Excerpt from my current novel in progress, For the Birds.
While Meadow freshened up in the bathroom, I did a quick dust job of the canopy of branches over the bed, then changed the sheets. By the time she came out, the bed was turned down, the room bathed in the soft glow of our mother’s antique lamp on the side dresser. I closed the heavy curtains to the sliding door that led to the back garden as she got in bed and turned on her side.
“Goodnight,” I whispered, walking softly to the door.
“Wait, Cricket.” She popped her head up, pulling the covers aside next to her. “Can you stay a moment?”
I hesitated, glancing around the room, my parents all around us. There was my dad’s golf bag leaning against his tall dresser that still held all his clothes. A fainting couch was positioned next to their closet, which had been used more for holding my mother’s craft projects than for actual sitting. A few unfinished projects still covered the flower covered fabric. A stack of books lay in a pile on my father’s side table, including one with a bookmark in it. Numbered, by some author I’d never heard of. Whenever I came in this room to dust, I always paused at that book, knowing he’d never know how it ended.
And here was my father’s side of the bed, which Meadow patted, waiting for me to get in. Tentatively, I slid between the sheets, inhaling my parents’ earthy scent under the fresh smell of laundry detergent. I lay my head where my father used to lay his, and in my strange feelings of confliction, the comfort enveloped me like a hug.
Meadow turned over, an awkward maneuver as she positioned her casted arm between us. Her leg brace lay against my mother’s dresser, and I made special pains to avoid her tender leg as I moved to give her more room. She took my hand closest to her, and I brought my other one into the fold, clasping both of her hands in mine as best as could be done with a cast. It was just like when we were young, when she used to slip out of her bed and into mine, our hands together while we whispered secrets into the night.
“Do you remember when Dad built this bed?” she whispered now.
I squeezed her good hand, thinking back so many years ago when they brought the outside world into our home. We were just kids back then, and the tree bed seemed like something out of a fairytale. My dad was always tinkering on projects in the shed, but I’d never paid much attention until he carried the tied together branches into the house, putting the bed together in the bedroom. When he was done, the four of us laid on the bed and looked up. I felt like a woodland creature, even a forest fairy, as my eyes traveled over the entwined branches, the feathers and charms he’d woven between the branches, and the small doorless bird cage hanging from one branch.
“It was like he grew a tree right here in the bedroom,” I said, and I felt her laugh.
“No bed has ever been good enough after this one,” Meadow said. “For as long as I live, I’ll never have a bed as wonderful as the tree bed.”