by Clara Zane
I turned off the light, missing Sandra already. She'd only been gone half a day, and would only be gone this weekend, off to a bachelorette-slash-baby shower in Vegas, but I hated sleeping alone. It wasn't the cuddling and (sometimes) sex, but the actual sleeping next to her. She didn't exactly snore, but she breathed loud. It didn't bother me; on the contrary, that was one of the major things that lulled me to sleep on a nightly basis. Not at first, at bedtime, but those times I woke up in the middle of the night for whatever reason. I hadn't slept alone since before we were married six years ago. So could I do it now? I debated simply forgoing sleep this weekend until exhaustion tore me from consciousness - playing video games, watching bad movies, things like that - but I decided to give it the ol' college try, as my grandfather was keen on saying. That's where I was at eleven that night.
I shouldn't have had any problem drifting off at first, as we often went to bed at different times, but my mind wasn't working properly. Sleep wouldn't come. It was probably a half-hour after lights out that I knew I was in for a long rest of the night. I lay there, wondering if she was still out partying (I trusted her completely, so my only worry was that she was having fun, not cheating on me), when the footsteps thudded out in the hallway. Lightly at first, and then loud enough to get me to sit up and snap on the lamp next to the bed.
"Who's there?" I called out. No answer. Had I drifted off to that light slumber where you don't realize you're actually sleeping? I might have heard the footfalls in some distant dream and attributed them to real life. But when they came again, this time further down the hall, I knew it wasn't my imagination.
I didn't think, simply leaped out of bed and ran into the hallway. It was an intruder; it had to be. If I hit him fast enough, tackled him and pinned him to the ground, this could work out. No way would he expect that. But when I sprinted into the hallway, no one was there. I stopped and listened. Whoever it was couldn't have ducked into any of the rooms - we kept the doors shut, and I hadn't heard any open or close.
"Hello? Listen, if you just fess up and leave, I won't call the cops. I just want you out of my house."
And I meant it. Hell, fear had begun to trickle down the center of my back, and I just wanted this night to be over. If Sandra had been here, I'd have been amped up on adrenaline, my manly instincts ready to protect her. But with her gone, I still had that protection gene thing going, but it wasn't as strong. I took a deep breath and began searching through the house. After fifteen minutes and three trips around our small home, I realized that if anyone had been here, they were gone now. There were no open windows or doors, and in fact they'd all been locked from the inside. I shook my head and headed back to the bedroom.
It wasn't five minutes before the footsteps returned. This time, however, they didn't stop in the hallway, but continued right through the bedroom door. I'm not superstitious, and I don't believe in ghosts, but tell me, when you hear footsteps - and there was no mistaking them for anything else but footsteps - and nothing is there, aren't ghosts the first things that pop into your mind? I wanted to bolt from the room, from the house, but I stayed put. Fear and curiosity wrestled with each other, and though it appeared curiosity won out, what actually happened was that the two battled to a stalemate and I remained frozen in place.
The footsteps moved again, stepping over to the bed, not to my side, but Sandra's. They stopped, and I not only watched an indentation form on her side of the bed, but I felt the mattress dip and heard the bedsprings squeak, as if someone had actually lain down. This time I did jump out of bed, and before I knew it, I found myself in the kitchen, shaking uncontrollably and sweating profusely. I don't remember picking it up, but my cell phone sat in my hand. I activated it from sleep to call Sandra, needing to hear her voice, when I noticed I had a voicemail. It was from Debbie, one of the girls Sandra had gone with. I dialed my number and listened to her message.
"Pete, oh god, I wish you'd pick up your phone, I don't want to tell you this in a message." Her voice was brimming with fear, with sorrow, and I could feel myself go lightheaded. "Sandy got hit by a car. Someone knocked her off of the curb while we were waiting for a red light, and a taxi hit her. She ..." A sob wracked Debbie's voice, but she continued. "She didn't make it. She was gone before the ambulance arrived. Call me as soon as you get this."
And that was it. I didn't cry, not then; I was in shock, too numb for anything. I checked the time of her call (I'd forgotten to take my phone off of silent) and found it was right about when I heard the footsteps for the first time. No. It couldn't be. I walked back towards the bedroom, looked in at the bed, which still had the indentation, and whispered, "Sandra?"