As I lie in bed, surrounded by darkness, I clamp his hand, I can’t see him, but I can feel his padded hands, his soft silky fur, his hard button eyes. I never feel safe without Paddy, he is my dark defender.
Everynight, we lie together in my bed, with the duvet pulled up to our chins. It’s completely dark, except for the crack from the door being pushed to instead of closed, and my array of stars on the ceiling. They’ve started to peel, but that’s because I’ve had them since I was two, and I’m seven now.
I used to imagine that we were up there, in space, among the stars, me and Paddy, in our rocket, which was red, and stripey. We met aliens, and fought the bad ones. We always won because Paddy turned into a big bear, like the one from ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.’ I had a sword, with jewels up one side. That was red as well; everything was red back then. Now I like blue and purple.
Now, I lie in bed, still with Paddy, because I’ll never be able to sleep without him, even when I’m all grown up. We still go on adventures, but now they’re even better and sometimes scary or dangerous.
I love to visit the BFG. I can see all his dreams, and choose the best ones for me and Paddy. My favourite ones are the ones where I have a mum, because mine died ages ago. I don’t remember her, but Paddy does, because she gave me Paddy, and he whispers things about her to me. He says she was kind and pretty and funny. She had a lovely smile, and a laugh that was contagious. I must have loved her when I knew her, but I don’t know her now. I don’t even remember her now. And how can you miss someone you don’t know?
I asked dad that, but he just smiled, sadly. He remembers her, and he tells me a lot of stories about her. He’s created a picture of her inside my head- him and Paddy both. They love her. I think I do too.
On different nights, sometimes Paddy and I go to the jungle and meet with Mowgli and Baloo. I love all the animals, except Sher Khan: he can be scary. Paddy enjoys going here, because he is really good friends with Baloo. They eat a lot of honey together!
On some nights, we don’t go anywhere. We listen to the unseen terrors, right here in my dark, dark bedroom. They loom up against the wall, turning into monsters, whole hordes of them, creeping towards me, slowly, so slowly I almost don’t see, but I know they’re coming.
They’re always coming.
Paddy knows too.
Dad doesn’t know. If he did, he’d be here, with me, helping defend my bed. But he’s not, he never is.
He’s always downstairs, arguing with her.
She wants me to call her mum, but I don’t want to. She’s not my mum, never will be. If I don’t, she shouts. Loudly. So I do. After all, it’s just a name. Right?
Every night I’m not travelling, I hear them.
It varies how it starts. Kind of. Kyla will drink.
They think I’m not old enough to understand, and they’re right I shouldn’t. But, I do and I wish I didn’t. I know drinking’s bad. I’m never going to drink, never.
But Kyla does.
It always starts like that, but after that it varies. Sometimes, she will be happy and nice, giving me chocolate and letting me stay up. Her and dad will joke around and we’ll all laugh and be happy. It’s rare but it does happen.
Other nights, she leaves for hours and hours and hours. It’s long past my bedtime and probably long past hers before she comes home. Drunk. Once so drunk, she tripped over and broke mum’s china vase. Dad shouted at her for that. I’ve got a piece in my bedroom, under my pillow. Dad doesn’t know otherwise he would take it off me, in case it hurts me.
The most frequent outcome is she shouts. At me. At dad. At herself. As long as she shouts, she’s okay, but we’re not, me and Paddy and dad.
That’s what’s happened tonight. Kyla’s shouting at dad. She’s not stopping. She won’t stop. I hug Paddy to my chest and hope. I don’t know what I’m hoping for. Maybe for them to calm down, maybe for Kyla to leave.
Maybe for mum to come back, even though I know she never will.
She’s my mum, not Kyla.
Quietly, I get up. I need to close the door, need to block out their shouting. I know exactly which floorboards creak and groan, which ones are slippery, which one’s have toys on, because I’ve done this so many times. I don’t know why I don’t just close the door when I go to bed. It would be so much easier. I guess I’m just hoping it’s going to stop.
But I know it won’t.
When I’m back in bed, with the cover once again up to my chin, I close my eyes. I close Paddy’s eyes, and pull him close. To my ear.
I need to hear his voice, which I know isn’t real, real like the voices downstairs, but I love to hear it anyway. He whispers how we just have to wait, wait until I’m older and Kyla can’t tell me what to do, wait for her to leave. He tells me that we will be okay, just think of the future, think of dad, think of mum and her smile, the one which tells you that everything will be okay. Think, don’t listen. Think, and imagine. Because he will always be there with me, through every night and every argument.
Together, Paddy, we can do anything.
One day, I’ll be bigger.