It was a few minutes after nine at night and my daughter was still awake. She usually went to bed at eight, but I could still hear her restlessly rummaging around her room, probably playing a game or something with her toys. I muted the television programme I was relaxing to before going to bed myself and listened to her feet padding across the ceiling. Smiling to myself, thinking of childhood games and imagination, I got out of the chair and made my way upstairs.
I knocked on her door and suddenly the footsteps stopped and I heard the bedsprings bounce. She knew she was supposed to be asleep and was probably afraid I was going to be annoyed, as it was a school night. I turned the handle and made my way into the room. She was hiding under her duvet and the floor was covered in all of her things – she was obviously having a good time before I interrupted and I felt a little guilty. Only her bedside table lamp was on, so the room was a little dim and with a slight red tinge from the lightshade.
“Aren’t you supposed to be asleep by now?” I asked the mound under the duvets and a small giggle replied. On her bedside table was a book – Jules Verne’s ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ – that I picked up.
“Would you like me to read to you to help you get to sleep?” I asked. I saw the mound beneath the duvet nod and giggle again. I smiled to myself and turned to the page with the bookmark and began reading whilst sitting on the edge of the bed.
After a few minutes of reading, she muttered something.
“What was that? I didn’t quite hear you.” I asked her to repeat. She moved uncomfortably beneath the duvet.
“There’s a monster in my wardrobe.” She whimpered, not quite sounding herself.
“Is that why you can’t sleep?” I replied. She nodded beneath the duvet and pulled her knees to her chest.
“Okay, if I get rid of the monster in the wardrobe, do you promise to go to sleep?”
She nodded again and I rubbed my hand down the duvet where her back was. She was shaking she was so scared.
I moved from the bed and made my way across the bedroom, carefully not treading on any of her toys that were scattered all over the floor. The wardrobe door was shut, as it always is, and I looked at myself in the mirror on one of the doors. I smiled and thought to myself ‘I can’t remember if I ever asked my parents to do this’ – but I probably did. Children and their imaginations are incredibly powerful things. I could see the reflection of my daughter’s mound under the duvet behind me in the mirror and I opened the door.
The tear-strewn face of my daughter stared at me below the hanging clothes, her face white with fear and eyes swollen with crying.
“There’s a monster in my bed.”