When I was very small, about seven or eight years old, my parents were renovating our house. For a short time, my sister (3 or 4 years old at the time) and I were sharing a bedroom. We had bunk beds, and I slept on the top bunk while she occupied the bottom.
Even though we shared a room, we enjoyed having what we called 'sleepovers'. We would tuck one end of a large blanket beneath the mattress of my bunk, then close the other end of the blanket in the drawers of our dresser, which was directly across from our bed. It formed a sort of tent that sloped downward, and we would put sleeping bags beneath it and sit up, reading books and playing with Barbies. Eventually, our mother would tell us it was time for lights out, and we would get into our sleeping bags and go to sleep.
This sisterly tradition continued even after I'd been given my own bedroom. During one of these sleepovers after we'd been moved into separate rooms, I woke up in the middle of the night. At first I wasn't sure why I was awake, but as I drifted back into consciousness I realized that I'd heard the sound of a group of people talking. I paused for a moment, listening to the inky blackness around me. There were definitely people talking, and they were right outside the door. The door was a mere two feet from where our heads lay.
Somehow knowing that she was awake, I breathed my sister's name out into the dark as quietly as I could, asking her if she heard it. She said she did, and she asked what they were saying. I told her I didn't know. It sounded like a group of men, all crowded together outside her door, mumbling to one another, their voices so quiet and low that neither of us could understand them. Their voices were all overlapping, like none of them wanted to let any of the others dominate the conversation, but they all spoke in quiet mumbles, like they didn't want to wake us up.
While we listened, I imagined them to be tall silhouettes, huddled together with their shoulders touching, heads bent together like they were planning something. Lucky for us, the bedroom door was closed. We never had to look at these men, but we heard them many times during that particular year.
Often, we would ask our mom if Dad had fallen asleep with his television on, or whether he'd gotten up at some point in the night. Her answers were always 'no'. Eventually, the men either stopped talking, or we just stopped hearing them. I haven't heard any of their conversations since I was eight or nine. Instead, something else in the house started calling our names. But that's a story for another time.