It started in her forties. She became very angry at her parents and found them difficult to be around. Situations and beliefs she never questioned as a child now seemed glaringly and alarmingly scary and wrong.
Like the Halloween night, when she was eleven, her mother and grandmother stayed far too long, almost until midnight, at a friend’s house. Her dad slept in the chair in front of the television at home and could not be awakened.
So, Rita and her little sister Jess braved the eerie night, at the witching hour, and ran panicked and frightened beyond belief when two teenagers chased them on bikes through their darkened neighborhood. Street lights and pumpkins no longer glowed. No lights within homes offered safety until, at last, one house showed a light in the kitchen window and Rita stopped at the porch, choking for breath.
“We made it!” she gasped, feigning their arrival at the intended destination. The boys rode on.
Then Jess, ever the songstress of truth, cried out, “But this isn’t the right place!” The boys circled back and Rita dragged Jess by the hand around and away from them and straight through a suspended chain in a driveway, at a speed she’d never run before. The chain gave way and they rounded the corner and Rita pushed hard toward that porch light while Jess peddled the air.
They were going so fast she could hardly touch the ground. Rita banged on the door. The boys cruised nearby like sharks. The door opened, Rita blurted out what was happening, and the woman whom her mother and grandmother were visiting…burst into laughter.
Desperate, Rita dove inside the house and stumbled with Jess into the kitchen where the full light of the overhead reassured her that she was safe at last. But her mother would have none of the story. “That’s enough,” she said. There wasn’t any sympathy or comfort. Rita and Jess were left to stand while the three women shared drinks and laughed, first about the girls, then about situations Rita didn’t think were any more funny than hers and were, in fact, quite boring.
Her angst itched lightly, at first, with this predicament, but grew more worrisome with the passing of time and the lack of consideration for her father.
At last they left for home, down streets that seemed less scary now that the witching hour had passed and the boys had swum off to hunt other victims. But the unstable way her mother and grandmother walked propping each other up, and the moment her mother stumbled and sat down in the gutter and the two laughed for some time, spiked a new fear with incomplete understanding that made Rita uneasy.
She had the vaguest sense of what was happening and how events connected, but at age eleven all she could think of was getting home where everything would be normal again.
And by the morning it had become that. Everyone was awake. Everyone was home. That terror was behind them.