It was a long way down. Too long, you think. Turn back now. Your bed is still warm, the sheet is pulled back the way you left it. It’ll hug you like a cloud. Like a dear friend would hug you after you show up to the first day of school when summer vacation is over. I missed you, oh how I missed you.
No. Don’t turn back. Don’t be a coward. You had a mission, dang it, and you are going to complete it.
One foot, two foot, slide your bum down. One foot, two foot, slide your bum down. You continue this, slowly but rhythmically, and you’re making moves. My God, you’re halfway down the stairs!
One foot, two – CREEEEEEEEAK. No. Anything but that. How could you forget, creaky stair #9. Right smack down in the middle of the staircase. You should’ve counted, you could’ve hovered over and skipped it altogether. But no, you had to sing that dumb and oddly addicting tune. You got carried away. You got stupid.
You shift your foot slightly, and somehow the stair creaks even louder. Like it is shouting into a microphone. I’m here, I’m alive, hear me creak, hear me sing!
The hallway light turns on. You have a split second to make your move. Scurry back to your bed, a failure but safe, or bolt down the stairs, punishment inevitable, but at least an honorable attempt at what you set out to do.
You stand up. The star shouts in protest, but you’re gone. You’re thundering down the second half of the stairs. Who cares about noises in this once quiet night?
“Johnny,” a voice comes from behind, sandwiched between a yawn and a sigh. “Just what do you think you’re doing, young man?”
You freeze, your feet landing on the hardwood floor, far now from the creaky stair that betrayed you.
You could stop, hang your head, apologize. Or you could run. Run and run and run, to that glorious slice of heaven.
And so you run.
“Johnny,” your mother screams after you, pounding down the stairs. You take a sharp right, flying into the kitchen. Then you’re there, you made it. You’re throwing open the refrigerator, and it lights up because it doesn’t know it’s midnight, it just knows you’re hungry, and it welcomes you the way the stair rejected you.
You take the leftover slice of your birthday cake and shove it into your mouth, rejoicing, crumbs covering your pajamas, but that doesn’t matter. Nothing matters but you and this cake.
That, and your mother rounding the corner, her mouth open in a shocked anger, her fingers reaching for your ear.