Calm Before the Fire

Emma, at nine years old, looks in at the new bedroom, bare of toys and games save one doll for herself, and one for Sue. The diagonally placed twin size bed takes up much of the room that the sisters share. There is a tall, narrow window in the wall on the left side of the bed, the side that Emma sleeps on, and just to her left against the wall is their four-drawer dresser.

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Emma, wearing only a white tank style t-shirt and underpants, approaches her side of the bed, and kneels down, resting her knees on the clean plywood floor, and her small hands against the rough, army green blanket whose edges are neatly tucked in between the mattress and the bare box springs.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Emma climbs onto the bed and scoots down between the fresh, clean, smooth white sheets, and settles in. Sue comes in and climbs in, too. Mom peeks in, says good night, and flips the light switch down, dimming the room. Soon the hall light clicks off also, and the house is dark and quiet.

Emma struggles to stay still lying next to Sue, but inevitably irks her sister, who tells Emma to go sleep at the other end of the bed, which Emma promptly does, tugging the blankets loose from the tight tucking. They each have their own space now, and after a few more tosses and turns followed by more chiding by Sue, Emma falls soundly asleep.


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