Melanie groaned as she read the glowing numbers on the clock face with tired, puffy eyes: 3:12 a.m. She stretched her arm across her forehead, and, for the hundredth time that night, prayed for sleep.
Another hour passed, her prayers unanswered. Exasperated, Melanie threw the covers back and stared at the ceiling. I’m thirsty, she thought, but she didn’t move from her bed, deciding to wait until morning light before seeking a glass of water.
She’d never feared the darkness before Jack died. She’d thought herself an independent woman – brave even. Now she realized how much she’d needed him: for companionship, for love, for protection. Her real self was revealed now that she lived on her own, a timid soul jumping at shadows and afraid to walk the length of her own hallway for a drink of water.
Melanie dropped her hand over the bedside, but felt nothing. No warm Husky fur met her seeking hand, no reassuring bump of wet dog nose. Only the emptiness of air. I miss you Jackie dog, she thought, as tears welled up in her eyes.
She wondered if she should get another dog. The thought sent the tears in her eyes sliding down her cheeks. The pain of Jack’s death was still raw, and it seemed wrong to her — mercenary, even – to replace him with a new pet simply because she was afraid of her own shadow.
This is ridiculous, she chided herself. I’m getting that drink.
Melanie sat up and slipped her feet into the slippers she kept by her bedside. She reached for her glasses, but accidentally knocked them from the nightstand.
“Dammit,” she muttered, as she reached to turn on the bedside lamp.
She stopped, her hand suspended in mid-air.
It’s nothing. I’m imagining things.
The bedroom door glided open, a long whine escaping the hinges. Melanie sucked in a long breath, and then found herself unable to expel it.
Panicked, she sank to the floor, and fumbled around for her glasses, giving a silent prayer of thanks when her frantic hands found them. She slid them on her nose and then retreated to a corner of the bedroom, pulling her slight frame into a tiny ball. Her heart leapt into her throat as her bedroom door bounced lightly against the door stop.
Make me invisible, she prayed, fighting back a hysterical scream. She reached around her, seeking a weapon, but finding nothing.
“ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?”
Melanie flung a slipper at her bewildered tabby cat. The feline jumped onto the bed to avoid the missile. Slanted eyes pierced the darkness, accusing and hurt.
“I’m sorry, Miss Kitty,” Melanie whispered, her voice shaking. She climbed back into bed, and scooped the cat into her arms.
“Guess what? First thing tomorrow we’re going to adopt a new family member…a big one, with lots of teeth!”