Chapter 1 (continued)

Lucy

“Wow.  Did you sleep the whole night?  What changed?”

I turn and see my dark-skinned godmother standing in the threshold, already dressed.

“Nothing’s changed.”  I sigh.  “I had another nightmare.”

“Oh, no.”  Cynthia’s soft voice lowers with concern.  Cynthia gazes at me, dark brown eyes noting the dark circles under my eyes, and purses her lips.  “You wanna stay home today?  Catch up on your sleep?”

I shake my head.  “I can’t miss school just to sleep.”

Cynthia laughs, her heart-shaped face glowing with amusement.  “Wait until college.  You’ll skip class just to catch some Zs.”

Cynthia reaches out with a small hand to touch my fluffed hair and I swat at her, smiling.  I had sweated out my hair in my sleep.  It’s been fluffy for days.  “I don’t doubt that,”  I say.  “But really. I want to go to school.  I’ve missed a day already.”

“I know.”  Cynthia says, her voice low with disappointment.  She scowls as I crouch down to grab my flat iron from under the sink.  She crosses her arms as I plug it in.  “I’ve got a deal, Lucy.”

“What is it?”  I ask, turning to her as I set the flat iron on the counter.

“I really want you to get some more sleep,”  Cynthia says, eyes widening as I groan.  “You look like a zombie, Lucy.  I want you to stay home today, get some rest, and I’ll wake you up with some soup in bed. It could always be a weird cold.”

I stare down at the sink as I consider it.  Cynthia is right.  I haven’t been sleeping as well as I used to.  I’ve changed my sleeping schedule twice within the last three weeks, even resorted to going to bed early and drinking chamomile tea up to an hour before bedtime.  I still wake up tired.  Alvaro’s late night drives don’t help.

Cynthia has saved me from night terrors for the last three or four nights.  I still remember the horrible fear I felt after waking up.  It sent me into hysterics and the first night it happened, I had been too worked to make any sense when I tried to explain the dreams.  So now I remain silent and cry.  Cynthia rocked me in her arms as I cried until I fell back asleep.  Last night was the first night she didn’t have to wake me.  It had been a calm, rather somber dream, but I had still woken up in tears.  I’d call that one a nightmare, too.  Dreams aren’t supposed to fill you with grief upon waking.  Not good ones.  I started to remember them around a week ago and I resorted to buying dream interpretation books to try to make sense of them.

“Deal,”  I say.  “Can you make me some chamomile before you go? Set the pot on the stove for me?  Please?  I still want to make it to Opal’s party tomorrow night, if you’re still letting me go.”

Opal is throwing another party this weekend and I’ve heard that they’re tons of fun, according to people from school.  No one has ever seen her, but they all recommend stopping by Opal’s place on a boring Friday night.  Today is Thursday.  I have one day to get myself together.

Parties. A nervous shiver runs down my spine. Cynthia has been on my case about not having more friends and this is the first step. I’m nervous and unprepared. My self esteem needs a boost and no amount of therapy can help me reach the level I want to be at on its own. It has to come from me (and therapy always helps, but only so much). So . . . Here I am.

“Of course.  You’ve been talking about that party for weeks now.”  Cynthia says with a small, knowing smile on her face.  “Those were the days.”

The wistfulness in her voice catches me off guard.  Our eyes lock as she reaches over the sink to unplug the flat iron for me.  She winks at me, confusing me further, and kisses me on the cheek before she turns to go.

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