Today, instead of sharing a bunch of smaller snippets, I am posting one large snippet. Enjoy!
“I put pictures up in my room,” Mason said, waving his hand at the walls. They were covered in crayon drawings and posters of cars and trucks. He turned to look at me. There was a furrow in his brow, and I could tell something was on his mind. “Brant puts pictures on his walls, too. And Mama puts pictures on the refrigerator.” His brow crinkled even more as he looked at me. “Why don’t you put pictures on your walls?”
I stared at Mason. I wasn’t quite sure what to say.
It was true. My mind immediately flew to my suitcase and the place where I hid my treasured pictures. I would never have dreamed of posting them on the wall in my bedroom.
I licked my lips. “Sometimes I like to put very special things in a safe place,” I said slowly.
Mason gazed up at his wall, his mouth hanging carelessly open. “Buuuuutt…my walls are safe.”
“Sure,” I said with a shrug, pretending to agree. Nowhere was safe. In fact, nowhere was mine. But Mason didn’t need to know that.
He slid closer to me, his little warm body pressing against mine, and grasped my sleeve with both of his chubby hands. “And nobody can SEE your pictures,” he said, his lower lip almost in a pout.
“That’s the point,” I said. If the girls from the other foster homes would have laughed at my pink room, they would have laughed even harder over my other treasures. I was not one to wear my heart on my sleeve…although it felt like Mason held it as firmly in his chubby fingers as he held my sleeve at that moment.
His face fell as I spoke, and my heart wrenched. I bent forward and looked into his face. “I can see them,” I said, with the sincerity of making a promise. “Always…all the time…wherever I am.”
He rolled this around in his mind as the pout faded from his face. “Like super-vision-man,” he said, apparently starting to like this idea.
“No…inside,” I said, shaking my head. “You can, too.”
His quizzical face stared into mine.
“Close your eyes,” I said.
He obediently shut them. How he trusted me!
“Now think about your favorite picture,” I said. “Think about the colors and the shapes and the things in the picture. Think about what you like about the picture.”
For a moment, all was silent. I could see the motion of his eyes behind the lids and I waited. His little expression went from studious to earnest to awed.
“I can see it, Kelsey," he whispered. "I can see my pictures in my special place.”
I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a hug. His eyes were still shut as he stared, amazed, into his imagination.
“You’re in my special place, Mason,” I murmured.
In that moment, I opened my heart for the first time since Jeremy, and I knew I would do anything to protect Mason…or die trying.