For hours, she waited to see him step out of the shadow. Alone, she stood, down the long dingy corridor, long after the other children had gone to bed, but there was nothing. The Bedtime Man, it seemed, had forgotten them, and in a way it wasn’t strange at all. She’d always had the unnerving suspicion that he too would leave at some point. I mean, she’d been silly enough to think differently about her mother and look where that had gotten her.
But she’d never thought the Bedtime Man would disappear before she’d had a chance to share her story, and now, there was no one in the world left to listen about the terrible injustice carried out against her. No one to mourn or perhaps help her. She was at a crossroads, at that certain point in one’s life when no one remembers them and they have to start anew, and before the night was over, the girl came to terms with the fact that she could either go in search of him or allow the darkness to swallow her forever. And even as the long, slithering grasp of the shadows wrapped around her, she decided they could wait a while longer.
She shook off the cold and stepped a wee bit further into the corridor. Would she dare? No, methinks not. Go back to your bed now, Miss Tremont, the darkness called her, but she failed to listen. She missed her chance of going to her safe, warm bed, because she somehow thought there’d be more warmth to be found into the shadows.
Her hands were slippery with sweat on the windowsill. She kept sliding and for a brief second, she felt a cold shiver run down her spine, beckon her back. You do not want to do this, except she did. It hadn’t been there a moment ago, yet she knew if she turned back now, she’d be dead by morning. Or worse. She just couldn’t stay here a moment longer and perhaps this was long due, something she should’ve done all those years back in that supermarket, when she’d felt something was not quite right, but was too much of a scaredy cat to listen. And this time, Lettie didn’t hesitate to run.
The girl managed to get herself up unto the ledge, by the tall window, and looked out into the moonless night. Really quiet, thinking perhaps she should try and speak the words, call him out one last time, maybe say the magic sentence, but deep down, she knew it didn’t work that way, that magic was for children, only something that happened in stories. And this was not that kind of story.
Slowly, her eyes closed, her lower lip trembling, she felt the flesh peel off her fingers, only it wasn’t that, ‘cause when she dared to sneak a glance downward, she saw her hand was very much still there. Something was happening inside her. She was turning into sand and it felt good, sort of like coming home, to a warm bed and a soft blanket, to her mother who forgot, to all the lives she could’ve had before that fateful day in the supermarket.
It was as if the grains trickling through her veins now could read into her mind, or perhaps she could read into their and they knew everything there was to know. She didn’t so much feel like she was becoming one with the windowsill, but rather like she’d always somehow been there, a part of it, always waiting in the shadow for the children to come listen.
In the early hours of the morning, Lettie danced into the arms of dim candlelight and loneliness, and when she opened her eyes, she was no longer in the wintry corridor of the orphanage.
Truth be told, she no longer knew where she was.
to be continued