I sat down with Serenity to talk to her. I told her that I had been having bad nightmares about something that happened to me before she was born, and it was upsetting me. “I was scared,” I told her, “but I was trying not to be. I’m sorry I lied to you. But I didn’t want you to be scared.”
“It scared me that you were lying about it,” she said, pouting.
“I know…” I reached over and smoothed down her hair. “How did you know I was lying, though?”
“Thanks for telling me, Mom. I’m gonna go do my homework.” She got up and skipped out of the room, having not answered my question.
“Makes me feel like an old fossil, or something,” Viola grumbled as we sat at the park. “Kids growing up… becoming teenagers.”
Julie stretched out her legs, a hand over her swollen belly. “Zari is already completely freaking out that Melody turns thirteen next year. I told him last night, what–you want us to get her a chastity belt?”
“Men are so weird when it comes to their daughters,” Vi said then she leaned forward to look at me. “So are brothers.”
“You’d rather me not care who you marry?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. She just rolled her eyes and shook her head, muttering something. I smirked. “I am completely not ready for Serenity to become a teenager in a couple years. Then it will be Kaylee’s turn. Then River!” I let out a loud sigh.
“You’re fine with the boys though, right?” Vi asked and I shrugged. “Hypocrite.”
“Hey, I’m anxious about them too!” I complained. “I don’t think any parent is prepared for any of their kids to go into the teen yea…” I trailed off then jumped to my feet, squinting at the sidewalk. “Did you see someone…?”
“Nope, I don’t see anyone,” Vi said and Julie giggled.
I turned towards them. “Funny. No, I meant over there. I thought I saw–saw someone…” I covered my mouth, not daring to say who I thought I saw. Just my imagination, it has to be my imagination. I slowly began panicking. My kids–where were they?
All safe. They were all there, safe and sound. I considered calling Hal to make sure he was ok but I didn’t, I just sat back down, my legs jiggling, my fingers twitching. Duncan, Serenity, Kaylee–at school… were they…? “You okay?” Julie asked, putting a hand on my arm.
“Fine. I think I’m gonna head h-home, sorry. I feel kinda sick.” I gave them each a quick hug then gathered my kids, all of whom began complaining when I told them it was time to go home. I ignored their complaints as I got Mal bundled into his stroller. We headed back to the house though I was jumpy the whole time, looking around. It was my imagination, of course it was my imagination. But better safe than sorry.
I began making sure everything was locked at night. All the windows, all the doors. I didn’t tell Hal why I suddenly became so paranoid. But since I was having nightmares again, he guessed that it had something to do with that. After a week of this, Hal asked if maybe we should go see someone.
“For what?” I asked. He didn’t answer, and I realized what he meant. “You… think I’m crazy?”
“No!” he exclaimed, holding my hands. “I know you’re not crazy. I mean, someone to maybe help get rid of the nightmares. A therapist or something. You hardly get any sleep now and keep waking up in tears whenever you do manage to get some sleep.” He put his hand against my cheek and I leaned into the warmth. “You’re running yourself ragged.”
“The nightmares will go away,” I said, shivering a bit. “It’s probably because Duncan is gonna be a teenager soon.”
“Hun, he just turned twelve two weeks ago,” Hal said quietly.
I jerked away from him, getting out of bed and pacing over to the window. I didn’t look out, though. I was a bit afraid of what I might see in the yard. “His next birthday is the big one-three, that’s… close enough…”
Hal came up behind me, wrapping his arms around mine, pulling me against him. “Talk to me. Tell me what happened to start this. I know you had that bad dream a couple months ago but then you’ve been fine since then until last week. Something happened…”
I turned around, pressing my face against his chest. “I thought I saw him,” I whispered, and my entire body began trembling. “I thought–I–thought–” Then I began crying, and he held tightly. “Oh Watcher, Hal. I am crazy! He’s gone! He’s been gone! He’s out of my life, he’s been gone for an entire decade! Why now? Why is this happening?!”
He rubbed my back gently and it felt like the past ten years hadn’t happened at all, that I had just left Doug. I was clinging to Hal, sobbing into his chest as he comforted me. Nothing had changed. Nothing would ever change. I was going to be haunted by him forever.
After I had no more tears, Hal carried me back to the bed and tucked me in like one of the kids. He went to get a damp washcloth and then sat next to me, carefully wiping my face. “I don’t know why this is happening now. But don’t let it get to you. It’s just nightmares, nothing else. He’s gone.”
“I thought I saw him,” I croaked out.
