[Personal fiction] A moment’s intrusion

door-chain-lockI was sitting at home writing a story on my computer when I heard the front door open.

It freaked me out a little. When I’m dressed up like I was today — in one of my favorite around-the-home outfits: soft and snuggly knitwear dress, drapey cardigan, and warm purple tights because it was winter and freezing — I always put the chain lock on the door. It’s kind of pointless, sure, because the lock is mostly busted and sort of hangs off the door from one screw, meaning anyone could reach in through the crack and undo it pretty easily, but it gives me some peace of mind. At least I’d hear it being undone, which would give me some warning of anyone coming in. That was the theory, anyway. But today, there was none of that, no scrape of metal on metal, just the unmistakable sound of the front door swinging open and wind rushing in.

I panicked. It’s sort of funny that the first thought that entered my mind was Burglars!, followed shortly by Oh shit oh shit oh shit I can’t let them see me like this. My fear of being caught dressed up was greater than my fear of getting robbed! You could make some point about priorities, but I guess it just goes to show how deeply ingrained that fear was in my mind. Whatever the case, I jumped up out of my chair like it was on fire and rushed to the hallway door, placing one hand on the handle and pushing my ear up against the wood. My house is one of those single-floor set-ups with a central hallway and all the rooms branching off of it, with the main room — where I was — at one end, and the front door at the other. Therefore I was reasonably confident that if it were burglars busting in, I’d be able to make out their ninja-stealthy footsteps as they crept down the hall, gently pocketing the valuables. Instead, there was silence.

I bit my lip, flummoxed. No, this was dumb. I was being silly. The most likely scenario was that I’d done up the chain improperly and not fully closed the door, so that a passing gust of wind had just nudged it open. I fingered the hem of my dress indecisively, then called out tentatively:

‘Hello?’

I immediately cursed myself for my stupidity. What would I even do if there was a response? I couldn’t run out the back door dressed like this! In the end it didn’t really matter, because again, only silence answered me. In a burst of sudden determination, I threw open the door and strode out into the hallway, ready to face whatever threat was waiting. Fortunately for me, the hallway was empty, because as I threw open the door my dangling cardigan sleeve got caught on the door handle and tugged me off balance, causing me to stumble and pulling my dress embarrassingly up over my thighs. Cheeks burning with shame, I disentangled my sleeve from the door and tugged the hem firmly back down. It’s strange how hard it is to feel brave in a dress — ironically, the freeness and openness that I so craved made me feel equally exposed and vulnerable. This feeling of vulnerability was enhanced by the sensation of a draft tickling my legs through the tights as I strode down the long hallway towards the door.

When I got there, I found nothing amiss, or at least nothing suspiciously so. It looked like I’d been right, and the chain had somehow slipped out — not too surprising given how crummy it was. Still, it was a little odd, because I was sure I’d done it up properly earlier. Ah, well. Peering quickly around the door into the outside world just to reassure myself, I closed the door, firmly this time, making sure that the half-busted chain slid properly into its track. This done, I held my breath and waited for a few heartbeats just in case someone had snuck into the house, but there was nothing. I let out my breath in a sigh of relief and smiled a bit at my paranoia. Clutching my cardigan more tightly around me — this hallway was freaking cold — I padded back down to the main room and its comparative warmth.

I had writing to do.

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