“PLEASE, HONEY, JUST TELL ME what’s the matter,” Mom pleaded softly with concerned eyes. She sat in front of me on a chair with the door shut and everyone else outside it, waiting to see if I was okay. I wasn’t.
Some creature that had taken me hostage was shaking me like doll from the inside out. I was, once again, freezing in the heat of the night from sweat coating me like I’d just taken a bath. All I could do was stare unblinking into the space in front of me, my hands iron fists gripping the edge of the mattress, like I might tumble into oblivion if I let go. My hair was plastered to my face and the back of my also-soaking shirt, and I couldn’t breathe right. It felt like someone had shoved a rolled-up sock down my throat and I was gasping uncontrollably. My heart was doing jumping jacks and somersaults. I was sure I’d drop down dead from a heart attack any second now.
“Please, Honey, it’s okay to tell me, you don’t have to hold back—”
I’d finally lost it and exploded, slamming my hands hard on the bed. Mom jumped back in fear. I’d scared myself too. Running my trembling fingers through my wet, cold hair, the choking hold on my throat finally released enough that I could sob, and once it did, I didn’t stop for a long time. It took me a while to realize that she was holding me in her arms, like a child frightened by the monsters under the bed. I needed it. I had needed it for a long time, so long I had nearly forgotten that there was a time I didn’t have horrible nightmares.
I didn’t remember being put back in bed with dry sheets and clothes. I didn’t remember Mom and Dad kissing my soggy head. I didn’t remember Ashlee and Umala looking at each other with a sense of knowing and of empathy and quietly waving goodnight as Dad closed the door.
But I still remembered the dream the next morning.
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