The dark circles under Viola’s eyes were the colour of ripe plums. She sat at the dining table with her hair slightly askew, her hand grasping the fork as she stared blankly ahead.
She hasn’t slept.
Neville had kept her up most of the night, and the rest of the night she had been up worrying.
It was something so simple, she hadn’t even chosen one her father had liked. Yet she lay there thinking every groan of he floor was her father coming to punish her. She wasn’t supposed to be slinking around the house in the middle of the night. She certainly wasn’t supposed to be going into her father’s wardrobe to take a tie during a game of pretend.
A tie would be missed far less than baby Edward’s rattle, she had assured herself as she lay awake.
Her eyes snapped up to her mother who was suddenly sitting across the table from her. “Yes mother.” Her heart leapt into her throat.
“Are you alright, darling?” Her brow was furrowed as she stared across the table at her. “You look as though you haven’t slept a wink.”
Shaking her head, she forced a smile. “I suppose I’m a little tired.” She stuck her fork into her eggs and put them in her mouth, hoping her mother would take that as a sign her fatigue was slowly lifting.
Getting up, her mother came around the table and pressed her hand to her forehead. “You feel warm.” She frowned. “You won’t be going to school today, Viola. You finish your breakfast and then go on up to bed.”
She didn’t eat anything more. She moved the food around on her plate for awhile before going up to her room. She closed the door behind her, eyeing the closed door of her closet for a few moments before crossing the room to get into bed.
Her eyes were burning, her lids heavy and swollen. Pulling the blankets up over her shoulders, she rolled over onto her side and stared out her bedroom window.
The leaves rustled on the branches of the tree as wind blew slowly through them. The sound was soothing, and as she watched them dance around listening to the music of nature she felt herself drift off to sleep.
His voice drifted through the air towards her.
“No school today.”
It was muffled, like trying to listen to a hushed conversation in another room with your ear pressed up against the door. She decided to let his voice slip further away, listening more intently to the sound of the wind in the trees outside.
She was so tired.
Her father had seemed strange at breakfast. He hadn’t sat with her like he usually would, hadn’t made jokes about school before kissing her on the top of her head as he made his way to the sink with his dishes. Instead he stood at the counter, a coffee mug in his hand that he never took a sip out of as he stared blankly at her.
Even when her mother had come into the kitchen, he stayed as he was. Finally it was time for him to leave. He put his full mug on the sink and left. Barely murmuring goodbye to them as he walked out the kitchen door to his car.
It was odd.
Mother said he was coming down with something. Maybe he was.
She couldn’t stop thinking about his eyes.
Unfocused, they seemed to look through everything but not directly at anything in particular.
Maybe she was playing too much pretend. Maybe all was well and good and her imagination was making it seem as though it wasn’t.
“Rest is so important to a growing girl. A single night of bad sleep can make you feel weak and confused. It can fog your mind, making up stories that seem as though they may be true. Why look at you, Viola.” Neville whispered, his breath hot on her ear. “You’re a mere shadow of your former self.”
“Who’s fault is that?” She murmured, her voice heavy with sleep.
“Yours of course. Had you roused when I first told you, you would have played our game of pretend and gone back to bed with enough time to have a full nights rest. Instead you were a insolent child, whining and resisting. I told you from the very beginning what I expected from you. Three nights. Three games of pretend. I’ve given you more than three nights of story telling, you selfish girl.”
It was true.
Sighing, she rolled over onto her back pulling her blankets tighter around herself.
“Now then, must you continue to be difficult?”
“What is wrong with baby Edward?” She asked him. “He hasn’t cried since I gave you his rattle.”
“Is that a complaint?”
“And my father seems… different since last night.”
There was a moment of silence before he clicked his tongue at her. “Perhaps we should continue the story. Where were we? Ah.” There was a tap on the bottom of her bed. “The young and curious daughter knew not of her importance. For you see, this young girl was exceptional, special. She had the power to open a door, a door that rarely opened. This door required a very special key.
“The key did not exist as of yet. It needed to be crafted and the girl was young and oblivious. So a dear friend helped her see how it was done. Few ingredients collected in the still of night by the girl herself, slightly changed by her exceptional gift.”
“Neville.”Viola felt uneasy, a knot was forming in her stomach and for the first time in months, she pulled her arm in under her blanket. “I’ve had enough story for now. I am too tired.”
“Too tired for a story?” He asked her.
She fell silent, not knowing what to say to him.
Her hand was gently tugged form under the blanket, caressed by a cool breeze from under the bed. “Viola, you are tired. Let me tell you the story until you fall asleep.”
His long, boney fingers kneading into her arm was soothing. She tried to think of baby Edward and her father, but she felt herself being pulled closer and closer to the edge of the bed. Pulled into sleep once more, she could feel a blanket of darkness wrapping around her as Neville’s words echoed through the room.
She heard him tell her of the little girl. The special little girl who could craft the key to open to door. Open the door to another world, a better world, one where she could be whoever she wanted.
And all it cost her was a rattle, a tie, and a-
Viola drifted off to sleep.