There is a gap in the curtains, three feet wide, and morning sunshine pours through it and floods the room with gold. The very air is gilt with it.
Sunlight turns the dust motes in the air into flecks of light. It drifts down past the shining wooden bedposts and over the coverlet and bright white sheets, onto the bare back of Bathsheba's sleeping husband, highlighting the downy hair growing there, the hills and valleys of muscle. His shoulder blades rise and fall with his quiet breathing. His arms are extended up and vanish beneath his pillow.
She watches him, quiet. His face is hidden from her, turned so that she can only see the back of his ear and the curve of his cheek. There is a constellation of moles and freckles on his back, probably never seen by him, since she doubts he has ever owned a mirror and would not study himself if he did. She can study him, though, and she makes a thorough job of it—the bumps of his spine in a line down his back, the arc of his neck against the pillow, the tips of his hair turned white in the sunlight. His body is warm, heating the bed, and she breathes a little faster at the memory of his bare skin against hers.
Hers. He is hers, hers, this body of him, the goodness and strength of him, the patience and integrity of him, the love of him. Given to her.
The love of him—somehow intact, despite all her folly and pride. She might have lost it and never known its value. Sometimes her heart hammers as though she has stumbled back from the edge of a cliff just in time, remembering how close they came to never having this.
Sometimes she loves him so much that it seizes her lungs and stills her breath in her throat. Sometimes it sets her shaking, to know and be known like this.
Gabriel stirs slightly. The muscles in his back shift and flex as his arms readjust.
He lifts his head, pivots it toward her. At the sight of her eyes open and on him he smiles, slow at first, growing wider as hers does.
"Good morning," she whispers.
He leans over to kiss her. He weaves his arms around her so that both sides of her body are enclosed, one hand coming up to brush her hair out of her eyes. What she sees in his eyes makes her feel as though the world is spinning and stable at the same time.
"My heart," he says softly.
She is overwhelmed by the smallest things. His eyelashes when he blinks. The sound of his breath as he inhales through his nose. The faint lines collecting around his eyes.
He reads her face and has to swallow.
The bedroom is comfortably hot, the sort that presses against a body like a weight. Bathsheba, who is familiar with the sounds of the house, knows the maids are purposely avoiding their room.
Gabriel says, "Shall we stay here all day?"
"We would never hear the end of it."
"Let them talk." He skims his mouth along her neck, up to the hollow behind her jaw. Just as she thinks he is about to turn it into something deeper, he turns the tables and tickles her until she shrieks.
What next transpires ought not be recorded. It is a sorry enough thing, two grown persons degenerated into a pair of children, without necessitating a description of it.
They do not emerge from the bedroom for another two hours, and Liddy spends most of that time at the far end of the corridor, ordering the staff away.