She hadn't opened her eyes yet. It was early – no ambiance pierced the veil of her eyelids, no engines sputtered down the road outside. Her mind's eye saw the limits of the Spartan room – the cream colored walls, the redwood beams spanning its length, the frontier dresser thrust into one corner, and the bed where she now lay, isolated in the room's center, devoid of any bedclothes save a quilted sheet fastidiously tucked in at the corners. She listened past the roar of her own breath, the empty echo of country air, for the nearly inaudible murmur that her mornings had come to rely on. The first titters of birdsong began to dapple the silence.
The mundane darkness of her inner eye took on the mystery of form. An impressionist chiaroscuro gradually resolved itself into slaked expanses of cracked plaster and pleasantly musty wood fibers. In the light of predawn, the gauzy curtain took on a fey glow, diffusing the scene with a radiance that came from everywhere and nowhere. In this instance, as creation perched on tenterhooks for the sun to breach the horizon line, possibility became limitless, imagination ran indefatigable – magic was born. She could do anything, go anywhere, speak with the tongue of a poet and the heart of a warrior. She turned her head, just as a ray of yellow light played shadows on the far wall.
The pillow was an elegant thing, brushed silk and elder down, far beyond what she ever would have considered purchasing for herself. At first she had been timid, bending herself to fit at the foot of the bed, an ankle and a wrist tied to its legs to keep herself from rolling to the opposite edge. But she had found herself to be a serene sleeper, and she finally took to reclining herself along the bed's length, her humble cotton pillow flush against the more lavish accommodations. Like a ripple in water, the shimmer of silk fluttered as the indentation at the pillow's center briefly shifted. Breath bated, she watched, but there was no break in the rhythm of the light snores.
Yet again, she was entranced by the purity of structure, the grace of so fine a profile. Almost imperceptibly, a slim torso expanded and contracted with air, one arm lazily deposited over his stomach, the other grasping beyond his crown. She ached as the pointed jaw parted in a half-conscious yawn. She undid the first few buttons of her heavy woolen pajamas and, slipping a few practiced fingers under the gently rousing figure, raised him from the pillow and deposited him on her chest.
“Good morning.” The words softly rumbled, resonating through her breast bone and into the flat palm that lay lightly over her companion. She imagined herself at his size, the vibrations setting every cell a-thrum. Her toes curled slightly.
“It's early.” Tiny smacks as his spirit woke. How could so mundane a sound be so wondrously delicate?
There was no attempt to budge the hand that held him against her warm skin. By now he must know it intimately. Dread coiled at the edges of consciousness, as she pictured the ugly scar on her thumb from an errant kitchen knife, the chipped nail on her ring finger, the callouses from a decade and a half of playing cello. Did she disgust him?
“Are we getting up?” Dormant muscles came to life beneath her palm, rediscovering themselves in anticipation of the day. She wouldn't lose the moment. She took a breath.
“Do you hate me?” The motions stopped. Somewhere in the distance she heard the cackle of a diesel tractor being started. A long, narrow piece of sunlight outlined the shape of a bedpost.
“Because you don't have a choice.” She loathed the starch in her words, the accusation in her voice. Why couldn't she be better? Why couldn't she script her heart in speech?
“I never hated you. Not even from the beginning.” She felt a sylph's breath in her hand, his tiny fingers rubbing along her thumb. “I don't think I could hate you if I wanted to.”
“Well... how do you feel?” Her digits curled infinitesimally tighter about his form. Her other hand laid itself across his legs. If she could completely surround him, engulf him, would he understand the stroke of her words? Could she relay her intent through osmosis? Or would she merely intimidate him? Would she make him less to himself than he was to her?
“Give me some time.” The reply finally came. “Keep working on me. I'm sure I'll get there.” And now there was a smile in his words. Disarmed, her hands lifted slightly, almost afraid to touch him.
She drew a hundred phrases through her mind, testing the syllables, critiquing the accents, imagining how they would feel on her lips. The weather's getting colder. I need to do some shopping. Would you like some breakfast? How could words hold so much power? How could they express so little? The narcissus I planted is blooming. Should I paint the room another color? I love you. A thrill of fear sparked through her veins, and she felt her chest go tight. No. She couldn't. Not yet.
“Would you like some breakfast?” Her voice felt so small in the empty room. Would he even hear it?
“That sounds wonderful.” He scurried across her breast, clearing the way for her to rise. She sat up, fixing him with a smile. You can put your trust in me. The way I put my trust in you. He sat in her hand as they made their way to the kitchen. This could be enough for her. This could be enough for now.