At This Waking

At this waking, she puts her hands out in front of her so that she can see them, and she discovers they are youthful, bearing strength and grace, and she uses them to fling off covers. There is one sneaker, old and dirty, on her foot, and she crows in delighted laughter, running for the mirror to see herself. She does not remember a time in which she went to bed wearing shoes that dirty; perhaps this is a new time. The mirror, though, shows that this is before, except she remembers all the befores.

“This must be a new one,” she says aloud, laughing, and she runs, in her nightgown, out of the room, down the stairs.

Her parents don’t quite wake from their exhausted stupor, not to hear the front door shut, nor to hear the echo of her laughter.

She runs, one shoe off, one shoe on, down familiar streets, breath fogging in the cold.

It’s colder than it should be, but she doesn’t mind.

When she gets to the address, the mailbox on the street has ‘D. McManus’ written on the side, and she blows it a kiss, laughing delightedly. It’s the middle of the night, but the light is on. The light is on because they left it on for her.

She runs up the front walk, laughing so hard she can feel the tears in her eyes; everything is brilliant, like Christmas lights in her eyes, even with the cold snow, even while she is teeth-chattering and feeling the sleepsweat in her hair freeze.

She bangs on the door, dancing foot to foot on the porch, and when the door opens, she throws her arms around him and presses her cheek to his chest, breathing in the scent of heat and smoke, baby shampoo and whisky.

She speaks, and it’s riddle and answer all at once: “I don’t know if you remember me, but I wanted to say thank you. You saved my life.”

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