My sister and I had full run of the house, which was a pretty rare event. With our parents off at the yearly "Black and White Ball" and our other two sisters out with friends, we were going to make a night out of it.
Which meant we plopped down in front of the boob tube.
Our goal was to stay up late enough to watch Night Tracks. Perhaps not the most inventive or awe-inspiring ambition, but we were dedicated. Until one of us wandered into the kitchen and reported the discovery of Little Debbies in the cupboard. Our mission was aborted.
We spent the next few hours leaving Little snack cake residue on all of our playing cards and board game pieces. When the sugar high started wearing off, we made our way to the far bedroom (the cool bedroom) that belonged to one of our absent siblings. We could tuck ourselves in and sister-talk until we fell asleep. So much for well laid plans.
Sleepiness set in heavier and heavier and our chatter began circling in the space between our pillows like a dog trying to get comfortable. Eventually our conversation rolled to a non-eventful stop. That was when we heard it.
Voices. Of strangers. In the living room.
The voices were muffled, but we could tell they were unfamiliar. As much as we strained to hear what they were saying, we couldn't make out any specific words. Given the lack of decisive information, we did what was natural.
We totally freaked out.
My sister, the one in charge, came up with our only idea: prayer. It seemed reasonable enough. We settled on "Our Father" since every little Catholic kid knows it by heart. Or so we thought. It turns out that, when you're very young and very scared, all the energy you put into not wetting your pants is energy taken away from remembering the Lord's prayer.
We started falling to pieces, but once again my sister pulled us together. She had a new plan: we would investigate. Taking my hand, she led our way in the dark (to avoid detection) through the house (to get into better earshot). From the den we could see a strange glow coming from the living room. From the dining room, it all became clear.
We had left the television on.