I woke up in tears the next morning.
I’d dreamt about my parents. They’d found me and were dragging me off to the police. I was kicking, screaming, begging for them to let me go. I was yelling that I was sorry. But what hurt me the most, what had made me cry, was hearing Dad say he didn’t and never had loved me.
Thinking about the dream made me start to cry more, but I heard the knock at the door and a voice say, “Room service.”
I quickly crawled out of bed, threw on a pair of shorts, and opened the door.
“Zander,” I whimpered when I saw him standing there in a tee shirt and jeans, holding what I assumed was my breakfast.
At the sight of my tear-stained face, he asked, “Alex, what’s wrong?” He probably saw the fear in my eyes because before I could answer, he sat the tray on the floor and pulled me into a hug.
“It’s okay,” he whispered into my hair.
I nodded slightly and let him hold me as I stood shaking.
“What happened?” he asked after I was finally still.
“I had a dream about my parents,” I mumbled.
“It was just a dream. Your mother can’t hurt you,” he responded.
“M-my dad…” I began.
“Loves you,” he finished.
I shook my head. “No. He said-“
Alexander pushed me away and stared into my eyes. “He. Loves. You.”
I mirrored his stare, but more timidly, and instantly felt safe.
“Okay,” I said and hugged him.
“Everything will be okay. I promise,” he said, returning my hug.
I finally asked the question that had been constantly nagging me since the previous night. “How do you know?”
After a few seconds of silence, he said, “Because I’m going to protect you.”
I hugged him tighter. I wanted to believe him, believe everything that he had told me, but I had a history of trusting the wrong people. I was about to say this to Alexander, when he picked me picked me up and carried me to the bed.
I was shocked and opened my mouth to protest, but he said, “You’re still tired. Get some more rest.”
“I don’t want to have that dream, again,” I said.
“You won’t,” he replied, laying me down.
“How do you know?” I asked for the second time.
I sat up and watched him pick up the tray, that I’d forgotten he’d brought, and sit it on the table next to the remnants of the feast from the night before.
“Zander?” I called, unsure if he had heard my previous question.
“One second,” he said making his way to close and lock the door.
“What are you–” I was interrupted by him pulling the covers up to my shoulders, forcing me to lay down.
Then, he laid down on the bed facing me.
“Z-zander?” I said flustered and confused.
He pulled me closer to him and held me.
“Sleep,” he quietly said.
“B-but the dream–”
“Is just a dream. You need to sleep.”
I didn’t know what else to say except, “Why are you doing this?”
I felt the soft chuckle in his chest before it was audible. “To sleep in a decent bed when I should be working. The kitchen might be cozy and warm, but bags of flour aren’t as comfortable pillows as you’d think they’d be.”
“Zander,” I hissed.
“Why are you doing this for me?”
He got quiet again. I thought he wasn’t going to answer me or his “sleeping on the job” joke wasn’t a joke.
“If you have to ask, then you don’t need to know,” he said burying his face in my hair.
“Please sleep, Alexia. No more talking, okay?”
Hearing him say my name made me blush a little.
“Okay?” he asked again.
I closed my eyes and listened to his heartbeat. It was steady and lulled me into a sleepy daze.
I felt Caramel jump onto the bed and lay on my feet. I suppose she realized that I wasn’t going to feed or play with her right now.
Though he told me to sleep, Alexander was out before I was. I could hear his quiet breathing. It was peaceful and I felt calm and safe.
I opened my eyes and scooted back until I managed to see a bit of his face. His eyes were closed and he laid absolutely still, arms comfortably around my middle.
In short, he truly looked perfect.
I moved closer to him and let his heart, breathing and both his and Caramel’s warmth take their hold on me.
I slipped into a deep sleep and had the best dream I’d had in years.
I had a real friend. I was happy.