Ellen groaned. Stephen sat up but she grabbed his arm. "No!" she said. "We agreed."
"Honey, for God's sake listen to her. She's terrified!"
Ellen turned on the beside lamp. "I don't care. She has to learn. If you go in there it'll be like every other night. You'll look under the bed and in the closet and tell her nothing is there and then in two hours she'll start again."
Sarah's screams became higher and more frantic Stephen threw up his hands. "What do you suggest, we just sit here and listen?"
"If that's what it takes," Ellen said. "We have to start drawing lines."
Stephen glared at the door. Ellen could feel him shaking. She touched his shoulder but he pushed her hand away. Sarah was still shrieking down the hall. Ellen could tell that Stephen was counting silently. When he reached thirty, he got out of bed. "That does it," he said.
He ignored her. She considered going after him, but it was too late. She heard his footsteps padding down the hall. Voices came through the wall, muffled. Stephen said, "What's wrong kitten?"
Sarah's little voice was choked with tears: "The monster! The monster is in my closet again!"
"Oh, kitten, there's nothing there."
"Will you look and see?"
"There's nothing there baby, I promise. Remember your mom and me are right down the hall, okay?"
"Okay," Sarah said, sounding unconvinced.
"Now give me a kiss. Good night, Sarah."
"Good night, Stevie."
The sound of Sarah's door closing preceded footsteps returning down the hall, and then Stephen's weight sank down on the bed next to her. Ellen turned the light off and glared at him in the dark. "Well? Are you happy now?" she said.
"Happy that we didn't leave her to give herself a fit? Yes."
"Children need boundaries."
"Children need you to be there for them."
"She's my daughter," said Ellen, and regretted it immediately. Before Stephen could reply, the sound of Sarah's screams interrupted them. "See?" said Ellen. "Responding just encourages her. It's what she wants."
"She's not manipulating us, she's five."
The screaming stopped. Ellen was about to say something, but they both heard the bedroom door creak open. "Mommy?"
"You should be in bed, Sarah," said Ellen.
"There was a monster. He was in the closet."
"It was just a bad dream, kitten," said Stephen.
"Can I sleep in here tonight?" said Sarah.
"No!" Ellen said before Stephen could reply.
"Can you come look in the closet?"
"Sarah, go to bed. You're too old for this."
Silence for a moment. Then: "Can I get a drink of water?"
Ellen sighed. "Yes, but then go right back to bed, all right?"
"Okay." They heard the door close and Sarah's little footsteps down the hall, and then the sound of the faucet running in the kitchen. Stephen rolled over and put his back to her. Ellen touched his shoulder again and again he repulsed her. She rubbed her temples. A headache was coming on.
"I know you want what's best for her," she said. "But we can't hold her hand over every little thing anymore."
"This isn't even about Sarah, this is about that weird hang-up over your ex again."
Ellen opened her mouth for an angry reply, but swallowed it. There was no gain in pushing this. "Maybe you're right," she said, though she didn't mean it. "Let's forget about it tonight. We'll deal with it in the morning, when we're both less tired."
Stephen was a silent at first, but finally he rolled over and put an arm around her, kissing her lightly.
"Are you tired?" she asked.
"God yes," said Stephen.
"Me too. But I can't sleep."
She grinned. "Well, since we're both up..." Her hand crept up his shoulder.
"Hon, if Sarah comes in again--"
"We'll keep the light off. It'll be fine. She sees scarier stuff in her room anyway, to hear her tell it."
Stephen laughed. Ellen snuggled closer to him and kisses his chest. "I still don't know..." he said.
"Stephen…" she whispered, "I'll let you do it in the back door..."
She shrieked as he pounced on her, laughing and beating at him with the pillows. He buried his face against the neck of her nightgown. "Help, help, there's a ravenous beast in here!" she said.
"I can't help it if you bring out the animal in me," he said, pushing the nightgown's straps down her shoulders and kissing one round arm. She gasped.
"My, what big teeth you have!" she said.
"All the better to nibble on you with.”
"And what big hands you have..."
He squeezed her ass through the silken nighty with both hands.
"And what a big--"
"Don't get ahead of me," he said.
Ellen wriggled out of her gown before Stephen's enthusiasm could damage it. She shuddered from the cold air and dived under the comforter, dragging him after her. She ran her hands over his chest as she kissed him, tickling his tongue with the tip of hers. He tried to put his hands on her naked body but she slapped them away playfully. He tried again and she squirmed out of the way, nearly rolling out of the bed. He caught her ankle and pulled her back as she shrieked and laughed.
