Title: Smiles in the Dark
Specs: Fringe, Peter/Olivia, 5700 words; spoilers through "Marionette"
Rating: PG for imagery
Summary: Olivia has told Peter she doesn't want to be with him; what happens next?
Olive wasn’t afraid of the monsters. During the day, of course, she knew that they weren’t real. Sometimes at night she wasn’t always sure, but it usually didn’t take her long to figure it out one way or the other. Tonight, for instance, there looked like there might be a monster over there, between her closet door and the bedroom door. Something with two lumps (maybe it had two heads), crouched and still. Olive wasn’t sure if she could hear its breathing. She wanted to close her eyes and listen very carefully, but she knew that monsters waited until your eyes were closed to pounce.
(There’s no such thing as monsters you big baby they don’t exist they don’t exist.)
Olive stared and stared. She waited to see movement. Would it shamble out of the room, just a warning this time, on its rounds, ready to check on other little boys and girls? Would it turn her way, eyes glowing in the darkness, and stare at her just as she stared at it? Would it begin to slither toward her, leaving a trail of slime behind it to mark its path, coming to a rest beneath her bed? Or would it leap, flying through the air, landing on top of her, fangs and claws ready to strike?
Olive couldn’t even blink. She realized she was holding her breath; she let it out in a slow hiss, hoping the monster wouldn’t hear.
There was no one she could call for help. She was alone.
Olive counted. One, two, three. Each number was a breath. By the time she made it to fifty, she felt much calmer, much more sure that it simply couldn’t be a monster at all; it wasn’t moving, not even a bit. Then what was it?
First she had to figure out where the light was coming from. Her nightlight had burned out weeks ago, and she hadn’t told anyone; she was old enough to not need a nightlight anymore, she was almost seven after all. The closet door and the bedroom door were firmly closed, and she could see no light peeking in underneath either. The light had to be coming from the window. The streetlight across the street, the one that looked like a cross when it was lit up at night, if she squinted through the mini-blinds.
Olive looked from the two-lumped monster to the pale, thin light coming in through the window. There, on the imaginary line between them, two piles of clean clothes sitting on her desk. The light was hitting the clothes, making a two-lumped shadow over on the wall.
A smile in the dark that no one would see. There were no monsters, Olive knew that. She rolled over and fell asleep.
Olivia woke up, a second’s transition between thin sleep and full alertness. There was someone in her apartment. Her gun was ready on the nightstand – loaded, safety off. She grabbed it and slid out of the bed in one smooth movement, looking blankly ahead with wide eyes as she listened.
In the kitchen.
Gun held in front of her, Olivia made her way to the doorway of her bedroom, feet silent on the floor. It might be a person; she acknowledged that fact. But something about the way the hairs on the back of her neck stood up, something about the goosebumps on her arms, made her think that whatever was in her kitchen wasn’t a person at all. If Olivia had learned anything the last few years, it was that the monsters were real, oh yes, very real.
No fear as she made her way to the kitchen. There was nothing to be afraid of anymore. She would prefer not to die in some horrible way – her eyes sucked out, some flesh-eating disease, a mutant insect – but that didn’t mean she feared any of those things. Oh, you’re afraid, Olivia. Don’t pretend you’re not afraid. Peter’s voice. It really pissed her off that she was still hearing those things in Peter’s voice.
It took her probably ten seconds after she turned the corner to realize what she was looking at. There was nothing there, nothing at all. Just her kitchen, looking slightly dingy, even though she’d scrubbed it with bleach and every cleaner she owned just two days ago. She’d left the light on over the sink, utility bill be damned; she had found the last two weeks that she wanted to see as few shadows as possible.
Nothing in her kitchen, nothing in the rest of her apartment, but the feeling of a presence remained. She knew who it was, of course. The other Olivia, something indefinable of her still trapped in the pores of the place, a miasma that clung to every surface.
She sat at the table and drank. She wondered if they’d had sex on this table. She didn’t have sex on tables, but the other Olivia was much more fun, of course. Quicker with a smile. Happier. The other Olivia probably had sex on tables all the time.
Olivia finished off the bottle, slept on her couch for two hours, then headed off to work with a hangover. Not that that was anything new.
“Hey, Olivia, take a look at this.” She walked over to the pool of blood under the broken window. The wind was cutting right through her coat; Olivia resisted the urge to rub her hands together, to pull her coat tighter, to sigh. She didn’t want Peter asking her how she was. She would prefer to imagine that Peter was not here at all, but he kept insisting on talking to her as though nothing had happened, as though she hadn’t broken up with him five days ago and they hadn’t even been together.
