The hood light was on in the kitchen, reaching far enough to just graze the entryway with its soft yellow glow. After stepping through the front door, flipping on the light switch would be optional. Navigating your way down the hall, through the living room and into the bedroom would be easy enough. Or—even better—the first-floor patio door in back would put you right in the kitchen, only steps from the room where I lay in a slightly fuzzy slumber. Too little rest and a bit too much wine had finally lulled me to sleep against my will. I knew I needed to, but was reluctant, alone in a place I had never slept by myself.
It had never been a problem before. I’d done it every night, for years, without a thought. The fact my kitchen had had a lock-less window with direct access to the street-level fire escape had never seemed noteworthy then. That was just a few months earlier, just a few blocks away.
But tonight, in this new bed inside these foreign walls, the darkness seemed heavier. It seemed to creep up behind me, wrapping its arms around my body, blinding me with hands the exact diameter of my eyes.
Here, quiet wasn’t. Silence used to be the distant humming of cars on the 405 bridge, the whirring of the streetcar beneath my curtains, the creak of my neighbor’s door when she turned the key. But here, it was unfamiliar clicks and snaps. Was that my new neighbor’s front lock? Or was that the broken end of a wire hanger in mine? Is that even what people use to make unwanted house calls?
As the cloud of Malbec started to clear, I realized my mind wasn’t the only thing stirring. The sound of soft footsteps grew louder as they reached the room. I turned with a start, pushing the dark from my eyes. Its arms fell from around me, leaving the room as the shadow before me took shape.
“It’s you,” I said, scooting toward his side of the bed.
“Hi, mi amor.”
Sliding in between the covers, his soft, strong arms engulfed me, taking the place darkness had been. That warmth, that feeling of all-encompassing security I feel when he’s next to me—it may be the reason I can no longer shut off all the lights or cease the break-in thoughts when I’m alone past 9 p.m., but it’s also the reason I know I’ll never have anything to be afraid of again.