The squeak of the metal bed frame should have driven Nia crazy, but it didn’t. She’d missed the sound. She smiled as she watched Devin shrug his shoulders to his ears and splay his arms and legs outward forming an X with each jump.
“You better hope mom doesn’t catch you,” she said every couple of minutes, as it was her big sisterly duty.
Devin loved it, giggling more and more with every warning. Jumping on the bed was his favorite activity. Especially since learning he wasn’t allowed to.
“Look at how high I can go,” he squealed.
“Yeah, I see,” she said. “You’re way up there…like Superman.”
His smile performed the impossible task of spreading even wider and Nia took a mental picture of the moment before it was too late. A mental shrine to his infectious joy. A shrine to a time before their mother cried nonstop. Before their father left. Before the guilt defined her and ate away at everything she was before that day.
Devin was still bouncing, but the squeaking had stopped. Next, she knew, his giggles would fade. And then, not soon after, Devin would follow.
The moment would be over and she would cry from the sudden emptiness. His absence creating a hole that bore into her. It was a pain that seared at her flesh and ripped at her heart. That shuddered her breaths and knotted her stomach.
To her it wasn’t enough. To her, she deserved more. It was a dangerous feeling and it never failed to scare her. But then she would remember how leaving him alone for only a minute created a painful void in their lives…she did that.
And now, all she could do was hang on, waiting for the moment when the metal frame squeaked once again and Devin’s giggles tamped down the guilt, if only for a moment.