I heard Dawn whisper my name, but I didn't open my eyes. I didn't want to look awake. I didn't want to be awake, but pretty much all I had done for the past few days was sleep and watch television, and I couldn't make myself nap any more.
She came in anyway. I could hear her shuffling along, not the brisk, confident steps Dawn usually took. She bumped against something in the room, probably the wall because I didn't feel her hit the end of my bed, and there was a great rustling noise.
"Are you awake?"
Dawn set something down on my bed, and must have walked along the side of it, because the next thing I knew, she took hold of my hand.
I couldn't ignore her any longer. I blinked, and faked disorientation, like I had just woken up, like she had disturbed really great dreams. I almost said something about it, but I didn't want to make her feel bad, too.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty. I didn't think you were going to wake up." She smiled at me, a bright, happy smile. I knew why her father called her Sunshine. It was like I could walk again and she had taken me outside on a warm summer's day. That's how good her smile looked.
"I've been really tired."
Dawn nodded, and sat down on the edge of my bed, still holding my hand. "Your body needs to sleep so it can heal itself," she said. She sounded very wise. Had she ever broken a bone? Why did she always seem to know everything?
It was really annoying.
I knew I wasn't actually upset with her, I was just grumpy. My mind was tired from all my worrying, but my body, trapped in bed, didn't want to sleep. I missed Mimi, and our special teas. The hospital never came close to having good tea. I was hungry, too, the hospital food tasted awful. I would give anything, all my art supplies, all my baby-sitting jobs, anything, for some of the junk food in my bedroom.
"I brought you something," Dawn said, and interrupted my self-pity.
I perked up a little at that. "What?"
Dawn's smile got even wider and brighter. I didn't think it was possible.
"Oh, good, you look happier. You don't even know what it is, and you're already cheered up. I'm glad." She squeezed my fingers, and little fizzy bits of electricity raced up my arm and sent chills down my back.
What was that all about?
"So, what did you bring me?" I asked, to cover my confusion. I pushed the button to make the top of the bed lift, until I was more or less sitting straight up, and then looked at the end of the bed. A small box was sitting next to my good leg. Suddenly, I was worried. "Mary Anne didn't convince you to sneak in Tigger again, did she?"
"No!" Dawn tilted her head back and laughed. "Typical Mary Anne. She's only willing to break the rules when she thinks she's doing something nice for someone else. I promise, I did not bring any live animals. You'll like this much better."
"Well what is it?"
"Patience is a virtue, you know," she said, and put her nose in the air. "You should work to cultivate it in your life." The corners of her mouth trembled, and she couldn't hold the haughty expression for long.
She leaned along my body, letting go of my hand as she did so. Her hair spilled down her back and across the blankets as she grabbed the box and placed it in my lap.
It wasn't taped shut, the flaps were just crossed to keep them in place. It was easy to open, and inside I found the best gift in the world.
Dawn had brought me junk food. Piles of junk food. Doritos and Snickers and M&Ms and pretzels and Tootsie Rolls and Ring Dings and more. It was amazing, like a buried treasure. Except it wasn't buried, it was right there, and all the treasure was stuff I could eat. Stuff I wanted to eat.
Dawn. California Girl Dawn. Health Food Dawn.
Dawn had brought me nothing but wonderful, gooey, sugary, chocolatey, salty junk food.
(Well, the pretzels weren't completely unhealthy, but everything else was.)
"This is amazing," I said, and was startled to realize I wanted to cry. It was just so nice of her, not only to visit but to bring me special treats, things she would never eat and usually warned me how unhealthy they were and how much damage they would eventually do to my body. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Dawn smiled again, but this one was small and shaky and -- shy. Dawn was never shy. She reached over, took my hand again, and slipped her fingers through mine. "I know you wanted something to eat."
I nodded, and bit my lower lip. I was not going to cry. I had no reason to cry.
"Thank you," I said again, and blinked rapidly. It didn't help, and a couple tears slipped down my cheek. I turned my head away so she wouldn't see. "Sorry. Something's in my --"
"Claudia, it's okay," Dawn said. She reached over with her free hand, cupped my chin, and brought my face back around. Then she brushed the tears off with her thumb. "I didn't mean to make you cry."
"I know." I sniffed, hard, and then looked at her. "It's nice, what you did. Thank you."
"You're welcome." She chewed on her lower lip, too, looking hesitant. Dawn didn't hesitate, she didn't worry about what other people thought, she was an individual. What was wrong with her? Was there such a thing as crying gas? Maybe the doctors had accidentally pumped some into my room. "Claudia...."
She didn't finish her thought. "Yes?" I prompted.
Dawn took a deep breath. She squared her shoulders, and I could almost hear her telling herself to just do it, whatever it was, to be confident and strong.
Then she kissed me.
It was -- nice. Her lips were lightly chapped, but she had put on gloss and I could barely tell. Her mouth was soft, and she was still holding my hand, and I wanted, suddenly, more than anything, more than the junk food in my lap, to touch her hair.
So I did.
Dawn's hair was just as soft as I had always expected, like fine strands of silk between my fingers. I ran my hand from the top of her head down her neck, past her shoulder, and there was still more hair to touch. There was so much I could have hidden in it, and maybe then all these worries about my leg and about baby-sitting and about my art and about school -- maybe all the problems I had would just go away, if they couldn't find me in her golden hair, in Dawn's sunlight.
Her mouth opened, just a little, so I opened mine, too, touched my tongue to her lips, and stroked my hand through her hair again. I pressed harder against her scalp, and she shuddered, and pulled away from me enough to gasp for air.
"That feels good," she murmured, and it was almost too quiet to hear.
"Yeah. It does."
She sat back then, and smiled at me, a cross between the big, bright smile and the little, shy one. I squeezed her hand, ran my thumb down the side of her face, and then reached into the box with both hands.
"You want anything?" I asked, and smirked at her a little.
"No." Her grin widened, and she nudged me with her elbow. "Not now."
I felt giddy and, for the first time since I felt the swing break underneath me, like everything might still be okay.
"That's good," I said. "I don't plan on sharing."
"As if I'd want any of that." She wrinkled her nose. How had I never noticed how cute she was when she did that? "All that sugar and processing. Yuck."
She settled in for a good, long stay, and caught me up on school gossip. I ate three candy bars and a bag of chips before dinner, and she helped me hide the candy so my parents wouldn't see it. They were there when she left, and we didn't even hug, but she hesitated in the doorway and smiled at me again.
I knew she would be back.
I knew I would get to kiss Dawn Schafer again.
I was really looking forward to it. Maybe, when I went home, I would paint her picture and try to capture some of that sunshine.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Title: Candy-Coated Sunshine
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Ann M. Martin.
Distribution: My site.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Ann M. Martin.
Distribution: My site.