Paul tugs the duvet up and burrows closer to his wife, tucks his nose into the curtain of fiery hair resting against her neck. He breathes in deep and lets the soft patchouli scent soothe him back into a half-sleep. He stirs again when she does, when thunder cracks loud and rattles the window panes of their small cottage.
The sky outside is dark, overcast and grey. Paul aches for days like this; when the storm traps them in, not the rainfall but the flooded drive leading down to the main road. Some days they'll shove their feet into pairs of old, worn rainboots and venture out, let the rain soak them through layers of coats and sweaters and they’ll laugh loudly with the thunderclaps surrounding them. But it's much too cold for that today, with the rain falling in icy sheets and streaming over the foggy windows.
"Tea, Soph?" Paul asks. Sophie nods, stretches onto her back and smiles. He loves that smile, the one she has whenever it rains. He is enamored with her, he hopes she knows. That she is so loved; revered. Exalted, even. He traces his thumb through the imprint the pillowcase left behind, down her temple and over the freckles dotting her cheeks, beneath the swell of her bottom lip. She presses a kiss to the pad of his finger, another to the soft underside of his wrist and it's so tender he thinks he's still in a dream, that he may die from it.
The floor creaks loud beneath his feet. Even in a storm, the house speaks around them; speaks of its age with groans and sighs. It may be old, cluttered still from the day they moved in, but it's full of love. Paul can feel it in the floorboards and plaster on the walls, the way it wraps around his legs in the morning, drapes itself pleasantly through his ribs and settles somewhere deep during the night. The love was built-in, placed with every stone in the foundation and exists from families long before them, destined to linger years after they're gone.
He's come to realize that love is so much more than an emotion; that it's frying eggs before the sun comes up when he could be sleeping in, or carrying the insects that have snuck inside in the summertime back to the garden before she can see, maybe even when he's making tea and slices lemons thin because she wanted it that way once five years ago. He hopes Sophie can feel that too, that while Paul may not be the best with words, his love is there written in the small things.
Crackling music fills the small space and when Paul turns, he sees Sophie standing over the record player. Her hips sway with the beat and she spins, locks eyes with her husband. Her face scrunches up with her grin and Paul wonders if it's at all possible to love someone more every day, feels it growing into something so great and tremendous he can't breathe.
He passes her a cup and settles in on the sofa beside her, puts a plate of scones on the cushion between them. Sophie wraps a hand loosely around his wrist, says, "thank you," and there's so much weight behind it, far beyond a cup of tea and a plate of scones, but he knows she isn't good with words either. Soon, she'll tell him how much she loves the rain, that she finds it energizing and wants to splash in the puddles like a child again. He'll laugh along because he could never say no, not to her and not with that smile, and he'll say that they can later, they need to finish their tea while it's still hot.
And perhaps he craves moments like this more than simple rainy days; quiet, when the record ends and he can soak in the quiet sound of his wife breathing alongside the steady thrum of raindrops on the roof, the way she lets him rest his head on her lap when their cups are empty, the way she runs her fingers through his hair and her nails scratch softly against his scalp, lulling him to sleep. Later, they'll bake bread together as they do every other Sunday, and they'll ignore when the rain stops and the water submerging the drive recedes because they favor the feeling of safety and home wrapped around them so much more than anything beyond their four walls.
Paul blinks his eyes open and the sunlight is harsh on his face from between the curtains he forgot to draw closed the night before. He stays still, stays grasping at the lingering slivers of his dream before reality crashes back into him and he can hardly breathe. Paul pushes his hand out and the left side of the bed is cold and empty, has been for the better part of a year. His heart aches at the memory of his sweet Sophie, at the ordinary days they shared that don't feel quite so ordinary anymore and the days that were ripped from them both so suddenly.
Paul drags himself out of bed and down the hallway, the soreness that comes with age following him. A photograph catches his eye; it was taken somewhere in the Scottish Highlands in 1980. Barely thirty years old, he stands beside his wife. Their hair is plastered to their faces from the storm that just passed and Sophie is smiling the way she always did after a storm. It was taken before they bought the cottage, long before they brought their children home and before their children moved away. Tears press hard behind his eyes and he tries to push them away.
Paul still feels all the love his home has to offer, but it's different now. Deeper, tied to his soul with the same thread that was wound tight around Sophie. He closes his eyes and gives in, lets his tears fall. He wishes it would rain; everything always felt a little clearer when it did.