Actions and words

I fall asleep watching Ocean’s 11, curled like a kitten in the middle of his bed. His fingers on my temples wake me; he tugs gently at my glasses and my eyes blink slowly open.

‘I don’t want you to break these,’ he says, tugging the plastic frames away from my face. He sets them on the chest at the foot of the bed, next to my glass half-filled with lukewarm whiskey and soda. ‘Here,’ he says, taking my hand. ‘Spin around this way and sleep up here by me.’

Mumbled, sleepy nonsense spills from my lips as he pulls me around the right way in his over-sized bed. He hushes me and I blush, but am too tired to fight him. My day began at 7 a.m. and included six hours of work, a flight, errands, catching up with my parents and a heated argument with him earlier in the night. I’d left his place and driven home before sheepishly returning, holding out a plastic QuikTrip sack of Jim Beam and Coke as a peace offering.

My heavy eyes have already fallen shut again before he drapes a fleece blanket over me. Beneath that, I’m still wearing skinny jeans and a soft purple shirt, and they’re tangled in his dorky Snuggie that he convinced me to try on earlier. Even under the layers, I shiver. He feels it and lifts the fleece and comforter stretched over his long body.

‘Still cold? Come here.’ Without opening my eyes, I slide under his covers.

Our knees touch and his soft breath reassures me as I begin slipping away again. The swish of air between his parted lips is a welcome change from the rushing interstate 19 stories below that usually lulls me to sleep.

Just before sleep claims me, his fingers fall lightly against my cheek, followed by a gentle brush of lips on my pale skin. Once, twice, he kisses, soft and serious. I smile faintly, and the tension I’ve carried for months finally relaxes. Before I can open my eyes to find his own glinting back in the dark, his mouth lands delicately on mine for half a second. Then his fingers stroke back my hair and his arm slides softly around my waist as the bedding rustles and he lays his head back on his own pillow. We sleep.

Hours later, I’ll wake, confused. The shadows on the ceiling will be foreign, the green glow of the clock too bright. I’ll sit up and squint to read the digital clock face. Just as my eyes focus enough to make out the time — 4:47 — his hand will find my wrist and he will tug me back close to him.

‘Five more minutes,’ he’ll murmur, and I’ll smile, feeling wanted for the first time in half a year.

When I finally get up twenty minutes later, it will be the hardest goodbye I’ve said in much longer.

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