
“No,” she said. “No, he’s family. You’re right, it’s probably all in my head.”
She sipped her coffee and her smile faded.