After Dark Page 77

My husband is a worrier, you see.

So am I.

I watch my boys from the nursery window, a smirk on my lips. I know what you\ e up to, Matt. Ever since I caught him reading Dracula to Seth (and confiscated the book, which is way too dark for a one-year-old mind), Matt has taken their reading sessions outdoors.

I pull on a light jacket and stride out into the meadow.

The April sun is warm;the wind is cool. Seth\s white-blond curls, which we leave a little long, toss in the breeze. He caught the rare fair-haired gene in the Sky family pool and has his father\s deep brown eyes. From Chrissy\s side, he got the same thick curls I inherited.

I know he will look like Seth when he grows up: devastatingly handsome, tall, and kind.

’’What\s going on here?’’ I say.

Matt, who is lying on a blanket with Seth\s pudgy hand on his knee, snaps upright.

’’Bird! Hey ... hi.’’

I squint at the thin volume he holds: Beowulf &Other Poems.

’’Beowulf? No. Okay? No.’’

’’Oh, come on. He likes it. He likes ’’

’’He likes the sound of your voice. I don\ want weird, dark ideas infiltrating his mind. Stop trying to turn him into Heathcliff.’’ I go to swipe the book and Seth\s bubbly laughter distracts me. I am as powerless against Seth\s charms as I am against Matt\s.

’’Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma,’’ he trills, pushing away from Matt and walking toward me. His little foot catches on the blanket. Down he goes, peals of delight turning to wails of unhappiness.

’’See?’’ Matt demands.

I scoop up Seth. ’’Yes, I see that it\s nap time.’’

’’Here, I\ll take him.’’ He pulls Seth out of my arms and cradles him as if he were a much smaller child. ’’He still likes me to hold him.’’

Seth is inconsolable. I twist away so that Matt can\ see me smiling. He is too painfully cute, and this routine reminds me of Seth\s infancy. ’’He likes me to hold him,’’ Matt would say to anyone who tried to take the baby. I had more than one picture of my husband standing in a corner, facing the wall, rocking Seth.

My two babies ...

We walk to the house together, my hand in Matt\s back pocket.

Inside, he passes off Seth. He refuses to put him down for naps or bed. Too much like good-bye, I guess.

’’Say night-night to Daddy.’’ I wave Seth\s hand and then carry him to Laurence\s hutch. The rabbit turns an ear. ’’Say night-night to Lor Lor.’’

’’Lor Lor,’’ Seth sobs.

’’Do you have to make it so sad?’’ Matt snaps. He bolts upstairs before I can roll my eyes. Nap time: a Sky family tragedy.

Two hours later, Seth is sleeping soundly and I have just finished reading a client\s manuscript. It\s good, which makes me proud. My stomach grumbles and I glance at the clock on the mantel. It\s past lunchtime. I should prepare something for myself and Matt, whose eating habits are still woeful.

Still. I smile.

Not much has changed, if I think about it, and I wouldn\ have it any other way.

I find my husband upstairs in his office, which is spacious and light. He looks like a prince in there, surrounded by his books and artwork, and I am quietly grateful for our home. At last, I understand why a small house would never work: because a soul like his needs room for its roaming and passion.

I knock gently on the door frame and walk to his desk.

He is writing in a notebook. His hand stills and he smiles at me.

’’Chapter thirty-two,’’ he says.

My throat tightens. It took half a year for Matt to pick up the pen and resume our story, and now we are in the thick of it, describing his depression after Seth died. My chapters are lucid and filled with concern. His chapters are fragmented, lost.

’’We\ e getting close to the end,’’ I say.

’’Are we?’’ He frowns.

’’It has to end somewhere. Why not here?’’ I touch the frame on his desk, which holds a picture of Matt and me on our wedding night.

’’Ah. You want a happy ending.’’

’’I do.’’ I smile. ’’You want a sad one?’’

’’I don\ want any ending.’’ His hand tightens around the pen.

’’Come downstairs. Let\s make some lunch.’’

He remains seated, immobile.

’’Life is out here,’’ I whisper.

’’My life is in here.’’ He spreads his hand on the page.

Oh, Matt. I slip around the desk and extract the pen from his fingers. He watches me with a bemused expression.

’’I know you don\ know how to say good-bye. I\ll do it for you, sweet man.’’ I flip to the final page. There, under his steady gaze, I write:

I met a man online;he called himself a night owl. We played a wicked game in the last light of day. We were married in October, after dark.

I place a gentle kiss on his lips. He pushes away from the desk.

’’It\s a good story, Matt. It\s an even better life.’’


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