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Dream Space

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“Roger. Roger. Roger. NO.”

Home was a familiar mess of chaos and the regular naughty antics of Crimson’s younger two-year old brother, Roger. Wherever she went, he followed. When she painted watercolor images of flowers and butterflies, Roger was there to spill the water. When she practiced riding her bike, Roger was there to cause her to fall. And at night, when her parents were ready to tuck her into bed with a story, Roger was grabbing her feet, cooing into her face, doing just about anything to get a little bit more time in with her.

Her parents were never around, occupied most of the day working for the family business, so when Crimson returned from school, Roger always longed for his sister’s presence, tired of their Grandma Lila who watched them but was always asleep. Now that they lived in a little town far from the city, Crimson missed spending time with her friends after school, and did not enjoy the lack of space she had staying with her brother at home.

As Roger sat distracted with a toy she had given him, she sneaked out the door. Too late, he realized she had left him, and Crimson could hear his upset cries behind the door as she dashed down the road back to her hideaway.

The sun was out today, sending a cascade of broken lights across her hideout. Already, a handful of fireflies were gathered around, and she easily collected a couple with an empty jar, feeling a sense of dread and anticipation. The mysterious window was fogged over with a dingy grey cloud, unremarkable and still.

But if I fed one of the fireflies to a spider...

She darkened, excited by the thought. The shadows in her face did not fade when she placed a firefly into the jar and focused her gaze onto the mirror.

The aseptic scent of alcohol in the air. Distant beeps of blood-pressure machines and pulse monitoring alarms. Cold and wide-spaced hallways broken by the footsteps of nurses and doctors murmuring in hushed, confidential tones.

Crimson was tiptoe-ing just so she could peek over the large doors, only the find herself looking into a glazed-over window. Beyond the doors were her mother and father with a couple of nurses and a doctor.

“Crimson,” reprimanded her nanny, who, in this dream, was finally awake. “Come here and sit with me. I am excited too, but if you silently wait, you will hear what we are waiting for.”

“What are we waiting for?” she asked, tired of the mystery. Earlier in the day, Crimson had been removed from school by her grandma, only to be rushed over to the hospital to meet her mother lying in a hospital bed, groaning and grimacing, clutching her swollen belly. Her father sat beside her mom with his hand around hers, a glow shining through the weary lines of his face. But they never told her what was happening.

“Grandma,” she persisted. “What do you mean by I will hear something?”

Her brother’s first gasp of air, and his cry after- a bold, demanding, shocked and full of life cry- struck through the silence before her grandma could even reply.

An hour later, she held her brother for the first time, and finally understood what it meant to be a ‘big sister’. Something in Crimson silently promised her brother, then and there, that she would always be there for him.

The memories went on. Crimson playing tag with him for the first time. When they went out to celebrate birthdays together, lost in giant trampolines and winning tickets for candies and tiny toys. But Crimson began to change, fading into the excitement that is called growing up. Her younger brother could never catch up, yelling with delight at how mud caught onto her dress when it rained hard and the puddles built up, learning the abcs and throwing a fit when she played songs about crushes and dates. He ran after her, but her legs were taller and faster, until he was left behind locked doors, and the world of big girl adventures lay grand and open before her.

Crimson abruptly woke up in the now dark and cold hideaway, remembering Roger. The knot in her throat was bigger than yesterday’s, and a dark heaviness in her heart near anchored her to the floor. She must have stayed a long time, for night was already upon the trail back home. But the door opened, and Roger had a huge smile on his face with her name already tumbling out of his mouth as if he hadn’t seen her in years.

That night, she taught him how to brush his teeth with her, and they shared a bunch of giggles when he accidentally swallowed the toothpaste. Grandma Lila was asleep as usual on the couch, so she got him dressed for bed, discovering a fresh and bloody abrasion on his knee. Roger mumbled about how the mysterious ouch hurt him, but could not explain where it came from. She cleaned the injury and added a touch of antibiotic cream before placing one of her nurse-kit bandages on it. The bandage had a picture of a princess on it, and Roger stated, with a sleepy love to his voice, “Princess Crimson.”

She gave him the biggest hug, then tucked him into bed with one of his favorite toy cars.

“Goodnight, boo,” she said with a kiss to his cheek. Roger gazed at her with a depth she had never noticed before.

“I miss you, Crimson,” he said. And then his eyes crinkled into a sad sort of happiness, and then he was asleep.

“I miss you, too,” she uttered, but her voice quivered. What did he mean by that? “Well, I’m back now,” she whispered, and gently closed his door.

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