Friday, April 3, 2009


Beth’s scream jolted Jack from his own sleep.

He felt her sit up, felt her trembling through the blankets, heard the harsh rasp as she panted for air.

He sat up behind her, putting an arm around her shaking shoulders. The nightgown was damp with sweat. Jack tugged at the comforter, wrapping it tightly around her. The night air was cold and crisp. It would be freezing against her skin.

“It’s okay, Beth. You’re still here, still safe.”

Her breathing had slowed a bit, and she worked a hand through the blankets, taking Jack’s. He slipped his grip around, his fingers trailing up her wrist. Her pulse throbbed hard against his fingers.

He squeezed her a bit in his other arm. The trembling was starting to ease.

“They gave me your dream,” she said, her voice dry. “The one with the fire. It was here, all over.”

“Shh… it’s only a dream. A bad dream and now it’s gone.”

“What were those things? The shadows?”

“I don’t know, Beth. I don’t want to know. I don’t think about them. You shouldn’t either.”

“How can you go back to sleep after that?” she whispered. She was shaking again.

“I usually go get a glass of water. I did the last two times, anyway. Come on, you sound like you could use one.”

He wrapped his robe around her, and they made their way down the stairs.

“I’m all sticky,” Beth murmured. “I’m going to change.”

She rummaged through her duffel, just around the corner, beside the couch.

Jack went into the kitchen, filled the kettle, put it on the stove and clicked on the burner.

He heard the downstairs bathroom door click shut.

He looked up at the sound of shuffling in the doorway.

“Beth, I decided to make some tea to—”

Hannah was in the kitchen doorway, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“I thought I heard a yell,” she said, yawning.

“Beth had a bad dream,” Jack said.


“You haven’t forgotten who she is again, have you?” Jack asked, his stomach doing a flip-flop.

“Don’t be stupid,” Hannah said. “I thought she was sleeping down here.”

“Well, she was — is.” Jack swallowed nervously.

There was a ‘click-squeak’ of the downstairs bathroom door.

“I’m sorry if I woke you,” Beth said behind Hannah

Jack’s sister turned, letting Beth squeeze through the doorway.

“I’m making us some tea,” Jack announced. “My sister was just going back to bed.”

“Chamomile, I think,” Hannah said, taking another cup down from the cupboard.

“Bad dreams, huh?” she asked Beth, her tone not unsympathetic.

Beth nodded.

“I’d have bad dreams sleeping next to him, too.”

Beth blushed.

Jack’s mouth worked, but his voice didn’t quite get there in time.

The kettle hissed, coughed, then began to give off a low, mournful whine.

Hannah snatched it off the burner before the pitch could climb.

“There’s a lesson here,” she said, giving the kettle a slosh.

Beth stared at her toes, red up to her ears.

“‘Older sisters should mind their own business’?” Jack asked.

“‘If you’re going to boil water, don't wake up the house with the kettle.’”

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