At the Window
She didn’t want to check on Terry during the night, but he was odd again last night. Her husband, Bob, told her she was spoiling the boy by allowing him to fall asleep in her arms. It was three nights in a row that she held her son while he fell asleep. Bob had convinced her to leave the boy to him tonight. It could be a tough night, Bob said, and tomorrow as well, but he had to learn how to sleep through the night.
“A boy needs loving parents,” Bob said, “but at six, you don’t need to treat him like a baby. If he cries let me get him?”
“Good night,” Mindy said as she rolled over.
“It will be alright honey,” Bob said. “Trust me.”
Bob wasn’t sure what he was going to do if Terry got up early. He was tempted to be firm. Tell Terry that Daddy loved him, and let him cry himself to sleep. Alone. Bob read somewhere that kids need to be able to get back to sleep by themselves if they were to be good sleepers as adults. Their neighbors, the Stoddards, told him that was the best thing they did for Josh when he wouldn’t sleep by himself. That first night was tough, they said, listening to him cry for two hours, before he fell asleep. Of course, they added Josh was a perfect sleeper now.
Sleep was part of the problem. The other part was that Terry had awful dreams. And Terry had an unusual record of being right. Like when he told them the Stoddards’ labrador Mikey was going to die. Bob didn’t think too much of that because Mikey was fat, gray and stiff, or well past best-by-date. And he didn’t think too much about it when Terry said that Grandpa Boltman was going to be sick, and maybe die. They thought Terry was coming up for excuses to go visit Grandpa, so it was cute. They told Terry the maybe they’d visit Grandpa next weekend. They got the call the following Wednesday morning that Grandpa died in his sleep. It was a few weeks after the funeral that he remembered what Terry’s said. Although he wouldn’t admit it to Mindy, Terry’s most recent dreams had Bob worried.
Bob’s Grandma Walsh claimed to have dreams that told the future. When he was young, he thought that was cool. Now he wondered why would anyone call that a gift. Bob also couldn’t remember any family lore when Old Nessa was said to have nailed the future. The one detail he could remember about Grandma’s gift was Grandpa saying she was full of malarkey.
Mindy woke up with a dream, and trying to find out where she was. The digits in the clock were 4:55, and flipped to 4:56. That was a good number, so she slipped out from under the covers. She looked at Bob, but she couldn’t hear him, so she leaned over him. She smiled when she heard a soft whistle through his nose. He was a good guy, but the problem with his advice was he would never wake up if Terry was having a problem. She stopped in the doorway to Terry’s room, trying to remember her dream, but it vanished like it had never occurred.
Terry was kind of kneeling and somewhat laying in the bay window with his head against the glass and his blanket wrapped around him. He moved to make like he was asleep once he noticed Mindy.
“Terry, Mommy knows you’re awake,” Mindy said.
Terry didn’t move, until she went over and put her hand on his shoulder.
“Mom, don’t tell Dad, but something bad is going to happen if I fall asleep tonight.”
“No, Terry, that’s not true. I’ll stay with you to protect you.”
“Mom you don’t understand.”
“Tell you what,” Mindy said. “It’s almost time for my alarm to go off, and the sun should be up soon. Do you want a little snack, and then once the sun is up, you can go back to sleep, okay?”
“Okay, but I can’t sleep.” She went and took his pillow off his bed and placed it on the bay window.
“You can look out the window with your head here,” She said as she patted the pillow.
“Don’t let me sleep.”
“Do you want some toast and jelly? Or cinnamon toast?”
“Oh, cinnamon, please.”
“Don’t fall asleep, I’ll be right back,” she said as she rubbed his back.
She decided to start her coffee because she was thinking too much about little things, like where was the cinnamon sugar hiding, and should she make some coffee for Bob now, or after he showered. It was Friday, a half day for her, so maybe she could take a nap in the afternoon. She and Bod and Terry didn’t have anything going for the weekend except relaxing.
She found Terry’s favorite cup in the sink. She rinsed it with hot water, and dried it She would microwave some milk for him in case he didn’t fall asleep after toast. Next she started her coffee. She loved the sound of water gurgling through the grounds. She went to check again on Terry. He looked asleep. She went up behind him, and could see his eyes reflected in the window. He looked at her through the window and smiled.
“I’ll be right back with your order,” she said as she tossed his hair.
“It’s our secret, right? Dad won’t like it.”
“Of course. But I’m worried about you telling Daddy.” Mindy said.
“No, I’m the one who is good with secrets,” Terry said.
She stood outside the door to watch him. His resistance was weakening. She’d wait a few minutes before making his toast.
Bob woke up with a start and reached for Mindy. He pawed at her side of the bed, but it was empty and cool. He was breathing deeply as he looked at the clock. It was 5:59. Another minute until the alarm went off. He reached over and turned off the alarm before he laid back in bed. He thought he had heard something, like something fell, but now he thought it must have been dreaming. When you woke up with a dream, it was difficult to tell what was real and what wasn’t, and he wondered if when you were dreaming, and the dream ended without you waking up, if the dream mind acted like the conscious mind, wondering what moments are real. Now he couldn’t remember what he was dreaming about except it involved Mindy. He told himself it was okay, it was a dream. He focused on his breathing before thinking of his work day. At 6:04 he turned on the radio to listen to the news.
At the coffee maker, Mindy replaced the urn with her cup. The red numbers in the coffee brewer said 5:29. She went to the fridge to get some milk. Returning for her cup, she wavered, staggered to place the carton of milk on the counter before falling backwards, her eyes and mouth open as she lay on the tile floor. Her cup overflowed, and the heating element sizzled until it short-circuited. Coffee continued to trickle, pooling on the counter, until all the water was spent.
In Terry’s room, it looked like he was staring at the trees beginning to take shape in the gray dawn, but his eyes were closed and his forehead touched the bay window. The glass fogged as he snored against it.