She woke with a jolt. Sweat soaking into the sheets, she looked up at the dark ceiling. To her left, she could see the weak, grey light of the city seeping into the room from the window on his side of the bed. Reflexively, she reached for him – to curl up beside him or, if the nightmare was particularly horrible, shake him awake – only to be horribly reminded of how his flight had been delayed.
Her hand falling on flat space, she blinked away her tears. It would be fine. There had once been a time when he hadn’t always been there, though it seemed so long ago. She wasn’t dependent on him; having him here helped, of course, but in terms of her taking care of herself, nothing relied solely on him.
All the same, she struggled to sit up and wrapped her arms tightly around her legs as she tried to think of what he would say. He’d probably pull her into his lap, wouldn’t he? And cocoon her in his warmth as he sleepily shushed her. He’d yawn once or twice, but he’d force himself awake as long as she needed to calm down. Bad dreams were rare for her, but when they did happen, she usually had a hard time falling back asleep – something that he understood and helped her through.
Closing her eyes, she sat quietly, huddled and swathed in their blanket, as she waited for the terror to subside. Once she’d calmed down enough, she’d change into some fresh clothes and get something to drink. What had he always made her? Oh, right. Chamomile.
She cracked a smile; they’d always get into the pettiest argument over how to properly pronounce it. It was all in good fun – it wasn’t really anything serious – but the memory of the ritual (if you could even call it that) made her miss him even more. She liked the way he’d lean against the counter across the kitchen island and smiled at her. His hair would be sticking up, the faintest five o’clock darkening his face, and his shirt would be buttoned all wrong, and yet, he couldn’t have looked better to her.
He’d only gone for three days, but she still missed him anyway. The month was almost over; Milly was supposed to come back next Tuesday, meaning she’d have to go back Monday night at the latest, and seeing how it was Thursday morning… Where had the month gone? It had seemed like such a long time only yesterday. But then again, time always had gone by so much faster with him.
Sighing to herself, she glanced at her phone. She probably couldn’t even call him right now, since he was still flying. At least she’d see him in a few hours’ time, which would be nice. She could always get her hug later.
Or she could get it now. With wide eyes, she stared at her husband, who had suddenly opened the door to their room. He looked surprised to find her awake, which in itself wasn’t very surprising. It was, after all, 4 in the morning.
Setting his bags down, he quietly closed the door behind him before coming to sit on the bed. Inching closer, he pushed away the hair sticking to her forehead to clear her eyes. Sniffling, she buried her face in the blanket.
“I can’t believe I’m still crying over bad dreams. I thought things would be different now that I’m 30.”
“There’s nothing wrong with crying over a bad dream. I’ve done it before.”
She turned her head to look up at him. He had, hadn’t he? It’d been years ago, but there had been a night when he’d suddenly woken her up, only for her to find his cheeks wet with tears. He’d dreamt of her dying, he’d told her afterwards, to which she had held him for hours on end until, when asked if he was feeling better, he said that he was.
“What was it of?”
“Just… Nothing important.”
She knew he knew better, but he didn’t push her. Instead, he shed his coat and let it slip to the ground. He normally hated it when there were clothes lying around on the floor, but now was not exactly a normal time. His thick coat landing with a soft thud on the ground, he took off his watch and emptied his pockets before gently unwrapping her. His shirt clinging to her from the sweat, she shivered. She should change.
Standing up, he kicked away his coat as he rolled up his sleeves. Hooking a finger into the pocket of his pants, she asked him not to leave.
“I promise I won’t leave.”
“You promised,” she said in a thin voice.
“I would never leave.”
Picking her up, he took her into their bathroom. Setting her down on the counter, he deftly unbuttoned the damp shirt before peeling it off her. When he saw the question in her eyes, he threw the shirt into the hamper as he said, “You need a warm bath.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll be here the entire time. I promised to, remember?”
And true to his word, after he gently placed her into the warm water, he didn’t leave. Slipping his own clothes off, he took her hand and joined her to hold her and keep her company and kiss her bare shoulder as she covered her face and allowed her tears to join the bubbles.
She never told him what had frightened her so badly. Part of the reason was because she couldn’t remember bits and pieces, but another part – a more important part – was the distinction he helped make between her dream – fiction – and reality and how, no matter how horrible that dream had seemed, little bearing it had in their life together. Their real life.
Their happy life.