My breathing is slow and steady, and I feel both awake and relaxed, almost ready to face the day. I reach for the shampoo, and when I scrub some onto my head, I hear a noise. It could be anything, maybe even a rattling pipe, so I ignore the sound and start rinsing the suds out of my hair.
There’s a second noise, a little louder than the first, and it sounds like the door clicking shut. My eyelids pop open and are invaded by some of the soap pouring down. I tightly close my eyes, trying to get rid of the stinging from the shampoo, and I shiver in the warm water. I’m not cold, but I sense that I’m not alone.
My voice wavers as I ask, “Mom, is that you?”
An answer doesn’t follow, so it can’t be her. She’s not the type to play pranks or sneak up on people; it simply isn’t dignified.
“If someone’s out there, this isn’t funny.”
I crack open my eyes, but between my soap-blurred vision, the frosted plastic of the shower door, and my bath towel hanging over that door, I wouldn’t be able to see the silhouette of anyone outside without moving. And I don’t want to move. I’m frozen in my spot.
There’s another sound, softer but closer, and I realize that if it’s an intruder, I’m trapped and naked. I feel helpless and afraid, but I have to do something. Just like I should have done something more back then.
My eyes don’t hurt as much, so I look around for something to defend myself with. All I can find is a razor. It was new when I last shaved my legs, so I hope it’s sharp enough to at least startle the intruder. A well-placed and unexpected nick could stall an attack.
There’s one more click, and I spring into action. I grab the towel and wrap it around me. My right hand brandishes the razor, and my left hand shoves open the shower door.
Some steam escapes, only to be replaced by cooler air. Through the mist, I don’t see any sign of life in the room. I glance at the floor, looking for footprints or any depressions in the white cotton shag bath mat. Nothing. No one.
The towel gets heavier and clingier as it absorbs the pouring water. I don’t care that it’s soaked; there are more in the linen closet. I turn the faucet off quickly, and there’s a squeal behind the wall. Maybe all I heard was the pipes, but I stand there dripping and waiting for silence to make sure the coast really is clear.
There are more noises from the wall behind me—some clicks and muffled voices. The neighbors? Adjacent townhouses are mirror images of each other with thin walls separating them. I’ve heard their television through the living room walls when they’ve turned the volume up too loud, but I’ve never heard them talking through the bathroom walls. But then again, I don’t remember the last time I showered so early.
I exchange towels to dry myself off and then put on my robe. Plugging in and turning on my hair dryer, I look at the medicine cabinet above the sink. I didn’t turn on the exhaust fan, so the mirrored door is covered in condensation, preventing me from seeing a clear reflection. That’s how I like it. Because I was in the shower slightly longer than usual, I don’t even see a dark blur where my head should be.