His ringtone, or rather the song I have assigned on my phone to ring when Daniel calls, wakes me even before the sun is up.
“Daniel?” I mumble, the phone not even up to my ear.
“What are you doing?” What bit of my conscious is awake wonders if I am supposed to be doing something specific. I cannot think clearly enough to recall.
“Sleeping,” I reply, but it sounds a bit more like ‘slben.’
“You’re not in the tent at the bottom of the stairs, are you?” I can hear that he is, quite plainly, far more awake and alert than me.
“No.” I look around, trying to remember where I am. The soft glow of the room reminds me. “I’m in the spare room.”
“What?” In fairness, it may have sounded like, ‘air moom.’ I swipe my tongue around my dry mouth and try again.
“I slept in the spare room last night.” I’m certain that sounded more distinct. Of course, it could also be our connection, although he should still be stateside, as I try to remember what day it is and when he left.
“Nat, I do not want you sleeping in the spare room. What is wrong with our room?”
Nothing, really, I try to find a way to articulate this simply, but in a way that I remind him I don’t like to sleep in our bed without him.
“It’s just not the same without you.” I try to sit up so I don’t accidentally doze back asleep.
“Well, get over it. I don’t want you in the spare room.”
We’ve never discussed the spare room, never needing a reason to do so. I can’t understand his reaction. Why can’t he accept that I miss him and not being in our bed is how I cope with his absence?
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes, I heard you,” I whisper in response to his far louder demand.
“Okay, then I appreciate you straightening up the room and leaving it as you found it.”
I look at the picture of him in his uniform, wondering what sparked this sudden reaction. I don’t want to aggravate him, but I am kind of curious.
“Okay, if you want, I mean, if it is such a big deal, I won’t.”
He doesn’t say anything, which sometimes means the call has dropped.
“I thought maybe the call dropped. That’s all.”
“Well, it didn’t.” For a moment, I almost wish it did.
I’m fairly confused at this point. I’m still only about seventy-five to eighty percent awake, I’m in a dark room out of my familiar surroundings, I think he started our call chipper, but now I am second guessing whether that was my impression or if something was wrong from the start.
“Are you alright?” I want to confirm there isn’t a more pressing reason for his call.
“I’m fine.” He certainly does not sound fine, but I don’t want to spend our call arguing.
“Are you in the airport?”
I don’t even know which airport he ought to be in, although with more thoughts, I consider he should be past Dallas, or he took a red eye to the east coast, like maybe Philadelphia.
“Yeah,” yet still he provides no details to help me resolve my uncertainty.
“Okay, well, I hope your flight is on time and there’s no major challenges today.”
“Then get out of that bed and there won’t be.”
Something definitely changed since this call started. I have no idea what happened in the past two or three minutes, but I don’t want to poke the bear before he has to face a long day’s travel and end his day far away.
“I’m up. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” I wasn’t ‘up’ up, but I was awake and not going back to sleep.
I think to add one last thing before he hangs up. “I love you, Daniel. Stay safe.”
“I love you, Nat.”
The call definitely ends, but without the indication that it may have dropped. No, he definitely hung up.
I stare at my phone, it’s just after five o’clock and I am not going back to bed, whether it’s because he ordered me out of the room or not. I struggle trying to figure out if it’s because I didn’t sleep in our bed. I checked last night and he didn’t leave me a letter like last time, and he did start the call by asking if I was downstairs. I think I remember him asking me that.
So, what are my alternatives? The tent downstairs, or just sucking it up and sleeping in our bed are my only two choices. The couch is okay, but not comfortable for sleeping. I wander out of the room, leaving the door open so I can come back later and straighten the sheets when I am more awake. I walk across the hall towards our bedroom and wander into the bathroom. When I come out, I can see the moon setting behind the mountains. Moon set may actually be a couple hours before it lowers around the curvature of the earth, but the moon, the stars, the sun, all disappear behind the mountains. It’s a beautiful place to disappear.
It is a beautiful place to disappear!
Why not spend the next two weeks in the cabin? There is hardly any snow on the ground, and I can keep tabs on the forecast for the next ten days while working. I’ll drive up today and see if I can coordinate with someone early in the week to bring the truck up, that way I can park it at the ranger station and just drive the last leg up to our plot of land. It will probably shorten my commute since I won’t be driving up into the mountains every day.
Now I’m excited to start my first day alone, because I am going to spend two whole weeks in my mountains, in those sculptured, magnificent, tranquil mountains. Granted, I won’t have any cell service, but I can always type emails and then send them when I am down at the office a couple times a week. I won’t get to talk to him, but after that last call, I’m kind of okay with that. I can’t believe I am thinking this about my Daniel, but I do not need a man telling me what to do.
He’s never been like that with me, not ever, and I have come too far to be commanded. If I am going to be by myself for two weeks, I might as well be somewhere I feel alive and secure and happy and fulfilled.
I’ll need to pack up some stuff – like uniforms and changes of clothes, pajamas – probably buy some groceries, but it’s Sunday and I can get it all done and by tonight I’ll be somewhere absolutely perfect.
Three hours later, I am underway.
NEXT: Falling Forward – Part 29