She thought she hadn’t slept, but she was disoriented and vaguely aware of lightning. She squinted at a point of red light in the deep dark. What was it? She could hear him breathing, Philip, half-snoring. But at an odd distance, off and below her, on a flat rock perhaps. Car headlights smeared themselves vaguely across thick curtains, then a rush of fear as memory pulsed and fractured into half-consciousness. Not Philip. Martin. And the yellow light on porcelain, herself in a mirror, heart racing. Then the slow, deliberate lifting up, her elbows crooked, the cotton dry and bunched in her fists; now pendent in the thin air, motionless, bared; and the bold, broad stripe of vertical darkness a few feet away, so wide now, so much wider than she had thought when she’d committed herself to it. And the pin-bright sound of his activity just beyond. And then the end of his sound; the knowing; the shocking, high-frequency silence of collusion. Without breath, suspended over a tear in the silk of time, holding it, she held it, as the light browned and granulated and parched air crackled from her throat.
She jolted, spasmed, a dry gargle in her open mouth, its echo hanging in the blackness. Then his clotted breathing again, out there; and the tiny, red point of light. She wrestled the panic, fighting herself back down, down, blood humming in her ears. She lay still, her eyes set on the opaque smudge of the ceiling, a vivid pulse in her neck. She focused everything on his breathing; thick and long. But authentic. She was sure.
She pushed back the covers, quietly edging them off the bed, wriggled easily out of her nightgown, placed it by her side and laid back down. She gazed up, still, open on the wide plane of the sheet, sensing the coolish air breaking across her, pooling warmer along her neck and the flurry of her pubic hair. Time passed, punctuated only by the distant tide of his breathing. She sat up and eased her legs over the edge of the bed. Her eyes adjusted to his form across the room; an indistinct hump, clumsy, littered with scraps of clothing. His breathing rolled on in waves, oblivious. She lifted her hand and lightly touched the skin beneath her collarbone, her fingertips poised over the slight swell. She eased her fingers apart until gooseflesh rippled down her side and she tasted metal. She stood up, swallowed lightly and walked to him, slowing past the foetal curve of his legs and body, stopping beside his head. His breathing snagged momentarily and resumed, blank and even. She edged her feet slightly apart and looked down at him along the flat plane of her body, burnished monochrome in the darkness. If he began to wake now she might make it to the bathroom without him comprehending. She sank into a squat, her knees parting evenly, the curve beneath her belly close to his face. She could feel his steady breath there. His glasses were folded and set carefully above his head. She gently picked them up, unfolded them and drew her fingers back steadily on one of the frail wire arms until it snapped. And then the other. She leaned both arms over him and put back the pieces.
He was instantly aware of a presence. Instinct brought him from deep sleep to acute awareness with barely a catch in his breathing, the circumference of information sluicing him to attention, leaving his external self untouched. Right beside him and above, quite still. He focused hard on the silent hum of the air. And then feet gently parting, definitely, inches in front of him, the tiny hiss of carpet. His pulse thudded in his temples. He heard the supple click of joints and suddenly she was near, very near, sultry air pocketed on his face, fecund, unmistakable, refracting his breath. A leaning motion, the soft tang of sweat, and more, close, and the click of his glasses. He could hear her blood. A small tension above his cheek, finally giving, thin wire snapping. Once. Twice. The leaning disturbance of air again and an organic stillness.
“Abi.” he said.