One kiss. She’d gotten one lousy kiss, and she looked like her when it happened.
“It looks like blood,” she said, keeping a careful distance. Peter was kneeling, seemingly enraptured, and it’s not like you could see a thing just looking at blood. Take some samples for Christ’s sake so we can get out of this wind. But Peter was smiling, dear God he was smiling at her, pointing to spatter low on the wall, just a foot above the ground.
“Look at that impact. I didn’t see any wounds on the body that would have spattered like that.”
“The killer?” she asked.
“Has to be. This is a good-sized pool of blood; we should check the local hospitals.” Olivia didn’t wait to see what else he had to say. That was as good a lead as any, so she turned and left, phone out, making some calls. Broyles found him at the third hospital, an eight-year-old boy. Two days later Walter figured out how the real killer had used the child – his next-door neighbor – as a kind of avatar to kill the minister’s wife. Something to do with brain waves and remote viewing. Walter hooked some electrodes up to the boy’s head, gave him a zap, and he was as good as new.
The minister’s wife had been having an affair with the killer, then had broken it off. So he’d killed her. Olivia had bad dreams that night.
And so it went. Two cases since she’d told Peter, then three, and was this how it was going to be? Was this what she had to look forward to from now on? Day after day, the details of the cases blurring together, she couldn’t recognize anyone’s faces anymore, and yesterday Astrid had asked about a case from last year and Olivia didn’t remember it. She’d stood there with her mouth hanging open, wanting to answer but she could not remember. She always remembered.
Waking up in the middle of the night, someone in the apartment. Olivia always got up, always checked, always had her gun. But she was alone. She was alone.
She started doing research in the middle of the night; it was a better use of her time than sleeping. No particular topic – she read about organ transplants and synthetic blood, touch therapy and electrified acupuncture, America’s native peoples and dead languages.
At first she read on her laptop, but she started having headaches every day, so she switched to books. Olivia had always liked books, and it still felt like a treat to go to the library and pull ten, twenty, fifty books off the shelves and walk out with nothing more than a swipe of her card. She arranged them in great towering stacks on her kitchen table. (Have sex on it now, ha!) Every night she read at least one, sometimes two, and took great pleasure in putting them in the “return” pile and noting the titles and authors down on a memo pad. It was a very methodical process, and anything methodical and civilized always calmed Olivia. She stopped taking notes as she read, though. The third or fourth morning, she’d happened to glance down at her little college-ruled notebook, and what she saw there chilled her to the bone.
EM activity in so-called UFO hotspots army bases? Radio/cell phone towers? Michaelson makes reference to classified files can Astrid get them? EM interference something to consider wrt
Peter unexplained buzzing, “exploding head,” assorted other complaints on record.
EM theory Stratton Adams, John Reitz, Bhag Singh Guru, Peter Bishop, George Owen.
Pulses? What could be used to generate an EMP? Check with Peter.
Other explanations for UFO activity Talk to Peter, experimental aircraft, Peter, swamp gas (that’s idiotic, but check it anyway), hallucinations (something with sleep paralysis, call Peter University and talk to Dr. Peter Bishop, he’s the expert on Peter), Peter Bishop, and Peter.
Research on Peter Peter Bishop. Peter?
Call Peter. Talk to Peter. Ask Peter if he knows about Peter. Peter Peter.
With fingers that shook only a little, Olivia picked up the notebook (not realizing she held it by the corner, as though it were soaking wet with some noxious fluid) and dropped it in the trash.
Now she just read, no notes at all beyond her careful entry of the title and author in her memo pad when she was finished. Book after book, till three or four in the morning, usually falling asleep sitting up at the kitchen table. There were no dreams.
They called it aversion therapy in her undergrad psych class. Say you were training a dog, and you wanted him to stop jumping up on you every time you came home. Fill a spray bottle with water, and keep it by the door. When you enter, as soon as the dog jumps, give him a spray. If your dog doesn’t mind being sprayed in the face with water, find something he doesn’t like – a loud shout, a pinch behind his ears, a stern frown. Repeat the activity until the dog comes to associate the undesired behavior with the negative response, and stops.
When Peter tried to talk to her, she didn’t make eye contact with him. He persevered for awhile, but finally he gave up talking to her unless it was absolutely necessary.
