Every night I watch her stumble up the stairs and into her room.
I know her routine off by heart now. First she'll clamber out of her stuffy clothes, down to her worn-out underwear. Sometimes she'll put on a night shirt to sleep in, but sometimes she just doesn't have the energy to pick out something to cover up her scarred body, and she'll just wrap up under her blanket. Then she'll reach for her old teddy bear, pick at imaginary strands and lint from it and remember all the times it had helped her sleep at night as a child. This tends to calm her down enough to get comfortable, to think of the better times in life before drifting off into peaceful sleep. This doesn't happen often anymore, though.
Most nights she spends constantly picking at the imaginary strands and lint on her teddy bear, over and over again until her fingers quiver from fear. She never really knows what she fears every night, but being tense is a familiar feeling to her. This then leads to her tossing and turning, puffing and flipping her pillow over to the cold side every thirty-minutes, and staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars she stuck up on her ceiling. She used to believe that the glow would keep the nightmares away, now she just likes the idea that she can pretend she's outside in the open world instead of inside her suffocating little bedroom.
Sometimes, if her insomnia's bad enough, she'll start tracing the scars that run the lines of different parts of her body, thinking back to different memories. The scars on her arms are from when she just needed to feel something other than emptiness. The scars on her back and hips are from her awkward growth spurt that kept her from standing tall and proud among her short peers. The scars on her face are from the tense picking and pinching during her dark teenage years. All the other scars she happens upon she uses as an excuse to stay awake longer, trying to remember where they come from and if they were accidental or self-inflicted. I know all of them are self-inflicted.
At this point at night she's yawning and rubbing her irritated eyes, but sleep still won't come to her. This is the point when I get involved to try help her sleep. When she was a child I would love this part of the night, where I got to scare her awake, sometimes enough to get her to run out to her parents' bedroom. Now I do it out of pity, to help keep her other demons at bay. I don't do anything too drastic anymore, just a simple creek of the bed posts or light tapping on the window pane. I can feel her shift around in bed when I do this, some nights it freaks her out enough to force herself to sleep and other nights it helps lull her to sleep. Lately it's been the latter scenario, and it gives me peace of mind that she has a peaceful night's sleep. I don't want to be the reason for any more nightmares in her life.
Last night she dropped her teddy bear on the floor and it rolled close by me. I looked at it closely this time, trying to figure out what was so special about it. It was really faded from when she first got it as a child, and she has clearly stitched it up multiple times. It wasn't much of a looker anymore, and yet she still clung to it like when she did back as an innocent little girl. I thought about adding another tear to the thing, but couldn't bring myself to do it again. Instead, I reached up and placed it back into her arms, watching her curl up around it. It was an oddly blissful sight, but I couldn't appreciate it for long as the sun was coming up. I slipped back under her bed and waited for her alarm to wake her up. It wasn't a long wait.
She tried switching the wailing alarm off in her dazed state, eventually sitting up in bed. She stretched awkwardly before getting off the bed, accidentally knocking her teddy bear off the bed again. As she reached down to pick it up, I saw her hand hover above it for a moment before she actually picked it up. She looked at the teddy bear fondly, taking a seat on the bed again.
"You're a tough little guy, aren't you?" She whispered to her teddy bear, stroking it's patchwork fondly. "You've been through so much."
I got so caught up in watching her that I accidentally brushed up against her foot. Luckily she was too caught up in her own thoughts to have noticed.
She eventually stood up, still holding onto her teddy bear, "I still wanted to thank you, for all those nights you kept me safe," she put the teddy bear down on the bed and walked towards the door. "I would never be able to face my demons without you," and she walked out to start getting ready for a new day.
I couldn't help but smile at her naivety. She would never know that it was the monster under her bed that had kept all her other demons at bay all this time. ns188.8.131.52da2