Read Sleeping Beauty Online

Authors: Judy Baer

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Religious, #Christian

Sleeping Beauty

BOOK: Sleeping Beauty
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Sleeping Beauty
Judy Baer

Published by Steeple Hill Books

For Joan Marlow Golanyou are one of the best!

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Epilogue

Chapter One

M y sister, Mickey, apologizes a lot these days.

I cant imagine what Tommy and Terry were doing to knock it off the top of your china cabinet. You have no idea how badly I feel, Suze. Well pay for it, of course.

Never mind, I didnt like those Waterford crystal candlesticks much anyway.

Mickey has been asking for forgiveness, expressing regret and acting contrite for three years. Thats when her twins learned to walk. Before that, life was relatively calm. Since the boys mastered locomotion, however, nothing has been the same. Tommy and Terry are adorable with loose black curls, blue-violet eyes with long lashes as dark as midnight, rosy cheeks and wide smiles that reveal faint dimples. We lovingly refer to them as the Terror Twins, Tommy Tomahawk and Terry the Tormentor.

Mickey, whose name is short for Michelle, flung herself onto my couch. I cant go. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to make you take care of the boys for three months.

Nonsense. Theyre my flesh and blood. Of course Ill take care of them. Saying it, I felt a little like the martyr Stephen stepping up to be stoned. Do what you need to do to adopt your baby girl. If it means staying in South America for ten or twelve weeks until the baby is ready to leave the country, then go for it.

Medical problems had made it impossible for Mickey to have any more children, and shes always dreamed of having a little girl. I love my sister and would do anything for her. Id give her a kidney. Of course, offering to care for the Terrors for twelve weeks might be more like giving her both my kidneys.

Have you heard anything on the new job yet? Mickey asked.

Im interviewing in Chicago on Thursday.

You arent moving there are you?

No, but I have to interview at the main office.

What if you have to start immediately? You wouldnt be able to take care of the kids while were gone.

The position doesnt actually open up for four months. Someone is retiring. Besides, if I did have to travel, Mom and Dad could manage an overnight or two with the boys. My parents, though only in their early sixties, cant handle the boys full-time. When I think about it, no one can, not even the boys own parents. Mom and Dad would come here to feed the animals anyway.

Speaking of the animals, what have you got now? Other than that crazed hamster, I mean.

Hes not crazed. Hes sensitive, thats all. Whenever Hammie perceives that Im upset, he gets upset, tooand begins to run on that wheel of his until I settle down. Hes become a great predictor of my emotions. Hes also made my home a much calmer place. I have to stay calmdeep breathing and envisioning a sunny place with vast white beaches and dolphins playing in the surfotherwise the sound of that whirring, rattling wheel in his cage would drive me nuts.

Theres a lady in my spinning class who was very interested in what you do. She is looking for a dog for her mothersomething loving and easy to spoil.

Chipper would be perfect. Shed like a black Pekingese. Hes small, dignified, affectionate, a real character. He needs lots of brushing though.

Thats fine. Her children have requested that Grandma get a dog to groom so shell be too busy to tell them to cut their hair and dye it back to normal colors. But whats this dogs problem?

All my pets come with problems. Im a foster mother for a last-chance pet adoption agency. These are the animals that literally no one wants. When they reach our agency, these are the saddest little creatures on the planet. Health problems, age, bad hair and bad habits bring them to us. I take in these pitiful little creatures, fatten them up, doctor them until they are healthy, teach them manners and make them more desirable in any way I can. Then I attempt to place them in loving homes.

His foot is missing. Got it caught in a mousetrap. He wandered around lost, dragging it until it got infected. It may bother someone else but it doesnt bother Chipper.

Mickey winced. Poor little thing. Do you have a photo? Ill take it to spinning tomorrow.

At that moment, the mini-watchdog in question set up a commotion in the kitchen. There were no burglars in the house, just two naughty scamps trying to remove a package of Oreos from the top shelf of a cupboard.

Terry stood on my kitchen counter tippy-toed on the Minneapolis telephone book reaching for the cookies while Tommy, belly down on the counter, resolutely held on to Terrys ankles. When Terry fell hed take Tommy right off the counter with him, but they hadnt factored that into their equation. The twins always assume they will succeed at their schemes and spend little time dwelling on the consequences of their actions.

Terry! Mickey screeched unhelpfully. Her guilty son turned to look at her and teetered on his perch. Mickey reached out to catch Terry while I dove for Tommy, still clinging tenaciously to his brothers feet. The impact of Terrys fall sent Mickey flying backward into my kitchen table. I heard the tinkle of breaking glass.

Mickey and Terry stared down at the other Waterford candlestick holder lying shattered on the kitchen floor.

Oh, well, I said weakly. At least now theyre a matching set again.

 

Discipline is always harder on the adults than the children themselves. As the boys sat in opposite corners of my living room howling at the indignity of having to stay in one place for more than twelve seconds, Mickey and I sat across the room pretending we could hear ourselves talking.

Are you going to be able to handle a third child, Mickey? I tried to be gentle. It takes a village to raise just these two.

Well be fine. The boys will be in school soon. That will help.

It will help Mickey, but what about the American educational system? Isnt it in enough trouble as it is?

Tell me more about this job interview, Mickey encouraged. Are you flying in and out the same day?

No. The interview is early in the morning. Ive made a reservation at the Omni. Ill have dinner, relax and get a good nights sleep to be sharp for the meeting.

