The house was a two-story brown-shingle job set back from the road but not far from the houses on either side. The windows were all dark. Remo brought us in through the front door, which didn’t appear to be locked. Janine had gone to sleep, I supposed, and we tiptoed in. Maybe she was just as (un)psyched about this sibling reunion as I was.
“Landon’s room is the first one at the top of the stairs,” Remo whispered, pointing up the short flight from the living room. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Part of me wanted to say, hey, I’ll just grab a pillow from here and sleep on the floor of your hotel room, all right? But I didn’t think Ziggy would go along with that. So instead I said, “See you tomorrow.” Or later today, as the case may be…
We crept up the stairs with our bags and into a bedroom. I shut the door behind Ziggy and turned on the light. The walls were powder blue and so were the sheets on the beds. The two beds were sort of like bunk beds except the lower one jutted out—headboard against the wall—while the upper one had one side against the wall. The upper one had a tower of drawers built into one side and a ladder on the other.
Without discussing it, we got ready for bed and then both climbed into the lower one together. The only reason it was big enough for both of us is that we are not large. It was roomier than a tour bus sleeping berth, anyway.
I lay there spooned around Ziggy listening to the furnace come on and hot air start to blow. It wasn’t that cold here compared to Boston, but I guess it had been somewhat chilly outside. I really hadn’t noticed. Sleep was out of the question, apparently, but I figured I could lie there quiet and still and at least not keep Ziggy awake.
He wasn’t asleep either. “Hey, look,” he said softly. “At the ceiling.”
Our eyes had adjusted to the dark. There were glow-in-the-dark stickers up there—stars and ringed planets and the biggest one was the full moon. Some of them we couldn’t see because of the bunk bed over our heads.
“And you know what that is?” he whispered, pointing at another shape up there.
“Is that… a dog?” A dachshund maybe? Or a collie?
“It’s a sign that everything is going to be okay,” Ziggy said, nestling back against me.
“I thought signs usually came out of the actual sky, not a fake one.”
He clucked his tongue. “Silly. Signs can be anywhere. There’s your avatar right there, right in this house, watching over us.”
“A moon dog.”
You know what? I did get to sleep after that. I slept pretty well, in fact. Is that why parents tell their kids bedtime stories? Is that how they work? No one had ever told me a bedtime story before so I had no experience with that.
Sometimes the most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves, though. The ones about who we are and who we want to be. You get to choose what kind of person you are, ultimately. Your parents will try to make you something—your school, society, experiences, and memories will shape you—but ultimately you have the choice not to be that. To let your successes instead of your damage define you.
I say those words now because they’re what I needed to hear then.