Five miles. Bettie switched off the treadmill and grabbed her water bottle. Cold rivers of sweat snaked down her aching body. She pulled the garage door closed and bolted through the darkness. Bettie stumbled over the cobblestone edging before crashing through the back door and slamming it behind her. The house shuddered. She snapped the deadbolt in place. Bettie peered through one of the panes of glass. The yard was an abyss; quiet and still.
Bettie wandered through the first floor of the house. Quiet and still. Danny had gone to bed hours ago. His bedtime brought a calm, but also an emptiness. She dropped her water bottle and phone on the steps. The pictures that filled the staircase wall stared down at Bettie, but she ignored them.
In the kitchen, she hopped up on the counter and ate a spoonful of peanut butter from the jar. She heard a noise and froze with the spoon dangling from her mouth. It sounded like it came from downstairs. She told herself that it was the heater kicking on. The house was quiet and still. After a minute of silence she began to believe it.
She leaned back against the cabinet and surveyed the kitchen in the dim light emanating from under the microwave. Bettie stared at her reflection in the mirror on the wall to her right. She picked up the picture that John had tucked into the frame. It was an old wallet-sized school picture, taken when he was seven. She looked at the clock on the microwave. It was almost midnight. John was a few hours into his shift at the prison. She resisted the urge to text him.
A scraping sound followed by a bang. Bettie froze. She dropped the picture. After a few seconds, she slid off the counter, pulling a knife from the block as she went. She walked back into the living room and stood at the foot of the stairs. Danny’s door was still shut. It was quiet and still upstairs. Bettie leaned over and peered down the steps that led to the family room and utility closet. Quiet and still. She heard the noise again.