"Shhh, we're supposed to be keeping it quiet, remember?" Stephen said, and then kissed her hip, tongue darting over her bare skin.
"Ooh!" she said, and then gasped as he bit her. "Hey!" she said, "how do you expect me to keep quiet when you go doing that?"
"Do what? This?" he said, and nipped her again, giving her a lightning-sharp thrill.
"I'm still not clear, do you mean doing thi--"
She grabbed hold of a handful of his hair and pulled him up to her, where she met him with an open-mouthed kiss, tongue passing into his mouth, circling her arms around his waist and repaying him by dragging her nails over his bare back.
He responded by pinning her wrists to the bed and kissing with full force, those deep, penetrating kisses that always took her breath away and turned her knees to jelly. He buried his face into the side of her neck, sucking at the spot where her neck and shoulder curved to meet, and the little butterflies jumped up inside her stomach. Then he cupped her breasts with both hands, rolling her erect nipples against his palms and squeezing, and she started to shake. "And you wonder why I tried to get away..." she said, voice suddenly throaty.
"Ah ah," he said, "you made an offer, no backing out now."
"Mmm, I guess I've gotta back into it then?"
He took hold of her by the hips and dragged her toward him.
"Wait! Where's the lube?"
"In the naughty drawer."
"Well get it."
She heard him fumble in the dark. "Shit!"
"I think some spilled."
"Dear, that stuff stains!"
"Then I guess we'll always have something to remind us of this night. Now, assume the position."
She sat up on all fours, biting her lip and whimpering a little as she felt Stephen's hand spread the cold, wet gel around her sensitive hole. It warmed up after a second, and she sighed, then squealed as Stephen's hand slapped the side of her ass.
The bedsprings creaked and she felt him moving behind her. She gripped the headboard with both hands, bracing herself, promising that she wouldn't cry out when the next one came, but then unable to stop a small "Oh!" when Stephen's strong hand came down on her backside.
She bit her lip harder and counted silently to herself: One, two, three four--SMACK! "Oh!"
One, two, three, four--SMACK! "Ohhhh!
One two--SMACK! "FUCK!"
She covered her mouth with both hands.
Stephen squeezed her cheeks together, and she closed her eyes and bit down on the pillows. The first part was always the hardest…
She inhaled and held it. She heard Stephen grunt and felt him slide in, the tip first, then the rest one inch at a time. Her muscles clenched, then gradually relaxed. After a few seconds, he was able to work in and out gently, and then with a little more force as the resistance diminished. That lube was expensive, but it was a good investment.
"Having fun back there, big boy?"
She couldn't stop a second "FUCK!" as he thrust. "Careful!"
"I will be," he said. He massaged her shoulders with both hands, kneading firmly, then started rocking back and forth in a short, easy motion. Her breath caught as she felt him slide up inside of her, her asshole stretching to accommodate him. In and out, in and out, the gentle motion sending little vibrations up the base of her spine.
"How does that feel?" he asked.
Her mouth worked for a second before she managed to mutter: "Full..."
"Is full good?"
"Mmmm, yes, full is good. Fill me more..."
He grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled, jerking her head back. She cried out.
"What do we say?" he asked, his tone firm but playful.
"Please," she whispered, fingers clawing the sheets. "Please, fill me up..."
He began to thrust up into her again. She moaned.
The feeling of his thick, swollen shaft penetrating her sent waves rocking across her body.
Before long he was grunting with exertion. His hands roamed across her shoulders, and down the slope of her back, and around the curve of her hips, and back up to fondle her breasts as they jiggled.
He took a double handful and squeezed again. His fingers pinched her swollen nipples, twisting. She shuddered through and through.
His hands slid lower, across her belly. He was pumping steadily now, her cheeks spread to accept him.
He reached between her splayed legs, fingers rubbing her engorged clit, and she almost collapsed. Her body was on fire from one end to the other, and when he rubbed her with two fingers, pinching it between them, she bit her lip so hard that it bled.
"Oh god oh god oh god oh god..."
She could feel wetness dribbling down the inside of her thighs. Guess that lube stain will have company, she thought. Her pussy was sopping wet, and as two of his fingers slid past her aching outer lips his thumb positioned itself to continue massaging her clit. He was buried all the way into her ass by now, her hole stretched around the base of his cock, and he was fucking her in a tight circular motion, grinding against her clenched cheeks.
