It took some time after we moved in with Frances for me to get used to being watched. When school started back up, I was dropped off and picked up, often by Frances’ teenage daughter. On occasions when I couldn’t be picked up right away, arrangements were made for me to stay at a friend’s house with her and her parents until Dad or Frances could get me. And my evenings on the roof were replaced by Frances turning off my bedroom light, telling me to sleep tight, and closing my bedroom door. It was strange and made me feel like running. Not necessarily running away for good, just running to get away, to be alone, to be outside. Safety had required solitude and while I didn’t miss the violence of our household, I did miss being alone.
Except for bedtime. Being in bed in the dark meant fighting the voice in my head — her voice — telling me how useless, how horrible, how destructive I was. Destroyed my family… worthless whore. Or it meant losing the fight to stay awake and the voice being replaced by full-on horror scenes in my sleep. After the call, my night terrors had gotten worse. Much worse. I dreaded the moment the light would be turned off and the door closed.
I don’t know what drew Frances back into the room. Perhaps I had finally become vocal in my sleep. Or perhaps it was the increased vigilance since the call. But the first time I woke up and the person at my side was my soon-to-be mother, rather than my brother dressed up in a Dracula costume threatening to drink my blood, I was completely disoriented.
Frances had one hand on my chest, another holding one of my hands. At first, all I heard was a confused sound mixing in with the lingering images from my nightmare, but slowly her words gained form:
Lord Jesus Christ, I place myself and this child at the foot of Your cross and ask You to cover her with Your Precious Blood which pours forth from Your Most Sacred Heart and Your Most Holy Wounds.
An odd combination of apprehension and a growing sense of curiosity began to replace the terror. I’m not sure the thought of being covered in blood was as reassuring for me as it was for Frances. My frame of reference for Jesus came from the giant cross I’d stare at during the occasional Sundays and major holidays spent kneeling/standing during Mass at Saint James Cathedral. Jesus looked weak, hanging there, his head and body slack. I knew these thoughts were blasphemous and knew enough to keep them to myself as she continued.
Cleanse her, Jesus, in the living water that flows from Your Heart.
I ask You to surround her and this family, Lord Jesus, with Your Holy Light.
She noticed I was awake and looked at me in silence. I stared back, awed by this woman who had asked a prayer of protection for me.
“Whenever you are scared, Yvonne, you pray to Jesus. You ask him to cover you with his blood and nothing can touch you.”
She kissed me on the forehead and told me to get some sleep as she walked out of the room. Unlike most nights, she didn’t question the light I had turned back on before going to sleep. She didn’t turn it off or close the door as she left.
It would be another four years before I would wake up one morning without being afraid. Frances never came to pray over me again but she had given me a gift that would get me through the worst of those terror-filled nights. Not the “blood of Jesus” but the sense of her hand on my chest whispering a protective cloak of words around me.