Bad dog. Sit. Stay.
Olivia was seeing things. There was not a moment’s doubt that it was all in her head, probably because she hadn’t had a full night’s sleep with a decent REM cycle in about three weeks, but that didn’t keep her from seeing things.
(Where’s the light coming from?)
Her mother walking down the street, on the opposite sidewalk. Not her mother as she would look today, as she had looked Over There, but her mother as she had looked when Olivia was a child, when Olivia had still been little Olive. Olivia stopped dead in her tracks, heedless of the people who tripped over themselves to not run into her back. “What’s the matter with you?” someone shouted, but she heard it only distantly, as though from the bottom of a well.
“Mom?” she’d meant to call out, but it came out as a whisper. Olive had been taught to look both ways before crossing the street, but Olivia stepped off the curb without a second’s hesitation. From walk to trot to jog, and someone might have honked at her but she didn’t stop to listen. Across the street and down the sidewalk, picking up speed, but when she caught up with the woman she wasn’t a woman at all but a little Puerto Rican man. His hair wasn’t even the same color.
Two days later she saw a man at the library, on the bench across from the circulation desk, eating a baby. The nice lady checking out her books followed Olivia’s stare but didn’t seem to notice anything. Olivia blinked, and looked down at her hands for a beat, then looked back. The man lifted the baby to his mouth and tore off another hunk of flesh. Olivia calmly took her books, put them in her canvas bag along with the due date receipt, walked to the lobby, into the women’s restroom, and retched. She hadn’t eaten that day (or yesterday, not as far as she could remember), so it wasn’t too bad, really.
And she still saw Peter. Of course she still saw Peter.
“Olivia? How…how are you?” Astrid’s voice on the phone. Olivia heard her restart the question, trying to make it come out nice and easy, and not the serious inquiry into Olivia’s health, physical or otherwise, that she knew it actually was. Olivia ignored her, just grunted. “Walter was hoping you could come in to the lab today? He had something he wanted to show you? On the victim’s body?”
When was the last time she’d been in the lab? A week ago, at least. Resolutely pushing aside the flash of anger she felt at Astrid’s voice, at the way she made each statement a question (bad dogs should be spoken to quietly, carefully, lest you provoke them into violence), Olivia told her that she would be right down.
Aversion therapy worked both ways. As she parked, walked to the building, made her way down to the basement, Olivia felt herself become more and more anxious, until finally she had to stop and rest against the wall. Her heart was hammering, her palms were sweaty, and there were spots floating in her field of vision. (Where’s the light coming from?) She counted her breaths. By the time she got to eight, she was ready. Through the doors, and if her voice was a little brittle, and her eyes a little bright, she didn’t think anyone would notice.
Peter, maybe, but she didn’t look at Peter any more.
“Agent Dunham!” Walter was always so happy to see her. “You look well, Agent Dunham! Doesn’t she look well, Peter?” Peter said something low and noncommittal. Olivia joined Walter beside the gurney, where what was supposed to be a body was lying on top. It looked more like a man-shaped blob of goo than anything else. The face was smooth, as though a sculptor had just begun to form it from a block of clay.
“Shapeshifter?” she asked, but Walter was already shaking his head at her, that warm, slightly-vapid smile of his beaming her way. Not for the first time, she wondered that the sight of Walter bothered her not at all. Walternate had subjected her to abuse, to the attempted destruction of her own personality and memories, to torture, and had finally sentenced her to death. But for all that they were the same person on a genetic level, Walter was so totally different that he seemed a different person entirely. Olivia knew that wasn’t entirely true – there was something dark inside Walter, something that had maybe only been assuaged temporarily by Peter’s kidnapping and Walter’s resultant insanity – but it didn’t seem to matter. She felt herself again around Walter, and that was good enough for now.
“No, no. He didn’t look like this when we brought him in. In fact, he looked completely normal! Except dead, of course. Very dead. Profoundly dead. He’d been drained of blood. Exsanguinated. He was no longer sanguine, haha, but that’s what one must expect.”
“Well, it was obviously a vampire,” Olivia said, lifting the smooth thing’s hand (no articulated fingers, just gentle creases where they would be, like an artist’s study), looking at its palm. Walter chuckled, and Astrid smiled, but if Olivia had looked at Peter – she did not, of course – she would have seen his brow wrinkle, would have seen him start to frown.
