By Erica Naone
Kayla had done and dried her hair more than half an hour ago, even buckled on her shoes, and still she would be late to work again.
She touched the doorknob, peering out the row of windows in the foyer. She’d had them boarded for a while, until she realized she needed them. There’s no one out there. There’s been no one out there for ten years.
Kayla measured the distance from her front door to the car door with her eyes. She’d nestled the car into the very top of the driveway, as close to the house as it could get. Fifteen steps. Just 15.
“Go home, Steve,” she had said, the morning he had risen like a zombie from the bushes beside the walk, impossible to recognize as the man with whom she’d shared a bed for seven years, and yet looking exactly like him.
“I am home,” he had said. Kayla had known instantly that her restraining order was worthless. Why had she placed her faith in a piece of paper?
A wiser Kayla wove her keys between her fingers. She had a second-degree black belt now. She’d let her hair change from dyed platinum to its natural brown, shot through now with grey. She could bench 150 percent of her body weight.
She could not walk 15 steps from her house to her car.
“Go home, Steve,” she said out loud.
She’d gotten a written warning at work a month ago. “I’m sorry for what you went through,” her boss had said. Too gently. “But it was a long time ago.”
Fifteen steps. Kayla wondered what it would be like to just walk them, without counting.
She flung open the door.
One. A red-breasted robin sang.
Two. She really had a nice yard, soaked with sun as rich as wine.
Three. She used to garden.
Four. She used to like to lie down on the lawn, weaving floral wreaths like a little girl.
Five. A blade of grass brushed the back of her leg.
Kayla screamed and leapt for the car. The remaining distance closed in one huge, terrified blur.
She sat panting in the driver’s seat. “Go home, Steve,” she whispered. And answered herself: “I am home. I am home.”
Erica Naone’s work has appeared in Storyglossia, On The Premises, and Every Day Fiction. She received an honorable mention in the 2009 3-Day Novel Contest. She enjoys participating in writing marathons and challenges.