I awoke in my room, the room I shared with my husband. I was sick. I had been sick for a long time and I was finally starting to get well.
It only took a moment to see that I was alone, again, but my eyes slowly took in the room around me. The walls were white and the trim and floors were in a blond wood. The furniture was very spare and a modern style with clean lines and all trimmed in silver. I was lying in a large bed covered by a fluffy white comforter. The room was immaculate except for several tissues on the comforter next to me.
As I gazed around, I vaguely noted the beauty of the objects in the room. Normally they would give me pleasure, but all I felt was an overwhelming sadness and loneliness. The room and furnishings I had so loving selected just seemed cold and antiseptic.
I glanced at the other half of the bed, and just for a moment I thought he was there with me. I felt such love and joy for him that I thought my heart would burst. He was asleep and I traced the outline of his handsome face with my eyes and then my hands, smoothing his wrinkled brow that his dream was causing. After a moment his eyes fluttered open and he took my hand and gently kissed the palm. I saw his love for me shining clearly in his eyes, but then the moment passed and I was alone again.
I got out of bed and started cleaning up the tissues and straightening the room. Glancing toward the window I noticed that it was dark outside and I could hear the wind starting to blow. I went down the hall toward the stair, headed to the kitchen to get a drink, but I stopped to look into a room I was passing, and something drew me inside.
It was an office with a desk and computer, furnished similarly to the bedroom but it was the window that had caught my attention. It was a large window and I walked over to look outside and see the weather. There was a shadow across the wall from a tree branch, that was bouncing gently in the wind and I thought a storm must be brewing. When I was halfway across the room, a crack of lighting shattered the silence and the shadow of the tree branch waved more animatedly. As I got closer to the window I could tell that something was very wrong. There was absolutely no light outside the window and all I could see was darkness, like the window was made opaque black glass. I couldn’t see the tree or the sky, just blackness. I felt a cold shiver run though my body and I quickly backed out of the doorway.
I ran into the next room. It was another bedroom, and a large canopy bed stood in the middle of the room. The window was open and the wind was violently blowing the bedclothes and canopy of the bed. I stood mesmerized for a few seconds, the gauzy canopy swirling around me, the wind brushing my face, whipping my hair and clothes. There was no view out of this window either and the complete lack of anything held my gaze.
And then there was a sudden flash of light. I saw another windy day, the sun shining brightly, leaves swirling around, my long white dress lifting in the wind as I twirled around. I smiled as I felt a deep longing, and then the vision was gone, and I backed out of the room and shut the door.
Turning I went back down the hall, listening to the wind howling eerily around the house. I stood at the top of the staris and looked up into the vaulted ceiling, and saw the skylights that usually let in the comforting light receding into deep shadows.
And suddenly like headlights in the night, sunlight came spilling through the skylights. I heard voices, laughter and the fluttering of a bird's wing. The light grew brighter and brighter until it filled the room and I could feel the warmth on my arms and face. I wanted to dance, to skip, to join the laughter, but the light grew brighter until I could no longer look and shut my eyes. And as suddenly as it had come it started to dim. I opened my eyes and felt the room start to sway, my body shivering from the lack of warmth. Then the darkness returned like a cloud, chasing the light from the room with its oppressive blackness, and the sound of laughter faded into the wailing of the wind.
A noise outside drew my attention and I glanced down the stairs toward the front door. I knew it was my husband coming home. Slowly I walked back to our bedroom and climbed under the comforter, pulling it up to my chin.
I loved my husband but I dreaded his coming.
I heard the front door open and his slow, tired footsteps as he walked across the hall and then up the stairs. I glanced around the room again. Once it had held such promise, joy and hope. Now it was simply a mockery of how things could have been, and the emptyness threatened to overwhelm me. Us.
As he approached the bedroom I heard his footsteps slow. I knew he hoped that I was asleep so he wouldn't have to interact with me. I laid back against the pillows and waited.
Quietly he entered the room and when he saw that I was awake he smiled softly. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m starting to feel better, finally,” I said softly.
My husband came and sat on the bed next to me and took my hand.
I knew what he wanted to say. Now that I was finally getting well he wanted to tell me it was over, that he had tried to love me but he just couldn’t. I almost pulled away from him, preferring that he not touch me, because he knew that I still loved him and I could see the pity and sadness in his eyes. I never wanted anyone to look at me like that, least of all him.
He loved another and he had only married me out of a sense of duty, but I had thought he would learn to love me. Now I realized that he would always love her. I could feel tears in my eyes and he pulled me to him, stroking my head like he was comforting a child. Usually being held by him would be comforting to me, but his kindness just left me feeling more alone, more desperate.
I could see he had never loved me and he had just been going through the motions of our marriage. As the months had passed he spent less and less time at home with me, his work consuming more and more of his life. He looked desperately tired, his skin which used to glow with life and vitality now looked grey and dull. His eyes held the knowledge of too much pain and sadness for someone his age. His mouth, which used to light up his face with his smile, now too often expressed no emotion at all, simply pressed into a polite line. His shoulders, which were once so strong and wide, were slumped with resignation. I knew he was a good man, he wanted to do the right thing, he didn’t want to hurt me. But how could either one of us live like this? Then I realized that neither of us had been living for a very long time.
I cried, letting out all of my pent up emotions, my frustration, my love, and he held me tighter and tighter. I cried until I had nothing left inside. He gently rocked, holding me as if he really loved me, crushing me to him.
After a few minutes he sighed, and loosening his embrace he pulled back and looked into my eyes. He said very gently, “Everything will be alright.”
I knew he had made a decision. He would stay with me, a woman he didn’t love, to try and make our marriage work, for my sake. For a split second I could see our future, our happiness. My soul was lifted out of the blackness and soared toward the heavens. I felt that we would be invincible together, nothing could come between us.
And then the reality struck me like a thunderbolt, searing my mind, heart and soul, and the sudden knowledge knocked the breath from my body. He would never love me, he would never be happy with me and he knew it. He had given up his true love and his happiness for my sake, for his people. And he had stayed with me because he couldn’t bear to hurt me. His kindness and tender heart had betrayed him.
But at that moment I made a decision too. Even though I loved him to the very core of my soul I wouldn’t make him stay with me. Couldn’t make him stay. The emptiness I could see inside him was already starting to overwhelm the love I felt for him. His sadness, his sacrifice would kill me, it would kill us both.
I would let him go and he would return to her. They would be happy.
They would live the life I had wanted so badly.
And I would be alone.
I looked again toward the window, and I let the yearning darkness envelop me.