In the dark I wake with screams slipping out of clamped lips. My skin drips fear sweat. My whole body shakes. My heart races at an unsteady gallop. I scoot back on the damp sheets until my back’s in the corner of the wall. It’s something solid amidst the ebb and flow of my demons. I lower my head to my knees and wrap my arms around my legs. As if curling into a rigid ball will make the shudders go away.
I hear a door down the hall open and I sigh. Apparently the first round of screaming was long enough to wake someone up this time. My door opens and a vague trickle of light slips into the darkness. I leave my face pressed to my trembling knees. With any luck they’ll go away. I hear sock feet scuff across the floor next to my bunk and I give up. I rest my head sideways on my still shaking legs and in the dim light meet Nolan’s eyes. I feel the tears streaming down my face, a river tearing at its dam.
Nolan says nothing. Just takes a blanket from the bed above mine and wraps it around my body. The bed springs on the crappy mattress groan against his body weight as he sits next to me and swings his legs onto the bed. Carefully, slowly, he slides an arm under my knees and the other behind my back. He moves slow, giving me time to freak out I suppose. But I don’t and he slides me into his lap, wrapping me tight in the blanket and his arms. For the first time in a long time I feel safe. I also know how close I am to falling apart. He squeezes a little tighter and rests his cheek in my hair, “Just get it out Ciara.”
I shake my hand, “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop if I do.”
“I’ve got time Ciara.”
And the dam breaks. The sobs rack my body, the salt burns my eyes, scores my cheeks. The shaking rattles my bones. But through it all he holds me. Squeezed tight to prove there is something solid after all. He doesn’t say a word just holds on while I come apart.