At 2AM this morning a silhouette of tangled hair appeared in my room. I leave a light on in the hallway at night, and Leta’s wiry frame cut a sharp line through the opening of the doorway. She stood there hesitating so I sat up and asked what was wrong.
“I had a really weird dream and… and…”
I didn’t know if she could see me, but I waved her over to the bed. “Come crawl in beside me,” I said oddly calm about the fact that I knew I would not get another wink of sleep for the rest of the night.
She snuggled up under my left arm, her back curled into the curve of my chest. I pulled her closer to me and in my sleepy haze marveled at the length of her limbs, how she felt so fragile in my embrace despite her ever increasing height. All her pointy edges, her elbows and knees and ankles and shoulders, they felt subdued in the quiet of my room.
I could feel an intense heat on the edge of her ear, a fever I assessed by pressing my palm to the side of her face and forehead. This probably explains why she fell back asleep immediately, her lungs expanding with deep, heavy breaths under my arm. I thought for a moment that we would sleep like this all night, quiet and calm, a mother and her first born keeping each other warm. And then she whipped her arm in the air and slammed the back of her hand square on my nose.
For the next four hours I avoided various swinging limbs. One by one all her pointy edges resumed their former shape and became weapons I tried to dodge: an elbow to my temple, a knee to my jaw, a shoulder directly in my eye. She groaned and made other various noises of discomfort, so I tried to keep a hand on her the whole night, something to let her know she’d be okay. It also served to let me know when another part of her body was headed straight for my face.
At about 6AM Marlo called out for me. I left Leta’s side momentarily to retrieve the second born who upon my arrival moaned, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Her nose a runny mess, she let out a cough that rattled the room. I pulled her into a cradle in my arms and carried her to my bed, setting her beside her sleeping older sister. When I climbed in beside her she immediately kicked up her legs and landed them directly on my abdomen with a piercing thud.
“I wanna watch sthomething,” she managed to utter between coughs. I obliged her, found a cartoon on the DVR and then turned over and closed my eyes, but not before reminding myself to add “call both schools” and “google hernia” to my to-do list.