yesterday, in my nightmares

I settled in to feed my youngest. Her skin was hot. She’d had a fever since midnight the night before. I checked it again. 37.5 C, a low grade fever at best. Nothing to worry about. Teething, maybe a molar.

She latched on to nurse. I turned on the library app on my phone and settled in to read till she finished.

Her body jolted. The dog whined. “Did something scare you, Nim?”

She stared at the ceiling. She jolted again. And again. Her eyes rolled back. I sat up, trying to break her latch because she’d bitten me.

She cried, strangely. She huffed at the air with desperate grunts.

My eldest daughter started to cry.

Nim kept huffing at the air.

Then she seized. There was no doubt in my mind this is what you called it. She jolted on and on, then grew still. But her eyes, her eyes were vacant. They stared at the ceiling, at a single focal point. I called her name. But she didn’t turn and look at me.

She’s not in there, I thought, dialing emergency services. I’ve lost her.

She seized again, much longer this time, as I held her little body to mine and she stared at that spot on the ceiling while my heart filled with horror.

Her body grew still and at last her eyes left that terrible spot. She put her head down on my shoulder and vomited herself empty.

The ambulance arrived sometime after that. I tried to collect my wits and everything I’d need for the hospital while we clung to each other.

The long drive to the city was followed by tests, x-rays, and samples of her bodily fluids. She slept in my arms and her Dad’s as we waited in her emergency room bed.

The tests yielded no infections. The doctor spoke to us of febrile seizures, caused by a sudden spike in temperature. It could happen again the next time she has a fever. Or not. It’s not uncommon among children. Febrile seizures run in families, though they’ve never showed up in either of ours.

She’s fine.

The words sink in but I’m half afraid to believe them. Those eyes focused on the ceiling, so vacant and staring, haunt me.

She’s fine, I want to holler at the nightmares that have hijacked my thoughts. I clench my fists. I pull her closer, careful not to wake her up.

She’s fine.

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firefly o’clock

Two years ago today I woke up my eldest daughter to see the fireflies for the first time. Her little hand was warm and sweet inside my own as she peered out into the dark forest. “It’s not as dark as I thought it would be,” she announced.
I tried to point out the fireflies among the wildflowers, but her eyes gazed steadily at the seldom-seen stars of the hazy night sky, eagerly devouring them with her entire being. “Wow,” she whispered, transfixed.
We walked further along the wooded lane, with her looking over her shoulder now and again to make certain that the moon was still there. “It’s my friend, the Moon,” she’d tell me in a hushed voice, then shout “Hi Moon!” and give a joyous wave to the jolly orb. Now and then he winked at her with wisps of fog, much to her delight.
A green firefly lit up in a patch of clover not far from us. She gasped. “A firefly!” The green light flashed again, and again, as she counted…poorly.
“I want to see another one, mummy!” she said, So we circled our lawn, traipsing through the wet grass as we watched for fairy lights in wild places.
“We have to whisper, and tiptoe. Whisper and tiptoe,” she hissed loudly to me as she stomped through the wet in her beloved rubber boots.
She squeezed my hand tight as a moth flew too close to her face and they startled one another, but it’s easy to be brave when you’re three and your friend the Moon is right there and your mummy is holding your hand. “What was that?”
“It was a moth.”
“Was it a fairy moth?”
“It might have been, it’s hard to tell in the dark.”
As we neared our little pond a handful of fireflies whispered luminescent greetings and we settled in to watch the twinkle of their phosphorescence. Some nestled in the devil’s paintbrush, while the bolder ones soared as high as the branches of the nearby trees. Her eyes, glazed with the sleepiness of one who should be in bed before dark, wandered back up to the stars in wonder.
In sitting still the mosquitoes discovered us and began to bother. We swatted until she suggested we go back inside. Hand in hand we walked back to the house. “So what did you think of the fireflies?” I asked her.
“I thought there’d be less bugs. And more faeries,” she said, her most serious look upon her face. “But I liked them very much.”
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