The soft stirring of the mattress made Eliza peel open her eyes. She squinted at the curtains across the shadowed windows and the shape of the cot by her childhood bed, with little Cornelia still curled up upon it, fast asleep. Peggy’s snoring was audible from the bed on the opposite side of the room. Just as her eyes began to droop closed again, the quilt adjusted beside her, letting in a blast of cold December air.
Alexander, she remembered suddenly. Sharing a bed with him was still wonderous and new. They’d had a room to themselves for the first few days of their marriage, but the arrival of several guests for the holiday season had put a premium on space.
“Where are you going?” Eliza muttered, gathering the quilt tighter around her as she reached out to arrest his progress in slipping out of bed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, voice low to not upset the quiet stillness of the morning. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Not an answer, she noted. She rolled over to face him, and saw he was halfway out of bed, with his nightshirt askew and his hair adorably mussed. He certainly didn’t look very awake. “Why are you getting up? It’s barely dawn.”
He hesitated for a moment. “Habit, I suppose. The General always demands we wake before dawn.”
“The General isn’t here,” she reminded him.
“Even so, I’m awake now. Perhaps I’ll go read in your father’s library until breakfast.”
“It’s Christmas day. No one will be stirring for hours yet. Lie back down.”
His legs adjusted back up into the bed as he arranged the blankets back over himself. He’d obeyed her, but he looked a little dubious as he readjusted on the pillows. “What am I meant to do, lying here awake for the next several hours?”
“You’re meant to go back to sleep,” she said fondly.
“But I’m awake,” he replied, as though that were somehow a retort.
“Come here.” She rolled on to her back and gestured for him to come closer.
As he inched towards her on the mattress, she guided his head towards her chest, so that his ear rested just over her heart. His arm settled around her as he made himself comfortable. She rubbed his back with one hand and dragged her fingers rhythmically through his hair with the other.
“Sleep,” she whispered.
He hummed contentedly against her, going limp in her arms. Within minutes, she was rewarded with the soft snuffle that meant he’d fallen back into slumber. She let her ministrations ease to a stop, instead resting her arms around his shoulders and back to keep him securely against her. Her cheek pressed against the crown of his head, warm in the chilly morning air.
Her eyes drifted closed once more.