Madelyne stares at the ceiling of her bedroom, finding dragons and monsters and princesses in the cracks and water stains. She would sleep, but she can still hear her father moving around downstairs, the clink and clack of him working away in his lab.
Ultimately, curiosity outweighs her better judgment. She needs to know what’s going on. Maddie slides out of bed and tiptoes across the floor, clutching her tattered teddy bear close to her chest.
Downstairs, her father’s too-bright lights are bouncing off the gleaming floors and walls of his special room. Maddie suspects her father will be angry with her for walking around when she’s supposed to be asleep— and for disturbing his work— so she tries to be extra-quiet. She edges around the corner of the wall and peeks into the other room.
Maddie has to bite her lip to keep from gasping aloud. There’s a boy in there. There’s a boy lying on the table in her father’s special room, and he has thick bandages wrapped around his eyes. Maddie knows that sometimes her father volunteers at the orphanage down the road, but he’s never brought one of the other children back home. This boy must be special.
Maddie waits and watches as her father draws blood from the still, sleeping boy. Even unconscious, the boy looks… sad. He doesn’t have soft pajamas like her. He doesn’t have a teddy bear like her. Maddie finds herself wanting to make him more comfortable; it’s no fun getting poked and prodded with medical instruments by her father. She should know.
Finally, Maddie can’t just watch anymore. She has to do something. While her father’s back is turned, Madelyne dashes across the floor and finds herself right up close to the boy. She watches, fascinated, as his thin chest rises and falls. And she hears, suddenly, that the boy is making a noise.
Whimpering, almost, like he’s having a bad dream.
His left hand jumps, spasms, and she grabs it. Maddie holds the boy’s hand and watches as his breathing gets slower and deeper, as his sleep becomes more restful. He stops making the noises.
And that’s when Maddie feels eyes on the back of her head.
“Just what are you doing out of bed, Madelyne?” her father demands, his voice icy and refined as always.
“I just… just wanted to see what you were doing,” she says, face turning red as she turns to face him. “Who is he?”
“The boy? He’s no one,” her father assures her. “Go on back to bed, my dear.”
“Why are his eyes taped up?” Maddie asks, turning to look back at the boy. His mouth rests in a thin line. Maddie wonders what he would look like with those bandages off his face.
“He was in a plane crash. He hurt his head,” her father says. “I’m making him better.”
Maddie keeps looking at the boy. It doesn’t seem fair that she gets to sleep upstairs in a warm bed with blankets and jammies and a teddy bear while this boy sleeps downstairs on a cold, hard table.
“Do you think he would maybe want to sleep with Paws tonight?” Maddie asks, holding her bear up. “Just for tonight.”
“Go to bed, Madelyne.”
“I’m leaving Paws,” Maddie says, tucking the teddy bear into the crook of the boy’s arm. Maybe she’s imagining it, but it looks like the boy reacts, curling his arm around Paws. “Okay, goodnight.”
“Go to sleep,” her father says sternly, watching her until she rounds the corner.
The next morning, Maddie wakes up with Paws back in bed with her. She doesn’t remember getting up the night before. She has no memory of the sleeping boy.