Lydia was asleep when I quietly stepped into her doorway to check on her. When I left her room an hour or so earlier she had been packing up her pillow and favorite blanket and saying she was going to move to Clara’s bed. But here she was, still lying in the bottom bunk next to her little brother, face turned towards the door and softly glowing in the warm lamplight.
But as I left and walked into my own room I heard her call after me. Quietly, she whispered, “Dad…” and I stepped back into the hallway and found her eyes open this time.
She smiled at me and said nothing for a long time, as if this was all she had wanted. She just needed to know that she could whisper my name and I would appear. She just needed to test her spell. It was still working.
I carefully stepped through the minefield of Legos on her bedroom floor and sat down on the bed next to her.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
She considered for a moment and then nodded, “Yeah. I guess so.”
“You aren’t sleeping in Clara’s bed.”
She shrugged. “She said I couldn’t.” and then she hesitated for a moment and corrected herself, “Actually she didn’t say I couldn’t she said, ‘Oh, maybe. Not right now though. I’ll call for you when I want you to come.’ and, well, when she says that she never calls me.”
I chuckled. “Yeah. I just checked on her. She’s fast asleep, tangled up in her bedsheets. Honestly, her bed doesn’t look like a very comfortable place to sleep right now.”
Lydia scrunched up her nose indifferently. “Eh. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes I sneak back in later anyway.” she glanced around the room slowly. “But not tonight I think…”
“Well,” I said softly. “That’s good, because your brother is here, and he doesn’t like it when you aren’t here to sleep next to him.”
“Oh?” she said skeptically, watching the little boy out the corners of her eyes.
“Yes. The other day, when you stayed at your friend’s house. He was very sad. It was hard to convince him to sleep in his bed without you here.”
She shrugged, still watching the little boy. “Yeah. He likes to have me here. But only for like five minutes or something. Once he’s asleep, he couldn’t care less if I’m still here. He says, “no no, don’t leave!’ And then a few minutes later he’s asleep and pushing me off fo the bed with his stinky little feet.”
She sighed and on queue, the boy started snoring loudly. She rolled her eyes and looked at me in exasperation. As if to say, “Do you see what I have to deal with?” But what she actually said was, “This happens a lot. Do you want to know how you fix it?”
I was a bit concerned but curious. “Sure.”
She gave me a quick tutorially. “Okay, you take your finger, like this, and you press on one side of his nose here, like it’s a reset button. You poke it a bit.” but that didn’t work, so she continued. “Actually, sometimes you have to hold it down for a few seconds.”
Three seconds later her brother made a grumpy snort and waved his limp arm in the air and then he rolled over.
The room was silent again.
The little girl raised one eyebrow at me triumphantly. “See? He’s a pretty simple person to sleep next to really.”
I considered the little magician as I readjusted the covers under her chin and kissed her forehead. “Well. You seem to have this little bedtime world pretty well figured out. I’m going to leave you here now,” I said.
“But, you’re not going far, right?” Her voice sounded only slightly concerned. “you’ll just be over there?” She pointed at the wall.
“Yes. On the other side of that wall. Right.”
She turned her head to face the wall and closed her eyes. “Okay,” she whispered as if it were the spell she had saved that would release me. I was a genie being sent back to my bottle.
As I left the room, I turned to look at her one last time. Her eyes were open again, but this time she didn’t say anything. She simply watched me go. Not far away, I laid down on the other side of the wall and fell asleep.