The Surprise

It had been a long business trip but my last meeting got cancelled. I could now go home, a whole day earlier and surprise my family. Sweet! Two weeks ago, I had left my husband in charge of school lunches and everything else, by now the children had school holidays.

It was almost dark when the taxi from the airport got me home. My husband’s car was missing and there were no lights in the house. Maybe they’ve gone out to dinner, I thought.

I let myself in and wheeled the suitcase into our bedroom.  I found myself some leftovers for dinner. I flicked TV channels, expecting any minute, the chaotic whirlwind that only teenagers can bring to a room. But none of that happened even as I took myself to bed. I left some lights in the dining room for them.

I woke up sometime in the night, it was very quiet. I touched the pillow beside me – still empty. Outside, the wind was howling and I could hear thunder and see flashes of lightning on the outlines of the curtained windows.  I tried to see the time but my phone was out of juice. I had forgotten to charge it once I got home. I tried to go back to sleep but I heard a couple of thumps. I tugged the curtain to look outside. It was really dark. As I dropped the curtain, I caught a movement in a flash of lightning.  I peered out but all I could see was a dark shape, slowing moving towards me. I looked from the edge of the curtain again. It was definitely a shape, square and about the height of a man’s torso, a tall man. Yes, yes definitely, there it was again. It looked like the sharp edge of a jacket sleeve. Was I imagining this?  I reached for the phone then remembered it had no charge.  I slipped into bed and decided to be quiet.  I could hear no footsteps outside. Suddenly I heard voices. Two male, American voices. American burglars, here in Australia? I slipped further under the covers. How late was it? Why was no one home yet? And more pressing, these burglars outside!

I decided to creep into the hallway. We still had our old landline phone there.  I tiptoed out of our room. As I walked past the children’s bathroom, I saw a long shape outside, hitting the window handle. I dropped to the ground and crawled along. As I went past my son’s room there was a loud thud near me and I touched a soft cloth bulge. I nearly screamed before I realised it was just a sleeping bag that had rolled out of the cupboard. Maybe these three had gone camping since I wasn’t expected back until Saturday night.  The rain was coming down hard now, like little bullets hitting the roof. No one would even hear me scream. As I turned to creep back to bed, the lights I had left on in the dining room suddenly went out. I almost ran back to my room and hid under the bed covers again.  Terrified, curled into a ball, I must have fallen asleep.

The next time I woke up, I was relieved to see it was morning. The sun was shining bright and the magpies were making a racket in the garden. My investigation revealed that the ‘man’ in the garden was my husband’s jacket on the washing line and the tapping at the bathroom window was a displaced branch from the storm.  Inside, the TV was on, recording old American Westerns.

Still no one else home, so after breakfast I decided to pamper myself. I put on a lavender face treatment; gently smoothing the thick, lilac-coloured paste all over my face except my eyes and lips. While I waited for it to dry, I fell asleep on the couch reading my book. Such luxury on a Saturday morning! Finally, I heard the car come in. Excited to see my family after two weeks, I rushed to open the front door, only to send my son screaming down the drive.

I hope it was the face treatment.





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