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    He watches her from the doorway, leaned against the frame where he can see her back and her reflection in the mirror.  She pulls a brush through deep red locks, each one shining and curled gently, falling past her shoulder blades. She’s dressed for the day, except for her shoes, those ridiculous heels waiting near the door for when she leaves.

    She sets the brush on the counter and grabs a small silver tube, stands on her stockinged tiptoes to get closer to the mirror, presses the tube to puckered lips.  It’s a matte, sedated pink, pretty but professional. The red comes in a pearlescent tube, tucked away in the cabinet and reserved for weekend dates. He hasn’t seen it in months, not since their trip to the harbor the night before he shipped out.

    She puts the lipstick down and catches his eye in the mirror.

    “Got any plans today?”

    He shakes his head. “Gonna sit around and enjoy the silence.”

    She smiles and runs a hand through her hair, turning to face him.  She looks the same as she did the last time he saw her, waving as his bus trundled away, but it feels like she’s gotten more beautiful.  She goes to place a gentle kiss on his cheek but he sneaks an arm around her waist, pulling her roughly against his chest. He slides his other hand into her hair, calloused fingers brushing her scalp.

    She’s so small next to him, her petite frame melting into the kiss after a moment of shocked stiffness.  He tries to deepen the kiss, nipping at her bottom lip, but she pulls back with a heavy breath and a mischievous smile.

    “Save that for later,” she says, and pecks him once in promise.  He nods, chest constricted so tight it’s hard to breathe. More than anything, it’s her he misses.  He wishes she could stay home with him, but her job is important, too.

     We’ll make do , as she’s told him numerous times.

    She grabs a tissue on the way out and quickly wipes away her smudged lipstick, smiling and blowing him a kiss before closing the door.


    It’s not quite dawn when he hears her on the staircase outside.  She’s light-footed even in safe spaces, but always forgets about the second-to-last stair, which squeaks obnoxiously under her step.  A few seconds later the door cracks open and she slides inside. He rolls and props himself up on one arm to show her he’s awake.

    “Hey,” she murmurs in greeting.  She drops her bag at the foot of the bed and sits heavily on the mattress next to him.

    “Not out on the town?” she asks, a teasing smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

    “Not much fun without my favorite girl,” he replies, smirking even though it’s painfully true.  Her presence is a lynch pin that keeps him in place; when she leaves, everything is as it was but somehow doesn’t work right anymore.  She leans forward and leaves a chaste kiss on his cheek.

    “Tomorrow night, then,” she promises.  She leans down to unlace her boots, yanking off the muddied, worn leather and dropping them in a heap nearby.  He watches as she goes through the process, the rituals she does to unwind. They’re done almost without fail, no matter how tired she is.

    After the boots, off come the socks, threadbare and darned in several places.  Then her jacket and shirt, dropped into a neat pile on the end of the couch. She folds her jeans, though, places them gently onto the pile with her bra before slipping into the oversized tee she keeps just for sleeping.  She’s a product of the prewar world in all her little habits, no matter the shotgun leaned against the wall by the door, and it fascinates him. It’s never boring to watch her, not since the first night they spent on the road, holed up in some old derelict building, as he tracked her curiously from the corner of his eye.

    Finally, she climbs into bed next to him, curling herself against his torso.  She’s let her hair loose from its braid, red spilling over her shoulders and his arm as she settles.  He shifts so he can hold her and still look down at her as her gray eyes slip closed.

    “Missed you,” he murmurs, kissing her forehead.  

    “Missed you,” she replies sleepily, stifling a yawn.  She slides her hand over his and squeezes. In minutes, she’s asleep.