“Danny doesn’t like blue,” Cara said, tugging on Amanda’s hand.
“But it’s not all blue,” Amanda said, holding the sheet set down for her daughter’s appraisal. “See, there are white clouds and yellow stars.”
“But the sky is blue.”
“Of course the sky is blue,” Amanda said.
“Blue gives Danny nightmares and when he has nightmares, he wakes me up,” Cara said.
Amanda sighed, replacing the sheets once more among its brethren and strode along the aisle, Cara in tow.
“And that’s why you tore your sheets?” Amanda asked.
Screaming had woke them in the early morning hours. They found Cara’s room a complete mess, cotton ribbons strewn about, the mattress and pillows bare while Cara sat in the middle of the floor, shivering and wide-eyed.
“Danny did it.”
“You’re too old to have an imaginary friend. Just tell me what’s bothering you,” Amanda said.
She halted and crouched to her daughter’s level. Large brown eyes stared at her, slightly puzzled and a little hurt.
“Why don’t you believe me, Mama?”
“Because nothing is invisible, baby.”
“The air, chameleons and the Klingons’ Birds of Prey are invisible,” Cara said.
Amanda blinked and burst into laughter. Drawing Cara into her arms, she kissed her daughter’s head, still chuckling.
“Got me there, and you are spending way too much time watching movies with Daddy,” Amanda said.
Cara wiggled out Amanda’s embrace and dashed several feet down the aisle. She spun, facing Amanda, a set of sheets clutched to her chest. Amanda unfolded and joined her daughter. Taking the set from Cara, Amanda studied the field of vivid yellow covered with a pattern in neon pink and orange paisley swirls and purple peace signs.
“Yep, they’re perfect. Danny loves them,” Cara said.
“These would give me nightmares.”
Grasping Cara’s hand, Amanda began the trek to the check out lines, weaving through the labyrinth of aisles. Cara chattered happily, though Amanda couldn’t understand what her daughter said. Each time she halted and asked Cara about it, her daughter only scowled as if Amanda was wasting her time and said:
“I wasn’t talking to you, Mama.”
“Those sure are bright, huh?” The cashier grinned as Amanda handed the sheets to her.
“She inherited her father’s lack of taste,” Amanda said. “He has a pea green suit I’ve buried in the depths of the closet.”
The cashier chuckled and rang the set up. Amanda paid for the sheets, tucked the purchase into her shopping bag and grabbed Cara’s hand.
“Have a nice day,” the cashier said.
“Thanks, I hope so. You too,” Amanda said, walking away.
Amanda slowed her pace as they exited the store, her heart lodging in her throat. On the sidewalk bordering the parking lot, a clown capered, a bouquet of balloons in her hand. Amanda swallowed, her hand squeezing Cara’s.
“A clown!” Cara bounced, pointing. “Can we get a balloon?”
“I don’t know.” Amanda eyed the cavorting creature garbed in silk motley. Unease coiled in her belly. “Why don’t we just go home and I’ll make us some lunch?”
Cara pouted and tugged on Amanda’s hand, refusing to move. They stood halfway between the store’s entrance and the cluster of cars in the parking lot. Amanda spied her car twenty feet beyond the clown. She sighed, giving in to the inevitable.
“Hello,” the clown said.
Amanda cringed, staring at the impossibly wide painted mouth.
“Can we have some balloons?” Cara asked.
“Sure can,” the clown said.
She picked out three strings from the others gathered in her hand, giving one to Amanda. Crouching, the clown grinned and gave the other two to Cara.
“You’re very lucky. This one here is my fiftieth,” the clown said, tugging on the string of the red balloon. It danced above Cara’s head. “And it’s special.”
“It is? How?”
“If you pop it after saying a wish aloud, your wish will come true,” the clown said, her gaze flickering to the empty air to Cara’s right.
“Wow,” Cara said, eyes wide.
“Thank you,” Amanda said, pulling Cara away.
“Thanks, clown lady.” Cara tried waving with the hand holding the balloons, they jostled and bobbed, rubbing together.
“You’re very welcome.”
Amanda’s hand delved into her coat pocket, searching for the keys as they neared the car.
“Can I borrow your pin?”
“Hmm?” Amanda frowned, withdrawing her keys. “What for?”
“I want to make a wish,” Cara said.
It would be one less balloon in the car on the ride home. She handed Cara her balloon, slid the keys back into her pocket and began to remove the decorative pin on her lapel. As she worked the clasp, Amanda glanced at the balloons Cara held. Three shiny balloons, not two.
“Why did she give us three?”
“One for you, one for Danny and the special one for me,” Cara said, passing the other balloons to Amanda.
“Don’t be silly. Danny doesn’t exist.”
Cara glowered at Amanda. She wound the string around her hand, lowering it.
“I wish Mama could see Danny,” Cara said, jabbing the pin into the balloon.
The thin flesh popped, resounding across the parking lot. Amanda gasped.
A white furry creature towered over her. Tiny, leathery wings sprouted from its back. Amanda’s gaze traveled up the torso, and she found herself staring into a pair of large, black eyes. Cat ears flattened as its pink nose twitched nervously.
“This is Danny.”
Danny grinned, the smile nearly consuming the lower half of his face. Sunlight glinted on dagger-like teeth.
Amanda screamed, her hands fluttering to her mouth.
Free of her hold, the balloons drifted to the sky. Two specks of color soon lost among the blue.
This is Dreaming Blithely’s 50th post! Thank you all and I hope you enjoyed the story. 🙂