It had been a long day, full of the small tasks that caused life to whisk by without memory or meaning. The kinds of busyness that survival required – laundry, groceries, meals, delayed vacuuming, stories at bedtime, listening to the lousy day at work and a reassuring hug and peck on the chin. Rewards lay in lightening expressions, sleepy murmurs and a house that would not yet require a visit from the health inspectors.
But now, silence. The children dreamed, the breathing beside her was soft and rhythmic (with only a few energetic snorts), and she lay unsleeping. It was more than not drifting off; it was a pulsing, crystalline awareness of self, of life rhythms. The night pressed around her full of imaginings, possibilities and magical invitations.
Slipping from between the sheets, ignoring the tossed off slippers but choosing a terry robe that wrapped her like an ancient mage, she padded through the house. The clock ticked and struck – did she count thirteen? A laugh struggled to rise to her lips and then died down again. How long since she had had the energy to go beyond a lip twitch, and a lift of facial muscles? A laugh required commitment and presence. When she had given up laughing?
The dog rose to his feet and stretched, his claws clicking softly as he followed her out of the kitchen door. Moonlight shone silver across the garden, casting shadows and outlining flowers against dark foliage. A breeze made the starry white lilies nod; a whisper spread across the garden – she is here, at last she is here.
Drifting among the flowers, she leaned into them, filling herself with scent. She touched their velvet, surprised at the silvery whiteness of her fingers. Dewy grass washed her feet and chilled her toes. The dog thrust his head under her hand. Lightly stroking his fur, she walked amid the flowers and waving branches, touching, smelling, listening to the ripple of leaves in the wind.
The wind rose, tossing her hair. A rose snagged her robe and then released her. A bat swooped by, a dark fairy sensed only before vanishing. She shivered. A cloud passed across the moon, and the silver shadows shifted. Within the stillness, the chirps and whirs of insects were interrupted by the cry of a hunting bird.
She raised her hands to the moon and listened. Cold beauty washed over her, ancient magic piercing her soul. Time drifted by. The dog leaned against her and yawned. She smiled down at him and then led the way back into the house, carefully locking the door behind her.
The house creaked in familiar rhythms. She dropped the robe on a chair and slipped back into bed, pressing her cold feet against his legs. He roused somewhat and half opened sleep-filled eyes.
“Peanut butter,” he mumbled.
“Peanut butter?” She stared.
“And beer.” He nodded firmly and sank again into his dream.
She muffled the blankets around her head so that her delighted laughter would not wake him. And then she slept.