Being with Will the first time, in the beginning, had felt like floating, drifting atop waves that should have buried them both. Losing him had been like drowning, gasping for air, reaching for anything, anyone to hold on to.
It had gotten easier. She had learned to tread water. She had come home. Now there were buoys and nets that Charlie had erected;they kept the sharks at bay, kept her from straying too far. Jim sat within sight on the beach, watching her over the top of his book for any sign of distress.
There had been the solid ground she’d needed but still she’d treaded water.
Every barb, every missed opportunity: Brian, Nina, Genoa. The sea had hurled waves in her direction unpredictably, unceasingly. The sharks may have been gone but thin gossamer strands still lapped at her ankles, stinging, unseen.
He had promised never to hurt her. He hadn’t promised her a life preserver.
Her toes are numb with cold. She looks down to the inky black floor and the murky puddle that covers her feet in the half dark, the only light in the room leaking from the bulb over the stove. Her feet are frozen. Her fingertips smart with a dozen small cuts, tiny white shards pricking and slicing the tender prune-like flesh.
The storm had woke her, the rolling thunder an uncomfortable reminder of the constant drumming of artillery fire. The ping of the rain on the windows, when it came, was an equally sharp and unsettling sound.
She hadn’t wanted to wake him. The quiet solace of sleep was the one thing she could always give him. She couldn’t take that from him, despite the way she shook; memories like cold water raising gooseflesh on her arms.
She’d shivered and pulled a blanket free from the end of the bed, losing it soon after digging through the cupboards. Cookies, she had wanted a childhood comfort: warm chocolate chips and the cool leather of her father’s favorite arm chair.
She hadn’t found any.
There was a carton of chocolate ice cream in the freezer, front and center. She knew that because she’d put it there. She was cold and it was colder, but she’d wanted it.
They were out of bowls. Will had staff for almost everything but the dishwasher was his domain. No one touched it; he unloaded and loaded it again. It had sat untouched for days.
She’d slipped a mug from its shelf in the cabinet, the first one she could wrap her fingers around, tugged it down with a quiet grating sound.
Two scoops and a spoon fell to the floor with the mug. A sharper crack than the ones outside. A sickening lurch in her stomach.
She hadn’t seen it but now she knows, there’s danger in unseen things.
Light, a yellow orb, reflects ten times over in the shards of dark pottery. The mug had been a gift from his mom, a sentimental memory in an austere and sedated space.
She’d picked up the shards, carelessly. The ice cream had melted sticky and dark across the floor. Her toes had grown numb as she stood staring.