"Only until the count of one hundred," she said. This was the rule. I turned to lay flat on my belly. She pushed the wisps of hair away from my face and kissed me gently. The moisture on my cheek evaporated slowly, like a puddle on a sunny day. The smell of her perfume wrapped around me keeping me warmer than the blanket she had tucked me in. The visible corner of my mouth curled slowly into a smile. "Close your eyes," she whispered gently. The sound of her voice tiptoed within my ears. I pressed my eyes together, expressing an eagerness of the earning for her touch. She straightened out my shirt, ridding it of all it's creases. When everything was perfect, she placed the warmth of her hand upon my back.
"One, two, three..." I relaxed my eyes. The circles she made on my back were in perfect rhythm with her counting. Her voice the sweetest symphony of lullaby. As I began to fade into a world of slumber, her voice and touch faded too. The higher the number, the further I traveled from reality. I wanted nothing more than to take her with me, to hold her hand and run across the clouds, to slide down the biggest rainbow and land in a giant pot of gold. I wanted to take her to a place where we could play all night without disruption, a world made of chocolate, where animals were our friends, and ate straight from our hands. "98, 99, 100." She spoke softly as to not disturb my journey. "Meet you in Dream Land."
"Can you hold my hand Momma," she asked as she writhed slightly, obviously uncomfortable.
"Sure sweetheart." I had spent the better half of our month in the hospital sleeping beside her. She had been quite ill and wanted to be held and coddled. When she wasn't having seizures or outbreaks of pain and nausea, she was simply fearing the time when those things would come again. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her tight to my body. "Close your eyes baby girl."
"I'm afraid," she said her bottom lip quivering, tears brimming, magnifying the flecks of stormy grey within her sky blue eyes.
"Mommy is here, there is nothing to be afraid of." A statement, I only wished could have been true.
"What if when I go to sleep, I don't wake up again?" She looked me straight into my eyes, penetrating them deeply as if she was trying to read my thoughts.
"What would make you think such..."
"I heard what the doctor said this morning." The tears that had built a barrier within her came flooding down all at once. I pulled her tighter. I wanted so desperately to protect her from all of this, to take it from her and put it on myself, but I knew I couldn't, because if I had been able to, I already would have. We talked for a while about the unfortunate conversation she never should have heard. We talked about how I wished I could erase it from her mind, so that she could go on being a kid and do kid things, without the fear of mortality, or anything else that does not belong to the mind of a child. Unfortunately that would be the first of many moments that would take part of that privilege of childhood away and replace it with the untimely wisdom and understanding that this world is not always what we want it to be, what we hope it to be.
"Do you want to meet in Dream Land," I asked, drying her eyes. She looked up, gently sniffing, wiping her nose with her sleeve.
"It is a special place that we can only meet when we are asleep. We have to pick a place, close our eyes and try real hard to imagine it. It is very special and only few people know about it. I used to meet my mother there when I was little, and maybe if you try real hard, we could meet there tonight?" I brushed the freshly fallen hair from her damp eyes. She looked stunned to not have known that such a place existed.
"Can it be anything I like?"
"Can I bring others there," she asked scooching up slightly in her bed.
"Only if they keep it secret of course."
"Is there sickness there?"
"No, of course not. Only what you want, nothing else. If something else tries to follow, you just tell it to go away, and it will have to listen, because it is your land." She smiled and lied back on the bed. She liked the idea of being in charge, of not hurting, of not being sick. She rolled in to snuggle as she often did as she was falling asleep.
"Yes, love," I said, as I rubbed the wrinkles out of the back of her shirt.
"When I do go, you know, forever. Can I stay there, in Dream Land, so you know where to find me?" I pulled her in tighter, tears now filling my eyes.
"Come on now love, lets go to Dream Land and see what adventures we can find."