Originally written for Jolene Haley's Spooky Showcase blog tour in 2017. “It’s just a story, Cam. It’s not ...
Originally written for a friend.
There’s a crick in my neck, and I think that’s what wakes me—the discomfort having finally reached a point I can’t ignore, both from the difficult angle in which I’d fallen asleep, and the unyielding surface of my desk. Secondary, of course, is the fact that my face was mashed all over the keys of my laptop, their little rectangular forms leaving indents and creases in my skin. I groan, partly because this is my least favorite (and yet somehow my most oft repeated) position to fall asleep in, and partly because it’s simply what one does upon waking in an uncomfortable spot. Especially when one has realized that yet again, not enough was accomplished.
My computer remains dark, insulting me further by showing off that it sleeps better than I do. Damn technology anyway.
I lever myself up reluctantly—reluctantly not because I actually want to stay in the absurdly awkward and painful position I was in, but because having found itself in such a decidedly wrong situation yet again, my body simply doesn’t want to cooperate. So now my laptop and my body are both insulting me, and really I’m just wondering why I’m still at this desk, and not curled up in bed.
Bed that is soft, and warm, and exactly where I should be. And also exactly where I’m currently not. I fact that I should most definitely remedy.
So with all of this going on in my head—and, you know, the fact that it’s dark, since my computer didn’t see fit to rouse with me—it’s small wonder it takes me more than a few minutes of moaning and stretching (and wincing) to notice what’s different. Specifically, what’s sitting on my desk, carefully placed and waiting for me to see it. But when I do finally see it, everything I was just groaning about vanishes.
And I smile.
How can I not? It’s just…so her, something like this. She’s all about the little things, the details—things I’m horrible about. I tend to go for the big, the loud, the unmistakable. With her though, it’s little touches—literally, sometimes. A hand on my shoulder as she walks past. The brush of her fingers against mine. Her breath on the back of my neck, just before the brush of her lips, which always proves to be the best muscle relaxant in the world.
But sometimes, like now, it’s little kindnesses, small things to say she cares. Like the single rose she left on the corner of my desk, knowing I’d see it when I woke up (eventually, anyway).
No note. The flower is enough.
We’ve never needed a lot of words between us.
I wince a little getting up—I did mention that was not a comfortable position I’d fallen asleep in, right? But once I’m up, I’m smiling again, because how could I not be? The rose, when I pick it up, smells just as good as when I gave the bouquet to her earlier. She gave me tulips, my own favorite, but I’d found the deepest red roses I could for her. Because they’re her favorite, and that’s how I roll. Nothing’s too good, or too much for her.
Which is why had all kinds of plans for tonight, plans that didn’t involve me falling asleep on my laptop again. But holidays and hospitals rarely play nice together, and she’d been called in, and honestly, that was okay. Because she loves her job, lives for helping people, and how can I say no to that? But the rose that’s now in my hand tells me she’s home, and didn’t want to wake me—though really, I wish she would’ve. It would have been a far nicer way to wake up.
I expect she probably wanted a shower. Usually when she’s called in like this, she comes back exhausted. But because she is who she is, of course she came in to check on me first—and of course she knew I’d be here, trying to write, instead of in our bed. Because my best intention is always to wait for her.
Not that I always succeed. But it’s the effort, right?
I take the rose with me when I leave the little office she helped me put together. It’s full of pictures of us, and things that remind me of her, because she’s been my muse from the first time I saw her. My hand brushes over my favorite photo, even though I can’t see it in the dark. It’s us, kissing. A candid moment caught by a friend, framed by the perfect light. The kind of shot that just happens, pure photographic serendipity, and you can never hope to recreate it. It was perfect, that moment, and it’s my talisman.
The wall along the stairs carries further evidence of our time together, though like the photos in my office, I can’t see them in the dark. It doesn’t matter. They’re there, they happened, and I recount them all as I pass. The first time I took her ice skating, in shock that she’d never been. (She fell a lot, and laughed even more.) Rachel and Evan’s barbecue, where we ended up chugging ice cream from paint troughs, because somebody’s kid had done it at summer camp and they’d wanted to try it. (It was, admittedly, awesome.) The winter she thought it would be fun to build a snowman. (It totally was.)
Moment after moment, and every one makes me smile a little more.
Upstairs is just as dark as the rest of the house, except for the smallest of lights coming from our room. The candle she lit flickers on the dresser, telling me it hasn’t been too long since she came home. It casts a soft light over her sleeping form, reflecting the warmth of her skin. Carefully, I crawl onto the bed, and trail the rose down her arm, across her jaw and neck.
She smiles as the soft touch wakes her, before her eyes even open. But when they do, they immediately find me.
“Hey beautiful,” I whisper.
Her sleepy smile widens. “Hey back.”
I snuggle up against her, after setting the rose on her bedside table. “How was work?”
Her smile fades a little. “Tough. This isn’t a great holiday for everyone.”
I nod, eyebrows pulled together, thinking of how many times I spent it alone, before she came into my life. “Yeah. You okay?”
She presses into me. “I am now. I missed you.”
I run my fingers over her cheek, then her lips. “Missed you too. I always do.”
Her smile brightens again, and I take the opportunity to lean in until our lips brush. It’s a soft kiss, gentle, one that says simply, “I love you. I’m glad you’re here.” The second lingers while my hand cups her jaw, and she smiles against me. It lasts, because it can, and because we will. We were meant to be, she and I. And when it ends, I don’t move, just hold her more tightly, while our breath mingles.
“I love you,” I whisper. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”