Fear Is The Highest Fence
The following post is featured on my blog, "My Former Life," in which I am recounting 365 memories in the year of my 40th birthday.
The scream from my sister jolted me out of bed. It was early; six fifteen or so. The scream was not the usual exasperated, frustrated tone that my sister normally took when she wanted my mother to deal with something; this was not a yell or a holler, but scream. A scream that immediately made me scared, because I heard the fear in it.
There was some noise outside my bedroom door, the closest bedroom to the staircase that led downstairs where my sister was. My mother, going full tilt down the carpeted stairs. I opened my door, leaned over the banister, and listened to the voices, afraid to get any closer to the problem that struck such a tone in my older sister’s voice.
“It’s gone. No, I don’t know where I left it, I thought it was somewhere in the kitchen. It’s gone. It’s gone!” My sister’s voice, words fast, high pitched.
“Are you sure?” My mother’s much lower voice, slowly drawing out the words in an effort to sound calm. I could hear the movement of worry underneath the false calm she was pushing out of her chest.
“I’m sure. Was the back door locked? Did we leave it unlocked last night? I don’t think I remember it being open when I went up to shower, but I…I don’t really remember. Oh God, what if they came in while I was upstairs?” The hysteria was reaching a higher pitch.
No response from my mother. I heard the phone picked up from its cradle and her fingers angrily punching on the buttons just three times.
“Yes. No. We’re not sure. The sliding door. My daughter’s purse. Maybe more, I haven’t looked. Yes, I’m positive, it’s still locked.” A pause as my mother listened to the operator on the other end of the phone. “Thank you. We’ll be waiting for them.”
I slowly inched down the staircase after I heard the receiver placed back on the wall. I stopped at the uppermost step that allowed me to look into the kitchen.
I saw the curtains billowing into the kitchen from the wind outside. Curtains that should have been still, because the door should have been closed. But they weren’t, because someone had come in through the sliding glass door behind them. The someone had taken my sister’s purse from where she left it in the kitchen the night before.
My sister was crying by this point. My brother was strangely absent from the whole proceeding. My mother was covering her fear while checking to see what else might be gone before the police came. She discovered quickly that some of the pieces of silver from her wooden silver box were also missing. Nothing else. It was almost as if the burglar knew exactly what to look for and where to look for it.
The fear the three of us felt continued in the days and weeks afterwards. We bought a thick stick of wood to place in the track of our sliding door so that even if someone forgot to lock the door, it could not be opened from the outside. My mother and sister learned to bring their purses into their bedrooms at night, just in case.
A few days later, my sister’s purse was found, without the money from her wallet, in the Dumpster near the end of our cul de sac. The silver was never recovered. We eventually discovered that my brother knew the burglar; he was a student at our local high school. My sister asked around to all of her friends; we discovered that our brother most likely left the back door open for the thief. He instructed the thief as to where the valuables would be located and what time to enter the house. The information was given ostensibly to pay back a debt my brother incurred for marijuana.
Life felt different after that day.