The alarm of her phone blasted through the room and she reached out to turn it off. His arm was clasped around her waist pulling her close to his body. During the nights like these, hot summer nights, the heat their bodies generated was almost insufferable so they just resorted to holding hands, trying to keep their distance from each other, but still, remain connected, an yet, habit and love made them search for each other in their sleep. She shifted in his arms.
“Good morning sweetheart”
“I will miss you,” she said, her voice rusty with sleep.
“I know. It’s just two days,” he said, the tone of his voice belonging a man sure that she really had nothing to worry about because, of course, he would come back.
“I know. But I will, anyway”. She placed her head at the crook of his neck.
She doesn’t really remember that time anymore when he was not there with her in their bed; now when the number of evenings they have spent together outnumbered the numbers of nights they didn’t. She knows that now there will always be more and more, when their lives follow the same trajectory of time and place and his constant presence in the neighboring orbit created a dependence that is fuelled by his steady force, pulling her forward every day. Today, he just went away for two days. She can be alone for two days.
And yet, apparently she can't, because now she is laying in their bed, tossing and turning and no amount of trying to shut her mind off proves effective to make her fall asleep. She reaches for her phone. For a split second, the thought of texting him passes through her mind, but she decides not to. It is 2:15 am. Great. She hopes that at least he is sleeping, instead of laying in bed and thinking of her. She scoffs at herself. Well, that is a silly thought. So that’s how it feels when you are undeniably, transparently and flamboyantly in love. It is new to her, this surprising immensity of the love she feels. It is overbearing, still tainted by the fear of losing it all, by the bewilderment stemming from the fact that he makes her so happy. She accepts this love with gratefulness, thanks all the gods she doesn’t believe in for bringing them back together.
Finally, after what requires a good deal of effort and focus on her part, she is able to shut her thoughts out to give into slumber. Out of habit, she scoots closer to the centre of the bed and extends her arm in search of Kurt’s body. Her hand, however, lands on the cold spot of his side of the bed. She wakes up, startled, panicked because he is not there before she remembers that he has left for Washington. He is okay. He called her two hours ago to wish her goodnight. She sighs with irritation at herself.
She would never have thought before that laying in bed and listening to the faint sound of his heartbeat would be her favorite pastime, despite the fact that whenever she places her head on his chest her mind involuntarily recalls the sinking feeling of desperation she had felt when she thought he was dead. He isn’t. The logical part of her brain clings to the abundance of evidence their life together provides. She has all the proof. Not that they fall asleep in each other’s arms every evening, but the tenderness of his touch when they are drifting off to sleep is an unchanging ritual they both share. If he were there with her this evening, his breath would tickle her forehead, his fingertips lazily drawing patterns on her back. She would just lay there, nestled in the feeling of home he provided and they would both fall asleep. Tomorrow he would make her coffee or she would be the one to do it, whoever got up first. She would stand at the kitchen counter putting toast in the toaster and he would come and hug her from behind, placing a soft kiss on her neck. In turn, she would hum with contentment and they would sway a little to the music only they could hear.
She remembers that time when she deemed that scenario long gone for them. But then the nurse at the end of the line told her that he was going through surgery, and for a moment, the palpability of losing him for good, choked the resurfacing anger that fuelled the careful reluctance that prevented her from falling in love with him again.
At that moment she just wanted him to be okay, she wanted him to know that she loved him. It was a cliché. And, dear god, she had spent her whole life trying not to be one, but it suddenly didn’t matter anymore. She was powerless. She would never have forgiven herself that she gave up on them before really making an effort to give him another chance; if she was the one guilty of adding another “what if” to her repertoire of regrets.
It was there, this trepidation, in the way she pleaded him desperately, tears in her eyes, not to put himself in the harm’s way. It was there in his low and wistful look when he threw a casual “Okay”. It was unmistakable that he was not done loving her. The vow of the love not gone, manifested in the way he was looking at her at that moment and later when he caressed her cheek in the car when she was driving him back home from the hospital.
“I’ll make a fire.” He went over to the fireplace in the middle of the room and threw a few logs into the hearth. She stood there for a moment, then took off her coat, threw it on the sofa and sat on the couch. Soon, the room was filled with the soft orange light coming from the fireplace, obscured to some extent by his frame.
‘Kurt?’ she asked. He turned his head towards her. She extended a hand at him and he took it. The tiredness was visible on his features. He looked run down, the usual spark in his eyes dimmed. He sat next to her not letting go of her hand. Caressing the back of his hand with her thumb, she felt a scratch too small to put a band-aid on. It would heal soon and they would both forget that it was there. There was this look in his eyes, or maybe she just imagined it, she didn’t know anymore, her ability to judge things as they were thrown off-balance by the events of the day. The only certainty she had at that moment was her will to forgive him: after all, you have to work for a relationship and maybe they hadn’t worked at it hard enough, their effort blurred in the distance between them and that was the moment when the universe was giving them a chance to start anew.
