Derry lay on her side staring out of the window at the lightening sky. His arms felt hot and heavy where they held her under the sheets. Every muscle on her frame begged her to move away. Trying not to wake him, she tried to kick off more of the duvet to lessen the weight.
She hadn’t slept the whole night, not after they made love, nor after she had been sure that he was asleep. It was not as if she hadn’t tried. She had tried. She had closed her eyes and stretched her imagination, hoping to slip into a dream. Then she’d counted the number of spots she could see in her eyelids. Finally, emptying her mind, she attempted to fool herself into believing she was falling.
The birdsong convinced her that she’d failed. She just wasn’t capable.
She watched the room brighten and saw the squirrels emerge on the branches that skittered across the window panes. She watched them jump and fly, all the time wishing she could do the same.
Was he asleep?
She’d asked herself that question many times, wondering if her felt as unhappy as her. It didn’t seem so. He was snoring. Was that a sign? His breath rasped against the exposed skin on her neck, and she tried to get farther away from him, closer to the window. But his arms held her so tight. Outside, condensation frosted on the glass, betraying the late October chill. It was not warm in the room, but, in her mind, it was unbearably hot. She wished for the clock to tick faster.
She thought it had been a good night. They had planned it a week in advance. A special night, to bring the romance back. It had been his idea. She had seemed distant lately, and he was worried that it had to do with “us.” So he wanted to sweep her off her feet again.
She couldn’t remember…did he ever sweep her off her feet? She didn’t remember it that way. He’d been introduced to her at a party by a friend, who thought they might “get along.” It was Dave who had done the introducing – he was a self-styled matchmaker. Well, it had worked. Martin was cute, and sweet. She did remember thinking that. And in medical school. He had potential. They’d talked for much of the night, and then he suggested they go for a walk. From the east village, they’d walked all the way to Battery Park and back. They spoke of jobs and politics, where they went to school, and “did you know…?” They connected enough for Martin to ask her to dinner the next day. Then he kissed her on the cheek in front of the steps to her apartment and waved goodbye.
They had been together a year now, and everything had run well. Very well. They spoke of their future together without thinking. Nothing was wrong with “us” at all. Nothing. At least, nothing that made sense.
And he asked her if she was okay. She looked unhappy. Had something happened? With her father? Her job? Her work? No, Derry had replied, everything is perfect. I am happier than I have ever been, she said. No, she added quickly, I mean to say that I don’t know how I could ever be happier than I am right now.
He’d smiled at that. Martin’s smile was very catching. She smiled, linked her arm in his, and they strolled through Boston Common.
Then, perhaps we should celebrate, he answered. Derry looked up at him. Celebrate what? He smiled broadly, stopping her before she walked across Charles Street without looking. We should celebrate life, he said.
Tonight was the result. It had been lovely. He picked her up in a rented jaguar, and they drove out into the country. Leaves were falling all around, and they flew out from under the tires to dance in their wake. She nestled into the seat, dreamily watching his movements as he shifted down when they went uphill. The car hummed in the silence of the moment. He smiled when he caught her eyes on him.
The inn was a beautiful old colonial, with wreaths on the doors and dried lavender in the windows. Real iron chandeliers lit the small rooms, and the oak floors creaked under their feet. The host ushered them into a private dining room, complete with old photographs on the mantle, and iron and copper tools hanging on the walls. Carl, the waiter, had apologized for the slight chill in the room, explaining that the fire had still not reached its zenith. Once it falls, Carl said, it will truly begin to heat up. Martin thanked him, then asked how soon the dinner might be served. Carl replied, whenever you’re ready.
The dinner had been incredible. Martin had made sure that only her favorite dishes were served, and that white wine was served instead of red. They tried to convince me it was not proper to serve white wine with red meat, Martin told her, but I insisted. But you like red, Derry replied, and this night is as much for you as for me. Yes, he said, but I was the one who set it up.
Later, after dancing outside under the clear, cold sky, they’d gone upstairs to the bedroom. She had felt as if she were in a dream when she saw the room. There was a four poster king-sized bed, covered in cream linens and a pale yellow duvet. A rose lay across the pillows. The rest of the room was not much bigger than their dining room, but it contained a dark maple wardrobe, nightstands and a small dresser. She laughed when she saw that their clothes had already been hung up for them in the wardrobe, and the suitcases neatly packed to one side. He picked her up from behind while she laughed, and twirled her around. Derry laughed more, laughed until he set her down and began kissing her neck.
Slowly, the night crept up on them, wooing them onto the beautiful bed. He was inside of her before she knew what was happening, and then she was gone. It was wonderful. Perfect.
Many hours later she lay awake on her side, watching the sky lighten outside the window. The fire had fallen until it was only darkening embers, and the room had cooled down to an icy level. She wondered how much longer he would sleep. She wondered if she could slip away without his noticing. His arms held her so tightly. Too tightly. She couldn’t move without waking him. She didn’t want to do that. But she couldn’t stay this way much longer. Why, she thought, tears forming in her eyes, must I be this way?
The clock chimed five. She moved away a little, testing. He snuggled closer. She stopped. It was too hard. Derry listened achingly to the birdsong, wishing for it to end. The fire crackled as another ember fell.