My family’s laughter drifts down the stairwell to my room, sometimes in a single, identifiably-loved voice and sometimes in unison, in the voice that is my family. Downstairs it is quiet and dim. I’m in a rented house on Donner Lake and my young son is lying beside me on a mammoth bed, his eyes heavy with sleep but too stubborn to close.
The mammoth bed is unnecessary. Luke crawls up on my chest and sighs. He tugs at the hem of my shirt, exposing a few inches of my stomach and lays his head there. It reminds me of a time when he lived on the other side of that layer of skin, when I breathed and ate for both of us. I wonder if he remembers it too, in some little way.
I lay my hand on top of his. He turns my hand over and slowly twirls my wedding ring around my finger.
More laughter sings its way to us downstairs.
“People,” Luke says. “House. Up. Stairs.”
“Yes, there are people upstairs in the house,” I tell him. “Ama and Pop-pop, Great Pop-Pops, Cuncle Chris, Aunt Kelly and Uncle Albin, and Da-da.”
“Yep. Do you like those people?”
“Did you have fun today, swimming and throwing rocks?”
“Fun.” After a pause, he adds, “Be-be sleeping.”
“Yes, Baby Lily is sleeping. Baby went night-night.”
“Nigh-nigh,” he says, around his binky.
“It’s time for Luke to go night-night too.”
We watch the ceiling fan spin around in the almost dark. His eyes grow heavier, but he’s still not quite ready to set them down. I bury my nose in his fluffy hair.
“I love you, Luke.”
He falls asleep.