Her hair was loose and hung over her head like a mane. Every strand of it fought the others like a discordant family of wheat. She wore her favourite t-shirt, the one that was far too big for her, and her shorts were cut off jeans that fell almost to her knees. No Daisy Dukes for his girl, his girl spat in the eye of sexy, but even so, she found it easy to quicken his pulse.
She did not speak, and though he longed to hear her voice, he was content with her profile. The hallway light shone through her hair, making it a halo, and in places it fought through the cotton of her t-shirt to reveal tantalising silhouettes.
He had known that face for thirty-three years. He remembered the piercing on her left earlobe that had closed up no matter how many times she had pierced it. The redness that always appeared on the edge of her jaw when she became mad was no mystery to him. Neither was the look in her eye that told him a sharp and cutting reply was on her lips.
Nothing was much of a mystery to him about the woman he loved. He had been there when they had lost their first child. They had held him together while the nurses faded into the pale blue walls. He had felt her heart, strident, strong, and he had thought the moment the darkest he would ever see.
He was wrong, there are always darker moments.
She had her head inclined forward slightly, as if examining something on the floor beside the bed. It was another mannerism that was no mystery to him, it was her shorthand for a difficult conversation.
“I’m okay.” She said to the spot between her naked feet.
He didn’t answer, instead he listened to the remnants of her voice as the room embraced the words.
“It was rough,” she said, “but I’m okay.”
He wanted to reach out to her, but he didn’t dare. There are moments that are as delicate as dandelion seeds, and just as apt to escape if you disturb them. The moment stretched out around them. The lack of speech in it was not silence, but merely the absence of words.
Sometimes communication needed no words, sometimes it appeared in the shift of a shoulder or the twitch of an eyebrow. A lip gently bitten between even teeth can speak volumes. A silent moment can split and burst with a torrent of understanding.
“I’m sorry. I know it must be so,” she paused a moment and he thought she might cry, but his girl was tough, she bit back her tears and continued, “it must be so hard for you.”
She still did not look him in the eye.
It was, but he did not say the words. He was desperate to move close to her. Hungry for the heat of her flesh against his own. He wanted to breathe her in, absorb the essence of her, and carry her with him forever. But instead, he sat, the bed covers pulled up to his waist, and drank her in with his eyes.
“I know.” Her head moved slightly, and for a moment he thought she was going to meet his eyes with her own.
“Remember when we first moved into together. The time when I worked late but I didn’t call?”
He remembered. It was only an hour, but it was the longest hour of his life. What began as mild curiosity at her lateness turned to an overwhelming terror at her absence. His heart was racing when he finally saw her approaching their home. He had met her at the gate to their property, barefoot in the cold. He had smiled, afraid to voice his fear, but he was a poor actor and her face had fallen to concern.
She had apologised. She was also confused. He knew his concern was irrational, but his need for her was overpowering. He would always wait at a window for her. He would always check his watch as each minute ticked by. These things would never change, but he would reign in his fears, control what defied control, he would not let his fears control her movements.
“Remember what I promised you?”
The memory was clear, as if it happened moments ago rather than decades. His fear had been so acute that he thought his heart was in danger of real damage. He understood how someone could die of fear. Her smile had faltered, then it died on her lips. She had put her arm around him, and he knew that she could feel him tremble.
In some ways he was a strong man. He had never worked in a job that required a desk. His hands were rough. His fingers calloused. But even so his fears were as acute as any child’s. Perhaps we were all just children playing with grown up toys.
She was confused when she made her promise to him. Unsure of the root of his fears. But she had made her promise anyway. It was not a big concession to make to the man she loved. It was a small price to not see such pain in his eyes.
“I’ll always let you know I arrived safely.” She spoke.
His eyes burned and misted. They threatened to close, but he held her there by sheer force of will. He would keep her there every moment, take every second that was offered to him.
“It’s a promise I have kept for thirty years.”
Her voice broke, and his own heart echoed it.
“I know how scared you are,” her head turned as if she were to look at him, but then she turned away, “but you have to be strong.”
He heard her tears and knew why she had turned away. His tough girl did not display her tears, not even to him. He was never as shy, and his fell freely. Her words dried in her throat.
Her tears replaced them.
“Look at me.” He spoke this time. His words were soft. His tone gentle.
For a moment she did not respond. Then she did.
Her skin was peaches and cream. Her eyes shone with their own inner brilliance.
“I have to break my promise.” She sobbed. Her eyes sparkled with her pain.
“I know.” He replied.
He held his eyes on her. Refusing to close them. The moment stretched, then tore.
The room was empty, and she was gone.
The husband pressed his hands to his chest. His heart felt bruised. Injured by abuse. It was in beaten, broken, agony. He lay back on the bed he had once shared with her and mourned for his lost love.
posted by Alan Preece
on May, 19