Still Keep Pleasant Dreams
It was thunder and lightning outside.
The power had died sometime during dinner, the apartment colder than usual, and Theresa couldn’t find the candles or the flashlight – it seemed that her last boyfriend, some jerk by the name of Brian, had taken a few things when he was unceremoniously booted from their home. That wasn’t surprising, though, Theresa had always had bad taste in men. And when she got a good guy in her life for once, she couldn’t even keep him.
At least that was what her daughter, Adiel, gathered from the stories of her poppa.
Huddled on the couch under a thick comforter, head resting on her Momma’s lap, the young girl squeezed her eyes shut and clapped her hands over her ears as a particularly loud rumble shook through the apartment. She could feel the growl of nature shake through her bones, making her whimper – she hated rain more than anything else in the world. A gentle, worn-out and coffee stained hand stroked over her hair comfortingly, threading through black threads as fine as spider’s webs and as dark as inkwells.
She spoke softly, telling her Ellie stories of fairies and goblins and princesses and princes; speaking softly of poor boys and lonely maidens, dragons and elves, dwarves and hobbits and witches and wizards. She filled her daughter’s head with fantasy and faraway fables, promising that anything was possible if only you believed.
And listening to her mother’s soft, husky voice coated in nicotine and whiskey and greasy bacon from the diner, Ellie could pretend there was no thunder and it wasn’t cold and that everything would be alright.
Urgent paws and a rough tongue woke her up from pleasant dreams of whiskey lullabies and nicotine fairytales. Pushing herself up, rubbing at an eye tiredly, Ellie Walker looked down to see the German shepherd puppy Dinah staring up at her with wide brown eyes, her tail between her legs and her whine desperate and practically worried for a dog.
“What’s up, Dinah?” Ellie asked softly, keeping her voice down so that she wouldn’t disturb her cousin. Zebediah Walker stayed up late and went to bed even later – she had heard him pacing around in his room or leave the flat to go down to the store, working away whatever tension or stress that had built up in his nerves that day. She didn’t like to bother him whenever he was like that, despite being up and hearing him move about (even as he walked as carefully as possible and did his best to be quiet. Ellie had problems sleeping since she’d left New York City and her soundtrack of dogs barking, horns blaring, and whatever music the Spanish neighbour cranked up on her (his?) window radio).
The puppy whined again, dropping her front paws from the couch and padding over to Zebediah’s bedroom door, bumping her nose against it. It nudged open, allowing Ellie to looking into the dark room somewhat; there was a curled up ball in the middle of the bed, and what sounded like murmurings in an upset tone.
Brown eyes widening quietly, the 16-year-old scrambled off of her makeshift bed on the couch and tiptoed over to the door, pushing it open and peeking in.
Zebediah was on his stomach, curled up and face shoved into the pillow. He looked uncomfortable, and as she got closer to see what was wrong, she heard a heart-breaking sound that made her stomach drop and her entire body freeze. She squeaked out of her weird stasis when Dinah licked her ankle, lurching forward and shaking Zebediah’s shoulder roughly.
The man jerked awake, flinching away from Ellie and rolling away from her, breathing harshly against his knees as he sat up. Hazel-green eyes (Momma’s eyes, but more wild – more broken. And Momma had been very broken) flashed over to her, and Ellie watched as Zebediah calmed himself down from whatever it was he had pulled himself from, rubbing his eyes and dropping his shoulders tiredly.
“Did I wake you up or somethin’?”
“No, that was Dinah. I think she was worried,” Ellie stated matter-of-factly, watching him with wide eyes and waiting to see what he would say to her interrupting his sleep. She hoped he wasn’t mad; it hadn’t looked like a very peaceful rest.
“…Right. I’m fine, you can go back to sleep,” Zebediah muttered, swinging his feet over the edge of the bed and standing up, stretching his back and popping it into place. Ellie scurried back towards the door as the gunman walked around his bed, adjusting the wife beater he wore as he glanced around the room for a shirt or something. “I’m just gonna go down to the shop and double-check some things.”
“Didn’t you do that last night?”
Zebediah paused, looking over at Ellie with pursed lips and narrowed eyes. Ellie swallowed thickly but stood her ground, watching him with calm eyes despite worrying that she was going to get the boot this night. There was only so much people could take of Ellie’s personality, after all. It was why the girls at school never really stayed her friends for long; she nitpicked and worried too much for their tastes.
“…yeah, I did. But it wouldn’t hurt to check again, yeah?” He found his shirt, pulling it on and ruffling up his short hair (she thought he needed a haircut, but he could do what he wanted) and turning towards his door. “Go back to sleep, kid.”
“Watch a movie with me?”
“Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to sleep – I wasn’t sleeping very well anyway, and I’ll just be waiting for you to come back up. And that could be forever. So why not just watch a movie with me? It’ll get your mind off of whatever was bothering you, and it’ll give me something to do – I’ll probably even nod off in the middle of it and you can do whatever you want without me bothering you!” She grinned, then, folding her hands behind her back – the oversized T-shirt she had borrowed from Zebediah for sleeping clothes shifting at her movements, falling to below her knees and acting more dress than shirt.
Her cousin merely stared at her for a long time, eyes analysing her, and she could tell he was going over her words to try and catch the lie she had actually thrown in there, before he sighed and nodded, tugging on his shirt mindlessly.
“Fine, go pick out a movie. I’ll be right there.”
Bopping her head in a nod, Ellie turned and skipped out of the room, glancing back to see the store owner pick up his phone and check a message or send a message (probably to Allen. Or maybe to her other cousin. Or maybe to someone else?). She picked up Dinah on her way to the DVD rack, looking at all the titles and listening to Zeb as he walked to the kitchen and rummaged through the fridge, returning with a bottle of pop (he must’ve just bought it recently) for her and a can of beer for himself.
Picking out a movie, Ellie popped it into the DVD player and walked over to the couch, curling up around Dinah as she settled against the arm. Zebediah sat in his armchair, holding the remote and cracking his drink open with one hand.
Glancing over at him, she had to admit that it wasn’t fairytales, fantastical stories, or even all that comforting…
But at least everything seemed to be alright for now.