“Dear God, that’s a lot of quiet”, Aberdeen thought as he continued reading Manzoni’s The Betrothed on his laptop. He could easily hear Moira breathe in and out as she slept next to him. The grandfather clock downstairs chimed midnight and his heart did a little twirl. Sometimes, it disgusted him, this nyctophobia of his. It didn’t disturb him when he was already asleep—it was being able to get to that ‘asleep’ state that was the real snag. Moira had to get used to living in the most-lit house on the street and he resorted to nightly reading to keep his mind occupied until sleep caught up.
He stilled his breath to be sure he wasn’t being tricked by his own mind. Footsteps. One at a time but unmistakable. Coming up the stairs. Or going down? No, that would mean whoever it was had come up without his ears picking it up—highly improbable. He shook Moira urgently, held his index finger to his lips and motioned for her to get up. Damned if he left her here. He had imagined the different ways a home invasion would go and in all of them, she was always safer close to him where he could protect her. Or try at least. Faced with the near possibility of his imaginations coming to life, he realised he was grossly underprepared. How many were they? Did they have guns? He slid a golf club out of a bag leaning by the door and opened it a crack. The hall was well-lit and not a body or shadow in sight.
He opened the door wider and stepped out. Moira stood behind him and the tremors in her hands travelled up his torso as she clung tightly to him. He heard rustling below and started down, ardently hoping their hearing wasn’t nearly as acute as his. With enough surprise, he and Moira may live through this. With an iron grip on the club and arms raised, he drew closer to the kitchen, the source of the noise and quite an odd place for an intruder to be.
The door was left ajar and the rustling grew louder. Whoever it was wasn’t trying to be subtle; they were either stupid, brazen or naive, none of which made them any less dangerous. The door to the refrigerator was open and a lone figure stood behind it, the face hidden. It was closed abruptly and he raised the club to strike. There was sudden ear-piercing cries from all three of them—he, Moira and Nadine, his daughter.
For the love of God! Nadine!
What are you doing here?
“I was hungry! Why do you have that?!”, she continued in a high-pitched tone.
Moira burst out laughing. He wasn’t amused.
And so you walked all the way here at midnight?
Regaining her full composure, she retorted, “You’re the one who insisted I stay in the hostel even though you and Mum live here on campus. Besides, the streets are not as deserted as you’d think”.
“Are you doing alright, sweetie?” Moira asked as she walked up to her. “Besides the hunger of course”.
“Yes, Mum”, she murmured, still glaring at him.