Jamie Nicholson was dead. At least, she was until the doorbell rang.
Christine jumped at the sound. There was no reason for the doorbell to ring. The neighbors had given up on trying to deliver welcome wishes and cookies months ago. The magazine sales-people and missionaries had learned to change their route. Mailmen, girl scouts, and dog walkers alike knew that no answer would come from the little, blue house. So, why was it ringing, now?
Christine tiptoed through the hallway. Leaning over the washing machine, she pushed aside the box of diapers and retrieved her slim pistol.
After peering through her thick curtains at the street, the sidewalk, and the backdoor, the only proof of the visitor was a small, cardboard box on the front porch. But that box was far more terrifying than any visitor. For that box was addressed to a dead woman: Jamie Nicholson.
Christine opened the door as little as she could, quickly snatched the box from her porch, dead bolted and chained the door, and hurried it into the kitchen. Jamie Nicholson. It wasn’t possible. She practically dropped the box on the island, as if the package could hurt her. The bruises had only just begun to heal. Even though the cuts had become scars, she could feel them sting at the sight of the name she left behind.
She knew that handwriting. It had been on her car lease, in her checkbook, and on her wedding certificate. That handwriting was on the paperwork filled out each time she went to the ER. It invented a different excuse each time. She fell down the stairs. The pan was too hot. Her bike crashed. Christine’s eyes fluttered from the label to the windows and doors. How had he found her?
Something must have gone wrong. Maybe the funeral wasn’t convincing enough. Maybe the police made themselves too obvious. Maybe her husband had found the pregnancy test she had tried so hard to hide. Whatever it was, something went awry.
Her breath shuddered with every heartbeat as she ducked beneath the counter. Pushing aside the baby formula and stacks of Tupperware, she grabbed hold of the burner phone. Her hands were shaking so hard she could barely type the letters. Help.
It wouldn’t be enough. Her husband would stop at nothing to find her. He would only play his mind games so long before he broke in. This package was just the appetizer. He’d wait until dark, then strike.
Closing the phone seemed to signal her daughter, and her cries filled the small home. Christine tiptoed into the pastel nursery, onto the plush rug, and scooped up her crying baby girl. She slowly swayed back and forth in the light pink rocking chair and tried to hum a lullaby. Soon, the girl's tears melted into sleep, but not for the mother.
For Christine, the night had only begun. She retrieved her pistol and kept guard in the hallway. She knew only one thing for sure. No matter what, no one was going to hurt her daughter. Dusk quickly turned to night. Soon, only the slivers of moonlight that snuck between the curtains lit the small, blue house.
She had often thought about this night. No matter how many promises the police made, she knew she wasn’t safe. He would find her, but he would never touch her, again. Her pistol switched hands as Christine wiped her sweaty palm on her jeans. Never.
Christine’s courage shattered with her window. The wind furled the curtains as moonlight illuminated the trail of glass through her kitchen. Quickly, she ducked into the laundry room and pressed her back against the wall. But then she heard it. A sound far more terrifying than shattering glass: the sound of glass being crushed underfoot, ringing out like boots on fresh snow.
The crackling turned to creaking, only a few glass shards hanging on as he made his way into the dining room. Each creak seemed to race up Christine’s spine, arms, and legs, forcing her to the floor. Her fingernails tried to break through her palm as she attempted to keep her pistol from shaking.
Christine quickly muffled her own scream.
“Jamie, I know you are in here,” he taunted, each footstep nearing closer. “C’mon, it’s not like you are going to fight m—”
He screeched to a stop just outside the laundry room. Christine froze.
He was cut off by a baby’s cry.
That cry flipped a switch within Christine, as she rose up from the ground. Without hesitation, she pulled the trigger. Christine could still see the shock on his face as he fell to the floor.
He had it all backward.
Her scars were not a sign of weakness.
They only showed her strength.