Ten years ago
The snowfall wasn’t as heavy as the previous night, but it was still freezing. Ramona Winters put another two pieces of firewood into their living room fireplace. The wood sparked briefly, making a loud crackling sound. She used the poker and shifted the wood into the best position and then shut the small gate. It was another cold night in Maine, a very familiar experience. She had just tucked in her two children, Bradley and Maddy. Both had school in the morning and the snow, no matter how much it covered the roads, wouldn’t stop the school buses. She went to one of the windows and watched as the snow seemed to fall harder with every moment she stood there.
She wasn’t used to it. Originally from California, she had met her future husband Randy when he was stationed in the military out west. When he left the army, they moved back to his hometown of Roebuck to raise a family. She went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. Looking at the clock that hung high on the wall, it was well past nine, almost ten. “Randy should be home soon,” she thought as she looked out into their backyard. She washed her hands and then turned off the light switch which was right next to the oven. She froze. She swore she could see a person suddenly stop by their garage which was probably twenty yards from their home. It was as if once she had turned the light off, the person outside stopped, knowing perhaps she could now see them. Risking it, her left hand went to the light switch again and turned it on. Seconds later, she turned it off. The figure was no longer by the garage. She ran to their backdoor and made sure it was locked. She went to several windows to try to get better angles of her backyard, but she saw nothing. The snow seemed to be coming down in a fury now.
Her heart almost jumped out of her throat when she heard the front door open.
“Ramona!” her husband called out.
“Honey,” she worked up a smile and greeted him. Lean and short, he was the exact opposite of her. She gave him a kiss and a hug. Their completely opposite body types didn’t bother her, but sometimes she felt self-conscious. She looked down at him and asked if he had been in the backyard.
“I thought I saw someone in the backyard.”
He laughed and took off his heavy winter jacket. Flakes of snow fell to the floor and quickly melted. He worked as a deckhand on a large fishing boat. Sometimes he was gone for days and weeks at a time. She was glad he was home tonight.
“You mean like a couple of days ago when you saw that man in his car watching the house?”
“He was,” she insisted. “He drove off when I came outside to bring the kids in I swear-”
“OK. OK.” He started to put his jacket back on. “I’ll go check the yard.”
He looked tired and suddenly she felt guilty for having him go back outside in that weather. Especially after a long day.
“Never mind honey. I know you’re tired. I have some food for you in the oven. I will be there in a minute.”
She smiled and nodded.
“Let me just go and check on the kids.”
Ramona went the opposite way he did and came upon her daughter’s room, which was right next door to their bedroom. She slowly nudged the door open and looked in. Her daughter’s frizzy red hair spilled over her pillow as she slept softly. She was a light sleeper and she didn’t want to wake her. Closing the door, she went all the way down the hall to her oldest child’s room. Bradley was the oldest and preferred the seclusion the room at the back of the home offered. He snored as she watched him. His blue night light was on and several planets and stars swirled around the walls. He loved that night light. Her eyes moved to the window, right next to the bed. She tiptoed over and looked outside to the backyard - his room had the best view of the yard. Again, she saw nothing. There was no figure moving near the garage. Maybe her husband was right. She was probably just seeing things. Besides, who in their right mind would be out in this storm? Satisfied, she double checked the lock on the window, almost nicking her hand on the nail that protruded out.
Wouldn’t be the first time, she thought.
Because he was a heavy sleeper, she leaned over and gave her son a kiss on the cheek. It wouldn’t wake him. She quietly moved out of the room and shut the door, not knowing it would be the last time she ever saw her son again.