A sweltry breeze blew the sheer curtains at the open window. Moonlight splashed across the room, casting shadows on the floor. In the corner, a fan rotated, the rhythmic whup, whup of the blade creating a white noise that drown out the night sounds.
Somewhere in the house, a muffled sob.
He sat straight up. Blinking, he tried to focus through the dim light. The clock read 4:40 AM. He glanced down at the side of the bed, his eyes focusing on a strange, dark shadow. Good God, what was that? His eyes narrowed. It looked like…blood.
He flipped on the bedside lamp. Next to him, a bloody handprint on the crisp white sheets. Recoiling, he pressed back into the pillows. His gaze swept over the side of the bed, and he saw more blood – this time droplets creating a trail in the plush, cream-colored carpet.
Swinging unstead legs over the side of the bed, he followed the trail, needing to know what was happening in his quiet house.
He paused to listen. Another sob. But where was it coming from?
Needing answers, he moved down the hallway toward the chidren’s bedroom, following the path of blood. His heart pounded furiously. Was one of them hurt? Why was there so much blood in the middle of the night?
The door was open, and he stepped forward, peering into the room. Light from across the hall illuminated his son sleeping in the bottom bunk. Relief washed over him when he heard the slow, rhythmic breathing, as he watched the steady rise and fall of his son’s tiny chest. But that sense of peace was short lived as he took in the rest of the room.
Narrowing his eyes, he focused on the blood splatters leading up the railing of the bunkbed. Cautiously, he peaked over the side. The top bunk was empty. In it, only a blood-soaked pillow, sheets and blankets saturated, glowing red in the dim light.
He swallowed, hard, a thousand questions running through his mind.
When he heard the muffled sob again, he turned and streaked down the hall toward the master bathroom.
And then he saw her. Lying in a pool of blood, his daughter.
Good God, what had happened?
Blood oozed through tiny fingers pressed up to her face. Her white nightgown was soaked and red, streaks of blood trickling down her legs, blotchy, dried stains across her feet. Around her on the linoleum, more puddles.
Murder images flashed in his mind, violent attacks he’d watched in movies and on TV. But this wasn’t make-believe, this wasn’t trapped in a screen. This was real.
His eyes widened as he took in the scene, glancing down at his six-year-old.
Oh, no. This wasn’t a murder…
“Daddy, my nose won’t stop running!”
…it was the mother of all nose-bleeds!!!!
Great. Just great. An odd sense of relief and irritation coursed through him.
He grabbed tissues and helped her press them to her face. “It’s okay, honey. Here. Hold this.”
Where on earth was his wife? Shaking his head in wonder, he rose and walked back into the master bedroom. He knew exactly where he’d find her.
Of course. There she was. Sound asleep – not a care in the world. No wonder the kids went to his side of the bed when they woke in the middle of the night. The woman could sleep through anything, and usually did.
But not tonight. Tonight he wouldn’t let her.
(And she’s a crab today because of it.)