Awake

2 0 0

It was very, very late and Maya was not asleep. She had seven rabbits that slept in her bed and all of them had nodded right off, but Maya still was wide awake. A tear leaked out and tickled across her cheek. Why hadn't anyone come to her party? She had asked Mother what a good day was for a party and Mother had said Friday, so Maya had said Friday in her mail. And today was when she made the party so it must be Friday, but nobody had come.

She'd had it all ready – warm water in the teapot, five chairs around her little table, and five pink and blue cakes each on its own little plate. There wasn't any yellow on the cakes because her yellow playdoh had green mixed in and she didn't want the cakes to look moldy. She'd even used her special breakable tea party set instead of the blue plastic one with bears. Maya had waited all afternoon but the doorbell never rang, not once. Now the day was over and it was dark.

She slipped out from under the covers, being careful not to disturb the rabbits. They lay in a line on her second pillow. She used to have one pillow but Mother didn't approve when the rabbits used it all up and Maya had to sleep at the bottom of the bed, so now she had two pillows and they shared. She knelt on her own pillow and leaned on the windowsill above her bed pressing her forehead against the chilly glass. Her breath made a foggy spot under her nose.

The picture that her window framed was full of interesting things, and even though there wasn't a moon, the stars were bright and she could see very well. Everything was still. From the ladder on the giant tree where you climbed up into the fort, to the cover on the big swimming pool, nothing moved, even the swing seemed frozen in place, hypnotized by the cold bright stars.

So when the Gray Man stepped out of the Poolhouse door carrying a bundle under his arm, Maya spied him right away. She stopped breathing and held very still. He paused, glanced around the yard, then loped off into the woods. Like a fox, thought Maya, stealing a grateful breath, a fox going back to his den.

She scooped up her rabbits and scurried under the blankets, pulling them tightly over her head. Her body felt funny, sweaty and trembling, as if she had ice water under her skin. She tucked herself into a tiny ball, pictures of the Gray Man tumbling past behind her tightly clenched eyelids. The Gray Man was a secret she didn't want to know.

Was there anyone else who saw that he was there?

Mad Tom Winter: Gray ManRead this story for FREE!