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by Sharmagne Leland-St.John

She was on the ragged edge of sleep, in those dark velvety moments just
before dawn, in the small, crowded bedroom of the old Spanish bungalow on
Vista Grande. The small bedroom she shared with her sister, and a year later
with a newborn baby brother.  Her dark-eyed sister, Nicole, lay sleeping in
the twin bed, which ran crosswise at the foot of her own long, narrow bed.
Curled up on her side, facing the wall, with its swirls of white wedding cake
plaster, black hair in pink rubber curlers, her older sister slept, unaware,

Some unidentifiable murmur in the dark and distant garden with its tangle of
fruit trees and brick edged, moss covered, herring bone pathways, had
awakened her, terrified her. She lay there shaking  under her thin blanket,
sobbing into the softness of a feather pillow, encased in its delicately
embroidered slip.  Sewn by a grandmother who lived far away, but dreamt of
her nightly, and sent beaded moccasins at Christmas and braid ties and bows
for her birthday.

A light went on in the turquoise and gray tiled, deco bathroom that
separated the master bedroom from the small room with its textured, white
walls and large picture window. The room they called the nursery. The warm
glow from the nightlight spilled out into the room, from the crack beneath
the door, with its crystal doorknobs.  Shadows danced menacingly across the
iced walls.   There was that sound again.  Then the door opened, and her
mother’s arms were around her.  Petting her, smoothing her hair, brushing her
tawny bangs from her forehead.  Patting her on the back.  Whispering ‘shhh’
into her tiny ear, “There baby, don’t cry.”   She almost sang the words,
tender and somewhat out of key. Then the sound again. “Coo-coo coo-coo, ” 
"It’s just a mourning dove calling to his mate.”
“Coo-coo coo-coo”  She had not the slightest idea what a mourning dove was,
but she believed her, she trusted her, she had no reason not to, yet.

The child stopped crying as she breathed in her mother’s perfumed aroma now
full of the musky scent of sleep and dreams.  Then the small body in the
vastness of the twin bed, relaxed in her mother’s arms, as tears were wiped
from her emerald, thick lashed eyes, first with gentle finger tips, then the
silky corner of a chenille dressing gown.

The young mother slipped into the narrow bed with the child, kissed away the
remaining tears, and held her tightly against her breast, until she drifted
off once more to the unparalleled safety of sleep.
"Coo-coo Coo-coo"

Years later, lying naked in a spacious, antique, wooden bed in a
bougainvillea-covered villa, in Tuscany, the woman who grew from the child,
would tell her lover, this was her earliest memory.


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