“I asked Astrid to call you down here because I thought that you might recognize him. Something about his face seemed familiar,” Walter said, eating pudding of all things.
“He doesn’t even have a face.” Olivia dropped the hand and pointed, and in fact there was even less face now than there had been just a few minutes ago. Now there was only a slight convexity that might have been a nose, two slight depressions that might have been eyes.
“That’s why we took pictures,” Astrid explained, and Olivia followed her over to the bank of computers. Astrid tapped a few keys, and a picture of the thing, from when he used to be a man, popped up on one of the monitors.
“Oh, God!” Olivia choked out, taking an involuntary step back. The picture had been taken from above, bearing that flat, shadowless rendering that all crime photos possess. The face was bone white, even the lips; the eyes were cloudy, unfocused; the throat had been sliced open from one side to the other, a smooth pink grin.
Peter’s face. He stared at her with dead eyes, almost reproachfully. You let this happen to me, Olivia. Peter’s voice. Even now, she was still hearing Peter’s voice. You let this happen to me, Olivia, and you’re glad, aren’t you? You’re glad to see me like this. This is exactly what you wanted. It’s only fair. I abandoned you Over There. You came for me and I left you, I ran for freedom holding her hand, the other you, the better you. I miss her, Olivia.
“Olivia?” Peter’s voice again, but she wasn’t listening to Peter’s voice, she wasn’t looking at Peter’s face, she wasn’t, she wasn’t. A hand on her elbow, and she jerked, looking around. It was only Astrid, looking at Olivia with mild concern.
“Is everything okay?”
“Fine, fine. I just wasn’t expecting it.” Walter was looking at her quizzically, spoon bearing creamy beige pudding held up halfway to his mouth. Astrid didn’t seem convinced, though Olivia didn’t care.
“So do you recognize him?” Astrid asked, that tone back in her voice. The tone that said she was worried Olivia might do something strange, or dangerous. Since the tone made Olivia’s fingers twitch, and made her think how satisfying it would be to just push Astrid away, see a look of surprise come over her face, maybe see her stumble a bit and fall, Olivia really couldn’t blame her.
She looked back at the monitor. Peter stared at her with his dead eyes. “No, I don’t recognize him,” she said. She was aware that her fingers were cold, and that there was a flat, brackish taste in her mouth. Olivia decided to stop by the library on her way back home and check out a book about insanity. Maybe one on schizophrenia as well. Cold fingers and a bad taste were probably the first symptoms.
“I don’t recognize him at all.”
Rachel called that night. She had called the last three nights. Olivia let her answering machine pick them up, and then stood over it, hitting PLAY over and over again, listening to her sister’s voice.
“Liv? I just wanted to see how you were, we haven’t talked in awhile. Please call me back when you get this, okay? Even if it’s late.”
Olivia wanted to call her. She wanted to have a normal conversation, about shopping and clothes and good wine and boys. She wanted to smile, and laugh, and maybe feel like a normal person for a few minutes.
But she wouldn’t be able to talk about clothes or shopping. She’d thrown out nearly everything, and was in the process of replacing her wardrobe. She hadn’t bought much. Every time she went out, all she saw were clothes better suited to the other Olivia. Cargo pants that rode low on the hips; leather; big black shoes. Walking through the store, she looked down at her arm and saw the clothes she’d slung over it, as though she’d done it on purpose, and she went ahead and tried everything on and stared at herself in the dressing room mirror. There was even still some color in her hair. The other her smirked back, and Olivia was sure that if she reached out, the mirror wouldn’t be there at all.
Talking about wine would be a quick conversation. “I drink a bottle every night.” There, done.
And she definitely couldn’t talk about boys.
What she wanted to do was call Rachel back, and let everything pour out. I’m cracking up. Everything’s gone wrong, absolutely everything, and I don’t know what to do. And the one person who might have helped me, who would have known what to say, I’ve pushed away. I’ve probably ruined everything between us. And I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t do anything else.
Even now, Olivia could summon up no forgiveness, no understanding. The thought of the two of them together still made her feel vaguely nauseated, and so angry she didn’t know how to process the emotion. She wanted to throw things, she wanted to cry, she wanted to scream at him, she wanted to throw him down and rip his clothes off and claim him as her own. But she could do none of those things. To do any would be to admit defeat. Who’s beating you, Olivia? Peter asked, and she could see him out of the corner of her eye. Why does everything have to be about winning or losing? Can’t you just admit that I made a mistake, everyone made a mistake, and just leave it at that? Why can’t you just let it go?
