Word Count: 700
When she wakes, Micah is already gone and their room is full of sunlight that unspools across the bed. Rachael watches it traverse the room throughout the morning. When it goes, she imagines it flooding the rooms at the back of their house, bathing the disused furniture, the useless toys that have not wakened themselves and walked out of this childless house, to begin their search for another, happier place.
After lunch – when she should eat but doesn’t – she sleeps, waking when Micah turns on the light. It must be after seven if he’s home.
“Did you eat anything?” he asks, unknotting his tie. It’s orange, hideous, a gift from his little sister that he wears out of loyalty.
She squints. “Yes.”
“What?” she echoes, rolling over to his side of the bed where it is cooler, fresher. Darker.
“What did you eat?”
“Food. How was your day?”
He slips his buttons out of their holes, fiddling with the last one. It pops off and he curses. But he retrieves it and he’ll sew it back on tonight before he forgets. He mends Rachael’s clothes too. “What food?”
“We don’t have any yoghurt.”
“Because I ate it.”
“Micah.” She pulls his pillow over her head and hums the opening bar of Mozart’s Eine Kleiner Nacht Music. “How was your day?”
“Long.” He drapes his shirt across the foot of the bed. “You can’t do this to me.”
“I’m not,” Her words are muffled.
“I can’t hear you.”
“I’m not,” she nearly yells, removing the pillow. “I’m doing it to me.”
Calmly, he says, “Actually, you’re doing it to us.”
Micah coils his belt around his hand and places on the back corner of the armoire. There’s a stain on the left side of the armoire, not a mark in the wood but a mistake in the varnish. Micah didn’t want to buy it, but the metal inlay on the front is beautiful and Rachael wanted it, so he gave in.
“Rachael?” he prompts when she doesn’t answer.
“We have the same conversation every night. Have you noticed that?”
“Yes.” He steps up to the edge of the bed, removes his watch and looks down at her.
Rachael reaches out and touches his appendix scar in the gap between his boxer shorts and his rumpled singlet. You wear singlets? she’d laughed the first time he undressed for her. Only my grandpa still does that.
“Hello,” she begins again, softer.
“Hello.” He bends and kisses her above her right eye. He head butts her gently. “You need to go to the doctor.”
“I’m a doctor.”
He kneels beside the bed. “You have a doctorate.”
“Which is much better than a medical degree.”
“Indubitably,” Micah smiles.
“Mm.” He does have a big mouth. “How was your day? Did you win?”
“Not always.” Rachael twists, shifts to her left hip and gives Micah her back. “I’m not going to the doctor.”
“I’ll bring him to you.”
“So he can tell me what I already know? I’m depressed. It’s like having a cold. It just happens sometimes. And there’s no cure anyway.”
“Eating would be a good start. Exercise…”
“Oh, Micah. I’m grieving.”
“So am I.”
Not the same way, she wants to say. Not really, not when your grief is so tidy, so structured and controlled. Instead, she smooths her hand across her pillow, lumpy from overuse.
“You’re able to work, because you can get up every day. I figure one of us should take to bed, if only because the death of our three-year-old son deserves it.”
“I’ll feel like getting up one day. It just isn’t today.”
“What do you want me to say?”
Micah sighs and gets to his feet. He must find some jeans and a T-shirt because he pads away down the hallway towards the kitchen, to the spaces Rachael cannot roam because Toby is alive in every corner. In this room at least, where he was made, he is only a spark, an idea not yet a person.
Micah will make toast for her and she’ll eat it, and tomorrow she will stay in bed.