Watching someone awaken is intimate in a special way. There has to be a certain amount of trust between the witness and the observed. If their subconscious mind registers the other as a threat, the moment of awakening will pass in a second, just yet asleep, the very next moment alert and ready for whatever could happen.
He is – however – no stranger to her; on the contrary, has been a reliable partner by her side for over a decade, conveying security with his mere presence. Therefore, he obtains the privilege of watching her come to her senses one by one, and it’s a marvelous thing to witness. Right now, she must be in that limbo-like state where reality and dream form a hazy connection because her breath isn’t as deep as it was a minute ago, but she hasn’t shown another sign of waking up, yet. Not there, but also not here.
She sleeps like an overgrown cat, every limp tucked away against her mellow body, spine curled up into a soft bow. Her head rests on her hand, and he wonders how her arm doesn’t fall asleep like that, tingling just on that side of uncomfortable when she tries to move it. Though, she never complains, so he assumes that she isn’t bothered by it.
The sudden urge to touch her overcomes him, not out of boredom but because he desires to make a connection. So, he draws lazy lines of invisible artwork onto her upper arm taking in the silky soft skin under his fingertips. He loves that she goes to sleep like this, only wearing black boxer briefs that hug her nicely and an oversized T-shirt, worn soft by years of constant use, emblem washed out and barely readable. She looks delicate like this, comfortable and utterly peaceful. The arising need to protect her is unexpected but not unwelcome because she is valuable and irreplaceable, one of a kind.
When his arm grows tired, he traces one last circle, then lets his fingers come to rest on the freckles adorning her shoulder, a constellation of tiny marks. He connected them with a ballpoint pen, once, a simple activity to pass a slow Sunday afternoon. Even though he tried to discover a picture or symbol in them, their mystery remained hidden and he did not find a deeper meaning. Though, they had looked pretty, nonetheless.
As his fingers come to a final standstill, he feels her butting her head against his side, like a real cat. She murmurs, and he thinks she might have said something like “Feels nice. Don’t stop.” Chuckling, he continues, even though his arm feels like lead now. He wants this very moment to prevail forever, the minutes between night and dawn to stretch out into hours or years even before they must face today’s tasks.
There have been many mornings when he didn’t have the time to truly enjoy this. Too often had the shrill ringing of the alarm clock jolted them into alertness, no time to rest or to catch a breath because they both needed to leave the house in the next fifteen minutes. Even if he caught her waking up by his side, he didn’t really have the time to truly savor it, not like this, anyway, because he was concentrated on the next work project or pending deadline.
There have also been moments when he woke up with his back still turned to her because you can’t solve every fight before saying “Goodnight” and instead sometimes you must sleep over the issue. Those mornings, he still watched her sleep, mulling over their latest conversation in his head, trying to comprehend her perspective, preparing a strategy that would likely end in a compromise. At the first sign of her awakening, however, he would turn around and pretend to have never moved at all because everything else would have felt too much of an admission. Heart pounding with infuriation and love, he would lie very still, though fixated on her with each of his senses.
Some days, he even woke up without her by his side because one of the children decided to get up at an ungodly hour deep into the night. He barely woke up, when they climbed into bed, only shuffled to the side so they could fit right into the place between them, where they felt safest. His wife, on the contrary, was a light sleeper, particularly when it came to their children, and those days she rarely stayed in bed until the first light of the sunrise. She is a good mother, and he loves her even more for it.
Finally, his arm gives up and he resigns himself to letting it rest against her nape, brushing away her hair in the process. A few loose strands curl around his fingers, but he doesn’t mind. Her hair has always been too wild to be tamed. Even when she puts it up into a high, messy bun, by the next morning it’s all over the place and sticks to her face. He buries his hand into the thick curls and feels the strands against his fingers, coarse but overall soft to the touch. Some days her hair makes him think of a lioness, fierce and fiery. She would probably laugh at him if he ever told her about the metaphor, but he knows it to be fitting.
Her eyelashes flutter, now, still weighted by sleep, and when she opens her eyes, they are clouded by the remains of her last dream. Then, she catches his gaze and recognition lightens her eyes. This moment right now is his personal heaven and if he could, he would record it just so he could watch it again and again, but he knows that a video wouldn’t do justice to the way her eyes sparkle or her lips curl up into a just-so soft smile.
Fondly, he reminisces about the first time he stayed over at her place watching the first beams of sun tickling her awake. Sometimes he likes to think that this was the very moment he fell in love with her even though he can’t really remember when that happened. He knows, however, that after that morning, he left his own curtains open when she stayed over just so he could watch her awaken again and again, and since then, none of their flats has had shuttering or even curtains.
“Morning.”, her voice is rough from hours of disuse, and he knows there will be creases gracing her face, giving her a crumbled appearance that he finds so endearing.
Right now, she is the most beautiful thing he has ever laid eyes on and his heart swells with tenderness. However, those feelings are not made to be expressed in words, so instead, he puts his arm around her and pulls her tight. He can feel her smile against his inner arm and lets his hand wander under her shirt to splay against the soft skin he finds there.
“Good morning, love.”, he whispers against the skin of her neck and plants a kiss there for good measure. She hums and pulls his arm even closer around her, cocooning herself up in his embrace.
“What were you thinking about?”, she asks as she presses a gentle kiss against his wrist. Inhaling deeply, he presses his nose into her hair, trying to brand every component of her scent into his mind.
“About how much I love watching you wake up next to me.”