by February Grace
Hayden’s small body conforms to my own as I fumble with the lock. The door releases, revealing a room too fancy for someone like me.
I’m a man who works with his hands, every single day. Not the kind who belongs at a hotel where they turn down the blankets and leave chocolates on top of the pillows.
Overheated, exhausted, I fight for the last few steps. It is my strength alone we depend on.
“I’m not tired,” he mumbles. I wish he’d just stayed asleep. Jostled back to awareness as we bumped down the steps of an over-packed Disney bus, I knew he’d fight sleep now. His thin, pale arms dangle around my neck, sticking to sunburnt skin.
“Tomorrow is another day.”
He exhales a long, slow sigh. His head, too heavy for his skinny, rag-doll neck, drops back onto my shoulder. His fading eyes disappear beneath the brim of a tricorn pirate hat.
I hope that he will remember this day of dreams and happier things. No doctors. No hospitals. Just us.
I hope that I will too.
I set him down on crisp, fresh sheets. Tiny fingers lose hold of a shopping bag. Factory made plastic gems-- his favorite souvenir-- fall one by one, raining artificial color in dim illumination across the carpet.
“I’ll keep it safe for you.” Toxic tears and drops of sweat congeal and catch fire. They burn my eyes, age my face, and obscure my grieving vision. “I promise.”