Hal tossed the washcloth onto the pile of dirty clothes then he crawled under the blanket, holding me once more. “You didn’t really. You just thought you did. It’ll be okay.”
I closed my eyes and listened to him whispering sweet nothings into my ear and soon I fell asleep, and managed to sleep the entire night without a bad dream.
Despite having no nightmares, the next day I was really shaky. I tried to work on a review for the newspaper but couldn’t concentrate on the words. They get running together and getting all mixed up so I soon gave up and tried focusing on doing some housework. No good. I kept dropping things and finally just gave up, curling up on the couch and watching Mal play with his toys.
When the kids got home I tried to help them with their homework but it was so bad I couldn’t even remember simple multiplication. I finally just let them pop a movie in and then I curled back up on the couch, feeling sick to my stomach.
“Mama, are you okay?” Kaylee asked, kneeling in front of the couch to look in my face.
“I’m okay,” I promised her and I saw Serenity shoot me a look. “Just kinda tired,” I added quickly. Serenity rolled her eyes, and Kaylee leaned forward to kiss my forehead.
“I’ll take care’a ya!” she said then scrambled to her feet. A moment later she returned from the kitchen with two cookies. “Dis will make ya allll better!” She handed me a cookie.
I sat up, reaching out for them and when she only placed one in my hand, I raised an eyebrow. “What is the other cookie for?”
She scrunched her face up. “Doctor’s fee,” she said then returned to watching the movie, stuffing half the cookie in her mouth.
Of course everyone else wanted a cookie as well so I went to the kitchen to set up a tray, complete with glasses of milk. But I was feeling quite a bit better by this point. Until nighttime, when I had another nightmare. I managed not to wake Hal up and I just trudged downstairs and onto the back porch, shivering in the cool night air, wondering if I should go see someone about all this.
Once again I fluctuated. Some days I was okay, other days I couldn’t function well. I seriously considered going to see someone, at least about the nightmares. What harm could it do? It might even help. But the thought of confiding into someone my history with Douglas… I didn’t like that.
So I didn’t go, and just tried to live with my fears until the day before school let out. I was kinda looking forward to the kids being home all day. Being around them eased my fears a bit (and making sure they were ok certainly helped). But that day I woke up feeling utterly terrified, the feeling that something bad was going to happen…
I got the kids ready for school, fixed breakfast for the twins and Mal. I couldn’t eat, so I just sat there and watched Mal squish his fingers through his food. Something bad, something bad, no–nothing. My imagination? No. Something bad…
The minutes turned to hours, and the hours were like days. Any little sound had me jumping about fifty feet. I couldn’t even sit still while the kids watched yet another movie. I texted Hal at about ten-twelve am, asking if he could come home for his lunch break. He responded that he’d be happy to, and he’d bring some Chinese food with him.
Thanks hun ❤. I sent the text to him then looked up.
I screamed as I saw his face in my window. I dropped the phone and stumbled back, falling onto my rear end. When I got back up, he was gone. I ran over and flung the window open, leaning out to look around but there was no sign of anyone. I couldn’t have just imagined that! He was there, he was really there. It wasn‘t a hallucination!
I went to the door and opened it, looking around some more. Nothing. He was gone. If he had even been there in the first place. Maybe I did hallucinate it, I thought, shutting the door and then, after thinking a second, locked the door. I returned to the living room and sat down on the couch, legs twitching, hands shaking.
None of the kids were watching the movie anymore so I got up and turned the TV off. Of course River started complaining right away, so I turned it back on. She just went right back to the dollhouse.
I turned around and flinched, half expecting to see him in the window again but he wasn’t there. Maybe Hal would take the rest of the day off. I went to where I dropped my phone and picked it up. Can you take the rest of the day off? Not feeling well.
I clutched the phone, pacing around as I waited for a reply. Yes, he texted, I’ll be there in half an hour.
Feeling relieved, I returned to the living room and froze as I saw a blur outside. I hurried to the front door, grabbing Duncan’s baseball bat and stepping outside, prepared to hit him if he was really there.
“Come on!” I said, though not too loud. “If you’re there, stop being a wuss and show yourself!” I gripped the bat harder, my muscles tensing. I was just going crazy, I knew I was. Talking to thin air. Talking to my imagination.
But then I heard something partially behind me and I spun around, opening my mouth to scream as he filled my view. But one hand went over my mouth and the other lashed out, digging nails into my wrist so I dropped the bat.
“Well, hello again my dear,” he said with a scary grin.
Then everything went black.