I heard the feet, pad-padding up the stairs. That sound always tears through the heaviest blanket of sleep. I listened to their cadence and tried to guess which boy was making his way to my bedside in the middle of the night.
Not Tre, his footsteps have grown heavy and spaced. Besides, he hardly ever needs me in the night anymore.
Not Max, I thought, because he half runs up the stairs if he’s awake in the night.
The shadowy outline of a boy in the doorway confirmed my suspicions.
He trotted over to me and laid a hand on my arm. He stood there, silent.
“Hey there, hon. What’s wrong?”
”I want to sleep with you.”
He pushed his head to mine, forehead to forehead, and nodded. I offered him a hand and he clambered up. I lifted the covers to help him climb over me into the valley between me and Clay, but he muttered a sullen no. He burrowed down next to me and pulled my arm around him.
“I just want you,” he whispered.
For Tre and Max it hasn’t been all that odd, over the last year, to get used to the idea of me sleeping with a man. They have known the comfort of snuggling in between me and their biological dad, known the safe warmth of that space. Raphael never knew that, and he still thinks it’s weird sometimes, finding this great big interloper in HIS mother’s bed. Sometimes he’ll find his way upstairs and insist upon the middle space, and sometimes he’ll shun it.
One never knows.
I curled around him and brushed back his hair.
“Do you want to tell me what your dream was about?”
We dozed like that, him relaxing against me, while I teetered between awake and asleep. Clay stirred, glanced over at us.
“What’s this? A boy with a bad dream?”
“Raphael,” I told him.
“Oh. Hey, Raphael, want to hear about the dream I was having?” Raphael said nothing. “I dreamed about an angel. She was so beautiful.” Raphi stroked my arm and listened. “And she loved her family so much. She had these great boys, and she loved them more than the whole world. And she loved me too! And then I woke up – and you know what? It was all true.” In the silence Raphael grinned at me.
“That was you, Mem.”
After a while I noticed that ten minutes had passed and I whispered,
“Time for you to go to bed, son.” He pretended not to hear me. “Do you want your dad to carry you to your bed?” He peered over my shoulder at Clay, and nodded. Clay swung his legs out of bed and as he made his way over to my side, I whispered to the child in my arms, “That’s my sweet boy.”
Clay scooped him up and murmured, “Now there’s my big, strong, T-ball star.”
What a dad, I thought.
Raphael curled against him and let himself be carried.