The metallic click of a fingernail against the doorknob sends me out of my mind. Whoever is there knows damn well that I’m in here. I force my muscles to move, to stretch, as I stand and get out of the tub. Taking the only thing that I can use as a weapon, I grab a can of hairspray, intending to spray and smack the intruder with the can, if I get that lucky.
The shadow shifts and the floorboards creak. The nails jiggle the knob once more and then are dragged down the door in one slow sweeping motion. My heart climbs into my throat as my pulse goes into heart failure territory. Every inch of my body is shivering, but it has nothing to do with being cold. I want to grab the towel and wrap it around my body, but I’m too afraid to turn away from the door. I stand there after I step out of the tub, letting the water roll off me and onto the floor. Puddles form under my feet. My fingers clutch the can of hairspray tighter. I shake it and pull the cap off, putting it down softly on the counter. My nerves are shot to hell. I know someone is on the other side of the door and for whatever reason, they haven’t opened it yet.
I reach my hand slowly toward the knob, ignoring how my fingers shake, as I lift the can of hairspray in my other hand. My breath catches in my throat. My fingers touch the cold metal knob. Every last breath of air is crushed out of me. I stare, unblinking, ready to fight whatever assailant lies on the other side.
Without warning, I yank the door open. I scream and spray, practically dancing in fear, trying to see who was waiting on the other side. After a second, I get enough of my brains back to realize that no one is at eye level. My gaze falls to the floor and I scream. A raccoon the size of a dog is hissing at me, and looks like it’s ready to attack.
“Awh, what the hell, what the hell, what the hell!” I scream—almost sing—as I act without thinking and jump over it. When I leap over the thing’s head, it twists to look at me. It must think I’m attacking, because it fights back. It rears up on its hind legs when I’m airborne over its body. My foot connects with the side of its head and the raccoon goes flying backwards into the bath, as I fall on the floor. It splashes in the tub, while making the most ear-piercing sounds I’ve ever heard. The animal clings to the side of the tub, trying to climb out, soaked. And completely pissed. I gawk at it for a second and then scramble my naked butt across the hall and go running into the living room. The insane animal runs like I’m the one attacking. It darts past me, soaking wet, and climbs our bookcases. The entire time, I’m screaming like someone is killing me.
When the knock at the door comes, I throw it open to see the eighteen-year-old high school kid that lives next door. His gaze is downcast at first and he starts to ask, “I heard yelling and wanted to make sure…” His voice cuts off as he stares at me wide-eyed.
The blast of fresh air and James’ unblinking brown eyes remind me that I’m naked. I turn and snatch at a sweater that’s hanging by the door and wrap it around me as quickly as possible. I slam the door shut behind James. Responding to him, I say, “No! That thing attacked me!” I’m breathing hard and can’t catch my breath. My pulse won’t slow and James looks like his brain melted. I blink at him as I tug the sweater tighter around my shoulders. The bottom of my ass is hanging out. I pull the sweater down, but then my boobs are hanging out. Hysterical sobs start to bubble up my throat and James seems to remember that I’m a real person.
I’m pointing at the raccoon. It’s perched on top of the bookcase with its hackles raised, hissing at us. “That thing broke in. I thought….I thought,” I blubber, motioning at it, “it was a—”
James finally snaps out of it. He says calmly, “It’s fine, Miss Lamore. He’s just spooked.” James looks around and asks, “How’d he get in here?”
“I have no clue,” I say, my voice shaking, my entire body billowing like a reed in a breeze. I shiver and I can’t stop.
James’ eyes flick between me and the massive rodent snarling on my top shelf. Its little black muzzle looks like it’ll rip my face off if I step closer. James seems to decide something and steps towards it. I grab his shoulder, and scold him like he’s five, “Stay away from that thing! It’s crazy.”
James smiles and shakes his head. “He’s just spooked.” Ignoring me, James steps toward the animal, making cooing sounds. The raccoon stops hissing, but still looks mortified. It doesn’t move. After a moment, James turns to ask, “Do you have an apple or something?”
Nodding, I go to the kitchen to grab one and return, giving it to the kid. “Don’t let it bite you. Your mother is going to kill me as it is.”
James lifts the apple in the air. He uses a pocket knife to cut small pieces off. James can barely get the first few pieces to the psychotic rodent, but eventually its stomach overpowers its fear, and the giant fur ball climbs down. James opens the front door and throws the remains of the apple outside. The raccoon runs after it, and bounds down the front steps. I slam the door shut, and lean against it, splaying my fingers against the metal. I close my eyes, and tilt my head back. A major freak out is building inside of me.
James clears his throat and seems to look anywhere but at me. “It looks like he got in through the chimney.” The kid points at the old fireplace and the knocked over candles that had been on the hearth. “I can tell the landlord to fix the trap, and you should board that up. I have no idea how he squeezed his way down. Usually squirrels are an issue, not raccoons.”
I realize he’s talking, and blink. Looking at him, I shake my head, saying, “No, I’ll tell the landlord about it. You’ve been enough help.” My face is burning. I think I was running around naked in front of this kid for way longer than I should have. I bite my bottom lip to keep it from trembling. “Thank you.”
He smiles awkwardly at me and says, “It was my pleasure.” James smirks and then disappears through the door. I push it shut behind him.
Then, I plaster my hands to my face and fall to the floor and cry. I cry because my emotions are so tangled that I can’t tell which way is up. I thought someone was there, that the person who was following me was ready to butcher my body and hide me under the floorboards, and my only defense was a can of hairspray. I’m pathetic. No one’s been following me. I let me mind runaway with brains.