“Because!” she yelled, and her voice echoed in the empty apartment. “Because I shouldn’t have to. Because it isn’t fair.” A whisper, now, the whisper of little Olive. Olive knew the monsters weren’t real. Olive could hold herself together, even when the bad men put poisons into her blood and scared her. Olive had been special.
Olivia pressed PLAY on the machine. Listened to her sister’s voice one more time, then deleted the message. She sat down with the next book, and read a hundred pages without understanding a single word.
How does an alcoholic know when he’s hit rock bottom? It depends. It might be the first time he slaps his wife for not having dinner ready when he gets home. It might be a DUI. It might be waking up someplace strange, and slowly remembering the horrible things he did the night before. For a lot of people, it’s when they lose their job, when they are no longer able to suck it up and get out of bed, get dressed, get in the car, show up on time, and get the job done.
Olivia could still do her job, so there was no problem. The cases continued to be solved, one after another. She hadn’t accidentally shot a civilian, or misplaced evidence, or done anything else stupid enough to warrant being dragged in to Broyles’ office to be scolded like a recalcitrant third grader. Everything was under control. And if she occasionally forgot what she was doing in the middle of a task and had to stop and think, or if she sometimes had to ask Astrid to repeat herself, well, no one could reasonably expect her to be perfect.
A wolf had bitten a man this weekend. The bite wounds were unmistakable, and the man’s description of the attack was clear and consistent. The subway cameras recorded nothing but a blurry shadow, though, and no one else had been waiting for the train at two in the morning to corroborate the man's story. Walter and Peter were still at the hospital with the victim, Walter gleefully taking casts of the bite marks. Astrid was examining blood and tissue samples at the lab. Olivia decided to head over to Massive Dynamic, see if their computers could glean any more info from the security cameras.
How many times had she made that trip? More times than she could count, though there was a time she could have counted, could have rattled off each individual journey, and why she had taken it, and what she had learned. She could put herself on autopilot during the trip. A long time ago, she’d used that time to think, to work things over, to figure things out. Deduction seemed a bit beyond her abilities now, though, so Olivia just grayed out a little bit. Road hypnosis: taking note of the white and yellow lines, the signs and lights, the other drivers just enough to avoid a collision or an accident, but no more than that.
So she was a little dismayed when she parked her car and walked up to the building to find herself not in front of a building at all, but a wide, green park. Swing sets and merry-go-rounds and swings. Olivia did her best to replay the route she’d taken in her head, to remember when and where she had taken the wrong turn, but she couldn’t. The information simply wasn’t there. It was though the drive had taken place in the distant past, and she could only try to remember the memory of it.
It hadn’t worked yet, but she tried anyway: she closed her eyes for a moment longer than a blink, hoping that everything would sort itself out in the meantime. She opened them, and for ten dizzying seconds she thought the vertigo would be too overwhelming and she would be unable to keep from vomiting. Two images swam in front of her, jockeying for supremacy. One was the pretty green park, the see-saws and jungle gym. The other was the Massive Dynamic building, towering above her, sleek and imposing.
Over to her left, she saw a bench. Was it real? She groped her way over to it with nearly-shut eyes, and it felt solid enough under her thighs. Olivia counted, and it took her until thirty-two to feel ready enough to open her eyes again. She sensed more than saw the cool bulk of the Massive Dynamic building behind her, and watched the cars speed up and down the street in front of her.
Nina was expecting her, but Olivia decided it wouldn’t kill her to wait five extra minutes. She closed her eyes again, and listened to the children play.
“What should I do?”
Peter smiled at her, lounging comfortably on the other side of her table. He had a coin he was gracefully moving back and forth atop his fingers, that little magician’s trick. Olivia watched the coin’s silver progress, back and forth, back and forth, feeling a little hypnotized. She wondered if being a little hypnotized was like being a little drunk, and bit back a giggle.
“You’re back to asking me for advice?”
“You got me home. I don’t think it’s fair to just abandon me now that I’m here.”
“Well,” he drawled, “I think sleep might be a good place to start.”
“I try, but my couch wasn’t made for sleeping.” Back and forth, back and forth. Olivia let her eyes unfocus, and the silver disk turned to a pretty, gleaming blur. It reminded her of when she was little, when she was still Olive, and she would climb underneath the Christmas tree and look up through the boughs at the multicolored lights. If she stared long enough, her eyes would water, and the lights would expand and glow just like this.
