When You Cry You Say Goodbye
Steve woke with a start, almost sitting up, searching for Lydia in the shadows, and she moved, reached out a cool hand, her voice heavy with sleep and she murmured, ‘Hey, hey, whassup?’
He blinked a couple of times, ‘I had a bad dream.’
She reached up for him, her arms enveloping him gently, ‘It’s alright honey, it’s alright,’ her voice a sigh, ‘Just a dream.’ She gathered him close, quiet, ‘Sssshhh.’
He rubbed his eyes dry, whispered, ‘I dreamt that you had died, that I was a widow, and my heart was broken. I was crying and crying and then I woke.’
He gave a little hiccup and she laughed softly, eyes still closed, so he laughed a little too. ‘I’m here,’ she whispered, her voice earthy and real, ‘Holding you tight. Now go back to sleep,’ and he relaxed, snuggled into her and as they lay together drifting back into sleep.
‘Anyway,’ a final murmur, ‘you never cry.’
He whispered back, so quiet she couldn’t have heard him even though their mouths were close, lips almost touching, ‘If you cry, you say goodbye’, and he could taste her sharp-sweet breath as they drifted away together, back into the night.
Barefoot, in shorts and t-shirt, he opened the back door from the kitchen into the garden, welcoming the smell of fresh air and newly mown grass. He smiled at the sunshine, and then he went and brewed his first coffee of the morning; strong and sweet and milky. ‘Too much of everything,’ Lydia said, but she preferred tea, which he brewed carefully in a separate pot, filled her favourite mug and dropped two wafer-thin slices of lemon that he cut with a special knife.
He placed her tea and his coffee on a small tray and walked quietly back to the bedroom. He put the tray on a low table by the window. Sun was streaming through the gaps in the curtains and he drew them back a little to let in more light, so that soft tendrils of steam dappled and drifted upwards up from the mugs on the tray.
He sat down and stared at flat, empty space that had been her side of the bed. The quilt was smooth. The pillow had forgotten the shape of her head.
He stared at the emptiness where she used to be and his eyes brimmed, and he blinked once or twice, but he didn’t cry.