I woke up in a cold sweat. I hadn’t gone to sleep until around two A.M. I wasn’t in the apartment. I was in a dark hallway. I tried to scream for help but nothing came out of my mouth. I stood up on my feet and wobbled a little. I walked to the elevator and found that I was on floor four of my building. I had no idea what time it was but if I hurried I could make it back to the apartment before Momma and Mr. Steve woke up.
When I got to our floor and reached for the door knob but it was yanked from my hand. Mr. Steve had opened the door and now stood in the doorway. Worry screamed from his face. His hair was a mess and he was still in his pajamas. His eyes focused straight on me. They were cold. I felt like taking off but he grabbed my wrist.
“I found her!” Mr. Steve shouted. Momma put down the phone that was in her hand. Jaci was sitting in a chair in the kitchen with Megan in her lap. Megan looked like she had been crying and so did Jaci.
“Where were you?” Momma asked. She had been crying too. Tears slipped from her eyes. I didn’t answer.
“Now, I want an answer from you,” Mr. Steve said forcibly.
I tried to speak but I still couldn’t talk.
“Something’s wrong,” Momma said noticing. “Steve, take her to the couch.”
Mr. Steve picked me up and put me on the couch.
“I.I.I.I.I.I.,” I tried. Why couldn’t I talk?
“Get her some water,” Mr. Steve said. “She looks scared as I don’t know what.”
Jaci handed me a glass of water. I gulped it down.
“Honey,” Momma said rubbing my shoulder.
“I…sleep….walk….,” I manage to get out. The words were hard to get out but they felt good to get out. I had been keeping this a secret since April. It was September now. I had been waking up in odd places and having bad dreams for six months. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to keep this a secret?
“You sleepwalk?” Mr. Steve asked.
“Some nights I don’t sleep at all,” I said finding my voice. “Some nights I have horrible dreams that I can never remember. Sometimes I run away in the dream and run away in real life.”
“Honey,” Momma said hugging me. “How long has this been going on?”
“Since April,” I cried.
Momma looked at Mr. Steve.
“Why didn’t you tell us about this?” Mr. Steve asked clearly mad.
“The first time it happened Momma would have never believed I didn’t know how I got there,” I cried.
“When you dropped the mug,” Momma sighed. “So you also sleep eat?”
“You woke up in the fridge didn’t you?” Jaci shouted. Momma and Mr. Steve looked at her.
“Yeah,” I said not looking at her.
“Should we take her to a doctor?” Momma asked Mr. Steve. Mr. Steve just simply nodded.
“I’m ok,” I said. “Really.”
“Where did you wake up?” Jaci asked me.
“I was on level four,” I said.
“How did you get down there?” Momma asked.
“Walked,” I guessed.
Mr. Steve handed Momma the phone.
“Hello? Dr. Janet?” Momma asked.
“Good morning, Natalie,” Dr. Janet said. “Your mother tells me you gave her and your father and her a fright this morning.”
“Yeah, I sleepwalk,” I said like it wasn’t a big deal.
“They also tell me that you’re suffering from insomnia,” Dr. Janet said.
“So what if I don’t fall asleep until the early morning. I’ve been functioning just fine,” I said crossing my arms.
I knew it was stupid to resist the doctor but I didn’t want things to change any more than they already had.
“They also say you have bad dreams that you can’t remember,” Dr. Janet said.
“They aren’t all that bad,” I lied.
“Natalie, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. Sleepwalking is serious and dangerous. Insomnia is not good for a growing person. And let’s be honest. Bad dreams are bad,” Dr. Janet said. “Now we can go through this as friends or this can be a war and I promise you I will fight you until you are able to have a good night’s sleep without any type of medication.”
I didn’t say anything.
“While you decide if you want to do this the easy way or the hard way, may I ask you a few questions?” Dr. Janet asked.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
“How bad is your insomnia? Has it gotten worse since you moved to New York?” Dr. Janet asked pulling out her clipboard.
“No, not really,” I said really wishing it had gotten worse since I moved here. Maybe it would convince my parents to move back.
“Do you often sleepwalk?” Dr. Janet asked. I nodded.
“I’ve woken up in some odd places,” I said. “I’ve woken up with a full plate of food in front of me. I’ve woken up in the middle of the road.”
Dr. Janet looked at me and wrote something down. I knew she wanted to scold me and tell me that sleep cooking was dangerous but she kept her mouth shut.
“Do you have any worries? Or you afraid of something?” Dr. Janet asked writing something done.
“Sure, I have worries,” I said. “Who doesn’t?”
“What do you worry about?” Dr. Janet asked.
Did I really worry about stuff? I worried about fighting in and making friends here in New York. For some reason Mr. Steve worried me. I knew some day I’d have to call him dad and that worried me. I felt bad for not doing it by now but I just couldn’t. I missed my dad more than I’d ever admit. I felt robbed. He didn’t have to die. It was an accident that someone planned and whoever planned it cheated me out of a lifetime of memories. I was worried I’d never go back home which was silly since Momma and Mr. Steve promised me that we’d go back someday and Jaci was getting married this summer. I would we go back this summer, but would my friends still be my friends? Would I be different? Would I ever stop sleepwalking and waking up in strange places? Would I ever have a good night’s sleep again or would this just get worse until I got to the end of my rope? Would I kill myself sleepwalking? Would I die before I fulfilled my father’s commands? Would Darcy still like me? Would I love Florida as much as I do now? Will Florida be different? Will my friends be different? Will I ever stop feeling like I’m trapped in a never ending cycle of long nights?
I had more worries than I thought I had but I couldn’t tell Dr. Janet all of them no matter how much I wanted all of this to end.
“I’m worried that I won’t ever have another good night’s sleep,” I said. Dr. Janet looked at me.
“Ok,” Dr. Janet said putting down her clipboard. “This is off the record. I promise not to tell your parents. What scares you, honey? What really worries you?”
“I don’t know,” I said trying not to cry. It didn’t work. I burst out crying.
“What if I never go back to Florida? What if I kill myself sleepwalking before I go back? What if I change? What if my friends don’t want to me my friends anymore? Will Darcy still like me or will he like someone else? Will I be able to make friends here in New York City? Will I ever be able to at least like Mr. Steve? Will I ever stop feeling like I was robbed of time with my father?” I cried.
“Natalie,” Dr. Janet said, “Moving is hard. When I first moved here I longed to be back in Tulsa. But New York isn’t a bad place. It’s the Big Apple for goodness sakes. Your mom tells me that you refuse to go sightseeing. Not finding things you love about this city will just make you more homesick. And about your stepdad…”
“What about Mr. Steve?” I asked.
“He’s generally worried about you,” Dr. Janet said. “I would say he cares about you. Don’t you care about him?”
“I don’t want him dead for my mom’s sake,” I said. Dr. Janet sighed.
“It’s your choice to like him or not,” Dr. Janet said. “But if you don’t choose to get along with him the next six years are not going to be pleasant.”
“Natalie, what do you do for fun?” Dr. Janet asked picking up her clipboard again.
“Um, not much,” I said. “I don’t have any friends.”
“I’m going to recommend a dance therapy group. Don’t worry its freestyle. Not ballet or anything like that. The dance therapy group helps girls with insomnia, anxiety, and depression. I think you’ll enjoy it,” Dr. Janet said. “And for your sleepwalking I recommend a deadbolt lock.”
I sighed. Maybe this was all a bad dream. Maybe this wasn’t real. Funny, I’ve been able to convince myself of a lot of things but for some reason I couldn’t convince myself this wasn’t real.