“Bad dreams?’ he murmured. His breath tickled my ear before I nodded.
We returned to the bed, cuddling under the warm blankets. The details always faded after a few hours, but not my dry mouth or the need to turn on the light. His reassuring touch heated my skin and I drew him closer. His familiar weight, the powerful rhythm of his lovemaking drew me into the happy present and a promising future.
After Sam fell asleep, I stared at the ceiling for hours. It was time for me to make a decision. Did I love Sam enough to give him a child? Was I strong enough to face my childhood fear and let it go? I wasn’t being fair to either him or myself.
“I’ve been thinking,” I started and he glanced up from the newspaper. His expectant smile choked off the words like a tightening noose.
“Growing up,” I said. I slipped into the chair next to him and grasped his hand with both of mine. Warm as melted chocolate his brown eyes softened as his fingers closed around mine. “When we talked about a baby, I started thinking about being a child. I guess I never really said much about that.”
“I’ll agree with the sexy,” I said with a soft laugh. God, this was hard. I wanted to share my fears, but wondered if my solid, rational man would understand and believe me.
Time both dragged and flew in the following weeks. Another month on the pill had me juggling the dispenser as I decided to get another refill. One more I whispered to the mirror. The woman who stared back didn’t smile. Her bleak hazel eyes held dark secrets. Her tight mouth curved down at haunting memories. When I blinked, the frightened child I had been appeared with her hands outstretched. The container slipped from my nerveless fingers and shattered in the sink. The tiny pills spun like the balls on a roulette wheel before disappearing down the drain.
“Who the hell is Joey?” Sam demanded as he held my sweaty, shaking body. My hands petted his chest as I fought to calm my breathing, slow my racing pulse.
“These nightmares are getting more vivid, aren’t they? Don’t try to placate me,” he grumbled. When Sam sounded stern, I didn’t argue. He had a backbone of stubborn I couldn’t bend. “Maybe its time to get professional help.”
I eased from his arms and slid from the bed. My legs shook but I managed to make my way to the window. He silently followed, drawing open the heavy drapes to allow the brilliant starlight a path. My finger traced the outline of Orion then the Big Dipper on the cold glass.
“All of us have bad childhood memories: the bully who hounded us; a teacher who made life miserable; a dead pet; things we forget because it hurts to remember.” Sam’s reassurance helped. He pressed a kiss to my temple and gently asked, “Were you molested?”
“Oh no! Nothing like that! My parents loved me. And I loved them.” I clutched his forearms and gazed into his concerned face until he accepted I told the truth. His comfort reached a part of me that clung to his strength. For a few weeks I found peace.
I’d stuffed the positive pregnancy test in the bottom of the trash. I planned a surprise dinner, with wine for him and juice for me. Candlelight and a lace tablecloth, with all the fancy trimmings I usually saved for his birthday and our anniversary.
My palm pressed to my abdomen. I had a reason for facing my fear.
Sam was suitably surprised. The candlelight glinted golden sparks in this brown eyes as I slipped into my chair.
His wide grin lightened my heart. He raised his wine glass in a salute as I sipped my fruit juice. “That would be best for ‘our’ family.”
Our hands met and he pulled me onto his lap. As his caresses turned hotter, I wondered if it was better to be safely in a bustling city. Did I owe it to my child to take a step back? My insides felt coated with ice.
A wicker bassinet became the first item we bought. A trifle old-fashioned with a ribbon-trimmed lace skirt, it reminded me of my childhood doll bed. I ran my hand over the soft fabric. I’d loved my collection of dolls. They’d be lined up around my room. Some of them were big enough to wear real baby clothes my mother saved. A frown tightened my forehead. I couldn’t remember what my parents had done with them.
I’d be able to note if our child had my mother’s chin or my dad’s ears. Maybe even trace his
When I was young, so many things were different. Every kid in the neighborhood played with the others. The age range was six or seven years older than me to a couple years younger. It was a loose relationship. We didn’t plan on playing baseball, but if there were enough players and someone had a ball and bat, the game could last all day.
Mom thought nothing of sending me out to play all day. If I didn’t come home for lunch it was because I forgot. I climbed every tree in the woods. I rode my old, second-hand bike all over town or sat next to the old spring and watched the frogs. I started the third grade that fall.
That didn’t mean he was left out of the gang. I don’t think we were tolerant as its taught in schools today. He was just one of us and different.
Surrounded by huge pine trees the cemetery was cooler by twenty degrees. The grass had a funny sour smell, full of weeds. Some of the older white stones had only a smear of scratches left where the writing was worn away. A huge pillar on the hill had an eagle at the top and lists of names on the sides from an earlier war. No one came to visit any more.
We played King of the Hill on an up-thrust boulder at the back of the cemetery. The steep sides had no hand-holds and the top was a ridge impossible to stand on. You could straddle it, but that made it easier to push you off. That ten foot fall really hurt. And you had to be careful not to fall backwards because of the tool shed.
The older kids said when the ground was frozen, this was the place they stored bodies that couldn’t be buried. I didn’t believe them, but I didn’t explore here when the snow was deep.
With a kid’s logic, we played ball in the sun that day. I think it was because we had the right number. Sweaty and over-heated, we broke at lunch, but no-one came back. Joey dragged me under the pine trees where the shadows made goose-bumps race over my skin.
When he didn’t go home that night, the police came around. They asked about Joey. I hated the flashing lights and Mom kept pulling my finger out of my mouth. I chewed my nails when I was upset. I told them he went into the shed.
He took a big flashlight with him. I wanted to warn him but figured he had a gun. He wasn’t a scared little girl like me. He came back after a few minutes, shaking his head. I heard him tell the adults the lock was rusted shut and hadn’t been opened. The other kids caught my eye and one by one slipped away.
Joey had dragged at my arm, but I waited at this spot. He swore at me. I wanted to scream, but he ran to the shed. The door was open. Joey went into the shed.
“We moved a few years later,” I explained. “I’ve never gone back, but I need to see the truth.”
It was like I’d never been away. Summer heat shimmered the air like rippling water. I directed Sam to the cemetery drive. It was blocked with a heavy chain and we walked to the rear. Across the open field I could see a police car parked in our old drive. The pine trees still shaded the ground, the boulder thrust into the air, but the shed was gone.
The back of the rock was covered with moss. The ground was even and undisturbed. A sense of peace filled me as I realized whatever evil had been here was gone.