Overnight? Mickeys blue eyes darkened. Suze, are you sure?

Positive, I said shortly.

But your problemWhat are you going to do about that? I mean, really, a hotel?

I willed myself to be calm. My problem as you so obliquely refer to it, has kept me from traveling for far too long. Ive decided to fight back.

Im not going to let it stop me from getting a promotion in my company or from traveling to places Ive always wanted to visit. Its war this time, Mickey.

But how to conduct a war with an enemy that only attacks at night while Im asleep?

You know how you are, Suze. What if you sleepwalk? You could walk out of the hotel and get into trouble.

Sleepwalking. Who would believe the heartache it has caused me?

The registration desk at the Omni is not on street level. Thats why I chose it. Besides, I bought this. I held up the padlock Id purchased this morning. Theres no way Ill be able to unlock it if I am asleep. Dont worry. Ill be fine.

My familys tales about the crazy things Ive done while sleepwalking are legendary. If I remained inside the house during my nighttime meanderings, it would be one thing, but I tend to wander. Its not just anyone who has ended up in her neighbors kitchen making eggs Benedict at 3:00 a.m. or has been awakened by a policeman while in the 7-Eleven buying Tootsie Rolls and trying to pay for them with bus tokens.

My own home is wired with alarms so that if I open a door they wake not only me but the dead in three counties. Other placeswell, thats a different matter.

Ill let the front desk know, I assured Mickey. If they see me leaving, they can bring me back.

I dont know why you want this job anyway. It involves travel. Mickeys lips turned downward at the corners. Your family is here. Well take care of you.

True, they would take care of me, but they also have a lot of laughs at my expense. Theres that running joke my brother, Mike, started when we were in high school thats only grown over the years. How can you tell if Suze has been sleepwalking? he would ask at the dinner table. All the eggs in the carton are already fried!

the washing machine is full of freshly washed shoes.

the dog is wearing an undershirt and a pair of boxers.

Fortunately Mike moved to Germany where he is teaching English and I have a two-year reprieve from his teasing.

Im creative in my sleep. Whats so bad about that?

Everything.

Ive never dared travel alone and its time I quit allowing my fear to rule me and to master this thing. I want to take care of myself and I want to travel.

When youre sleepwalking no one realizes it, Suze. You talk and act like you are totally awake. What if you get mixed up with some horrible man or walk onto the freeway?

Ill buy another padlock. I am going, Mickey, and I dont want you to worry about me. Ill be fine. I didnt tell her Id also considered buying a box of tacks to strew across the hotel-room floor, hoping that pain and blood would wake me up before I escaped.

Okay, if you say so. She stood up and kissed me on the cheek. Now I think Ill take the boys home and give you a break. Youll have plenty of them soon enough.

As I closed the door behind my sister and nephews, I leaned against it and sighed. Mickey was worried about my health and welfare, certainly. Didnt she realize that Id probably be in more danger from the Terrors than wandering alone and asleep on Michigan Avenue?

Chapter Two

T he flight from Minneapolis to Chicago took just over an hour, and I reached my hotel with plenty of time to check in and unpack before dinner. My college roommate, Darla, is in middle management in the insurance company for which we work. She works in the Chicago office and picked me up at seven for dinner.

She held out her hands, wrapped her arms around me and squeezed tightly, like a hungry boa constrictor. I have missed you so much. You never get to the Windy City to see me. She glanced at me sympathetically, dyed blond curls falling into her face. She scraped the hair from her eyes with her fingers. I understand, of course, but I do wish youd travel more. Come on, the cars this way.

I quickly got into her car.

Are you nervous? she asked. About your interview?

It will be more money and a promotion but I have mixed feelings about the added travel.

She held up her hands and waggled her fingers as if to indicate something eerie. Because of the woo-woo sleepwalking?

Darla and I roomed together in college so she, more than most, knows the scope and gravity of my affliction.

Remember the night we found you sitting on the front steps of the administration building trying to convince one of the stone lions to let you pet him? Or the time you took a shower in your pajamas?

I wasnt exactly awake to remember, Darla, but Ive certainly heard about it enough. We graduated from college a while ago. Surely something interesting has happened since then that would be more fun to discuss.

Darla screwed up her face as if she were considering my statement. Nope, I dont think so. Suze Charles sleepwalking stories are urban myths on campus by now. Have you forgotten the time you got into the cafeteria and set every table? Three hundred plates, cups and sets of silverware. You folded the paper napkins into little hats and everything.

Ive tried to forget, but no one will let me.

Of all the things I could be remembered formy work with animal rescue, my graduation summa cum laude, my masters degree, the volunteer mission work for my church or even my ability to cross my eyesbut no, Im famous for what I dont remember doing, all the mayhem Ive caused in my sleep.

At least you arent a sleep eater. You dont raid the refrigerator at night, Darla said. That, at least, is something to be grateful for.

If I were, Id be sunkand weigh about three hundred pounds.

But youre a sleep cooker and an amazing one, at that. You make better brownies sound asleep than I do wide awake. Remember the time you visited me over break and made fifteen pie crusts and left them rolled out all over the counters? Mom still tells stories about that.

Of course she does. Everyone who knows me tells stories about me. Im the only one not conscious to enjoy them. A wave of despondency crashed over me. Instead of outgrowing the sleepwalking, Im afraid its getting worse.

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