It was still dark when I woke.
I rolled over to snuggle into my boyfriend, but his side of the bed was cold and empty. Memories invaded my groggy mind. He’d texted me to say that they had received an important order, and he’d need to do an all-nighter to get it out before the deadline.
Briefly, I considered the possibility that he was cheating on me before dismissing it as nonsense.
I wasn’t supposed to be home either. I was meant to be over at Meg’s pad, having a girly night out, but I’d called it off at the last minute. Stomach cramps. Instead, I’d opted for a long soak and an early night.
Sleepily, I lifted up my mobile and looked at the time: 12:24.
I was just wondering what had woken me when I heard the sound again. Floorboards creaking.
Someone was in the living room downstairs.
Suddenly, I was wide awake, heart beating madly in my throat.
I strained to hear.
Was it the wind, or maybe my imagination playing tricks on me?
There it was again. Someone had opened up the kitchen door. Michael had been promising me for ages that he’d oil those hinges, but he’d never got around to it.
Sitting up in bed, I called the police.
“Hello. There’s someone in the house!” I explained. “They’re downstairs. I can hear them moving around.”
Hearing the panic in my voice, the lady on the other end of the line responded, “Okay, I need you to stay calm. Where are you exactly?”
“I’m upstairs, in my bedroom.”
“No, I mean the address, dear. I need to know where you live.”
I filled her in on my name and address, and confirmed that I was alone in the house.
“I’m putting out a call as we speak, Julie. There’ll be a car on its way in a few minutes. In the meantime, I need you to remain quiet. Can you lock the bedroom door?”
“Is there some place you can hide?”
I looked around the bedroom. Hiding under the bed was not an option. There was so much junk under there that I’d be a week clearing it out. The wardrobe was similarly chock-a-block.
“Not really,” I admitted.
“Never mind. Just keep quiet and remain calm. Remember, help is on its way. Whatever you do, do not confront the intruders. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I won’t.”
I heard footsteps creaking on floorboards again, and my heart sank. They were coming up the stairs.
Desperately, I looked around for a weapon to defend myself with. My mind was a blank, and then suddenly I remembered the old baseball bat. I’d kept it under the bed for protection, but had never needed to use it before now. In seconds I’d found it, covered in lint and bits of down, but serviceable, nonetheless.
The footsteps were getting closer, coming down the hall.
I slipped into the shadows behind the bedroom door, and held my breath, trying to stop my panic from overwhelming me.
The bedroom was faintly lit by the glow of my phone. The woman was still on the other end of the line, calling my name.
In my panic I’d dropped the phone. It was lying in the middle of the floor, face up.
I willed her to be silent. They might hear her.
Time slowed as I watched the door handle turn.
I bit my lip to stop myself from screaming.
The door slowly opened.
A shadowy figure stepped into the room and stopped, looking down at the phone.
I swung the bat with all my might and struck the intruder across the back.
He grunted with pain and fell to one knee, his right hand still clutching the door knob.
I swung again, aiming for the head this time. It was clearly silhouetted in the soft light coming in from the streetlights outside.
The bat shuddered up my arms with the force of the blow. Felled like a tree, the burglar crashed down beside the phone.
I whirled around, expecting an accomplice to come crashing through the bedroom door at any second, but no one came.
Shaking all over, I whimpered softly to myself, barely able to stand. I’m not sure how much time had passed. I hadn’t moved. I was in shock.
Blue lights swirled across the ceiling, like a psychedelic lighthouse. The police had arrived. Their banging on the door finally aroused me from my catatonic state, and I shuffled, zombie-like, down the stairs to let them in, still holding the bloody bat.
Their lights blinded me. “Miss Turner?” one of them asked.
I nodded in response.
“We were told you made an emergency call about a possible burglary.”
“Yes, he’s upstairs … in the front bedroom. I had to defend myself …”
Prising the bat gently from my hands, the officer pushed passed me, heading upstairs. Other officers entered the house, checking to see if there were any other intruders hiding in other rooms.
“Sarge, you’d better call an ambulance for this one! He’s alive, but he’s in a bad way.”
A lady officer took me by the arm and led me into the sitting room. “Come and sit down, Miss Turner. May I call you Julie? I’ll make us both a cup of tea, and then I can take your statement.”
As she led me into the living room, I stopped in my tracks.
There were roses everywhere, hundreds of them. The carpet was littered with red petals, and hanging over the fireplace was a banner. It read, “Will you marry me?”
The living room hadn’t been like this when I went to sleep.
Another policeman came in as I stood there. Addressing the lady officer standing beside me, he said, “We’ve found some I.D. on the guy upstairs, a Michael James McGill, Sarge.”
I was too shocked to take it in. I just stood there, mouth agape. A sob broke free, and I started to weep.
“Does that name mean something to you?” she asked. “Do you know this man?”
My legs gave way. I slid to the floor, unable to answer. I tried to speak, but nothing would come out, only a terrible squealing sound. How could I explain what I’d just done? I wanted to pinch myself and wake up from this nightmare, but deep down, I knew that I wasn’t dreaming.
Only when the ambulance arrived to take my boyfriend – my potential fiancé – to the Accident and Emergency Unit, did I finally drag myself out of my stupor. Seeing his body being carried away on a stretcher stirred me back into life.
“Michael!” I screamed, “Oh God, Michael. I’m so sorry!”
I tried to follow him out, but the officers restrained me.
“Let me go!” I demanded.
The police sergeant stood in front of me, blocking my way. “Please sit down, Miss Turner. You won’t be able to go anywhere until you’ve answered some questions.”
“But, he’s my boyfriend …” I blubbered.
“He’s in good hands,” she assured me. “With any luck, he’ll pull through. In the meantime, I need to know what happened this evening. Did you two have a row?”
“What! No! Of course we didn’t. I thought it was a burglar. Michael was supposed to be working …”
The questions came, thick and fast. They asked some of the questions over and over again, as if hoping that I’d give a different answer. Eventually, they took me down to the station for further questioning, and to do some forensic stuff; fingerprints, a swab of my mouth, cleaning under my fingernails; that kind of stuff. To be honest, I can’t remember it all.
They took the night clothes that I’d been wearing, too. Thankfully, they had brought an old tracksuit from the house, which they allowed me to change into before another bout of questioning.
Finally, at around noon of the following day, they released me from custody.
A policeman was standing at my front door when I arrived home He allowed me in so that I could take a shower and change. The crime scene had apparently been dusted and photographed during my absence.
Collecting my phone, I called Meg and explained to her what had happened.
She hurried over, and together, we drove to the Hospital to see how Michael was doing.
The receptionist wouldn’t give us any information at first, until I explained that I was Michael’s fiancée. It was technically a lie as he hadn’t actually got around to asking me, but it was enough to satisfy hospital protocol. A doctor was summoned, and he explained his diagnosis.
“You’re fiancé is sedated and stable, Miss. We’ve done all we can. At this point, we can only monitor his condition and hope for the best.”
I looked at him blankly, not taking in what he was telling me.
“He’s in an induced coma until the swelling on his brain goes down. After that, we’ll be able to assess the extent of the damage further.”
“Is he going to be alright?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, but it’s too early to know. Maybe you should go home and get some rest. We’ll call you if there are any changes.”
“Not a chance,” I replied. “I want to stay with him.” Thankfully, the doctor wasn’t aware that this was entirely my fault, otherwise, he might not have let me stay.