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As I watched it go spinning down the drain, I pushed back the wave of guilt that washed over me but just as I did, another emotion rolled over: relief.
It was out of our lives.
Nobody would have to find out and nobody would be harmed again.
I heard the key clanking against those cold metal pipes all night throughout my dreams.
I woke with a cold sweat and a shiver down my spine. I lay frozen to my bed as I stared up at the gray ceiling, my eyes adjusting to the darkness, thinking about all that had happened in the last twenty-four hours. Glancing over at the blue glowing alarm clock on the lonely nightstand beside me, I was informed that I was only asleep for two hours.
After a couple of seconds I realized that it wasn’t eerily quiet as one would imagine it to be at three in the morning. Slowly, muffled voices, gentle knocks, and footsteps came into earshot. My blood ran cold, my eyes unwavering and still adjusting, unable to move; paralyzed.
My heart began to beat out of my chest.
My body began to rise out of my bed.
And as I peeled back the covers to set my bare feet on the comforting warm carpet, that’s when I got the first glimpse of those red, white, and blue lights I knew all too well from TV shows, reflecting off my paintings I’ve hung in glass cases against the wall.
This is it.
They’ve found me.
They’ve finally found me.
I’m going to get arrested.
I’m going to jail.
In a flash of panic, I stepped out into the foyer and watched through the window, observing the police cars lining the street and the men outside on my front lawn. As a head turned toward the window, I ducked down as my heart raced even faster. It seemed like forever that I sat there, hunched over, in the dark shadows under the window sill.
Something was off.
Something is wrong.
I mean of course something is wrong otherwise I wouldn’t be hiding in my own home.
But something else was happening.
Why haven’t they barged into the house yet?
Why are there so many cars?
How did they even find out it was me?
I resisted the urge to peak out the window again and crawled along the hardwood floors to my room. Pulling open my drawer, I rummaged carefully through my clothes until my finger felt the cool metal string of the chain I had kept the key on and slipped it into my pocket.
Suddenly, I heard a door open from somewhere in the house.
I had to leave.
But just as I was about to close the drawer, a piece of clothing caught my attention. The blue shirt, splattered with dried mud.
No. Not right now. This couldn’t happen now.
To my horror, as I picked out the shirt, I saw the jeans that I had shoved in with it before I fell asleep only hours ago had been mixed in with the shirt.
A shuffling of shoes was heard downstairs and a beam of light pointed to the top of the landing momentarily, only a foot away from my room, before disappearing again.
I had to go now. It was my only shot.
I grabbed the shirt and the pants next to it, closed the drawer, and darted quietly into the bathroom.
As I stared into the mirror at the reflection of myself, I knew what I had to do.
My shaky, yet sure hands, removed the chain from my pocket and clipped it around my neck. It was small and silver and dainty enough to pull off as a simple necklace.
The clothes were my problem.
I prayed no one could hear my shuddering breaths as I turned on the faucet for only a couple seconds to fill up a paper cup sitting beside my sink. I hadn’t heard any footsteps on the stairs yet.
Laying out the clothes, I hastily rubbed water onto the small mud marks, erasing them into the fabric. It took three times over to get the dirt completely out. Halfway through, my hands stopped shaking.
This would work. I know it would.
I flung the clothes over the shower rod as if they were laundry waiting to dry and with a last glance into the mirror, I found myself able to take a deep breath without any shudders.
But then, I heard them start the climb.
Cautiously opening the door, I lingered in the hallway until they reached the top so that I could walk around to the other side of the stairs without being seen. A flashlight lit up the hallway I had once been in as I descended down the stairs.
I noticed an officer standing on my front porch, writing something into his notepad as he sent another officer away.
Hidden in the shadows once again, I rubbed my eyes a couple times, blinked, pulled my hair into a loose fitting bun, and took my last deep breath, hoping to look as though I had just woken up.
As I emerged from the darkness, ready to step outside, a large pair of hands grabbed my shoulders and jolted me forward. A loud scream escaped my lips.
“It’s alright dear, it’s alright,” the man standing outside said to me, sliding his notepad into his pocket. “You’re safe now.”
My eyes darted all around. What? How? What does this mean? The officer that had grabbed me, led me down and off the porch, to a nearby ambulance where I was handed a blanket.
I attempted to stop my body from shaking as I wrapped it around my body.
“W-what h-happened?” I inquired nervously, almost afraid to ask.
“There was a man trying to break into your house ma’am. He’s on the top of the most wanted list,” the officer retorted wearily, patting his handgun.