Dad opened the front door, gesturing for Mom to lead the way. She ushered Arthur through the threshold to the living room couch. A tight air filled our house.
Gwen snuck around me. She hunched over.
I caught her by the arm as her hands fell to the wood entranceway floor.
“They’ve been here.”
Mom yanked Arthur from the couch. We all stood in stark silence as our ears traveled every hallway and room for a faltering footstep.
“Now?” Mom mouthed to Gwen.
Gwen squished her eyes closed, allowing her hands on the floor to listen through our entire home. Dad crept off the front porch. Grass shushed under his boots as he rounded to the backyard. We all remained motionless, waiting for the all-clear.
The house phone rang.
The gurgled ring from the wall-mounted phone make all of us jump. My heart drummed in my chest. The noise covered any movement happening in the house that was not our own. I took one large stride and reached for the receiver.
The call stopped.
A muffled voice echoed through the air vents from one of the bedrooms upstairs. Mom’s eyes snapped onto me. Arthur’s watered at the corners.
“Gwen,” I whispered, reaching my hand down to her.
She took my hand, and the world around us halted. Mom and Arthur became catatonic. The grandfather clock in the living room went silent, its swinging arm locked in a diagonal. A fly buzzing beneath the warmth of the entranceway table lamp hung still in mid-air, right beneath the beaded switch string.
I pushed off from the floor. I levitated up the foyer’s vaulted ceiling; Gwen glided up beneath me with my hand cusped around her wrist. We gently swooped over the upstairs banister and returned to the carpeted landing.
“How long can you hold this?” I asked.
Gwen’s arm trembled under my fingers.
“A minute at most.”
All of the upstairs doors closed us off from the intruder’s whereabouts. I thrust my free hand at the hallway’s center and a string of red auras shot from my fingertips. The spell hissed and cracked as it splintered to hit each of the doors. Maroon light spread over the doors’ grain before sinking into the finish. Simultaneously, they all swung open.
“Thirty seconds,” Gwen whispered.
I cautiously stepped past the open doorways. Moonlight cast through the thresholds in varying shades of blue and shadows. Gwen trailed behind me.
When I saw into my parents’ room, it felt like my blood solidified. There, in front of the dresser, reflected back in the boudoir mirror, was a man frozen in time, holding Mom and Dad’s framed wedding picture in his hand. The other held the bedroom phone to his ear. Our family portrait stood near the dresser’s edge— looked at.