I am shaken awake by two small hands gripping onto my shoulder and a high voice whispering "Mitch, Mitch, are you awake?" It's broken and sad. I peek one eye open and see Lindsey standing above me, tears rolling down her cheeks. I squint a little as I roll to my back and open both eyes.
"Yeah," I answer sleepily.
"I can't sleep," she tells me even though I know for a fact she had been asleep a few hours ago when we all went to bed. She had had tears welled up in her eyes, so Scott had taken her in his arms, and they had dozed off together. Now she's actually crying, and I don't know what to do about it.
I sit up and glance at the clock behind me. Is it seriously one in the morning? "Why not?"
She brushes her long hair behind her ear with her fingers in an effortless motion. "I miss Papa so much." Her voice crumbles even more than it was, and I scoot to the side and pat the couch, a frown on my face. She's heaving sobs now. I am extremely uncomfortable. Lindsey sits beside me, using her fingertips to clear her wet face.
"You have your daddy," I almost choke on the word, "though, right?"
She nods, now lifting up the hem of her t-shirt to dry her face because her hands aren't enough. It's too difficult for her to speak, so I keep going, not really knowing what's coming out of my mouth.
"And you love him. Your dad might be gone, but you'll always have Scott. Sorry, I mean, your other daddy."
In broken words she tells me she thought she'd always have Christian, too. I don't really know how to respond, because yeah, she's right. So I just say, "Well then you have me."
She's crying so hard she begins gasping, so I hop up and grab her inhaler just in case. Her asthma is more easily triggered now because of her recent smoke inhalation. She does what she needs to, tells me she feels dizzy, and lays down.
I sneak into my bedroom, where Christian's urn is sitting on my dresser. It makes me uneasy just thinking about having a dead person, even if it's just ashes, in my room. Scott is peacefully sleeping, but I'm not sure how deeply, so I tiptoe to the gigantic pile of stuffed animals on Lindsey's side of the room and grab the first one I see. Then I carefully walk out, forgetting to close the door, and going over to Lindsey with what seems to be a stuffed elephant.
"Winkleberry," she murmurs when she sees him.
"Yup," I say, holding back a joke about the name, "Winkleberry came to comfort you."
I have his trunk stroke her face, making her giggle.
"Lindsey," I say in some absolutely ridiculous 'elephant' voice, "I want to sleep with you tonight, is that okay?" I make the Winkleberry move like he's talking to her.
"Mitch," she giggles.
"My name isn't Mitch, it's Winkleberry!" My voice cracks, and I'm not really sure if it was on purpose. "And I want you to feel better. So how about we rest while Mitch goes and makes you some hot chocolate? He knows you love that."
Lindsey nods and takes Winkleberry into her arms. I stand and wander to the kitchen, yawning, and find a pot to boil water in. Then I find the hot chocolate packets and prepare the cups. As I'm waiting, I go back over to Lindsey and stroke her hair as she stares blankly at the wall, gripping tightly onto Winkleberry.
"Mitch?" She suddenly asks just as I think I hear the water starting to boil.
"Hm?" I reply, feeling serene as I lightly play with her hair.
"I heard you singing behind me today, when we all sang Amazing Grace. Can you sing for me now?"
"Oh, Linds," I cringe. "I don't sing."
"Yes you do, I heard you today."
"I don't sing regularly, I mean," I lie. I sing all the time, it's just never in front of people. I'll sing while washing the dishes or when I sweep or even when I am just laying around, playing on my phone. I've never really sung in front of anyone, and I never really plan to.
"Please," she begs. Oh my god, is she going to cry again? I know she's emotional, but seriously?
I sigh. She'll probably forget about it by the time she wakes up tomorrow. "Close your eyes. Should I sing Amazing Grace again?"
She closes her eyes and shrugs. "Sure."
So I begin to sing her a lullaby of Amazing Grace, a song I, and probably everyone else, know by heart. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found. 'Twas blind, but now I see."
And of course, the moment after I finish the first verse, I hear Scott's voice behind me, making me jump. "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved," he chimes in, sounding beautiful even though it's merely a whisper.
I slowly remove my hand from Lindsey's hair and turn to see Scott leaning against the wall, a sleepy smirk on his lips. It's like an angel has appeared, with the sound that came from his lips and the way he seemed to suddenly materialize. I'm so glad it's just dark enough for him to (hopefully) not notice my burning face.
"I didn't know you could sing," he comments, walking forward.
"Right back at you." He takes a seat in the armchair to my right, crossing the room to get there. Everything is silent for a few seconds. "So why are you up at one?"
"I heard some beautiful singing, I had to come find the source. Why are you?"
"This one," I gently place my hand on Lindsey's head, "couldn't sleep, so we pulled out Winkleberry and some hot chocolate to remedy that. And of course, a lullaby."
He smiles a little and stretches. I realize that the hot chocolate is probably ready to be made, so I stand and he stands with me, following to the kitchen. Even though I'm confused, I don't question his motives. Although, he had just sat down. I turn off the burner and begin to pour the scorching water into the prepared mugs.
"I could go for one of those," he says.
"O-oh," I stutter, not realizing how close he is to my body until he speaks. I reach up to grab the last hot chocolate packet and toss the box into my recycling bin. I dump the powder into the cup and pour the water in, still having extra in the pot because I always make too much. I grab three spoons. "Do you like whipped cream in yours?"
He nods, so I head to the fridge and grab a can to spray some on each of the three cups. As I'm about to pick up the mugs to bring over to the couch, Scott stops me.
"Thank you for doing this."
"No problem, hot chocolate is my specialty."
"No, well yes, but besides that, taking care of Lindsey. It was so sweet to walk in to find you singing to her and playing with her hair. She adores you, Mitch." He's whispering, hoping his daughter isn't paying attention.
"I adore her just as much," I admit, finally coming to terms with it.
He wants to say something more, I can tell, but he doesn't, so I head to the living room, deciding not to push it. I tell Lindsey to sit up, hand her the mug, and sit beside her. Scott sits back in the armchair from a few minutes earlier.
She takes a sip at the same time Scott asks her how it tastes. When she goes to answer, she has a whipped cream mustache. He chuckles softly, which triggers my laughter, and sitting in my dim living room at one in the morning with Scott and Lindsey, even if it's the day after their loved one's funeral, I finally feel like I have a family.