WHEN I WAS A CHILD I thought my dreams were real. I'd walk down the hall in my apartment and The Lady in Black might step out of a shadow and block my way. Her wooden hands would clickety clack against the wall and her silence was broken only by her humming as she beckoned me.
At an early time of my life I slept in the living room, near the hall, on a chair that opened into a bed. I thought that was swell and better than the ordinary beds every one else had. Two large windows overlooked the street, three stories below. A large palm was pushed into the corner, and I believed it opened into the jungle. Some nights I heard a call from behind the plant.
One very hot summer my father pulled my bed close to one of the windows so I could catch a breeze that might flow across the sill. I liked to rest my head on the ledge and wait for any slight puff of air to cool my brow. I found the big dipper overhead one night. Another time I saw a flying saucer hovering over the building across the street. Some people were getting in, but not me.
There was a French door between the living room and my parents bedroom. They slept in a huge carved bed, angels and roses entwined, that looked like it belonged to some king I'd seen in the movies.
One night, when I was about seven or eight years old, I went out of my way to act like a big baby, because my Mom and Dad wouldn't take me to the movies with them. I cried as dramatically as I could to summon their pity, but there wasn't any. Well maybe a bit; Momma said I could sleep in their bed till they got home. As usual, I cut my nose to spite my face, and stomped off to feel sorry for myself.
My grandparents slept in the back bedroom. Lots of windows and white lace curtains that fluttered without a breeze. And on the window sill, an apple or pear, because Grandma never slept, and liked a bit of a nibble to break up the night till she made her way to the kitchen, leaning like an emerging ghost when dawn finally arrived. Grandpa slept all the time.
I sat at my window and vowed not to sleep that night. That proved to be impossible. I awoke with my head on the sill and when I sat up I stared through the half open window into the very pale face of The Lady in Black. She was floating outside and about to cross the sill. Her wooden fingers clacked against the glass.
I jumped out of bed and screamed without a sound. I tried very hard to force a noise, but none came. How could I scream so much and not hear myself? I ran through the open French doors into Momma's room. No one there yet. The Lady in Black was following close by as I found my voice and screamed to shatter glass. I saw her pointy shoes gaining on me when she slipped into a shadow. Where had she gone?
I reached Grandma's room, dark, and fragrant with the lilac perfume she wore. She was sitting up, leaning against the pale satin pillows. Her eyes widened as I jumped into her bed. I let her gather me into her arms, to comfort me with the little song she liked to sing to me..."Hush little baby, don't say a word, Nana's gonna buy you a mockingbird"....
And she stroked my hair with her wooden fingers...clickety clack...clickety clack...
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