I bolted upright from a slumped position totally disoriented, but quickly realized I had fallen asleep in my chair. Some terrifying noise had jerked me out of a deep sleep. I glanced at the clock which glowed 2:00 AM. A primal scream from Melanie’s room ripped through the silence. Leaping up I kicked the footstool out of my path and ran down the hall.
Flipping on the light I discovered her sitting straight up. Her eyes were open, but they were focused on a scene in another universe. Porter was pacing back and forth on her pillows.
Sitting on the edge of the bed I slipped my arm around her bony shoulders. “It’s all right,” I soothed. “You’re just having a bad dream.”
“Don’t do it, Mama. Don’t do it.” Melanie screamed. Covering her eyes with her hands she began sobbing, her whole body shuddering with shivers.
“Easy, easy,” I said pulling her close to me attempting to calm her body with my own. “Wake up, sweetie. Waking up will make all the scary stuff go away in a big poof.” I rocked her and surprised myself by humming Brahms lullaby. How long had that been lurking in the recesses of my mind waiting for an opportunity to make a come back entrance?
After a few minutes her sobs subsided and she seemed to have reentered this world. ” Melanie, it’s me, Eleanor. Remember you and Porter are staying with me for a couple of weeks.” At the sound of his name Porter stepped into the little girl’s lap. Immediately she relaxed.
“Do you think you can sleep now?” Melanie nodded her head and scrunched under the covers, lifting them up slightly to create a tunnel opening for Porter. He nestled up against her thin body and commenced purring, singing his version of Brahms lullaby. After tucking the covers around her neck, I leaned over and kissed her cheek.
Leaving her door open, I made my way to my own bed, which was a far preferable place to sleep than contorted in a wing back chair. Another crisis met and handled, I mentally patted myself on the back as I crawled into bed.
I awaken with a plan. This was good. Plans made me feel or at least provided me the illusion of control and security. First I intended to contact Mr. Lawyer Man to obtain any additional information he might have about the life and death of my cousin. Maybe there would be some clues to help me help Melanie.
For the hundredth time I asked myself, why did I sign on for this gig? Sighing, I realized answering that question was no longer moot. Bottom line I had committed myself and bloody hell I had to face the fact that was that. End of story.
Second mission was clothes shopping. The contents of Melanie’s smelly suitcase even washed weren’t worthy to be donated to the Good Will. The least I could do was to provide her with some decent clothes to take to her new family.
The day was crispy blue with enough bite in the air to gently nip the ends of our noses and to color our cheeks rosy. We made the rounds of a several stores and now were sitting in a restaurant specializing in burgers. We were both attacking pepperoni turkey burgers and a generous pile of fries. Piled haphazardly next to us was a stack of boxes and packages.
The expedition turned out easier than I had anticipated, since I hadn’t shopped for kids’ clothes well since I was kid. Melanie asked for nothing and was politely agreeable to anything I suggested. So thank the heavens for a couple of the sales clerks who kept us from going off the rails in the fashion world of 6 year olds. Despite not asking for anything I had spotted Melanie wistfully stroking a pale tinker bell pink sweater of soft angora with tiny seed pearls decorating a cowl collar. When she wasn’t looking, I bought it
“Hey Melanie, open this,” I said as I handed her a square white box with a hot pink ribbon.
Hesitantly she reached for the box.
“Go ahead, open it,” I urged.
Carefully she untied the ribbon and slowly opened the box folding back the tissue paper revealing the sweater. A sliver of a smile danced across her face as she stoked the soft fur.
Looking up she said, “Oh thank you Miss. It’s beautiful.”
“You’re welcome and call me Eleanor.” I replied. My first smile. For some obscure reason I was absurdly pleased. Don’t be silly I told myself as I dunked another French fry in catsup.
To be continued:
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