“I love you, too.” She whispered, the truth of her confession resonated between them.
“Please forgive me”. There was a plea in his voice she never heard before.
“I will’, she put her head on his shoulder and sighed. ‘you know, what is the hardest part…? You will laugh at this…’ she whispered.
“You know this story about how once people had two heads and four legs and they shared the same soul, but then they were split in a half by angry gods?”
“No. Care to tell me?“
“A long time ago, all people had four legs and two heads. And then Gods threw down thunderbolts at them and split everyone into two so that each half had two legs and one head. But the separation left both sides with a yearning to find each other because they shared the same soul. And ever since then, all people spend their lives in searching for the other half of their souls…’ her voice broke down. She stopped talking. She already cried earlier in the office, after she saw the video.
“When I was with you, when we were…there were moments when a small part of me believed in that story… I suddenly was the main character in every sappy romantic comedy I ever saw and I believed in every love letter written in history. And, then you hurt me…” her voice trailed off and she felt another pang of sadness.
“I tried to play by the rules, Kurt,” she sighed.
“What are the rules?”
“I don’t know anymore. Maybe there aren’t any when it comes to us.”
It was infuriating but at that moment, when he clasped her in his arms, it felt like he was gathering all the pieces she shattered into that day in the courtroom. He turned his head towards her and planted a soft kiss on her lips. It was a chaste silent conversation about forgiveness and hope.
She wasn’t done being angry with him just yet, but she wasn’t done loving him, either.
With time, the feeling of anger subsides and it is easier and easier to love him; and now love is flowing from her freely, uninhibited and robust. He is a constant when they wake up together and reach out for each other in the morning. It is easy to love him when she has lost count on all the morning kisses and evening kisses and kisses in between. When she has lost count of all the quiet evenings, and plans for the weekend, and little and big everyday frustrations he is able to soothe. There is this surge of possibility flowing between them, the promise there will always be more of it - of that kind of happiness - in its purest form.
“It’s so easy to love you,” she told him in a hushed voice, one lazy Sunday morning.
“Likewise”, he kissed her forehead. She loved the forehead kisses, requited the same gesture whenever possible, but she turned her head to kiss him deeper, the desire with her growing. She slid her hands down his torso, and they both shifted so he was atop of her. She pulled at his waist to communicate the urgency of her needing him. He started kissing her neck, which she stretched back to give him more access to the places that set her body on fire. He knew them well, had them mapped out, and marked. He entered her hastily and she sighed in pleasure. This time, in their movements, there was a desperation and the regret of the lost time and the decisions that could have been made earlier, and the promises renewed. She felt his breath on her shoulder as he was moving within her, panting and trembling. He kissed her neck, this one particular spot he knew swept her under her knees. He told her he loved her time and time again to make sure she knew it. So that she would never forget. So that they both would remember.
It is Thursday evening and he is back. She turns the key in the door and enters, kicking off her shoes as soon as she crosses the threshold.
She hears the faint murmur of the tv from their bedroom.
‘Kurt?’ she cries again but there is no response. Heels in one hand and purse in the other, she enters the room, to see him sleeping on the couch, head resting on the backrest of the couch. Throwing the purse on the bed she closed in to his sleeping frame. She pondered for a moment whether to wake him or not, but sleeping in this position was not the best of ideas, especially now, when they both started to grow old. Bending over, she puts her hand on the side of his face and caressing his cheek, she tries to wake him up.
‘Kurt?’, she repeats softly and watches as his features shift, but still, it is not enough to pull him out of his slumber.
‘Honey, wake up’ she utters the words louder this time and he opens his eyes abruptly.
‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ he asks, disoriented.
‘Nothing is wrong.’ she smiles amused. ‘You’re home earlier.’
‘Yeah, I got on an early flight’.
‘Missed me much?’ she asks, her eyebrow raised and her tone playful.
‘You know, I did’, his eyes beam with the tenderness that he offers her freely every day; it makes her cherished and loved.
‘Oh, did you really? How much exactly?’ she continues with the flirting.
‘Would you mind if I showed you?’
“Not at all, Mr McVeigh’ she leans in again to kiss him deeper, to smile into the kiss. Sometimes they fall into these cheesy, frisky conversations and it makes them feel like they are the main characters of their own version of the Romeo and Juliet, two teenagers who had to sneak out in the middle of the night for their secret dates because their parents hated each other. Their own version of the story about forbidden love. A republican lad and a liberal wench, who knew?
He kisses her back and they undress each other and they have sex. She will hang on to that feeling of happiness, to that madness most discreet. She will store it away in her heart so that it can grow more and more for the days to come.