The door of the yellow Chevette came swinging back toward the passenger in response to the swift kick she’d given it. Throwing out her acid-washed denim covered leg, she stepped out and thrust her right hip against the door, swiveling to grab her bags.
“You really need to get this door fixed,” she said to the driver.
“I know,” yawned her friend. “My dad said he’d look at it one of these days.”
“Am I the only one who mentions it?”
“You’re the only one who complains about it.”
“Figures. Thanks for the ride.”
“Sure. See you tomorrow. And don’t forget I want to borrow that dress you bought tonight.”
“I suppose it’s the least I can do for free taxi service.” She kicked the door behind her with her left foot and headed for the entrance to her building.
Evening air blew crispy leaves across her path as she made her way to the building entrance. Her tall blonde bangs bent back at the winds’ pressure. The royal blue discs hanging from her earlobes fluttered in the breeze. Standing under the building’s only light, she piled her belongings under her left arm and reached for the door. Cool metal felt good on her hand as she pulled open the door and entered the building heated in a temperature a bit too ambitious for the season.
The stench of stale urine gripped her nostrils. Sighing she wondered when the manager would ever wash away the stream that had dried days ago between the first and second floor landings. She dragged her tired body up the three flights of stairs stopping at the door that would take her to the third floor hallway. Her eyes rested on the walls of the landing, taking a minute to register. Their dull white shone in superficial brightness against the rich red gloss splattered across them.
From the left wall the spray traveled over the hallway door and onto the right wall where it stopped and hung in three strands halfway down before drying midstream.
She slowly let out the breath she’d been holding as she looked from side to side at the scene in front of her. Just mere feet from her stood the door to the small two-bedroom apartment she shared with her mom and younger sister. The problem lay in the fact that it was behind the door she now stood in front of, and not knowing what might be waiting on the other side caused overwhelming anxiety.
She looked behind her at the three flights she’d just climbed. Should she turn around and go back down? And then what? Back outside into the darkness to whomever might be waiting to finish what they started? Unsure of what to do, the seconds crept by. Her pulse quickened, and she could feel a fear rise up that threatened to choke the life right out of her. She felt frozen in a body that couldn’t move while she desperately wanted to move somewhere, anywhere.
Pull yourself together, Casey. She could hear the words in her head, but her lips refused to move. In any other stressful situation, tears poured easily, but this time was different. Her tear ducts refused to release the wet that often ushered in the release of stress.
At that moment, on the other side of the door, the sound of footsteps running down the hall pulled her out of her stupor. With each step toward her, another part of her body began to wake up until she finally had full use of her legs again. Her arms released their contents, and she turned and flew down the stairs, her feet barely touching the orange-carpeted stairs.
She pushed through the door and into the cool night air, stopping in the middle of the quiet parking lot bending over, catching her breath, crying, and wondering how she would ever get back upstairs and into the sanctuary of her apartment. Had she been followed?
Spinning around, she turned to look where she’d come from. But there was no one. The night air was quiet and crisp and breathable. It held a peaceful calm.
I can’t stay out here all night, she thought as she savored the peacefulness. You have to get back upstairs. Suddenly her thoughts went to her mom and sister. Were they safe? Had they been there when whatever had happened, happened? She had to get to them. Her fear threatened to surface again. She felt stuck knowing she couldn’t stay outside, scared to go back in, wanting to get home.
Lord. What do I do? she whispered the words. I’m so scared.
Jerking her head from side to side, she looked around for the source of the words. But there was nothing. Nothing but the sound of dried leaves scooting across the pavement, the flicker of the building’s one light, the smooth breeze that moved the almost-empty branches back and forth in a rhythmic sway.
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. This is crazy, she thought. Your mind is just playing tricks. Get it together. But the thought of moving toward the door caused another surge of panic that threatened to overwhelm her, and she could feel her eyes heating up with the tears that refused to come moments earlier. Determined to get a handle on herself and the situation, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Then she heard it again.
This time, without thinking, she lifted her chin and opened her eyes to an unbelievable scene hovering over her building. An army of white-robed beings cloaked in blinding light stood in a circle each facing outward and holding a flaming sword raised to the sky. Beautiful and unexpectedly calming, it reminded her of a painting she’d expect to see in a museum that leaves the observer transfixed. She couldn’t take her eyes off it.
I will take care of you, the voice whispered. You’re safe.
And then a verse she’d been taught years before in church suddenly came to mind.
For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
She drank in the truth of the words evidenced in front of her like a cool drink for a parched mouth
Thank you, she whispered and moved toward the door.
At the top of the stairs, her stuff lay strewn across the landing where she’d left it. She gathered it up, opened the door, and tried to ignore the evidence of evil on the walls as she entered the third floor hallway making her way the few steps to her apartment.
She turned the key into the lock and pushed open the apartment door. Inside, her sister was laying in front of the television on the living room floor, her mom standing over the stove stirring that night’s dinner.
“Hey honey,” her mom greeted. “How are you?”
“I’m good. Long day.” She dumped her stuff on a kitchen chair and kissed her mom. “How was your day?”
“Uneventful,” her mom said.
“It was odd though.” Her mom said. She turned off the stove, reached for three mismatched dinner plates scored at a garage sale, and began serving up dinner. “Earlier today, I was going to run some errands, but I just had the strangest feeling that I shouldn’t go. I don’t know why.”
“I do.” said Casey. “I’ll tell you later.”
A lover of Jesus, family, cats, good coffee, and simple living, Kathryn Nielson writes about all of it at kathrynnielson.com.