It was late afternoon when my daughter’s voice penetrated my fog and roused me from my long sleep. There was friendly banter over the feast after that, but despite the energy I drew from the orb and the food, I tired quickly and they let me go to my room to sleep after only being awake a few hours.
“You aren’t going back to sleep again, are you?” asked Victoria, who had scarcely been far enough away from me to be beyond touch.
“Yes, I am. I’m very tired. But if I don’t wake up in the morning when you think I should, then you just come in and wake me up.”
She climbed up into my lap and wrapped her small arms around my neck. “All right, daddy,” she said in my ear. She drew back and rubbed her cheek. “You need a shave.”
I had to laugh, and then I laughed again at her expression of awed surprise when I made six years of beard vanish right there in front of her. I stood, setting her down. “You want to tuck me in?”
She lit up with enthusiasm and led me off to my room and with all the drama of a nurse, she made sure the blankets were just so before she left.
I was tired enough to sleep like the dead, but that wasn’t to be. I dreamed of my Patricia. I felt her tender touch. I heard her soft voice. We made long and tender love, and then we made wild and furious love. She danced for me, and then she danced with my magic and I laughed and danced with her. Then she stopped me. Her hands framed my face and she was suddenly very serious. “I love you. I will always love you. I won’t miss you though. I will never have to miss you.”
The memory of my foolhardy trip here played itself out in macabre slow motion. I held her so tightly. I had to save her. I had to get her to safety – to help. Somewhere along my long journey, she came alive in my arms and opened up my chest as if she were opening a set of double doors and then she simply stepped inside closing the ‘doors’ behind her.
I sat up clutching my chest, reliving the ache there that was only in my mind. I hadn’t lost her, nor had I consumed her, and yet she was part of me and would be forever. I got up and went outside where I looked up at the sparkling stars. “I will miss you. I’ll miss holding you. I feel so lost without you.”
A warm rush ran up my spine, but the spell was broken when I heard Larak’s voice. “You’ll do all right. Everyone misses loved ones when they die, but life must go on and you have a daughter to think of now. You’ll be fine.”
I turned back to the cave entrance where he stood. “I’m all right. I’ll be fine.” I looked back up at the stars gauging the time of night. “I better get back to bed. My daughter will be coming to wake me up in a couple hours.”
In the solitude of my room, I let my tears soak into my pillow as I drifted off to sleep again.