Midnight art project

Mirena awoke to the sensation of saliva sliding out her open mouth and down her cheek. She wiped her face into the pillow, only to discover that she must have been drooling for quite some time. The pillowcase had a large wet spot. She debated flipping the pillow over, or just snuggling up with Eloa on his pillow. She rolled over to join Eloa.

The covers were pulled back on his side of the bed, and he was gone. She quickly sat up and looked around the room. No sign of the child. Her bedroom door was closed. That wasn’t right. She always left it open. She got out of bed, not bothering with her slippers, and strode to the door, pulling it open.

The house was dark except for a light coming from under the crack of the door of Eloa’s bedroom. She walked softly to the door and gently pressed it open just a crack, peering inside. She let out a sigh of relief as she saw Eloa inside, kneeling in the middle of the floor, his feet crossed beneath his bottom. She often wondered how he could sit like that; just the sight of it made her knees and ankles hurt. He had pulled out his crayons and some paper, and was working intently.

Mirena let herself in and walked quietly over to him, sitting down beside him and studying his work. It was an odd menagerie of colored shapes, arranged almost in some sort of pattern, with lines connecting the shapes. He didn’t acknowledge her presence, even when she squeezed her hand gently around his shoulder.

“What you working on?” she finally asked.

He continued to color. She sat quietly with him for a few moments, watching his tender hands work the crayon back and forth, filling in a large purple hexagon.

“Come, Eloa. Come back to bed with me. You can finish this in the morning.”

He ignored her until he had finished coloring the hexagon. Then as he reached for the black crayon he looked up at her briefly. “I can’t. I’ve found the key.” Then he was back at the paper, outlining another shape.

“The key to what?”

“Shhh. You’ll make me forget.”

“Forget what?”

He didn’t answer. She sat beside him, growing ever more aware of the hardness of the floor, of the coolness of the room, of how tired she was.

“Come on, Eloa,” she said again, even though she knew that he would not come. Not until he had finished. He was so methodical. She looked at his working arrangements. Two small piles of paper, stacked neatly above the sheet he was working on. Crayons to his right, lined up in evenly spaced columns, like little soldiers at attention. No, he had his own ideas about things, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to convince him to come to bed. So she got up slowly, quietly, not wanting to disturb him, and lay down on his bed. She could at least keep him company until he was ready.

After a few minutes the page was completely filled in. Eloa put down his crayon and lifted the page up, as if studying it. He set it face down on the pile of papers on his left, grabbed his black crayon, a blank sheet from the pile on his right, and began drawing again.

Mirena woke up. Her cheek was wet, and there was a damp spot on her pillow. What was with her these days? She sat up and blinked her eyes against the light, turning her pillow over. No, not her pillow. She realized she was still in Eloa’s room. She looked down at the floor. Eloa wasn’t there. The crayons had all been picked up and put in their container on his shelf. His papers were nowhere to be found.

She checked her room. Eloa was inside, laying in his customary spot, the blankets pulled up around him so that she could just see the hair of his head poking up over the covers. She dimmed the windows and closed the door. Let the poor guy get some sleep. It wouldn’t hurt him to miss a day of school.

She walked into the kitchen to make herself some breakfast. The table had been pushed against the wall and the chairs stacked on top of it. Had Eloa done that by himself? Had she slept through it? She looked at the scene for a few minutes, wondering what he had been up to. She sighed and grabbed a chair from atop the table, swinging it down to the floor. As she did so, she saw the papers Eloa had colored the night before. He had stacked them up and placed them on the countertop across from the table. Curious, she picked them up and began leafing through them.

What first caught her eye were the large bold geometric shapes colored with purple, red and green. Black and red lines would dart between them, connecting the shapes to each other and to the edges of the paper. Intermingled with all of this were several smaller shapes, colored blue or left blank. The same pattern seemed to be repeated on each page. She took the top three pages and lined them up on the counter. The shapes and lines matched up almost perfectly. Was this one large picture?

Excitedly, she started laying down more pages, until she realized that there wasn’t going to be enough room on the counter. She turned around, lifted the chair back onto the table, and started spreading the papers out on the floor. Where the edges clearly matched, she left the pages together. Some pages she couldn’t match up easily, and so she set those aside, to try again later. With each new page she was able to match to her satisfaction, she made the picture bigger. It took about 30 minutes, but she was finally able to place every piece on the floor. No wonder Eloa had come in here. His bedroom hadn’t been big enough.

She could definitely see there was a pattern now, but she couldn’t quite make out what it was. She jumped up on the countertop to see if she could make something out from farther back.

“Oh,” she said. “Oh, my.”

She stood there for a few moments, staring down at her kitchen floor. Then she raced for the phone.

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