There was a sudden shift in the mattress beneath him, imperceptible at first, but growing in intensity as time went on, all the while accompanied by creaks from the worn wood bedframe. Unable to ignore it for much longer, Roger opened his eyes and attempted to blink away the fog of sleep. It was the middle of the night when the echoes of danger loomed in the wilderness and the wind rustled through the leaves of the tall trees that surrounded the cabin. In contrast, inside the room was quiet, with its corners bathed in darkness and only a silver beam of moonlight that traversed the closest window and landed on the floor between bed and crib, casting long haunting shadows on the walls. The shift in the static of the air was palpable, that eerie electric feeling at the surface of one’s skin that warned of something amiss.
The source of the abrupt awakening was behind him, so Roger tried to turn slowly, but the calculated maneuver of his larger weight only added to the creaks of the bed. When his eyes finally adjusted to the dim light he was rewarded with the restless form of his wife. Brianna trembled and whimpered, lost in the darkness of her own mind and so far below the surface of consciousness that not even the invading moonlight could reach her. In their short time together, such devastating sight had already become familiar to him and it pressed once more on that deep wound in his heart that refused to heal.
At least she was not being vocal, meaning it was not as vivid as usual. In his yet slight understanding of her complex mind, he knew the lucid ones were the worst, they lingered far beyond awakening and weighed on her shoulders, quite literally bending her unusually straight posture, for the remaining of the day. Those were also the ones that she still kept to herself, no matter how much he urged her to talk. It took a few frustrated attempts and persistence, but Roger had eventually learned how to ease her into reality.
He observed, perplexed, as Brianna tried to curl onto herself, willing her body to become as small as it could possibly be, even though it was a useless attempt for someone as tall as she was in the small space of their bed. At the same time, her eyes were shut tightly as if refusing to gaze upon the monster that roamed freely within her. Brianna seldom allowed weakness to be shown, and seeing her in the rawest state of vulnerability was somewhat shocking to him. And every time, it reminded Roger that he too bears a share of the blame for those twisted dreams, and not even time itself would erase that heavy burden for either of them.
When Brianna began sharing a bed with Roger, he soon realized he shared the same bed with her unconscious mind as well. Some dreams where only whispers of happy contentment which dissolved in the silence of the night, while others were filled with terror and made themselves known by means of desperate cries that vibrated on the surrounding walls.
In that moment instinct fueled his hands forward, hoping to bring her back from whatever convoluted place she was, but he hesitated just shy of actual touch. Roger had learned early on neither to hold her nor force her awake in these moments, for it only made her fight harder. And hard indeed she fought, with the urgent might of a scared animal, arms and legs moving aimlessly while trying to escape an entrapment fruit of her own plagued mind. And more often than not, Roger had been in the receiving end of a blindly aimed fist. Brianna would wake up terrified then, only to see a red mark somewhere on his face, which only added to her unfounded sense of shame. In many such occasions she had reassured him, with a voice laced with pseudo bravery, which he noticed right away, that it was not as bad since he had returned.
If this was not bad, he thought to himself as he watched beads of sweat forming in her forehead, then he dreaded to even imagine how it was before.
Roger moved closer, aware of their boundaries, and by her ear said word of reassurance mingled with her name, in whispers at first and then louder with the soothing cadence of a prayer. His fingertips brushed waves of red hair aside and lightly caressed pale cheeks, hoping that could be the lifeline that pulled her out of the abyss.
She then tensed for a split second, with muscles stiff with vibrating tension, and suddenly her body was in motion again, rising from the bed with a loud gasp. With the same momentum, Brianna pressed herself against the wall near the bed, desperate, while her fingers curled apparently ready to claw her way up and as far away as possible.
Even in the dim light, Roger followed her eyes, which moved wildly not yet able to distinguish dream from reality. They were opened so wide that their otherwise dark hue had transformed into cold blue. She breathed heavily, and Roger saw her breasts, round and heavy as only a new mother’s were, rise and fall underneath the flimsy white fabric of the shift. She looked ghostly pale in contrast, with all blood seemingly drained from her features. He did not dare to touch her, even though his hands itched to do so, for he sensed that her flesh was sensitive to touch, particularly the touch of a man. So, he kept a slight distance with open arms raised, both inviting and ready for her.
Their eyes finally locked, green against the blue he adored, and there was a spark of clarity in them that told Roger she had found a tangible anchor to reality. The remnants of pain slowly drifted away from her gaze with the first touches of consciousness.
With neither sign nor warning, she launched towards him and he caught her full weight in his arms. She was far from being a petite woman, and the full force of body and despair brought him over the edge of the bed and sent him flying backwards, Brianna and all, onto the floor.
Roger landed painfully on his back with a muffled grunt, still holding her firmly against his chest. In their short flight she had not stopped embracing him, but simply held to him seemingly moved by trust.
"Sorry.” She murmured softly with her lips brushing against the skin of his neck. Her voice betrayed exhaustion, still devoid of its usual fire.
"Nevermind that, hen." He whispered in her ear. “Are you alright?”
Her breath was still labored, with a heartbeat so strong that for a brief moment he feared her heart would rip through the skin and enter his own chest.
Brianna only nodded, voice not yet fully trusted, and buried her face deeper into the space between his neck and shoulder. Her shift was lightly damp from the exertion of the nightmare, and the heat from her skin slowly evaporated against the night air. And when he brushed light fingers along one bare shoulder, exposed by the shift, he felt goosebumps on her skin.
There was another whimper in the room and Roger immediately shifted his attention towards the crib. So did Brianna, that lifted her head acutely aware of the little presence as if he was a natural extension of her own body. The connection they shared was a powerful one, but he now understood that the strong pull the little boy had on him was already a force to be reckoned with. However, she made no attempt to move, clearly assessing the needs of her child by sound alone, even with an exhausted mind. Only when the whimpers turned into a sigh, and the small bundle settled quietly among his own warmth, she allowed herself to rest her head in his chest once again.
He held her in place not inclined to move either. Out of habit he started softly humming the first notes of a song from a time yet to come, their time, so to transport her mind to a place where she did not know what abuse and pain truly meant.
Roger felt her body relax accompanied by a deep sigh, hopefully entering a dreamless state until morning. The time for words was long gone, since he knew well enough what sort of monsters roamed her mind in the dark. He was utterly powerless to contain the traumatic creations of her brain, and that was a fact he had to begrudgingly accept.
He only hoped that when they came, because they inevitably would, he could be there to catch her.