"Mom, I wet the bed." The small, shamed voice and the little hand that went with it tugged Louise Hardin out of a deep sleep. She opened one groggy eye to discover her daughter Melissa, standing at her bedside in the darkened room. Behind her, the alarm clock glowed the time: one a.m.
"Mom." Missy's hand tugged once more at the long sleeve of Louise's pale green nylon nightgown.
"Oh, Missy, no! Not again." Louise's whisper was despairing as she rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb her husband, Brock, who slumbered peacefully beside her. Brock had to get up early, at quarter to seven, to be at the office by eight. As he said, the rest of them could sleep all day if they chose, but he had to earn a living. Besides, he hated the fact that Missy sometimes still wet the bed. He was a pediatrician, he knew Missy should be over wetting the bed by now, and he tended to take her frequent accidents personally.
Consequently, Louise, Missy, and her ten-year-old sister, Heidi, conspired to conceal Missy's accidents whenever possible.
"I'm sorry, Mom," Missy offered in a tiny voice when they gained the relative safety of the hallway outside the bedroom. The blue shag carpet felt soft and warm beneath Louise's bare feet. Through the hall window, left uncurtained because it was small and high and on the second floor, Louise could see pinpricks of tiny stars and a wan sickle moon drifting against the black sky. "At least this time I dreamed I was on the potty. It seemed so real! And then I was all wet, and I woke up and I wasn't on the potty at all."
"All your dreams seem so real." If Louise's voice was just a tad dry, she couldn't help it. She was really, really tired, and this was getting to be almost a nightly occurrence. As a seven-year-old, Missy was getting her up at night almost as much as she had when she was a baby.
Light glowed around the partially closed door of the hall bathroom, illuminating the path to Missy's bedroom, which was at the far end of the hall, past Heidi's bedroom and a smaller guest bedroom. Louise had started leaving the light on at night because, in addition to wetting her bed, Missy had suddenly become afraid of the dark. She had nightmares about monsters hiding in her room and watching her as she slept. Sometimes she woke up screaming, and Louise would jump from bed like she had been shot and race down the hall to find her daughter huddled in the center of her bed, in a ball, with the covers pulled over her head, crying her eyes out and gasping something that made no sense. Inevitably, Louise ended up bringing Missy into bed with her and Brock, a practice of which he strongly disapproved. That, Brock informed her, was undoubtedly a large part of Missy's problem. Louise treated her like a baby, rewarding her misdeeds by giving her attention (which was what Brock said she wanted all along) when Missy should have been disciplined instead. Louise knew that Brock probably knew best--as he frequently pointed out, he was the expert--but she could not find it in her heart to punish her seven-year-old daughter for being afraid of the dark. Or for wetting the bed. Or, as Brock said, for nearly anything at all.
The ammonialike smell of urine struck Louise in the face as soon as she stepped inside Missy's room. She sighed. Missy's hand twitched in hers.
"I'm really sorry, Mom," Missy offered again.
Without a word, Louise let go of Missy's hand, closed the door, turned on the light, and crossed to the chest to extract a clean nightgown from a drawer. When she turned around, nightgown in hand, she was frowning. Maybe Brock was right, she thought. Maybe she should try being a little tougher on Missy. She was really becoming tired of getting up in the middle of almost every single night.
Accustomed to the ritual, Missy had already pulled her wet nightgown off and was in the act of dropping it on the floor. Lips thinning, Louise moved to her daughter's side and tugged the dry nightgown over Missy's head. As the gown fell into place, she reached around behind Missy's neck to free the long dark brown braid of her daughter's hair. When Missy glanced quickly up at her, her big hazel eyes questioning, Louise gave the braid a small tug.
Excerpted from Ghost Moon by Karen Robards Copyright© 2000 by Karen Robards. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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