Peter is my friend. He’s tall, and nice, and has a funny yellow beard. We play pretend. Sometimes we’re pirates looking for buried treasure at the back of mommy’s closet. Sometimes we’re spies searching for secrets. Peter calls it casing the joint. He knows all kinds of things like that. Mommy doesn’t like it when I talk about Peter. She really doesn’t like it when it’s in front of her friend Roger. Peter is my friend – “just for me,” she says. Roger wouldn’t understand. Peter doesn’t like Roger. He doesn’t like liars, and Roger says that Peter isn’t real. He says that I dreamt him up because Peter comes when I should be sleeping. Mommy says I sleep like the dead. She says that she could scream and I wouldn’t wake up. But I do wake up. Every time Peter taps on the window or when he whispers my name. That’s when we play.
Tonight, we are secret agents tiptoeing through the hall in search of the truth. I’m not really sure what the truth looks like, but Peter says we’ll know it when we see it. The floor squeaks and Peter shushes it. I giggle. The floor doesn’t know what shush means. I trip in the kitchen, but Peter catches me. He’s very strong. I laugh, but Peter doesn’t. He grabs the thing I tripped over. Mommy’s sweater. She must have left it here. Peter finds her shoe next. Just one. Why does she get to leave her stuff around, but when I do it I get in trouble?
Peter points to a big brown shoe. He holds it up so that his nose almost touches it. He nods and I know we found it. The truth is in the shoe. We follow a trail of clothes, getting closer and closer to her room. Mom’s not usually so messy. Will she get a consequence for this? Last time I left my stuff on the floor I got a consequence. Mom gave me one. Will grandma give her one? She lives in Florida now. Will we have to go to Florida? Peter grabs my hand and puts a finger to my lips. It’s time to be quiet. Secret agents are quiet. That’s how they get around so sneaky.
We stop outside mommy’s room. Jeans are stuck in the door. She will get a consequence for this. Peter waves his hands around in our secret signal telling me to keep watch. I do. It’s very quiet in the hall. And dark. The floor squeaks loudly. I wish Peter would hurry. Something bangs in mommy’s room. I grab the handle, but Peter walks out and puts a finger to my lips. Time for quiet.
“Did we find it? What’s the truth?” I ask as Peter tucks me into bed.
“Your mom was with a bad bad man. But don’t worry I took care of it. Sleep buddy. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says and I smile. Peter is a good friend.
Mom doesn’t wake me up. She doesn’t come in and tell me to brush my teeth. There are still clothes on the kitchen floor, and no breakfast on the table. I run down the hall to get her. To tell her about how Peter saved her. I shout her name, but she doesn’t hear. Her bedroom door is still a little open. I peek inside and see Mommy and Roger sleeping. Carpet squishes between my toes as I tiptoe over. Her lamp is on the floor and her hand hangs off the bed. Mommy’s eyes are wide open, but she doesn’t look at me. She’s still sleeping. Sleeping like the dead.
Riley Krembil is a Canadian writer. She has recently graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with an MFA in Fiction Writing, and is a managing editor for the literary blog Moon-Birds. She enjoys reading, writing, and obsessing over fictional worlds and characters. Riley is feverishly at work on her first novel when she is not contemplating the acquisition of many fluffy creatures.