Despite being not much more rested than when I closed my eyes, I wake into darkness, calculating, once sufficiently awake, that it must be before six o’clock, perhaps even earlier. It takes a moment to realize I am not in my own bed and I recall that my beautiful husband is by my side regardless if we are in our own bed. I roll over to grab onto his sleeve so as not to wake him and discover he’s already watching me.
“Good morning,” he whispers.
“What time is it?” I’m not curious enough to lift my head and view the clock on his side of the bed.
“Almost four thirty.”
“Why are we awake at this hour?”
“I can’t speak for you, but my body clock is not on this time zone.”
That’s certainly enough talking for now. I curl up against his upper arm and close my eyes, doubtful that I’ll actually fall asleep.
“Why are you awake?” Good question. I am on the correct time zone.
“My leg hurts.” He puts his free arm around my waist, as if that will ease the ache.
“So, when are you going to tell me what happened?”
“After I get up and get something for my foot.”
He doesn’t wait for me to make a move and he’s off to his bag, digging for whatever he can find.
“If you want to just grab my purse…” I suggest, but the hunt is on and he isn’t going to stop until he has emptied his entire bag looking for pain killers. I know exactly where they are in my purse, but I let him rummage, even after he turns on the bright light in the bathroom to aid him in his search. He likewise finds a partial bottle of water on the bathroom counter and brings everything to me.
I take the two small pills swimming in his hand and wash them down with two separate swallows of water. He sets the bottle on the nightstand but remains sitting next to me.
“I broke my ankle.”
He continues to wait, like I know he is completely able to sit indefinitely. I scoot up on the pillows, facing him, to retell the story.
He listens, he asks a few questions, he certainly understands how devastated Jacob must be, and he apologizes for not being home to help me. I conveniently omit the part of the story about my being in the cabin. Surprisingly, this was the first time I have been able to relive the story without crying, and I expect I am making progress when Daniel surprises me with the next line of questions.
“You weren’t at the house were you?”
“When they asked you to go out on the search?”
Of all the madness of that night and the overwhelming feeling of loss and failure that accompanies an unsuccessful search, I am surprised this is the detail he catches. I decide not to tip toe around the truth.
“No. I was at the cabin.”
He nods and lies down next to me, holding my hands in his. We just look at each other for several minutes. I know we’re not done talking, but I don’t know what comes next.
“I lost my temper with you, and I am so, so sorry.”
It takes me a few moments to backtrack to where his mind stops to reflect, and he probably can tell from my face that I am not following his thought pattern.
“I know we’ve never talked about it, but the spare room isn’t a spare room.”
Now I realize where his mind wanders. I can dig a little deeper, or I can wait for him to start a conversation I expect we’ve avoided for years.
The silence lingers, so I get up from the bed, throw out the trash on the nightstands, and lie back down, and kiss his hands as I collect them in mine. They dwarf mine.
I’m so impatient.
“Daniel, I want you to tell me, but you are not obligated to tell me.”
I know him well enough to recognize the difference between his Wyoming-style of conversation and his difficulty in relaying details that he struggles to digest on his own, much less regurgitate for me.
“Maybe it’s okay if some things remain unspoken, if we hold on to an occasional secret, because regardless of what you tell me, I will only ever love you more than I do right now.”
I can never love him less, and as I hear myself tell him it’s okay for us to have secrets, I think about how unwilling I was to tell him about the cabin. If he did not put the pieces together, I might never have told him.
“I want to tell you,” he finally admits, “but even all these years later, it’s difficult to admit my selfishness.”
Daniel does not have a selfish bone in his entire skeletal system. I’m curious what, in his mind, qualifies as such.
“I designed it for my Mom. And it’s a long story, but she never stayed there.”
“You see it as her room?”
His sorrow-filled face tells me I’m correct without his need to respond, which, of course, he doesn’t.
“I’m sorry I trespassed. It wasn’t my place, and perhaps deep down I knew that.”
At this point, we are bundled so tightly together, I’m not even sure what part of his body my cheek touches. I squeeze his hand, wherever in this maze they are clasped.
I think about how alone he must have felt when she passed. He was divorced, he’d lost his best friend in combat, he’d supported his mother for years, and when he finally created a warm cocoon for her, she never felt the comfort I felt in the one night I spent lying in her place. Now I feel such heartbreak for him, and such guilt for having dared to occupy her space.
“Can we talk about this some time when I’m not exhausted,” he whispers, nearly asleep already.
Tomorrow, next week, or never are all options available to him.
“Just sleep, handsome man, and know you are loved forever.”
I’m not even sure if the entire sentence left my mouth. I may have fallen asleep as the words dangled from my thoughts.