A scream woke James. Coming out of a deep sleep so violently left him pretty confused. It was Thursday, and the sun was hours from being up. That meant Veronica was still at work. But James knew the scream was real – that sound was too human to have just been a dream. It could have only come from one place: the upstairs bedroom, where Clay was.
James bolted out of bed, pulled his robe on and dashed upstairs. He slowed himself down as he placed his hand on the doorknob, trying to slow his breathing. He knew whatever dream Clay had just had must have been terrifying, and James didn’t want to upset him anymore.
Clay was awake, upright in the bed with tears streaming down his face when James entered the room. He looked at his dad and began sobbing ever harder. James sat down on the bed and wrapped his son in a tight hug.
“What happened buddy?” James asked.
Clay could barely form words through his tears. When James managed to calm him down, he could still hardly make out Clay’s answer. “It was Momma – she was mad at me. But I didn’t do anything. She was so mad and scary.”
James reassured his son that it was just a dream, that Momma would never scare him or be so angry and that she was still at work but would be home soon. It took him almost half an hour to calm Clay down and get him back to bed. Even after he fell back asleep, James sat at the end of the bed to make sure the nightmares didn’t return. When he knew his son would be okay, he quietly lifted himself off the bed. James peered through the blinds of Clay’s room and confirmed that only his car was in the driveway. He checked the clock near Clay’s bed. Still hours before Veronica would be home.
James shuffled back down the stairs and to his bedroom. He collapsed back into bed, exhausted. He only had a few hours left before he would have to get up to take Clay to school. Veronica probably wouldn’t get home until hours after he had left the house, if work was busy enough. He lay in bed and slowly started to drift back to sleep.
That’s when he felt someone on the other side of the bed.