Propped up on her elbow, squeezing the neck of her stuffed animal between her forearm and bicep, Anna Maria tried to determine if the noise she heard was from her husband’s sleeping or if it was from an intruder. She pushed off the bed, onto her back. Sniper, the stuffed python, hissed a sigh of relief. Lifting her head, Anna Maria squinted to read the clock across the room, 4:15. Sighing herself, she leaned back into her pillow. It was unlikely an intruder would chose such a time to strike. The only people awake at this hour were masochists who were getting ready for a morning run or anxiety-riddle people who couldn’t sleep worth a damn.

Anna Maria rolled back toward the door, a sliver of which she could see over Paul’s sleeping form. Perhaps the noises she heard were just Paul’s larger than life form heaving the bed frame into the wall. Or, she thought as the distinct sound of something falling landed in her ears, someone is stealing their shit.

Straining her ears, Anna Maria waited for additional sounds. The bed shook lightly as Paul rumbled for air. A long rocky breath escaped as their headboard tattered against the wall. This hadn’t been the sign Anna Maria was waiting for. Anna Maria snapped her eyes shut and took a sharp breath in. If there was someone in the house it would only be a matter of time before they reached her, naked, vulnerable, hiding behind her husband’s massive form.

Alternatively, she could stand up and rise to the occasion. Bring the fight to them. Or, she thought as she squinted at the clock which now read 4:48, she could throw together some cinnamon muffins and pumpkin coffee. Perhaps get a lovely batch of soup started in the slow cooker and – should she not be met with imminent death upon entering the kitchen – make a loaf of stuffing bread.

Anna Maria’s stomach, whom she affectionately called Harold, growled at her to get up and get on with it. Either they were going to die, or eat like the true High Priestess. He had a point, she thought as she rolled all the way over, her bare back now facing the door. Sliding out from under the thick, velvety comforter Anna Maria planted her feet on the floor. Paul curled further into himself, taking the free flowing sheet and comforter with him. Anna Maria looped Sniper around her shoulders and she tugged at the comforter. At least her side of the bed would be made if they found her dead. Presuming of course that Paul didn’t – before she could finish her thought her husband unfurled, sprawling out across the bed. His muscular curves eating up chunks of the bedding.

Her puckered lips spread into a smile as she walked around their bed and toward the door.

Snakelike she slithered quietly down the old wooden stairs, wide-set and spaced accordingly. Determined to not let the potential intruder know she was onto him, Anna Maria took great care in where she stepped. Like the her, they seemed to float, basking defiantly in their unguarded, backlessness.

With the stained wooden floor ahead of her, the greenish hue missing in the darkened night, Anna Maria closed her eyes and parted her lips, allowing the tip of her tongue to taste the air. There was someone here, she thought. Sniper rolled over her shoulder as Anna Maria reached up into her hair removing a thin, black object. The mass of black hair swirled and bounced just past the nape of her neck, wrapping itself like a sleeve around Sniper. The object, looked like a pencil with a chunky old grip, worn into what had to be a gummy, mess of a ball. Anna Maria flicked her wrist, her fingers pinched below the grip, and the slight object stretched out into a longer tube, still black with chipped gold woven around it.

Placing the tip of the pungi between her teeth, Anna Maria returned her tongue to her mouth. She had tasted the salty, ripe stink of the man in the kitchen. She could feel him breaking the air as he made his way over. Her favorite knife, the one she used just yesterday to chop up rosemary for some scones, poised in the air ready to cut anything he could hit to ribbons.

Anna Maria waited against the small sliver of wall separating the living room from the dining room, which in turn opened up to the kitchen. As the rancid taste filled her mouth, Anna Maria let out a slow, controlled breath into the pungi, her lips puckered tightly around the tip. The whisper of scale to skin filled her ears as Sniper wrapped around her body circling over her shoulder, her breasts, her hips, and her left knee. The notable head of a King Cobra, Sniper’s head, rising up behind her own.

As the silvery tip of the knife glinted against the darkness of the living room, Sniper cut through the air. A loud crunch followed by the clattering of metal against the hardwood, erupted before the deafening silence of the night ate it up. Anna Maria continued into the living room, flipping the light switch as she entered. There before her was her knife, and somewhere, she could smell it, the tiniest specks of blood. She bent down and picked up the knife. Studying herself in the reflection, she twisted her hair around the thin, black object like any secretary from a porno or sitcom, refastening it back into place. Anna Maria shrugged her shoulder, repositioning Sniper back on her shoulder. For a cold blooded specimen, he made a warm stuffed animal.

Washing the knife in the sink, Anna Maria grabbed an apron from the pantry, looked at the clock as she rested Sniper on it (which now read 5:03), and got to work on her pumpkin coffee.

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