20 January 2010

Asking for angels

The blue and green trucks on the makeshift curtain covering the window were glowing. I'm sure the cloth was put there to keep out at least most of the light from the glaring bulbs outside, but it wasn't doing a very good job of it. I muffled my groan by sticking my face into my pillow, wincing as my sleeping bag made crinkling noises.

Note to self, I thought, next time bring the cloth-lined bag. Even the tiniest movements sounded like I was pouring buckets of nails down metal piping. I couldn't believe that the girls were still sleeping. I closed my eyes again and felt myself falling into the waves of unconsciousness. It was, of course, only a couple of seconds before I heard my name.

"Michelle?" Her voice sounded smaller than usual, and my eyes flew instantly open. I hoped for a brief second that she wouldn't say it again, that she would go back to sleep. "Michelle?" It was Tory*, I knew. She'd stuck by me all that day, holding my hand in between activities and refusing to stand next to Katie, my teammate, for longer than a couple of seconds.

Unzipping my sleeping back and wincing as it once again made an unforgiveable racket, I swung my legs over the top of the bunk and carefully walked down the ladder. The tiny rungs hurt my feet and I almost stepped on top of Lexi's duffel of presents from her adoptive parents, but it was still only a matter of seconds before I was standing at Tory's eye level.

"What's the matter, sweetheart? Can't you sleep?" I whispered. The six other girls made no signs of having woken to my words. I reached back across to my bunk, where my watch was hooked onto the side of my bed, hanging next to it was my nametag and markers. 3:42, the lights glared at me, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.

"I'm scared," Tory said. The rolling of the eyes was postponed indefinitely.
"What are you scared of?"
"There are ghosts in the room and they're scary," she whispered. Her huge blue eyes were made even brighter by the light coming in from the window next to my bunk, and her hair looked too dull to be blond. Tory looked somewhere past me, into the corner, and I turned to look with her. Nothing. But I knew that children can be more observant than most adults, so I looked again.

"You're sure there are ghosts?" I asked, since I didn't have anything else ready to say.
"Or demons," Tory said. I caught my breath and felt my eyebrows squeeze together in concern.
"Oh, honey. Did you ask Jesus to send his angels for you?" Tory shook her head, which really just meant that her eyes moved up and down twice, and very quickly. "You know there are already angels in here right now? And they're protecting you?" Tory just looked at me, then lifted her small white hand up and rubbed her nose.

"Will you come with me to the bathroom?" she asked.
"Of course," I said. She shoved her sleeping bag down to her feet and I lifted her from the bed. She was incredibly light and I set her gently and silently on the floor, and then we both walked the five steps to the bathroom. Tory was clinging to me so tightly that I almost couldn't walk without first making sure that her feet weren't under my own. She even wanted to keep holding my hand while she was in the stall, but her arms weren't long enough, so I convinced her that she could let go for a couple of seconds. I think she was afraid that if she didn't hold on to me, I would disappear.

With my hands and her hands washed (she was out of the stall, and therefore I had to hold her hand), we both tiptoed back to the room, where I helped her climb quietly into her bunk. Tory lay back down on her stomach, and I put my hand on her back.

"They're still here," she whispered, and without a moment's hesitation I knew she was right.
"But so are the angels," I said.
"What if there aren't enough?" Tory asked. Something was pinching my heart, and my throat closed up around whatever air I had just breathed in.
"Did you know that God has a million gazillion infinity angels just waiting to protect you?"
"Yeah. And all you have to do is ask for them, Tory," I said.
"I can ask for more angels?"
"Any time you want them. Do you want me to help you ask for them?" Tory sighed and nodded, and I moved a piece of hair away from her forehead. I whispered a prayer for more angels and for comfort and good dreams, and I could feel her body relaxing under my fingertips as they lightly ran between her shoulder blades. Then I asked her if she thought she could go to sleep.

Tory looked at me out of sleepy eyes and nodded, whispering a tiny "Yes" that I almost couldn't hear, and then she lifted up one of her fingers and pushed my cheekbone.
"You should go to sleep" she said. I grinned and gave her one last pat.
"Goodnight, sweetheart," I said. My bunk protested every step I made up the tiny ladder and I winced once again as I slid into my sleeping bag to lay on my stomach. I couldn't understand how no one woke up to that sound. It was so loud.

I turned my face away from the window, watching Tory's bunk. Her eyes were closed, and her fist was clenched just underneath her chin. I smiled in spite of myself and closed my own eyes, trying to calm my breathing to a sleeping sort of speed. When I woke up in the morning, Tory was as naughty and stubborn as ever.

No comments: