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She Is There

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When I cannot sleep in our improvised camp, she is there. She is also too worried for sleep, too restless, also feeling that sleeping is a waste of time when we should be looking for our son. But in these moments, she doesn't show it; she looks at me and tries her best to reassure me that we will find him and save him and that everything will be fine, even if we both know she could not possibly be sure of that. Every day that goes by on that island without us getting to Henry takes our hope away a little bit more and makes it harder to believe this is one fight we can win; although this could as well be exactly what the island makes us think, but we don't go there, we can't.

I know that trying to keep believing is important, in this place more than anywhere else, but I have never been good at believing, I have never been good at even hoping anything would ever work well for me. That is the idiots' specialty... not mine. But she tries, the blood in her speaking louder than her own experiences; for the success of our mission, for the sake or our son, she tries to make me believe. But in the end, it's always her hand softly rubbing my arm what brings me any real comfort and allows me to get some little rest before dawn breaks.

And in the end... she is right. Or, to be more precise, like her words turn out to be right. By then, I already know her doubts have been almost as encompassing as mine; she simply did a much better job of not letting them show, of reassuring her own self every time they crept up – and with that, often reassuring me as well. But it does not matter. Any lack of faith was compensated time and time again with out love for him, with our unwillingness to give up for a single second. We get him back, we save him, just as she had said we would.

But sleep never comes easily again after that. I am always too worried we'll lose him again, maybe for good this time; always afraid something will happen, someone else will come after him, try to hurt him or take him away... always afraid he himself will choose to get away from me again. I am still reeling from everything that has happened, things around me simply feel too surreal, and often, dread is all I can feel. If I were to tell an unknowing soul about everything that occurred in the past few weeks alone, from torture to an almost apocalypse to nearly losing my son... no one would believe me, and I would not be able to blame them. Most times, I can't believe it either.

When I faint after not having slept for almost a week, she is there. She helps me up and practically carries me home and up to my bed. With the stubbornness that is characteristic to all of her family, our son included, she declares that she will not leave until I am sleeping, and no excuses will get me out of that one, and honestly, I am far too exhausted to argue.

She sits on a chair next to my bed and keeps guard, as if she were in sheriff duty, her expression stiff and determined, and there is something else there that just might be worry. I stop myself from making a snide remark about it; not many people would worry about my well-being, and Snow White's daughter would have never been my guess of someone who would a year ago. But things have changed... and Emma has come to my rescue more than once. So I pinch myself to keep my mouth closed and for once simply believe that somehow, for some reason, she does worry. So much so that she is literally sitting on a chair while waiting for me to fall asleep.

I think the whole situation is simply ridiculous, her presence not at all necessary, but I also keep myself from voicing that thought. I have to actually roll to my side and turn by back towards her to avoid her gaze, but still I can feel her looking, and I am quite sure that the chances of me falling asleep with someone staring at my back are next to zero. Ten minutes later, I am fast asleep.

When I jolt awake after a nightmare, she is still there. She rushes to me, and her hand rubbing my back is firm enough to ground me, yet still soft enough to soothe me. I will myself to breathe normally again, she coaches me through it. I never find it in me to tell her again that she does not need to do that, that she does not need to be there; instead, I silently tell myself that I could do it alone if I really wanted to.

She is there every night after that. I know her enough to tell that worrying about me, caring for me even, gives her something to do, something to busy herself with, someone else to fuss over; and I can tell this is what she needs to avoid creating disaster scenarios about Henry in her mind. I can tell this is her way to heal; so I let her. I let her sit there and watch me fall asleep, I let her comfort me when I wake up from one more round of battling my demons, I let her feel like she is helping someone, like she is fulfilling the responsibility that was thrust upon her together with her title. I let her feel useful and like she is doing good, because I know she needs the reassurance and much as the distraction, if not more.

And, although I still try my very best to look and sound annoyed every single night, we both know that, with her there, it never takes me more than a few minutes to relax and sleep. And when I wake up, night after night, often screaming or crying or both, she is always there. At those times, I never have any energy left to pretend to be bothered by her presence anymore.

After a while, what begins to seem ridiculous to me is forcing her to stay in an uncomfortable chair for hours every night, sleeping only in naps between each time I wake up. Even though she never complains about it and tries her best to not show the strain it puts on her back, I know that is not for her. I see her stretching her muscles when she thinks I am not looking, I see the dark circles under her eyes, and show everything about her screams “I'm exhausted”.

So I ask her to lie on the bed next to me instead – and I word it as a favor, I imply I will feel safer that way, that it will help me calm down, because I know that is the only way she will accept it. In the end, that is not a complete lie on my part; I wonder if that is why she never accuses me of lying despite the fact that she always knows when I do.

And when, in the middle of the night, she wraps me in her arms instead of simply rubbing my back to soothe me as has become usual over the past few months, I cling to her. I feel her lips grazing my forehead, and I make absolutely no effort to move away at all, or to hold back the sigh that escapes my own lips.

A few nights later, when I roll over and slip into her arms before even falling asleep for the first time, she is slightly surprised, but readily tightens her hold on me. And when I wake up and realize it is already morning and the nightmares for once did not come, I know she is not the only one finding healing in this arrangement.