by Marisol

There were times when Martha's lifestyle left her more than a little spent. Cooking, cleaning, chores, selling goods, not to mention all of the normal strains of life and marriage left her in a coma at the end of some days. During such times, she would recall the first weeks after she had gotten married. Each night, she had tingled with the reality of having a male in her life, one who was all her own - who loved her unconditionally and who she was enamored with - lying right next to her in bed. The rhythm of Jonathan's breath had been her lullaby and thoughts of him all the bedtime story she needed. It was some of the best sleep of her life.

She was having those feelings again.

Martha was roused awake by the faint sound of talking. She rolled over to find Jonathan with his hair disheveled and his mouth agape and mid-drool. The only indication that he was alive at all was his simmering snore with every other breath. But the whispering continued. She listened more carefully, and realized it was coming from under the covers. She rolled back the comforter to find the boy there, lying calm and still, except for his cherubic lips.

She sat up watching the boy - her boy - there in the dark. She wondered what he was dreaming about. She could only imagine what vivid revelries he was entertaining. Perhaps he was dreaming of his home planet, foods he would never eat again, or his journey here. Maybe, Martha thought, he was even remembering...his parents. The thought stung a little.

While she watched him, his face grew more agitated, and his speech louder. He was speaking his language again, and she hated the fact that she couldn't understand what he was saying. She could, however, discern that he was frightened, and probably having a nightmare.

"Clark," she whispered, while rocking his chest with her open palm. She had given him that name, Clark, yet, still felt presumptuous every time she used it - even in her mind. He was, however, beginning to respond to it. "Clark, honey, wake up."

The boy's eyes flew open and his body froze. His breathing grew deeper and quicker. He appeared as if he had no idea where he was, and his eyes darted frantically across the ceiling.

"Darling" Martha said in reassuring tones, "don't be afraid. It's OK." She flashed a warm, sincere smile and brushed his silky black curls from his face. His eyes met hers, and gradually registered recognition of his surroundings. "Were you scared?" Martha asked. To her glee and amazement, he nodded yes - he must have understood! Her joy, however, turned to concern when the boy's lips began to quaver, and his eyes became misty. Martha swooped up his limp body and cradled him in her arms.

The motion woke Jonathan, who snapped his head up and squinted his unadjusted eyes at the mother and child.

"Don't let him get in the habit of sleeping with us, Martha," he said. The words had barely crossed his lips when he crashed back in to his pillow - sound asleep.

Martha ignored his "suggestion" and turned back to the boy. His eyes were closed, though he wasn't asleep. He had pressed his face into her bosom and was firmly gripping Jonathan's oversized T-shirt she often wore to bed. She could tell he felt secure, and she had never felt so cozy. Her thoughts drifted back to earlier that day.

Abby was due in court all the way in Metropolis for a case, and wasn't sure if she would be home before dark. She had dropped off Little Petey so that Martha could watch him. Abby's husband, Bill, was putting in sixteen-hour days at the factory, and, as Abby put it, "My boys...let's just say babysitting is not their forte." Apparently, the last time that had babysat Petey, they had taught him a host of naughty movie lines, and dressed him up like a girl. Abby never did figure out where they got the clothes. Martha chuckled at the thought.

She was happy to be keeping Petey. He was well behaved and really had a way of bringing Clark out. Clark had never spoken, fortunately, for anyone but Jonathan and herself. But he had ventured a word or two to Petey. Petey didn't seem to mind or care that the words were foreign.

Clark was much bigger, and obviously stronger, than Petey, but Petey seemed more assertive. After lunch, Martha had stumbled upon them wrestling. She was tempted to immediately break them up, but hesitated when she realized they were playing. She watched on pins and needles, debating the risk of Clark hurting his little friend. She wanted Clark to feel comfortable with others, but, since he was still very little, she didn't believe he knew his own strength. As predicted, the play wrestling soon degenerated into real fighting, but too her surprise, Clark was the one in tears. She rushed to pick him up, but didn't find him injured in any way. "Was he holding back?" Martha wondered to herself. It seemed like such a sophisticated thing to do for a three-year-old, yet she was sure he had. Seconds later he was motioning to be put down. Then, he and Petey resumed playing. She had the distinct feeling at that moment that the boy was even more special than they had imagined.

In the shallow light, his skin glowed with an ethereal softness. Martha stared at the boy with contented delight. There were only a few times in life when one would receive a gift or a opportunity with the potential to be so wonderful and altogether good. Yet, there was still so much that was uncertain. The thought both scared and electrified her.

She could feel the boy's grip loosening, and could tell he was finally asleep. She laid him down in his original spot, between Jonathan and herself, and nestled in next to him. Then it was her turn to drift into a peaceful slumber. It was some of the best sleep she had had in a long time.

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