She Whispers

March 15, 2008
She whispers that she can’t handle it anymore. Her voice is slurred by soft, syncopated sobs, but I can understand her every word perfectly. Then she falls silent. She’s on her back, chestnut curls splayed about the pillow. The covers are taut over her curves, embellishing the bump that has been growing steadily for seven months. Averting my eyes from the sore reminder, I glance out the window. Snow saunters down and collects on our windowsill, forming the beginnings of a barrier that hours from now will span the entire window, isolating our shoebox apartment from the rest of New York. Part of me welcomes the seclusion; it’s been a while since we’ve had time alone together.

Her chest heaves, and my breath catches. Then I realize that she’s only practicing. The coach told her to practice whenever she can, day or night.

At least one of us is doing something right.

* * * *

I’m bracing myself on the bed, the muscles in my shoulder tense and on the verge of snapping altogether. From practicing the deep breathing exercises I’ll be helping her use months from now, my mouth is dry; I could use a glass of water, maybe a Xanax to calm my nerves. After what feels like hours, the door of the bathroom creaks open. I look up to see her leaning against the doorframe, the light in the bathroom forming a halo around her pale form.

She holds up the test. I hold my breath.

She smiles and I can see a supernova in her cerulean eyes.

It’s positive.

I stand slowly before crossing the wooden floor, meeting her at the door of the bathroom. She collapses into my arms, half laughing, half sobbing. I smile and kiss her hair, my eyes never leaving the prophecy clutched between her fingers.

* * * *

Her hair smells like April and I suddenly miss the freshness and vitality of spring. It’s a quarter after midnight, and yet the snowplows are out in full force a few stories below us. I grimace at the reverberating sound of metal scraping against frozen tar, and I can feel her body grow rigid as the trucks pass. She buries her head deeper into her pillow to block out the noise.

Suddenly, she kicks her legs and groans, rolling over onto her side so that her back is now inches from my chest. The comforter falls from our bodies and onto the floor. I grin and chuckle quietly, looking over her shoulder to see if she’s awake. I place my hand on her arm.

She swats it away, mutters some unintelligible nonsense, and goes back to her breathing.

* * * *

I had promised her a wonderful evening in the apartment, reminiscent of our honeymoon. Water boils on the stove as I open a box of pasta, humming along with the radio and failing terribly at harmonizing with the vocalist. I hear the distant clanging of keys and turn to see the door open. She hurries inside the apartment, but her harried expression makes her appear miles away.

I go back to my cooking and pour the pasta into the water, reaching for the strainer on the marble counter. I ask her how her day was, and she replies with the beginnings of an angry rant. Like an idiot, I tell her that her day couldn’t have been that bad.

As I strain some pasta, she storms right up to me, the four-month-old bulge of her stomach pressing into my back. I laugh and turn, bringing the strainer with me, and she smacks my arm. Angel hair goes flying, sticking to the wall, landing on the counters, clumping on the table and chairs. My mouth drops and I stare at her, horrified, as she patronizes me for my “lack of sympathy.” I feverishly explain that it was just a joke, but the logic is lost on her. The angelic face before me swiftly turns from pale white to scarlet.

Seconds later, with pasta stuck in our hair, we’re moving on to the bedroom, our lips permanently joined as we shed our clothes one article at a time.

* * * *

Lying awake in bed, I watch the sun rise over the streets of the city. The light reflecting off the fresh snow is almost blinding, and as it filters through the curtains, I feel her stirring beside me. She lifts her head languidly to look at the clock on the nightstand before releasing a surly groan. She has to be at work in two hours, and me in less than one. On a whim, I forgo a morning scramble to the bathroom in favor of resting in bed just a little while longer. The morning is peaceful, and I don’t miss the usual hustle and bustle of city traffic outside our window. The tranquility eclipses everything else this morning.

Drawing in an invigorating breath, I sit up against the headboard. She turns over on her back, those tangled tresses of hers veiling her face as she looks over at me. Through the jungle of hair, I swear I can see a faint ghost of a smile on her lips and a lackluster gleam in her eye. I rub my eyes and look again, thinking it to be an early morning mirage, but when they settle on her face once more I’m still haunted by the familiar beauty of her face.

In a gesture of goodwill, she takes my hand and places it just below her navel. I feel a steady, gentle beat against my palm, and I close my eyes. Though inaudible, it has already become my favorite symphony.

She asks me if I’m all right, and I can’t help but laugh. I tell her I’m fine; in fact, it’s been quite some time since I’ve felt this good waking up for a winter workday.

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