“No, please….” She started to sob, her body rackedwith huge gasps of air as her tears drenched his shoulder.

“No, oh, no…Mama!”

Anthony stiffened. He knew that Kate always referred to her stepmother as Mary. Could she actually be speaking of her true mother, the woman who had given her life and then died so many years ago?

But as he pondered that question, Kate’s entire body stiffened and she let out a shrill, high-pitched scream.

The scream of a very young girl.

In an instant, she turned about, and then she leaped into his arms, grabbing at him, clutching his shoulders with a terrifying desperation. “No, Mama,” she wailed, her entire body heaving from the exertion of her cries. “No, you can’t go! Oh, Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama…”

If Anthony hadn’t had his back to the headboard, she would have knocked him over, the force of her fervor was that strong.

“Kate?” he blurted out, surprised by the slight note of panic in his voice. “Kate? It’s all right. You’re all right. You’re fine. Nobody is going anywhere. Do you hear me? No one.”

But her words had melted away, and all that was left was the low sound of a weeping that came from deep in her soul. Anthony held her, and then when she’d calmed a bit, he eased her down until she was lying on her side again, and then he held her some more, until she drifted back into sleep.

Which, he noticed ironically, was right about the time the last of the thunder and lightning split the room.

When Kate woke the following morning, she was surprised to see her husband sitting up in bed, staring down at her with the oddest look…a combination of concern, and curiosity, and maybe even the barest hint of pity. He didn’t say anything when her eyes opened, even though she could see that he was watching her face intently. She waited, to see what he would do, and then finally she just said, somewhat hesitantly, “You look tired.”

“I didn’t sleep well,” he admitted.

“You didn’t?”

He shook his head. “It rained.”

“It did?”

He nodded. “And thundered.”

She swallowed nervously. “And lightninged as well, I suppose.”

“It did,” he said, nodding again. “It was quite a storm.”

There was something very profound in the way he was speaking in short, concise sentences, something that raised the hair on the back of her neck. “H-how fortunate that I missed it, then,” she said. “You know I don’t do well with strong storms.”

“I know,” he said simply.

But there was a wealth of meaning behind those two short words, and Kate felt her heartbeat speed up slightly. “Anthony,” she asked, not certain she wanted to know the answer, “what happened last night?”

“You had a nightmare.”

She closed her eyes for a second. “I didn’t think I had those any longer.”

“I didn’t realize you’d ever suffered from nightmares.”

Kate let out a long exhale and sat up, pulling the covers along with her and tucking them under arms. “When I was small. Whenever it stormed, I’m told. I don’t know for a fact; I never remembered anything. I thought I’d—” She had to stop for a moment; her throat felt like it was closing up, and her words seemed to choke her.

He reached out and took her hand. It was a simple gesture, but somehow it touched her heart far more than any words would have done. “Kate?” he asked quietly. “Are you all right?”

She nodded. “I thought I’d stopped, that’s all.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, and the room was so quiet that Kate was sure she could hear both of their heartbeats. Finally, she heard the slight rush of indrawn breath across Anthony’s lips, and he asked, “Did you know that you speak in your sleep?”

She hadn’t been facing him, but at that comment, her head jerked quite suddenly to the right, her eyes colliding with his. “I do?”

“You did last night.”

Her fingers clutched the coverlet. “What did I say?”

He hesitated, but when his words emerged, they were steady and even. “You called out to your mother.”

“Mary?” she whispered.

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’ve never heard you call Mary anything but Mary; last night you were crying for ‘Mama.’ You sounded…” He paused and took a slightly ragged breath. “You sounded quite young.”

Kate licked her lips, then chewed on the bottom one. “I don’t know what to tell you,” she finally said, afraid to press into the deepest recesses of her memory. “I have no idea why I’d be calling out to my mother.”

“I think,” he said gently, “that you should ask Mary.”

Kate gave her head a quick and immediate shake. “I didn’t even know Mary when my mother died. Neither did my father. She couldn’t know why I was calling out to her.”

“Your father might have told her something,” he said, lifting her hand to his lips and giving it a reassuring kiss.

Kate let her eyes drop to her lap. She wanted to understand why she was so afraid of the storms, but prying into one’s deepest fears was almost as terrifying as the fear itself. What if she discovered something she didn’t want to know? What if—

“I’ll go with you,” Anthony said, breaking into her thoughts.

And somehow that made everything all right.

Kate looked to him and nodded, tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much.”


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