By Aria Glazki
Trying to sleep next to Nina was like being in a perpetual earthquake, but if the ceaseless movements helped her pain, Jared didn’t mind. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, her body would still, finally slipping into a restful sleep. Then Jared could relax, too.
Now, little tremors shot through her muscles. He stroked his fingers through her hair with the faintest pressure and glanced at the clock. 6:57. Three more minutes and her alarm would ring. She’d slip into the shower, and he’d shut his eyes for a bit.
After the first beep, Nina’s body stilled, and he felt her slowly blow her breath out. Not for the first time, he wished he could take her pain away, even if that meant feeling it for her.
She slid out of bed, shutting off the sound. Winces, neck rolls, and shoulder shrugs accompanied her stiff movement to the bathroom door. Routine.
The next time Jared’s eyes drifted open, Nina stood by their closet in nothing but a towel. The time after that she was fully dressed, gathering her keys, and ID card, and whatever else she’d need today. But something was off.
Jared squinted, forcing his sluggish brain to work. He lifted onto an elbow to see her more clearly. “Strip poker today at the office?”
Nina spun to face the bed. Confusion crooked her eyebrows for a second, until she glanced down at her clothes. Her fists clenched, and tension lifted her shoulders.
Jared sprung from the bed, ignoring the sheets that tangled around him. He cupped her fists in his hands, but she kept her gaze down. “Hey. It’s okay.”
She shot him a pointed look from beneath curved brows.
His hands skimmed up her arms. “It’s like getting to unwrap a present.”
Her lips twitched into an almost-smile, and she backed away, fingers already working at the fastenings. One after another, discarded layers fell to the bed. When only the last remained, she turned back to their dresser.
Jared came up behind her and slid his hands below her top, brushing skin.
“I’m pretty sure that one needs to stay on,” she murmured.
“Not for what I have in mind.”
Finally, a genuine smile flashed his way.
Jared dropped a kiss to her temple. Nina leaned lightly back against his chest.
“D’you want me to give you a ride?”
“No, it’s okay.” She stepped away to keep getting ready. “I just wasn’t paying attention.”
Exactly. That wasn’t a fight he wanted to have again. He did trust her to know her limits, but it didn’t stop him from worrying, especially when she’d gotten so little sleep.
She slung her purse over her shoulder. “You should go back to bed.”
“Wanna join me?”
“Always. But we have an important meeting today.”
She tilted her chin up, and he met her lips in goodbye.
“You wanna grab some lunch later?” She’d get too wrapped up otherwise, pushing herself too hard, and she never had much for breakfast.
“Sure. Around one?”
“I’ll be there.” Thankfully, his schedule was flexible. It was the one thing he could control.
She pushed him gently toward the bed, hand stilling for a second over his heart. A mix of love, and gratitude, and the shame he hated played over her face.
“Get going,” he said softly. “You don’t want to be late.”
She nodded and turned away. A minute later, the front door clicked.
Jared fell back into bed. 8:03. He could get an hour of sleep.
Just another day.