Time heals all wounds.
I don’t believe that.
“Ninety-nine…one hundred! READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!!” I uncovered my eyes and set off to find Katie and Leo. If I was stuck babysitting, I was determined to make the most of it. I snuck out of the living room as quietly as I could. I knew they weren’t in there, seeing as it was against the hide-and-seek rules.
Let’s see, I thought, where to start? I decided to look in the kitchen; Katie almost always hid there. She was tiny, for a five-year-old, and somehow always managed to squeeze herself into a cupboard.
As I tiptoed into the kitchen, I immediately knew I had trapped her. “Hmm…Where on Earth could Katie be?” I wondered loudly, my eyes never leaving the toes that were sticking out from underneath of the tablecloth. I heard a small gasp and her toes quickly disappeared under the table. “Well,” I practically shouted, “I guess she’s not in here…” Her quiet, gleeful giggles were almost too much for me, but there was no way I was about to lose this game to a five-year-old.
“Gotcha!” I cried, sticking my head under the table.
“Aww! How did you know?” Katie asked with a pout, her bottom lip sticking out.
“I’m magic,” I teased, wiggling my fingers at her. “C’mon, help me find Leo! I need your expert finding skills!”
Katie perked right up. With a smile, she got out from under the table and ran out of the room, giggling; I could hear her calling Leo’s name. Laughing, I thought to myself, Good luck, kiddo. He isn’t gonna answer.
I decided to get myself a snack. Katie would want to find Leo on her own.
As I poured some Frosted Flakes into a bowl, I heard two loud thuds coming from upstairs. My blood turned to ice and I sprinted up the stairs.
“Oh my God!” I cried, looking at my little brother and sister lying motionless on the carpet of Leo’s bedroom. “Leo?! Katie?!” I tried shaking them, but they didn’t move.
“Don’t worry, Nicole. They’re fine.” I turned my head and looked at my mother.
“Mom? I thought you and dad went to the movies.”
She shook her head. “We were never gone, darling. Don’t worry. You’ll understand soon enough.” My mother smiled. “Your father and I are…changing things for the better. Sarah was done weeks ago. Katie and Leo just need to wake up. Trust me, honey, you won’t feel a thing.”
I still didn’t understand what was going on, but every part of me was screaming “RUN!” So I did. I ran outside and I hid in the bushes. My game of hide-and-seek had quickly gotten much scarier than I liked.
“Nicole!” I could hear my mom calling me, her voice getting closer and closer.
“Nicole!” I woke up with a jolt and a gasp. Zeke was shaking me, a worried expression on his face. “Hey, I’ve been trying to wake you up for a while now. Are you okay?”
My cheeks felt wet and I realized the cause of his concern; I had been crying.
“Yeah,” I wiped the tears away. “It was just a bad dream. Go back to sleep.”
Zeke had been sharing a room with me for the past few weeks. It had been months since the death of my family, but I still felt the pain every day. For some reason, I found that I wasn’t able to fall asleep without someone else being in the room. I had tried, but my efforts only resulted in an irritable, sleep-deprived me the next morning. Zeke had been good about the whole situation—I didn’t even have to ask him to stay with me; he offered.
Zeke’s breathing slowed as he fell asleep again and I tried to match my breathing to his; attempting to relax. How did a dream that started off so well, go so wrong so quickly?
With a deep sigh, I laid back and drifted into a dreamless sleep.