He stood in the kitchen doorway, still in his boxers and t-shirt; hair dishevelled from sleep and watched her. He smiled as he looked at her; making tea in her satin dressing gown, her hair pulled back in a confused up do with the occasional strand escaping and framing her face. She was entirely beautiful to him just then.
He walked up behind her and embraced her around the middle, squeezing her tightly as he inhaled the sweet scent of slumber that lingered on her skin.
“Oi,” she told him as she lifted the kettle and poured. “You’ll make me spill it.”
“You okay this morning?” he asked as he let go of her to take the cup she offered.
“Fine,” she replied as she blew over the top of her cup. “Why do you ask?”
“You were crying in your sleep last night.”
“No, I wasn’t,” she said, shaking her head before taking a sip.
“You were,” he told her. “I tried to wake you, but I couldn’t.”
She stooped down and began to examine her face in the stainless steel kettle. She puffed out her cheeks and pulled down on her eyes so that her reflection was like that in a fairground hall of mirrors. “I don’t look like I’ve been crying,” she told him. “I honestly don’t remember. You sure you weren’t dreaming?”
“Positive. I was wide awake and you were sobbing. Like you were breaking your heart. And as hard as I tried I just couldn’t wake you. It was awful.”
“I really don’t remember. But look, all happy and smiley today.” She flashed him a grin as she reached up on tip-toes and kissed him on the mouth. “Don’t look so worried. It was probably just some dream I was having. Right, I’m off to get ready.”
He watched as she walked away, a niggling thought that wasn’t quite there beginning to form at the farthest corner of his mind.
It was early morning and he had woken to find her missing from their bed. He found her in her study, nursing a large cup of coffee as she hunched over her desk.
“You’re hitting the hard stuff this morning,” he said to her as she raised her head and smiled at him, her face plagued with fatigue.
She raised the cup to him. “Yup, I need it.”
“Tell me about it,” he told her. “You had me up half the night too.”
“Sorry babe, I thought I was being quiet.”
“Quiet? Hun, you were sobbing your heart out again, wailing like a banshee.” She looked at him puzzled.
“What are you talking about? I haven’t even been to bed yet.”
“What?” He asked, all colour draining from his face.
“Babe, you know what I’m like when I start writing. I don’t sleep. I’ve been here the whole night.” She spread out her arms, offering up as proof the scrawlings that covered loose pages spread across her desk. He stared at them. This was how she worked, always writing her stories in long hand with pen and paper; ‘old school’ she called it. She would stay up for days at a time until her ‘mind was at ease’ as she would say. He worried about her during these spates of writing, but her success at it had afforded them to live in a house they had never thought they could afford, away from the hub of the city.
“Babe, you okay?” she asked as she made her way to him. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“You must have been to bed,” he said to her as he continued to stare at the pages on the desk. “I felt you crying before I heard you crying. Your shoulders were hitching up and down and you were all curled up. It was gentle little sobs at first then you just started wailing. I couldn’t wake you. I couldn’t even turn you to face me. So I just held you until you stopped.”
“Wow, some dream,” she said to him as she hugged him to her.
“No, it wasn’t a dream,” he insisted.
“Well, you weren’t holding me. Were you cheating in our bed?” she teased him.
He pushed her back a little, not forceful but enough to let her know she had upset him.
“Sorry babe,” she apologised. “But it was just a dream. Had to be.”
“Yeah,” he muttered as he walked to the kitchen for something stronger than coffee.
She had promised to go to bed with him that night. He had told her no at first, not wanting to put her off her writing stride. He knew how grumpy she got when he interrupted her. But as the day wore on and his mind replayed the previous night over and over and he found he could not shake the reality of it all, he had agreed.
They lay in bed, both wary of falling asleep despite both being tired. They both lay on their backs, staring up at the ceiling aware of time passing by slowly. The clock ticking on the bedside table filled the empty air, so loud that it seemed that alone would make sleep impossible.
He awoke with a start to the sobbing as she lay with her back to him. He cuddled in to her, unable to turn her just like the night before.
“Babe,” she said from the doorway as she saw him leaning over something in the bed, “I hear it, the crying.”
He turned with a start, saw her standing there as real as anything. He turned back to the bed, her body lying there at the same time. “What the hell,” he started, not knowing which was real. He pulled back the covers, knowing he had been holding her, but also knowing that she stood just over there. As the bed sheets lifted, he braced himself, only for them to reveal an empty space there beside him.