Jack tossed and turned. The mattress was way too hard, the pillows way too soft. And the blankets and comforter were just thin enough to allow the chill from the windows to creep through.
He huddled deeper in the blankets, closing his eyes. It had been a long day: the bus ride, wandering the gallery, then the dinner. His heart beat a little faster as he thought of the dancing.
He rolled over. No, he didn’t need to be thinking about that. Something calming. The dreamcatcher. Whenever he couldn’t sleep, he stared up at it, watched it turn. He pictured it in his mind: the red and blue strands of the netting, the wear along the braided leather that held the bells, the gloss on the feathers when the light hit them just so…
Finally warm, he drew in a deep breath. It stuck haflway.
It smelled of strawberries.
He turned his head, slowly. In the darkness of the room, he could hear the other boy, sleeping soundly in the bed closer to the hotel room’s door.
And behind him, another slow, even drawing of breath. A warmth, a presence, relaxed, close up against his back. He felt the movement of her breathing. And definitely knew it was a ‘her.’
Was he dreaming? Surely it had to be a dream. He moved the arm he’d been laying on, his fingers tingling, half asleep themselves. He reached for his other arm, taking a pinch of skin between thumb and forefinger. But he paused. If it was a dream, then he’d wake up, but what would happen to Beth? Sudden wakings were bad, she said, but would it actually hurt her? It’d cause a commotion if she were to wake up in her own room, screaming.
It’d cause an even bigger commotion if she did it from right there, behind him.
He shifted a bit, to free his arm to reach behind him, to give her a shake. She huddled closer, a wordless murmur tickling his ear. Jack hesitated, again. What if she Disappeared when he tried that? What if this was her dream? What would happen to him if she woke up?
He made to lower his arm, when he felt warm, slender fingers interlace with his, and her arm settled against his back. Another murmur, warm breath against his neck.
He swallowed, his throat gone dry.
Of all the nights.