Carolyn stood in the doorway of her bedroom, her legs frozen. Her phone sat, quiet and still on her bed. Not in the center, but on her side of the bed, where her lower back would be if she was lying there. But there was no way. She had been in that bar. The phone had been in her hand. She had heard the phone ring and the child’s voice that came through when she answered it. It couldn’t have been here the entire night.
“You going to bed?” she heard the voice behind her ask. Her breath stopped. She clapped her hand over her mouth, trying to stop whatever air was left in her lungs from escaping. Without willing it, she bent over at the waist and collapsed to her knees, curling both into herself and into the ground. She felt arms around her, keeping her from sinking completely into the carpet. The arms lifted her up and walked her to the bed. She let them sit her on the edge. Her edge. She saw the phone and her body reared back. She kicked, her heels digging into the comforter, until the phone fell off the bed, landed on the floor, and bounced under the bed.
“Lynnie,” he whispered, trying to calm her. “You’re okay. You’re okay now. Come here. Come here with me,” he soothed. He eased her to her side, wrapping himself around her like a thick, weighty blanket. She always folded right into him when he held her. But tonight, she fought. She didn’t feel safe enough to fall. He felt her body, tight and rigid and leaning away from him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, easing his grasp and giving her space. “I know you’ve been in your head. About me. About what’s going on.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “I just needed to get out of here. And I went to that bar on Second, and this woman, and her mouth, and the phone rang- “
“Nothing. Nothing is going on,” he said, drawing long ovals on the back of her arm. “You fell asleep and you must have been dreaming. You’ve been here all night. Not talking to me, granted. But you didn’t leave.”
“What are you talking about?” she yelled. “I went to the bar, and she said I had to answer the phone, and that little kid’s voice. Oh my God, Shawn…”
“Baby, oh my poor girl. There wasn’t any bar, or woman and her mouth. Although, now I’m wishing there was- “
“I’m serious. Jesus Christ, I was scared to death, the voices, they were just babies, they said I had to get home to you and- “
“Look at me,” he said, resting his hands on her shoulder. “I promise you. Absolutely promise. You have been here with me all night. You’re safe, my girl.”
She stared at him and her whole chest tensed, her triceps muscles bracing. He kept circling, light then more pressure. Her skin broke out in goosebumps. He continued. Her muscles finally relaxed under his hand.
“I fell asleep?” she asked.
“That’s my girl,” he said. “Yes. You just fell asleep. You were my tired cat.”
“I am tired,” Carolyn said.
“I know you are,” he said. His continued to work his hands across her neck and shoulders. She shifted lower, sinking in to the bed, under his touch. “There we are,” he whispered. “Thank you for coming back to me.”
“Are you going crazy?” she asked, not wanting the answer nor ready to believe the one she might get.
“No, love,” he said.
“Am I going crazy?”
“Never. Sanest girl I know. You’re the strong one here, right? You know that,” he said. “I’d be lost and drowned without you. Truly.”
“But I heard that voice on the phone,” she said.
“If you say you did, you did. Of course you did,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it was real. Only means you heard it. Or thought you heard it.”
“I don’t know and I don’t know how. I need to know how.”
“Have you been thinking about…” he started, then trailed off, quiet and touching his lips to her back of her neck.
“Thinking about what?”
“Nothing, love, just a silly thought. You know how I get with you all soft and warm in bed with me.”
She peeled away from him, just an inch, enough to turn and roll in place so she could see his face.” What have I been thinking about?”
“Nothing at all- “
“Shawn,” she said, done being warm and soft.
He sighed. “Please don’t be angry about this. It’s probably just me. My stupid head. But, you said it was a kid. A little kid. Maybe- “
She rolled away from him, giving him her back again.
“See? I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I can’t help it. I just know, when I’ve had my…troubles in the past, there’s sometimes something at the core. Something shaking me from the inside. I can’t help but think,” he held her closer. “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you’ve been unsettled with me being sick. Looking for a way out. But please don’t. You can’t. I’m coming back. Back to you. I promise.”
“I don’t think I even want a baby,” she said.
“And I love you for that,” he said, kissing her cheek. “That doesn’t matter. One way or another. I’m happy with just you. Now, lie still, you. You’re a mess of knots. If I start now, I might have you sorted out by breakfast.” He knelt above her, wringing his hands firmly together. She nestled deeper in to the pillow. She wasn’t all there, not heart and mind, but she was willing to offer her what parts of her were there. He placed his hands on either side of her neck. They were muscled and expansive, wide palms and long fingers. He held them over her for a moment. She could feel them in the air inches away from her skin. Then he touched her, soft and light at first. Then he slowly started sinking in with more pressure. She sighed under his hands and started to move. His hands and fingers worked, rubbing, circling, kneading the anxious fibers of her back. She felt his fingers almost touch each other in the front of her throat. They lingered there for a moment, no pressure, just presence.
He delved deeper into her form, she closed her eyes and let herself drift. Away from the things she trusted completely and the things she couldn’t quite know. Under the bed, the phone laid in the strands of dust, forgotten after her displacing kick. It was still and silent. The battery had been dead for hours. But the indigo light from its keys glowed steady and unstopping.