Don't Look Under the Bed
I watch as my wife tucks our children into bed. Our son, Matthew, has always fallen right to sleep, his little eyes closing and body limp seemingly as soon as he hits the pillow. Maddison, his twin sister; however, has been a restless sleeper since the day she was born, constantly crying out from nightmares or calling one of us to check the closet. She is too much like myself, the wild fear of something incredible and unbelievable.
Elaine tucks her in to her chin, wild curls trapped beneath the heavy cover, she casts a glance my direction. I'm in my usual place, leaning against the doorway waiting for my turn to press kisses to heads and say goodnight before we can retire for the evening to our room, we need to catch up on the latest episode of The Walking Dead. We trade places, Matthew is already asleep and I press a kiss to his head before turning to Maddison and settling beside her on the edge of her bed.
"Sleep tight, munchkin." I brush a curl out of her face and she grins up at me, a smile missing several teeth.
"Daddy, Kara Jenkins said there's a monster under her bed, is there a monster under my bed?" She asks, I know why she didn't ask my wife, who rolls her eyes from the doorway. Matthew is her spitting image, afraid of nothing. Maddison is more like me, she is scared, I don't tell her she has a reason to be afraid.
"No sweetie, your bed is on the floor so no monsters can come out from under it." I brush her hair back affectionately and stand, she stares up at me with wide eyes. I can feel my wife glaring at my back for humoring her. Sometimes I think I should tell her, but would she believe me if I did?
"Goodnight Maddy." I turn and press the closet door closed with an audible click as I make my way toward the doorway, I can see Elaine's retreating back as she makes her way down the hall toward our own bedroom.
"Goodnight daddy, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." She frees her arm to blow a kiss my direction, a kiss I mime catching and pressing to my cheek. She smiles broadly before disappearing beneath the covers and out of sight. She's convinced the monsters can't reach her there, I won't say who it is that gave her that idea.
"I wish you wouldn't humor her like that, she's already scared enough, she needs to know there's no reason to be afraid." Elaine chides as soon as I enter the bedroom, her lips are pursed, brown eyes narrowed. The television is paused on the intro to The Walking Dead, and a bowl of popcorn is settled on the bedside table.
"I'm not humoring her, she's afraid. Who says there isn't a reason for it? Can you honestly say you've never wondered if there was some truth to childhood fears?" I shoot back, pulling my shirt over my head and attempting to ignore her intent expression.
"Well, do you have proof that there is a reason to be afraid?" She adjusts in her seated position to face me more fully, arms crossing across her chest. My beautiful, cynical, skeptic of a wife has pressured me to answer this question a million times, and a million times I've refused. "Michael, I can't understand unless you tell me."
Something in her expression makes me want to answer, I want to tell her about the childhood experience I've locked away.
"Michael?" She presses and with a sigh and slumping of my shoulders I settle beside her, not bothering to change out of my work pants, I suppose I've known this conversation was a long time coming.
"Okay, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to interrupt." I wait for her nod of agreement and as soon as it does heave a deep breath.