A glass of wine on the end table and a book in her lap. Jasmine had put her two children to bed early that night, needing the peaceful silence after a long day of the boys fighting. She sipped her wine and listened to her twins snore for a moment on the baby monitor before opening her book. Jasmine hadn’t had the time to get into the story, she was only on page three, but tonight was the night she would make progress.

Jasmine had just started page seven when she heard the front door unlock, open, then close. “Ken? You’re home early.”

She heard footsteps making their way up the stairs in the foyer to the second floor, but she received no response.

Jasmine glanced behind her through the entryway and saw black work boots on the top stair, rounding the corner of the hallway that led to the bedrooms. “I know it’s my fault you have to work so much, but you could still answer me.” She called up to him.

Still, no response.

Shrugging, Jasmine returned to her book. She knew he must be tired. Ken had just bought this house for her and he had been working 14 hour days on the late shift for a few weeks now to make sure they had enough to satisfy the mortgage. She didn’t blame him for just wanting to go to bed.

Jasmine closed her book and took another sip of wine, too bothered by her husband’s lack of response to continue reading. She knew she should get a part-time job to help out, but then who would watch the boys? They couldn’t afford daycare, not with all of the other bills they had to manage. Ken didn’t necessarily resent her for not working. He understood she had to stay with the boys while he was at work, but lately it seemed as though the mounting bills had put a tremendous strain on their marriage.

Footsteps making their way back down the stairs snapped her out of her thoughts. “You hungry? I can heat you up a plate.”

Again, no response.

Becoming agitated that he wouldn’t speak to her, she stood up, book still in hand, and turned to see the profile of a strange man disappear behind the foyer wall. She froze, dropping her book, and listened to the front door open and shut.

Adrenaline kicked in and she raced to the front door and flung it open. There was no one on the walk, no car in the driveway. There were footprints in the freshly fallen snow leading to the house, but none leading away.

Jasmine’s heart beat against her chest. She slowly and quietly closed the door. Jasmine glanced at the two closed closet doors on either side of the front door. Keeping her eyes on them, she slowly backed away. She glanced toward the living room where her phone sat on the end table with her glass of wine.

Jasmine eased toward the living room, refusing to look away from the closet doors. The pounding of her heart was the only sound in the silent room. Without turning her back to the foyer, the back of her legs bumped into the end table and she fumbled for the phone, spilling her wine in the process. She flipped the phone open. It took her four attempts to push the correct buttons, but eventually she connected with the 9-1-1 operator.

“9-1-1. What is your address?”

Jasmine rattled off her location in a whisper.

“What is your emergency?”

“There’s someone in my house.”

As Jasmine stated her emergency, she heard one of the closet doors creak open. She held her breath, waiting for the man to appear from behind the foyer wall. When no one emerged, she crept toward the staircase, keeping her eyes glued to the empty space where just a few feet away, behind the wall, she knew a stranger stood. There was silence once again. Then she remembered the boys.

Jasmine dropped the phone and flew toward the staircase, not bothering to look toward the closet doors. She took the stairs two at a time. She whipped around the corner at the top of the stairs, slipping on the freshly-polished hardwood floor. She crashed into her sons’ room and doubled over in horror at the sight. Blood splattered the walls and ceiling. Her sons lay face down on their beds, each a pulpy mess. Jasmine covered her mouth to keep from vomiting.

Then she heard the floor creak behind her.


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