I strain but hear nothing. No shrieks on a nightmare's heels come lunging through the thin plaster walls. No braying cries telling of some secret slithering boogeyman chased away by tears. Just silence.
It never goes away. When they were little it was "crib death", but the terror that pumps my veins with adrenaline and fills my mouth with dust is nameless and ancient. It is nothing and everything at the same time.
I slide out of bed like a cat burglar and the cool air is a phantom's kiss that caresses my neck. My toes knead the berber carpeting as every nerve ending seems to fire at once. A chill gallops and I brace myself. On tiptoes, to her door first. I tilt my head towards the pockmarked wood, covered with posters of bands that look too young to shave. I listen for her. For the soft and smothered sobs that come after reality seeps in.
Down the hall now, towards his room. The light coming through the bathroom window is a yellowing slant of bridegown that falls in a neat rectangle on the frigid tiles and looks as menacing as the dark spot in an x-ray. I keep walking until I'm at his door. The blue light from the planeterium he uses for a nightlight seeps along the edges of the door jamb. My heart is a kettle drum. I listen for him.
I stand there listening for a few minutes and suddenly all of their time on this earth is mine to peruse. The memories spread out in all directions like an endless desert hardpan. I remember her swaddled and wide-eyed in the crook of my arm. I remember his laughter as he stands in the laundry basket. I remember the circus and the arguments and the times spent dancing.
I am alone tonight. They aren't even here. They sleep safely in another house that is no longer mine to watch over. I smile at my own foolishness.
I fall asleep many hours later.