Even through the threadbare curtains, Sam can see the traces of frost creeping across the window glass, throwing slivers of moonlight across the hardbound book in her hand. She doesn’t check the spine for the title.
Shivering, she tugs on the sleeve of her pajamas. The wind outside has grown fierce, gnawing at wood and flesh alike; winter has finally arrived. Branches groan against the walls of the house, as if to escape the frigid air, and she sits cross-legged on the hardwood floor, listening to the sound-filled silence.
The room is dark, and her head is pressed back into the side of her desk. Her wire-rimmed glasses, bent ever so slightly out of shape, lay discarded on the ground beside her. She traces the cover of the book in her lap. Its corners are well-worn, curved inwards, and almost reverently, she runs a finger down its pages. She smiles as the moon washes her hand in silver light.
Even as her heart tightens, breath comes more easily, and her shoulders sag. Already, she can feel her own worn-out world trickling away through the cracks between the floorboards, hear new existences blossoming at the turning of a page. Already, she can taste escape on the air.
She draws a breath through her nose as the fresh scents of dust and paper trickle up from the pages. Even before she picks up her glasses and looks down at the words, she mouths them to herself.
It was a bright, cold day in April…
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff…
In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit…
Sleep holds down her eyelids, and she still can’t remember what book it is that she holds in her hand. Only that it is the one she fell asleep meaning to read, and the one that she turned to, hours later, when she sat straight up in bed, choking down a scream. Reading by moonlight has always been her remedy for a nightmare.
And for her first failing grade.
And for her grandfather’s death.
Scratch that–reading by moonlight has always been her remedy for everything.
She’ll have to go to school tomorrow, and she’ll have to go to sleep soon. But for now, there is only her and this book. She hopes that she will lose herself somewhere in the pages, in a world away from this one; she hopes that when she returns, she will be a little more whole than before.