Breathe. Just breathe.
In and out.
You are going to be okay.
You are safe. You are fine. No one is going to take you.
It’s only dark, and late, and you’re alone and vulnerable, in a sketchy part on the outskirts of town, in a creaking old house.
In fact, why should you be worried that an unrecognizable car just pulled up on your usually abandoned street, stopped directly outside of your house for a few minutes, and then drove off? What’s abnormal about that?
My heartrate is picking up, the thoughts continuing to swirl rapidly in your head.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
You are going to be okay.
You are freaking out for no reason.
You don’t need to contact anyone.
A creak sounded through the house, followed by a loud bang, and my heart raced faster as I shot to check the windows, instinctively unlocking my cell phone.
Emma. I need Emma. I need to talk to her, she can calm me down.
No. No, you’re okay. There’s no one outside. No sign of the car.
I paced around the house for a moment before lying in bed, the lights off and the house silent, a faint, calming glow coming from the one street lamp outside.
My eyes started to drift shut, my heart started to slow down.
Breathe in, breathe out. You’re okay. Everything’s fine. You can sleep now-
A rustling sound occurred, followed by what sounded like the click of the deadbolt lock on the front door.
I shot up from bed with my phone in hand once again, checking the door and the windows with my heart pounding.
No car. No creepy stalker planning to tie you up and rape you. No one planning to shoot you and raid your home. No psychopath or sexual sadist at your door after stalking you for several days and learning our patterns and knowing that there’s no one in or around your home to protect you.
You watch too many crime shows and horror movies.
Breathe in, breathe out. You’re okay.
Still, my fingers are itching for my phone. I need Emma around. She’s stronger than me; she can protect me.
Breathe deeply. You’re okay.
I grab my favourite blanket and wrap it around my shoulders, deciding to fix myself a cup of tea. Chamomile, soothing and warm. It should send me right off.
The house creaked again, twice, like footsteps. I thought I heard a car engine. My heart pounds.
The kettle is now boiling.
I cracked, turning on my phone and selecting my messages.
“Hey. Are you awake? I’m freaking out.”
I set my phone down and began staring out the window, directly at the spot where the car had parked before. I wasn’t sure why it was bothering me so much, the car being parked there before. It was probably just someone who had to pull over to take a call or send a text.
Or a drunken maniac who was going to break in through the window-
Breathe. You’re okay. You just need to breathe.
The heater kicked on at the same time my phone went off, causing me to jump about a foot.
“Are you okay?” was the response.
“No. I’m pathetic. I don’t know why this is happening. A car stopped outside a few hours ago and it hasn’t come back but I’m really scared.”
“I’m coming over. Just wait.”
“You don’t have too. I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s ok. I’ll be there soon.”
My mind was soothed for a moment, my pulse normal and my chest warm as I felt hints of fatigue creeping into my mind.
My heart pounds again.
Is this anxiety? I’m not sure. I’ve had nights like this before, nights where the sounds keep me up and I struggle to calm down and close my eyes. But it’s never been this intense before, never this irrational. It’s never kept me up past 2 am, never driven me to ask someone to keep me company. I could have always managed by myself.
And now I feel more pathetic than ever. A grown woman who can’t even handle a night alone. Who needs to call her girlfriend to protect her from a nonexistent threat.
Still, you just need to breathe. She’ll be here soon. She’ll-
My heart stopped for a moment, and once again I crept towards the window.
This time, I saw a car.
A familiar, homely, beautiful yellow car.
“Emma,” I breathed, running to the door.
The minute it opened I was wrapped in an embrace, the familiar scent of her shampoo washing over me as she held me tightly.
“Are you okay?” she questioned.
“I’m better now,” I said shakily, my voice thick with tears.
“Did the car come back?”
“N-No.” Breathe. “I don’t know why I’m so worked up about this. And I just made you drive incredibly late at night for a dumb reason and I’m so sorry-“
A peck of her lips cut me off before she pulled me back into a hug.
“It’s okay. You’re going to finish your tea, and then we’re going to go to bed, alright? You’re safe now. You’re okay. You just need to breathe. You’re okay.”
And I could finally breathe now. It was simple again, effortless. Emma was like air to me. My personal savior sent to whisk me away from the hell I was living in. Even if that hell was my own mind.
We were curled up together in my room now, legs entwined and our hands linked.
It was silent finally, the house no longer creaking, the darkness no longer drowning me.
I could finally breathe.
“This can’t keep happening,” I heard myself say quietly. “You can’t keep driving over every time I have an attack.”
“Yes I can,” she argued lightly, but you cut her off.
“No, Em, it’s not fair on you.”
“I love you, of course I can,” she countered.
It was silent.
“Listen…what if I…” her voice trailed off, before coming back stronger. “What if I moved in?”
My heart picked up once again, for different reasons.
“You…you want to…what?”
“Move in,” she repeated, more firmly. “With you, if you want. We could spend more time together…and I could protect you.”
I started to process this.
“I’d love that,” I say quietly, smiling brightly at her. My Savior. “I love you.”
She smiled down at me. “Love you too. Goodnight.”
Finally, I slept.
Finally, I breathed.