I watched for darkness around the door. I mean, I guess I watched for it. I couldn’t even be sure I was facing the door.
I’m saying this wrong.
I watched for light. Light means it’s morning, I made it through another night and I could open the door, crawl into the cool air and—Shit! Seemed like something sharp—who knows what? —always jabbed my outer thigh. I yelped—clapped my hand over my mouth. If he hears me, I’ll lose the only safe place I have.
What time is it? God, how hot is it in here? I was inside a stuffy black space normally reserved for storing clothes, tornado sheltering, and kids playing hide-and-seek, but that’s for normal people—God, the sweat stings my eyes! I swiped it away and shifted slightly, tried to keep my legs from going to sleep again.
My back ached and my body begged to stretch out. I’d check once more for light—nope, still dark—and feel for open places where the lower rack of clothes might be gaping. Okay. . . slowly, slowly. . .stre-e-e-e-t-c-c-c-h-h-h one leg to the side, now the ot-t-t-h-h-h-e-e- e-r-r-r. . . I’ll. . . just. . . close my eyes. . .for a few minutes.
BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP- BEEP-BEEP-BEEP! THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-THUMP-
Mom’s voice: “Ashley, get out of bed!”
More fist-rapping on my bedroom door: THUMP-THUMP- THUMP!
“Don’t make me come in there!”
“I’ll be back in two minutes, and your feet better be on the floor!”
BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP— Wha–? Oh, shit! She can’t find me here! I pulled myself over the intentional mess covering my closet floor, turned the doorknob-so-carefully-and-silently, inched the door open, checked that I am in fact alone, threw myself forward onto the carpet, and breathed in great gasps of cool air. I yanked the alarm clock by its cord and slapped at the Off button until the BEEP- BEEP-ing stopped.
Mom hollered through the door: “Ashley, are your feet on the floor?”
I lifted my head and thought, My whole body’s on the floor, but I answered simply, “Yeah.” I grimaced at my sweat-soaked pajamas and allowed my head to fall back to the carpet. I felt gross, needed a quick shower, and every inch of me hurt.
I crawled to the side of my bed, pulled myself to my feet, and stomped to the bathroom to wake my tingling legs.
I closed the door, pulled out the drawers on opposite sides of the cabinet, jelly-rolled a couple of king-sized bath towels, and shoved them between the drawer and door on either side of the counter dividing my room and the guest bedroom. Now nobody can open the doors.
I came up with that trick a couple of years ago when I was desperate to shower in private. It started when someone began punching a hole in the guest room’s bathroom door. I say someone because no one believed me when I said it had to be someone else, because it wasn’t me.