Ray woke earlier than usual, refreshed as from eight hours sleep, which in reality had been four. His eyes snapped open, fear spreading in his stomach. Still there! Familiar blonde curls cascading over fluffy blue pillows, small shapely hands gripping the comforter. Smiling, he traced fingers over her skin, silk velvet under his rough touch.
With effort he stood, slipped on his shoes and left the bedroom, remnants of sleep fading and the desires of a new day asserting their needs. He thought about breakfast and taking a shower, but instead he lit a cigarette as he walked into the morning sun, whose gentle heat erased the rain of the previous day. He smoked in silence, nature still and sleepy at that early hour, not a bird or car disturbing his reverie. He dragged his foot along the gravel in distraction. The world entire seemed to stop, thoughts pounding in his mind.
“What now?” he asked the clear blue sky. The question dissolved into the morning shine, silence embedded in the early heat. He flicked the cigarette into the street and went inside.
He paused in the doorway, watching her sleep. She shifted onto her stomach, her fingers arranging blankets knowingly and looked up at him.
“Why did you get up?” Her voice was thick with morning.
He sat on the bed, fingers finding hers, caresses and words exchanged through touch.
“I needed some air.”
“To smoke,” she said, smiling.
“As always. The same every day, nothing changes.”
“Get off it,” he said, crawling back into bed. He tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away with her hand.
“You’re like a little boy, you never learn.” She sighed, but kept smiling.
“Please,” she said, turning away, pulling the comforter with her.
He scanned her body, back bare and tender, and pulled the blanket over her.
She sighed again and turned her head to look at him. “Go wash your mouth, you smell like an ashtray.”
“No,” he said, in mocking defiance.
“Fine, then go back to sleep.”
Sinking into the pillow, sleep descended once again.
Black clouds rush in from the west, covering the light, rain begins in torrents, scathing the roof tiles, threatening to wash it all away.
Her face in a cloud, frowning, next to wolves...
“Did you really think?” a voice whispers, exploding inside his mind. He hears laughter, mad cap shrieking laughter all around him.
‘No, no, no,” he whispers.
He woke with a start and jumped to his feet, the bed empty. He rushed into the living room: empty, empty and still, empty.
“No,” he muttered to himself, his teeth clenched together. Motionless and trapped in thought, he stared about the room.
Did you really think? He spun to the sound, but the room remained empty, stubborn hateful empty. Dropping to the floor with a thud, he covered his eyes, too scared to feel tears, trying to hear the voice again.
Memories of the day he lost her at the zoo flooded his mind. He searched franticly for her, retracing the paths, the animals seen, which growled at him, watched him, asking and begging strangers to remember her, but to nothing. He sat down at a cafe, exhausted and pulling at his hair. With tears in his eyes he saw her sitting at the bar, talking to a strange man, who wore a pair of jean shorts and a skin tight white tee-shirt. As he walked towards them, trying to calm himself, he heard the voice again.
He lifted his eyes to her, vision a blur, an image of her holding a white paper bag, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper managed to imprint on his brain and cut through the fog of anxiety.
“Where did you go?” He managed to choke out in a scratched hiss.
“I got breakfast,” she said, placing the bag on the table. She hurried to him, quick and light steps, kneeling next to him.
“What did you get?” He pressed his face into her shoulder.
“Your favorite,” she said, holding him tight.
“I got a cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted, with extra cream cheese, a coffee, and your morning paper,” she said, stroking his hair. He clung to her, his hands linked behind her.
“What is it?” she asked.
He remained silent, pulling her closer.
“Ray.” Her voice sweet and soft in his ear, her breathe against his next warm and tender, her fingers massaging his temples.
“Don’t leave,” he said.
“Ray, what is it?” she asked, kissing his forehead.
“Just don’t leave me, Rose,” he whispered.
She rocked him slow in her arms, humming low and sweet.
“I won’t,” she said, looking into his eyes. “Tonight makes two years, Ray.”
“I know,” he answered. “I know.”
He kissed her as the sunlight broke through the blinds, bathing the room in yellow warmth.