While the sun is still relaxing over the horizon, I tuck the girls into bed. Pale light seeps around the edge of the shades, marking simple lines on the walls. They are the sign language of dusk, telling us to hold our breaths while darkness gathers.
The room smells like shampoo and toothpaste. Giggles lighten the air; they are excited. The bunk-bed commands almost an entire wall, hulking in the shadows with stiff shoulders and locked knees. It is ready for the usual: one sister on the top bunk, one sister on the bottom.
But as I back out of the room on a low tide of love you and sweet dreams, the conspiracy begins. The cool light of the sunset is an aiding and abetting influence. The beefy bunk bed is the getaway car. The sisters are the masked thieves.
As soon as the doorknob latches, whispers increase; a plan begins to unfold. It is not a complicated plan. It happens much the same each night--
Lauren will vacate her lower bunk.
Mia will reach down to collect Lauren's blankies.
Lauren will climb the ladder.
Mia will scoot to the edge of the mattress.
Lauren will snuggle down deep.
The sisters become each others' comfort item.
It is not always a smooth transition: sometimes the tickling and wrestling tattles on their scheme so much that they are ordered to relent. Sometimes the covers are stolen. Sometimes Lauren is snoring too loudly into Mia's ear. Sometimes separate beds are resumed.
But the sisters, the thieves in the night, they want to be close. They want the heat radiating from a cozy pair of legs, and the damp breaths steady beside them.
I stand beside their closed door, hollow and thin and impenetrable. My palm is flat on the veneer, my heart is quiet for a moment while I listen.
Mia, do you want to hold my lambie?
Shhh, we have to be quiet!
Hey Mia, do you want me to tell you a story?
Okay. Once there was a...um...once there was a witch.
Okay. Once there was a little girl....
I pivot on one heel and whisper myself away. The sun is down now. The cool light has deepened into cool dark, erasing the sign language on the walls. We can breathe again. I am alone with my own silence and my own thoughts and my own empty arms.
They are together, though, and that feels like feathers in my heart when it flips: soft and safe and filled.
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