Jenny tiptoed quietly out of her room and across the hallway to the living room, where Peter was sleeping soundly on the couch. She stood staring at his face for a few seconds before reaching out a hand to gently shake him awake. His eyes fluttered open and he looked around, confused at first by his surroundings, but then he remembered where he was and his gaze landed on Jenny. His immediate thought was that he had over slept, then he noticed how dark it was. "What time is it?"
"I don't know," she shrugged and looked down at the floor.
"Are you okay? What's wrong?" he sat up and pulled her into his lap.
"I had a bad dream," she said, burying her face in his shoulder.
He pulled her close, "It's okay, I used to have bad dreams all the time, I still do sometimes," he admitted.
"Really?" she looked up at him hopefully and he nodded.
"It's true. When I was in high school, I would fall asleep in mass all the time and I would almost never have good dreams. It was probably because of the preacher speaking in the background, he always was a little scary," he squeezed her a bit and she giggled.
"Is that why my daddy never went to mass? So he wouldn't get bad dreams?" Jenny asked.
"No, your daddy never went to mass because he was lazy and wanted to sleep," he tapped her on the nose, putting aside the fact that being lazy and sleeping was exactly what he wanted to do.
"So, did he ever have bad dreams?"
Peter nodded, "He did, but not as much as me," he closed his eyes, trying to compose himself as unbelievably strong memories flashed through his mind quicker than he could count them.
"What did you do when you had bad dreams?" she stared at him expectantly, waiting for his answer.
He closed his eyes again, hugging her close and willing himself to stay together. "Well, I would wake up all shaky, then I would get out of bed as quietly as I could so I wouldn't wake your dad up, but even if I was completely silent, he would still wake up. He never asked me why I was awake, he just sort of, knew. He would take my hand, and tell me it was just a dream. Then he would wrap his arms around me, and kiss me, and lie down with me, and when I fell asleep again the bad dreams were gone," he gave Jenny one last squeeze and a smile that changed from forced to genuine when she smiled back.
"Can I stay with you?" she asked.
"I think your mom would want you to sleep in your own room," Peter informed her.
She held onto him, "I don't care. I don't want to get scared."
He rolled his eyes, another thing she got from her dad, she was irresistible. "Fine," he sighed and lay back down, letting her curl up against him into a tiny ball.
"Good night Uncle Peter."
"Good night Jenny." He yawned and drifted off once again, wrapping his arms around the tiny girl and hoping he could provide the same comfort that he used to need as a teenager.
The annoying but effective ring of the alarm clock blared loudly in Ivy's ears and her hand made instinctive contact with the snooze button. She sighed, ran a hand through her sleep-tangled hair, pushed herself out of bed, and headed to Jenny's room, knocking lightly on the door before going inside. "Sweetie, it's time to get up. Big day today, happy birthday," she whispered, tiptoeing over to the bed, but she stopped in her tracks when she noticed that it was empty, "Shit." She turned on her heel and made her way to the living room, "Peter, have you seen..." rounding the corner she saw the two of them curled on the couch, Peter holding Jenny protectively, and Jenny clutching his arm as if it were a teddy bear, "Never mind, I found her."
Ivy walked to the couch and carefully lifted Jenny into her arms. Peter yawned and sat up at the movement, "Morning Ivy," he greeted sleepily.
"Trying to kidnap my daughter again are we?" she asked, smiling.
"Not at all, she had a bad dream," he explained.
"Did she say what it was about?"
He shook his head, "No, she just asked if her dad ever had them and if she could stay out here. Nothing about the actual dream."
"Just wondering. She's been having them a lot lately, and almost always when someone visits. I just want to know what's going on, I worry about her is all."
"I understand, you should worry about her. I can ask if you want, or you can do it, either way," he offered, shrugging.
"I'll do it, but if she doesn't tell me she might tell you."
"You sure about that?"
"I am actually. I may be her mom, but if this is something she would only tell her dad then she'll tell you," Ivy explained.
Peter nodded, "Do you mind if I invade your shower?" he asked.
"No problem, this one takes forever to get dressed anyway, so we wont be out of her room for awhile," she rolled her eyes and he laughed as she carried Jenny away. As she walked, she gently nudged her awake, murmuring comforting words as she did so, "Sweetie, it's time to get up. Happy birthday." Jenny yawned and mumbled something unintelligible into Ivy's shoulder as she slowly regained consciousness. "What was that Honey?"
"It's my birthday," she repeated drowsily.
"Yes, yes it is. Now come on, it's time to get dressed."
Once inside the room, Jenny was placed one the bed while Ivy went to the closet to pull out her dress for the party. She silently watched everything from the bed, still in the midst of waking up. "Mommy, can I go to the bathroom?" she asked.
"Sure, just remember that Peter is in the shower, so don't go messing with the curtains or bothering him. Okay?" Ivy warned. Jenny nodded solemnly and left the room, shutting the door after her.
A few minutes later she returned, keeping her hands behind her back and walking slowly over to her bed before shoving a hand under her pillow, withdrawing it and sitting on top of said pillow. Ivy watched with raised eyebrows as she went through this somewhat odd routine, not thinking for a moment that it was in any way innocent.
"Jenny, what have you got there?" her tone was more than a little suspicious.
"Nothing," she gripped the sides of the pillow and wouldn't look at her mom. Ivy rolled her eyes and crossed the room in a few quick strides, reaching under the pillow herself once she got there, easily evading the defense sitting on top of it. She pulled out a very familiar pair of chains, attached by two rings that hung off of them.
"Where did you find this?"
She pouted, "It was on the sink."
"Why did you take it?" she demanded.
"Because Uncle Peter said that one was daddy's," she explained, pointing to one of the chains.
"I know you want more stuff that belonged to your dad, but there are somethings you just can't have, this is one of them. Do you understand?" Ivy looked her in the eyes until she nodded went to sit on her bed. She sighed and slipped the chains into Jenny's hands, "Can you put these back where you found them, I promise I won't tell."
She smiled and started to head out of the room again, pausing for a moment in the doorway. "Mommy? Why are there rings on Uncle Peter's necklace?" asked Jenny.
"I think your dad bought them."
Peter stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around his waist and went over to the sink. He had a momentary panic when he didn't see his necklace, recovering slowly when he spotted it. He shook his head, he could have sworn he'd left it on the other side. He held it in his hands for awhile before unclasping the chains and pulling one of the rings off. It felt cold and smooth in his wet hands and he closed his eyes, letting flashes and echos of a memory fill his head.
"The guy at the store said it was called a promise ring. Don't you dare get all sentimental, they were dirt cheep."
"Don't you think people will notice if we start wearing rings?"
"People at this school don't notice anything."
"Good point. So, what are we promising?"
"You said they're promise rings, don't we have to promise something?"
"I thought I'd already given you everything."
"Then promise that you wont take it away."
"Fine. Peter Simons, I promise you that I'll never take anything away from you. There, will you wear the damn ring now?"
"Way to ruin the moment."
He laughed and grabbed Peter's hand, practically shoving the ring onto his finger in an effort to avoid any farther discussion. He held onto his hand and smiled, leaning in for a kiss. "Happy Birthday, Peter."
He sighed and slipped the ring back on the chain before clasping it behind his neck. He had a different birthday to think about at the moment.