The dramatic sheen of blue material reflected a small amount of light coming from the lamp beside it. Liza turned this way and that, still pressing the gorgeous formal dress against her as she admired herself in the full-length mirror. Then a small clip of white could be seen. She smiled, glanced at the three-digit number printed across it, and then prepared to tear the price tag off. Just as she did so, the doorbell sang through the house.
Liza froze. She waited for a few seconds, holding her breath. After a few moments, there was a shuffle of clothing from outside and everything was quiet again. She released the breath she'd been holding and held up the dress again.
A violent crash quaked through the house and the sound of splintering wood sliced through her eardrums. Stunned beyond thought, Liza dropped the dress and staggered backwards. She barely managed to catch herself against the back of the chair behind her. The only thing she could see were two eyes staring at her from across the room. Liza's eyes focused further and she saw a small, metal pistol poised in the man's trembling hand. His eyes too registered shock and she knew he was not expecting her to be there. His lips began to move and she believed he was attempting to speak. Finally one word was produced.
Shaking uncontrollably now she gathered her senses enough to recall that the family safe was in a closet on the other side of the family room. Liza slowly forced her frozen legs to move in front of the closet nearest her to draw him away from the real location.
The thief began to walk towards her now, but as he did so his foot was caught under the rug and he stumbled, knocking the gun from his grasp and under the couch. Mindlessly, he bent to retrieve it. Liza took that opportunity to hurriedly grab her phone from her pocket and punch in 911. She then just held it behind her back and let it ring as he rose to his feet again.
Liza swallowed and carefully stepped away from the door. He crept towards her and finally was in reach of the doorknob. Closer now she saw how ragged he really was. His hair was wild and uncombed and formed a matted lump around his head. The clothes were torn and unwashed. All they consisted of were a brown jacket and shirt, baggy pants, and black boots that had holes forming near the toes, and even his skin was brown with dirt and filth. Despite all these things though the most striking were his eyes. They were a deep green that harbored such an intense desperation as Liza had never seen before. It stunned her and she found herself staring.
Disrupting her thoughts, he turned away and into the closet. After a minute of rummaging he emerged, gun in hand.
"Where... is... it?" he forced out through a tight throat.
The high-pitched ring of the doorbell sounded through the house. They both glanced at the door. When Liza returned her gaze to the thief, he was staring at her in fright and frustration. In about five seconds of eye contact, he realized who was at the door and she understood he knew. Liza shot off into the kitchen while the thief dove the other direction.
Liza ran to the front door but ended up screeching to a stop when a bullet came whizzing about three feet in front of her.
"Don't touch the door! I don't want to hurt you!" his voice rang loud and confident.
"Police! Open up right now!" a booming voice came from outside.
Before Liza knew it the thief was rushing towards her. She dashed into her room off to the side. Liza locked her door just as the thief slammed against it. With a small screech of fright she stumbled over to her window and forced it open before sticking her head outside.
"Police! Over here!"
At that moment her door burst open accompanied by the ear-splitting sound of a gunshot. Shocked and unsteady, Liza ended up diving out of the window. Her shoulder took the brunt of the fall and she rolled a few times. Sore and tired she got to her feet just in time to see the thief pulling down the window. Liza's eyes enlarged and she shot off screaming for the police. She ran around the house to the front but found the cops were not there! Liza hopped up the stairs to the front door which was officially destroyed and was about to step inside when faced with the thief.
"Where is your money?" he demanded, and she responded with darting back around the house and through the garage door.
Liza found herself standing beside her younger brother's baseball supplies. She grasped a hold of the metal baseball bat. Creeping slowly towards the door, Liza prepared for the worst. Just as she was about to enter two cops came shooting out the door. They both dashed around her while yelling, "He went around back! Stay where you are!"
Relieved he was outside, Liza jogged back into her house and locked the door behind her. She turned to face a dark house and began jogging through it to relock all the doors to keep the thief outside. After making a full round she stopped in the family room and realized her lamp was broken. In the darkness a still quiet settled over the room... it was too quiet.
Cold metal pressed against the back of her neck. Her blood chilled and her heart froze.
"Just... tell me where... it is."
Liza did not respond but rather tensed her muscles, took in a deep breath, and whirled around, swinging the bat with all her might. The thief staggered backwards just in time and Liza stumbled with the momentum.
"In here!" Liza screamed at the top of her lungs.
The thief lunged forward and engulfed her mouth with his grimy hand. They both stumbled backwards and into the wall. Then the mistake was made by stepping away and holding out the gun. Exhausted and frustrated Liza whipped up the bat and slammed it against his shin. When he staggered away with a howl of pain she brought the bat down on the gun. It went crashing to the floor, and with the impact the gun went off and a bullet flew into the thief's foot. He crumpled into a heap of agony and screams.
"Why?" he was screeching as loud as he could at Liza, "I just needed the money! I don't want my family to lose our house!"
Completely shocked, Liza stepped back and just stared at the thief. She was so intent on watching his tears fall and his hand gripping his bloody foot that she barely heard as the cops came crashing back inside and swarmed around the man. One of the cops pushed her to the side and began asking her questions but she could barely answer out loud.
Finally the questioning was done and the man was being dragged to the police cars. She found her feet leading her to the broken front door. Liza watched as the police cars drove away. She managed to get one last glimpse of those desperate eyes as he stared steadily back at her in hopeless anger before he was taken away for good.
Not bothering to wipe away the tears that had formed in her eyes, she walked leisurely over to where her perfect formal dress was draped across the couch. It was unharmed and so were all the other formal supplies around it. Liza peaked at the price tag on the dress again and then glanced at the door behind her and an idea entered her mind.
Her nose wrinkled in disgust as Liza brought her tongue across the glue on the envelope to seal it. She got the last peak of green before sealing it and tucking it under her arm. In confidence but slightly nervous Liza headed inside the rundown McDonald's and up to the counter.
"Excuse me," she addressed the cashier, "Does a Mandy Wakefield work here?"
The cashier sighed and yelled out, "Mandy!"
A short, scruffy woman no older than thirty appeared from the back. She brushed back her knotted hair out of her tired eyes before seeing Liza.
"Hi," Liza forced out, her heart already racing, "Here."
She extended the envelope in her hand. In confusion, Mandy tentatively grasped it. Liza nodded her head towards it and Mandy tore it open. Upon seeing the countless bills inside, her eyes widened and seemed unable to blink.
"Um... uh... who are you?"
"Just ask your husband."
Liza did not wait for her to understand before turning and heading towards the door.
"You don't have to do this!" Mandy called after her, "He tried to rob you."
Liza turned slowly to reply, "Yes... but you didn't. I've done my research. I know you're not working here by choice but because you both lost your jobs in the recession."
"But... where'd you get all this money?"
She just smiled and turned away while saying, "I didn't have a date to the formal anyways."