"Oh fuck Stephen I'm going to cum! I'm going to cum, I'm going to cum, I'm going to--"
She squeezed her eyes shut again and watched a cascade of fireworks and flower shapes blossom behind her eyelids as her climax set her head spinning.
Stephen, who was so good at timing these things that she sometimes became paranoid about how often he knew she was close even before she did, increased his pace a little to catch up with her, and she had come down off of her orgasm for only a few seconds when she felt his cock squirt, pumping a hot stream into her.
"Oh god, fill up my ass!"
He groaned, releasing, and she relished the obscene feeling of his cock gushing a load into her. They fell over, panting and red-faced. She winced again as he pulled out, and they kissed in the dark.
She curled up next to him, nuzzling the underside of his chin. "Mmm," she said, "there certainly is a monster in my room tonight."
"Do you think you'll recover?"
"Yes. Totally worth it." She gave him a kiss.
Out in the living room, the old clock chimed.
"Sarah's been really quiet," said Stephen.
"Mm-hmm. But you still want to check on her, don't you?"
"I do," he conceded.
"Yes. Just to be sure she's asleep. But don't wake her up."
"Okay," he said, squeezing her shoulders and swinging his legs out of bed. She heard him tiptoe down the hall, then heard the door to Sarah's room open. She waited a few seconds then got up, pulled her night gown on again and went to the kitchen. The harsh yellow light of the fixture blinded her for a second as it flickered on. She squinted, then opened the refrigerator door, taking a swig of milk straight from the carton. It felt hard and cold going down.
She started to turn on the faucet, but stopped; there was something oily and sticky all over the handle. A little of it was tracked across the floor too. Damn that girl, Ellen thought, what did she get into and not clean up? She considered marching down to Sarah's room and waking her up just to upbraid her, but decided it could wait until morning. Wake her up again and she'll just be screaming about monsters. Ellen sighed. She remembered having nightmares at that age.
She also remembered her mother comforting her in the middle of the night. What kind of memories would Sarah have when she was grown? Memories of screaming alone all night? Memories of her stepfather coming to her rescue, but never her mother? Ellen's heart broke a little. Maybe Stephen was right, and she really was being too hard on her?
At that moment, she heard Sarah's voice from down the hall: "Mommy, come quick!"
Then Stephen's: "Honey, come in here. Sarah wants to say good night."
Ellen smiled. Sarah's bedroom door was open. The nightlight put out a fuzzy yellow glow, and she saw Stephen on the bed, cradling Sarah in his arms. Ellen sat next to them. "Did you wake up again, sweetheart?" she said.
Sarah didn't answer.
"Sarah?" Ellen peered closer. Sarah was lying facedown on the bed. Stephen's arm was draped limply over her back. "Stephen?" she said, touching his shoulder. He slumped over, and in the dim light she saw his face: pale, unmoving, mouth wide open. His eyes were flat and glassy, like a stroke victim. "Stephen? Stephen!" she shook him and his eyes moved to her, but there was no hint of recognition. He tried to talk, but his voice was choked, and when she let go of him he flopped over like a ragdoll.
Ellen looked at her daughter. Sarah was staring, unblinking, into the darkness, her arms wrapped around her knees. She'd gone so pale that the blue veins stood out on her face. Ellen shook her and screamed her name, but Sarah was oblivious to everything. The lights had gone out for the last time.
Then Ellen heard the closet door creak open. She saw the thing step out. It shuffled toward her. In the yellowy half-light Ellen could just barely make out its tumorous flesh and misshapen face. It opened its slavering mouth and out came a perfect imitation of Sarah's voice: "Mommy, come quick!"
And then it spoke in Stephen's voice: "Honey, come in here. Sarah wants to say good night."
Ellen's blood turned to ice. She opened her mouth, but the scream would not come.
"Mommy, I had a bad dream," the thing said in its Sarah voice. "Can you come look in the closet? Can I get a drink of water?"
Ellen slid to the floor, back against the wall. She tried to crawl away, but there was nowhere to go. She saw Stephen's glazed eyes in the dark and heard Sarah's helpless gasp. I want to scream, Ellen thought. Why can't I scream? The thing came closer.
"Honey, come in here. Sarah want to say good night."