Chapter Forty Nine

I knocked gently on Kimberly's door before opening it.  It was still early in the morning, and the little angel was still fast asleep, curled up with Blister in her arms.  She had kicked the blanket off, so I picked it up off the floor and covered her up again.  She mumbled in her sleep a little, something about jumping marshmallows, and then rolled over and started to snore a little.  I smiled, and then laid down on my own bed.
 
What a night, I thought, finally giving into my exhaustion.  I hope D.K. leaves me alone…
 
That was as far as I got before falling asleep.  The dreams weren't nice ones.  I dreamed about betraying everyone I cared about.  My mom.  Kimberly.  Stark.  My dad.  My dad was the worst.  He just stared blankly at me, like he wanted to accuse me of something but was so shocked that he couldn't find the words.
 
I'm sorry! I wanted to scream at him.  You're dead!  It's not my fault!
 
Somewhere in my subconscious, my thoughts and feelings were being warped and twisted into some otherworldly guilt trip— and it pierced me right to my heart, the way dreams always do.  It wasn't my fault my dad had died, but for some reason I couldn't believe that.  My dad just kept staring at me, his empty, expressionless eyes growing bigger and bigger until they were all I could see.
 
“Just go away!" I finally shouted.
 
To my relief, he vanished.  But he was replaced by something even worse.  A vial of gold liquid, as tall as I was, was spinning around and around in front of me.  It was hypnotic.  I couldn't take my eyes away.
 
A guy's got to have his secrets, Amber.  A guy's got to have his secrets, Amber, Dex's voice said over and over.  I didn't just hear him with my ears, I heard him with every bone, every drop of blood, my body.  His voice echoed and vibrated inside of me.
 
“Give it to me!" I screamed, breaking free of the trance and lunging for the vial.  The cure.  My cure!
 
My hand passed right through it, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting up in my bed, my hands still reaching out in front of me.  Kimberly was sitting on the floor, playing with her dolls.
 
“Which one?" she asked.  “You wanna be Barbie or Ken this time?"
 
“What?" I asked back.
 
“You just said 'give me one,'" she clarified.  “Do you want to be Ken or Barbie?"
 
I sat up the rest of the way, rubbing my head to help me wake up.  “What time is it?"
 
Kimberly shrugged.  “I dunno."
 
Right, she was five years old.  Stupid question.  I pulled my nightstand out of the wall, and looked at the clock that was on it.  1:15 pm.  I'd slept more than six hours.
 
“So, which one do you wanna be?" Kimberly asked again.
 
“Maybe later, hon," I said.  “I'm hungry.  How about some lunch?"
 
“Okay!" she agreed, dropping her toys and getting up.  “What are we having?"
 
“I dunno," I answered, heading for the fridge.  “How about…"
 
I stopped when something crinkled under my foot.  I looked down, and saw a piece of paper on the floor, in front of the door.
 
“What's this?" I asked, picking it up.
 
“I dunno," Kimberly said again.  “Someone pushed it under the door while you were sleeping."  She got a mischievous smile on her face.  “I think it was your boooyfriend!"
 
“Tyler is not my boyfriend," I said, but I wasn't really paying attention.  I was unfolding the paper.
 
Okay, it said in a rough, hard to read scrawl, I'll do what I can to help.  We need to talk where D.K. can't hear us.  I'll try to get ahold of you.
 
Well, that was a small weight off my chest.  Even if Stark couldn't help us anymore, at least Kimberly wouldn't be on her own for this.
 
“How about ice cream?" I said, smiling as I turned to look at her again.  “Have you ever had ice cream for lunch?"
 
It wouldn't be good for her, but the poor thing deserved to be spoiled once in a while.  Sure enough, her eyes lit up when I suggested having sweets for lunch.
 
“Can we put sprinkles and gummy bears on it?" she asked.
 
“Sure, if Ed left us any."
 
There weren't any gummy bears, but there was strawberry syrup, so I dumped half the bottle onto her ice cream, and then the rest of it onto mine.  It was so sweet that it hurt my teeth, but I loved every bite of it.  Twenty minutes later, we were both on the floor, playing Barbie.
 
“I'm still gonna get that hippo, Barbie," I made Ken say.  “You can't stop me.  I'm a grownup now, so I don't need your permission!"
 
“No!" Kimberly screamed, making Barbie jump and down.  Her eyes were wide open, and she was wearing a manic, sugar induced grin.  “You can't bring a hippo in my house.  I won't let you!"
 
“I'll do whatever I want!" Ken protested stubbornly.  “Goodbye.  I'm going to the pet store."
 
“Nuh-uh!" Barbie moved to block Ken's path.  “You're not my boyfriend anymore.  BODYSLAM!"
 
With that, Kimberly grabbed Ken out of my hand, raised him up above her head, and then threw him back down to the floor.
 
“And don't you ever come back!" she yelled, giggling as she pummeled him, using Barbie as a hammer.
 
“Whoa, whoa," I said, pulling the Ken doll away from her, “you're gonna break him!"
 
Kimberly rolled onto her back, laughing.  Then, before I could react, she got to her knees and pounced on me.
 
“I'm breaking up with you, too!" she shrieked, doing her best to give me a noogie.
 
I got my hands underneath her and hoisted her off of me.  “Oh no, you're not!" I shot back, pinning her to the floor.  “We're gonna be together forever!"
 
I started to tickle her, and she laughed even louder.  She was rolling around on the floor, trying to get away from me, slapping at my hands, but I managed to keep ahold of her.  What can I say, I'm a professional tickler!  After a few minutes of this, her struggling got weaker and weaker until she was lying breathless on the carpet.
 
“No fair," she gasped, a smile still on her face.  “You're way too strong!"
 
“I'll go easy on you next time," I promised.
 
“That was fun," she said, her eyes slowly closing as the sugar rush wore off.  She reached for Blister, but couldn't quite reach him, so I put him into her hands for her.  She mumbled her thanks, curling up on the floor.  “Can we have ice cream for supper too?"
 
“I don't think so," I laughed.  “You need some vegetables after all that."
 
I don't know if she heard me or not, because she was already fast asleep and snoring.  I picked her up as gently as I could and set her on her bed.
 
“Have a good nap," I said, pulling the covers up to her chin.
 
I smiled again.  I'd played with Kimberly before, but this time it had been different.  There wasn't any worrying about secret meetings or setting traps, just me playing Barbie with a little girl.  I wasn't a good substitute for her parents, and I wasn't trying to be.  But today, looking at her lying in bed like that, I wondered if maybe I could be something else.
 
You know, I'd always wondered what it'd be like to have a sister…    
 
 
 
NEXT TIME: Aaaw, that's so sweet!  Can we all agree that hyper Kimberly is the best Kimberly?  Too bad it can't last, of course.  I mean, these two can't brush their teeth without something traumatic happening.

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