Monsters are tricky beasts.

You walk in and the couch is stripped bare. The bookshelf is empty. The lights are off. You sigh because you know where this is headed. Like a sleepwalker, you move mechanically through the cluttered hallway—a maze in itself, but you know it by heart—and into the bedroom, where the covers are torn off the bed, like they usually are, and the only light in the room shines out from underneath the closet door.

It's a nice closet for such a tiny apartment. Of course, it's even more spacious because she refuses to put her clothes in there. After a few weeks of tripping over the little piles of t-shirts in the bathroom you bought her some boxes, and they're in a multicolor stack in the corner of the room.

You sit down crosslegged outside the closet door. "Hey."

A sharp thump. A rustle. A tiny, tiny voice. "They were coming to get me."

"I know." You lean your forehead on the cold door, forcing a deep breath into your lungs. "Can I open the door, love?"

There's a long pause before she answers. "They're still out there."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

She's done this as long as you've known her. When you first met, it was only once in a great while, and she'd hide it from you, worried what you'd think, but you'd found out and scooped her up and held her close, promising you'd make the monsters go away. It's only gotten worse since then.

"How about I come in there with you, sweetheart?"

She hesitates and shifts around a little bit. "Okay." It's little more than a whisper.

Slowly, you crack open the door and edge yourself in—you've learned not to open it wide—and carefully sit down across from her. She dragged all the couch cushions and bedsheets in here, arranging them so that every inch of floor and shelf are covered. She's sitting in a nest of pillows and books—all her favorite books, scattered around in disarray. A strand of twinkly lights from last Christmas glows faintly in a corner, just enough to light up her face.

Like a wounded animal she crawls toward you, and you pull her tiny warm frame against you. You kiss her hair when she nuzzles against your neck, and she whispers, "Were they out there?"

"No, love, they're gone."

Monsters are tricky beasts. You'd told her that, once. Tricky, you said, because they're everywhere, and because they looks just like everyone else. You could kick yourself for saying it. All you wanted was to protect her—she'd walked home from a night out with friends, walked home in the dark because no one would give her a ride. When she walked in the door you grabbed her, held her close, and begged her to be more careful.

"I worry about you," you'd said.

She laughed—this was when her laughter came easily. "No monsters are going to eat me." She'd kissed you then, so softly and temptingly that you almost let it go. Almost. Not quite.

You'd pulled away from her very gently, just for a moment, long enough to whisper, "Monsters are tricky beasts."

She shifts against you in the dark closeness of the closet, and you wrap your arms more securely around her. "No monsters are going to eat you, love."

"I know," she murmurs. "I'm being careful."