NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOUR-HOUR drive ahead, Daniel had not spoken since getting into the car. His head pointed strictly forward, only on occasion when needing to change lanes he did look out the side windows for a second. His hands kept at the ten and two o'clock positions on the steering wheel the whole time even though, more often than not, he was going down empty, straight roads between either open fields of nothingness or deep forests.
His wife was not fooled by his feigned nonchalance. No matter how he acted, Allison knew his mind had long wandered off to misery thinking about Megan. It would seem absurd to be bothered by it, but she was, even slightly; and she had her reasons to be, good reasons. She also knew now was not the time to make a fuss about the past. So to do him a favor she just sat, silently, in the passenger seat, watching the relentless raindrops bounce off the windshield.
The minute they got home, Daniel went at once for a shower. An hour later the water was still running. She intended not to interrupt him, because frankly speaking, she barely pulled through this day herself. Two months of battling insomnia got her restless and jittery most of these days. Abusing over-the-counter sleeping pills only built up her tolerance for the drugs, leading to her becoming reliant for their meager results. The moment she was shaking pills out from a brand-new bottle a simple ring of her cell phone made her jump. It slipped out of her hand and hit the floor, scattering the tablets all over the kitchen tiles.
Daniel showed up at the doorway shortly, half-covered with a towel around his waist. “Who was that?” he asked regarding the call.
She shot an annoyed look at him. “Wrong number,” she said, and squatted down to clean up the mess.
Right then, their conversation ended. As awkwardness overcame them, he retreated upstairs.
After the cleanup, she found him in their bedroom, still in his towel, sitting at the far corner of the bed with his back turned. She went to hug him from behind, asking in as cheerful of a tone as she could muster, “How are you?”
Somewhat startled by her notion, he pulled away subtly, and walked to his drawer to pick out a pair of boxers and an undershirt, swiftly changing into them.
“Not too bad,” he replied. “How about you?”
“Same,” she muttered back, even knowing they were both lying to each other.
Without another word, Daniel fluffed up his pillow and lay down under the covers. She joined him in bed, despite doubt to be able to fall sleep any time soon. In the next second, he reached for the tiny chain beneath the shade of his bedside lamp and switched it off. Under the dim light gleaming on the wall on her side, they lay still on their backs, staring at the ceiling fan. Their bodies separated from each other as if two magnets with like poles facing one another. There were definitely things to say before they would close their eyes.
“I have that appointment tomorrow morning,” she said out of the blue.
“Oh, right. I said I was gonna look up the address for you… Did you eventually find out how to get there?”
“Yes. I have my GPS all set up for it.”
“Good. What time is it at?”
“Nine o’clock… I told you that like five times this week.”
There was that agonizing silence again.
Although slightly ruffled by his constant inattentiveness of late, she decided to overlook it momentarily, thus leaning in close, whispering into his ear, “I love you.”
Her sweet gesture had him turn his head to look at her in a way he had not in a long time. There might still be sadness on his weary face, but that smile he flashed her was every bit genuine and not forced.
“I love you too,” he replied, softly.