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It was my first Sunday of freedom.

I woke up, and took a deep breath in. I’d made it out. I’d escaped. I was still shaking, but I was free.

I crept to my kitchen and made myself a pot of coffee, purposefully keeping my gaze from the TV.

I wasn’t going back there. I wouldn’t.

Breathe, Carrie. Breathe. 

I sipped on my coffee, enjoying the silence.

Since I’d escaped, I’d burned the shiny outfits, the platform heels, the dangly earrings, the lists of NFL players’ names… I scrubbed every trace of my makeup off my face that I could.

Still, my eyes remained lined with dark kohl, my lips constantly glossed. I’d tried to cut my hair, too, but my wavy blonde locks hung past my shoulders, perfectly tressed.

As if it was waiting for me to come back. Waiting all day… for…

I shook my head and shuddered. I couldn’t let myself complete the phrase. I’d worked too hard to deny it, to banish it from my mind.

I remembered the flickering tunnel of lights, the greenscreen cube I’d been locked in for nine years. Nine years had gone by, after I’d sold my soul… and for what? A weekly audience of millions? To sing random lines about American cities where NFL stadiums sat? Had it been worth it?

I decided to enjoy the rest of my Sunday and not dwell on these things. I went for a run. Went to a flea market. Hid from every TV I could, especially those tuned into football games. I didn’t want to risk exposing myself. Or somehow, being found.

I made myself dinner and poured myself a glass of wine. I still wasn’t sure how I’d done it, how I’d managed to crawl through my TV and out of my Sunday Night Football prison. But I’d done it.

The clock continued to tick down. It was almost 8 P.M.

A chill ran down my spine.

I showered, and tried in vain to rub the makeup off my face, again. But it still wouldn’t come off. I got in bed and read my book, trying to distract myself as kickoff approached. I was safe here.

But then, I heard a crash. Someone, or something, was in my living room. I grabbed the baseball bat from under my bed and tiptoed downstairs.

The house was dark, but a glowing light was crackling from the living room. I was drawn to it, like a moth to flame, I couldn’t resist its call…

And then, I heard it. The siren’s song.

“Waiting all day for Sunday night…”

That voice… I knew that voice… it was my voice. And it was coming from me. My hand jumped to my throat. I couldn’t stop myself from singing.

“All right, what a night, it’s finally here…”

My feet were leaden, they carried me toward the screen, which hummed with energy. My pajamas burned off my body, replaced instead by a shimmering jumpsuit, high heeled boots, and a leather jacket. A microphone appeared in my hand.

“Sunday Night Football’s kicking into high gear…”

Tears ran down my face, but I couldn’t feel them. A smile spread across my face, cheeks turned up, and I moved closer and closer to the TV.

“The stars have arrived, c’mon get up and cheer…

Hey Jack, it’s a fact, the show’s back in town…”

I couldn’t fight it anymore. I was going back. And I didn’t know when I’d be free…or if I’d ever be free.

I belted, now looking out from inside the TV. The green screen closed in around me.

“Waiting all day for Sunday night…” 

Erin Vail

Erin is the 2003 West Reading Elementary Geography Bee champion, a TV obsessive, and never not thinking about Buffalo sports.

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