She sat behind the heavy brown curtain. It was a big risk to sit there and she was nervous, but the book pulled her in.
It was way past bedtime, a balmy summers evening and far too bright to sleep. The light crept through the sides, top and bottom of the curtains, beckoning. The words of the book under her bed whispered so loudly that she almost couldn’t help but slip from her covers and crouch down in the window bay.
She had no idea how long she had been there but the pins and needles in her knees told her it had been some time. Mr Galiano’s Circus took her to places she could only dream of. How lucky was the little boy to have become a part of this circus, to live in a caravan and move from place to place. To see clowns and trapeze artists, to work with elephants and eat as much candy floss as he could ever want.
Her escape into the book was almost total until she heard a door open and then close. She held her breath as someone climbed the stairs. She knew if she ran back to bed, they would hear and the game would be up. She held her breath. Would the footsteps stop at another bedroom door or would they continue on to the bathroom next door. Would they come into her room and discover an empty bed.
“Please go past, please don’t come in.” She whispered as a mantra over and over.
She could feel the panic rising from the pit of her stomach. If it was Dad, it would be ok. He would quietly but firmly tell her to get back into bed and go to sleep. She would too, but knew he would be so disappointed in her, that the guilt would be unbearable. Really though, it was unlikely that Dad would even bother to come into her room. She didn’t really exist for him anyway.
Oh, but if it was Mum! Any minute all hell could break lose. There would be screaming and shouting. The whole house would be woken and everyone would know that she had been caught doing something else wrong. She knew the beating that would follow. The punishment always far outstripped the crime.
Time stood still for an eternity. There was no air entering or leaving her lungs as she repeated her mantra. “Please, please, please.”
The footsteps carried their owner nearer and nearer. Why hadn’t she stayed in bed? Why did she always think she was going to get away with it? Closer and closer. Then… The bathroom door opened and closed again and she heard the toilet seat go down. She allowed herself a silent drag of air to fill her lungs and as quietly as she could extracted herself from the window bay. She tiptoed raggedly, on pained legs, across the room, book in hand and slipped once more between the sheets. She stuffed the book underneath the pillow and prayed that she hadn’t been heard. She lay in the silence listening to her heart pumping.
The fear only subsided when the footsteps descended the stairs. She was safe for now. Till the next time.
She lay in her bed on a balmy summers evening. Fingers of light crept through the curtain and Mr Galiano’s circus called from under her pillow. She crept from her bed to the bay of the window and pleaded with the darkness to stay away until she read at least one more chapter.