It was late and dark beyond the room where nine year old Dawn tried to sleep. She tried to close her eyes and count sheep but they were too boring. Of course that was the whole point of counting sheep but if it wasn’t making her sleepy after 10 sheep then it was just not working. It was making her bored and bored was something very different from sleepy! Who had even got that stupid idea about sheep? Little sheep had never helped her fall asleep and weren’t about to start helping now!
She got up walking to the door, opening it just a little bit and peering out of it. There was no one in sight so she walked out. The plan was to go get another glass of warm milk and chocolate chip cookies and maybe that would help more than those silly sheep. But, as she walked happily down the hall, Dawn was stopped by a door, a just slightly opened door. It was the door to Buffy’s room, now so much darker than it was supposed to ever be. Her little hand pushed the door open a little more, something inside her telling her that maybe her sister was back and they had just let Dawn sleep because she was supposed to be sleeping. Yes, maybe Buffy was back! But the smile on her face fell as soon as more of the room came into sight. It was just the same. Empty.
She found her way to the little switch, turning it on as she came in, trying against all odds to find something that had changed, maybe some little clue that her sister had been there for some reason… But no, everything was just the same. Just the same emptiness. Just like in every other day since Buffy had left.
Suddenly the rest of the door opened and she could see her mother standing in the doorway, an inquiring expression on her face “I was just…” the words automatically left the little girl’s mouth but she couldn’t finish them, she had no idea what she wanted to say. Luckily, her mother immediately had the right words “Your sister’s okay and she’ll be back soon, Dawnie. You know that, right?” Dawn nodded, she knew… She just wanted her sister to be alright and she was, mothers don’t lie, right?
She lifted her head to the older woman “But not too soon, right? Because I like not having her around. I like not hearing her talk about boys and clothes and make up all the time! It’s so much better without her loud mouth around.” she giggled. Yup, there were very good things about having Buffy away and she wasn’t just about to say she missed her. Nop, why would she miss her very annoying older sister?
But her mother knew better, even if she didn’t say it, even if she chose to let little Dawn stick to her version “Yes, nottoo soon. Now, you should be sleeping, my little pumpkin belly.” A guilty smile on Dawn’s little lips before her mother carried on “Come on, lets get you back to bed.” Joyce said holding out her hand for the little girl to take it. Dawn was a bit reluctant at first, getting a last look around the room, just before she remembered that she didn’t care “Ok, can I have a story?” she asked, hopping a bit to hold her mother’s warm hand. A slight frown on her face for just one second “A little too late for a story, don’t you think?” Yeah, maybe.. But still, the little girl had to try her luck “But I can sing you a song. What do you think of that?”
It was the smile on her face, the playfulness of the tone, the indulging Dawn’s little not-sleepy heart, but everything about this just said that she had the best mom ever.
A big smile showed on her lips as she now pulled her mother’s hand to her room “Yes please! Then I can sleep! Counting sheep is so boring and doesn’t make me sleepy at all.” She shook her little head, indignant that the sheep weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. That’s what you got for relying on animals to fall asleep. Her mom was much much much better for that!
As she got to the room Dawn nearly jumped to her bed and into the sheets. She had be like that for her mom to sing. Joyce quickly caught up to the little happy girl and tucked her in with a smile “So, what do you want to listen to? And just one because it’s late.” the little hint of a stern look. It wasn’t really supposed to be taken seriously, it just meant that there was no negotiation possible.
The little girl thought about it for a moment. But it was just a moment before she let her eyes sparkle with enthusiasm and a big big smile show on her face “Our song!”.
It was a long story but it had happened when some mean kids had made fun of Dawn on her first year and she couldn’t hold back the tears when she was trying to sleep. That was when her mother had sung ‘Baby Mine’ to her, making it all better. And Joyce had never sung it to Buffy so this was their special song, something just between Dawn and mom, something that Buffy couldn’t have!
And of course her mother knew exactly what her little girl meant and did it.
Someone else would probably insist that the woman’s voice was not perfect and all that nonsense but it was perfect to Dawn. Everything was really, really perfect and she let her eyes close. Little by little. Just as that voice lulled her to sleep with the beautiful tune.
Yes, so much better than counting sheep.