“Have you thought about sleeping in your bed?” Peter asked, and he made it sound like such a reasonable question.
“You know what happened there.”
“You threw out the sheets. You bought new ones.”
Olivia stood and paced. She could see the shimmer of the coin in her peripheral vision. Back and forth. “That doesn’t change anything.”
“What would change things, Olivia? What if you got a new mattress? Would that be enough? Or maybe a new bed entirely? Or maybe you should just throw it all out, rent a dumpster. You don’t know what she touched, what she contaminated. It’s all suspect. Get rid of it all and start fresh. Move out of this place – you’ll have to eat your deposit, and there’s a penalty for breaking your lease, but that’s a small price to pay. A new apartment. Will that do it, Olivia? Will that suddenly make it all better?”
“Shut up!” she yelled at him, but he wasn’t there, of course. She didn’t talk to Peter anymore. It was only three; it would be another couple hours before she’d fall asleep, exhausted, slumped over the table, or curled in a ball on her couch if she were lucky. But she was too aggravated to read, knew she wouldn’t be able to concentrate. So she just paced.
Back and forth.
Road hypnosis. Olivia drove, not paying attention to anything beyond the white and yellow lines, the signs and lights, the other drivers. It was night; she knew that much. She no longer remembered why she had left her apartment, or where her destination was. Honestly, not knowing the whys and whens and where-tos of her trip didn’t bother her at all.
She wasn’t surprised when she turned off the engine and realized she was in front of Peter and Walter’s house. She checked her phone – 2:16 a.m. They would both be asleep, no doubt, dreaming peacefully. It would be horrible to wake them up, to rouse them from their beds, to make them find robes and slippers and come answer the door, and for what? She didn’t know what to say, didn’t know why she was here.
But they weren’t both asleep. Someone was awake. She could see the telltale blue flicker of a television through the window.
There were two Olivias. One lived in this universe, and one lived in the other. The other Olivia would never sit in her car, agonized with indecision. But this Olivia slowly came to remember that once upon a time, she wouldn’t have, either. And it was that realization, and with it the knowledge that she did not want to be this person anymore, that made her get out of her car and walk to the front door. She knocked, and waited. Someone came to the door. It was Peter.
And Olivia looked at him, really looked at him for the first time in almost a month, and saw that his eyes were puffy and bloodshot, and his face was drawn. He looked like he might have lost ten pounds. Peter looked at her warily, as though she were a wild animal that might lash out. (A bad dog, she was a bad dog.)
“Hi,” she said, and his face brightened just a little bit.
“Hi,” he said back. And that was it. Olivia felt tears sting at the back of her eyes, and all she wanted was to burrow into his arms. Not yet, though; she had some bridges to pull out of the river first.
“Can I come in?” He nodded, and drew aside to let her enter. She heard the door close behind her, and then the click of the lock being turned. The sound made her glad. His hand hovered an inch from her back, and she let him lead her to the sofa. They sat down, a comfortable foot between them. He was studying her, and Olivia allowed it for half a minute. “I haven’t been sleeping,” she finally answered, his unspoken question hanging in the air between them.
“Really, I never would have guessed.” She accepted the rebuke, unable to look away.
“I don’t want it to be like this between us.”
“All right.” He pushed the hair back from her face, his fingertips grazing her cheek. Then he left, and she heard his footsteps above her head. Back downstairs, carrying clean sheets and one of his own pillows. Peter tucked her in, pulling down the afghan from the back of the sofa. “We used to have a guest bed, but Walter covered it with old dirty boxes filled with crap.” Olivia laughed, and grabbed his hand when he turned to leave. She tugged, and Peter sat beside her, his hip against hers.
“Thank you,” she whispered. Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for smiling at me. Thank you for the sheets. Thank you for saving me. Thank you.
Peter shook his head. “For what?” he said with a friendly smirk, squeezing her hand before he left. She heard him walking upstairs, and felt safe.
The light was coming from the TV, muted. A woman was selling a blender. Olivia looked around. The only shadows came from a stack of Walter’s toys and games – Operation, Stratego, a barrel of monkeys; over on the wall a happy little robot stood, and Olivia imagined that its barrel-shaped head had a face, and that the face had a smile.
Olivia smiled herself, in the dark, and she hoped that even if Peter couldn’t see it, he could feel it. There might be monsters, but they were gone tonight. Olivia rolled over and fell asleep.