When he slid into bed the first thing she said to him was “Can you help Charlie with his diorama tomorrow?”
Rick grumbled and ruffled the sheets. He stretched his legs out and his feet and his toes until they all popped in unison like a nail gun. “I don’t know Anne, maybe. I don’t know yet. Maybe I can help him. Mr. Dee needs me in tomorrow early,” he said. “What does he need to do?”
As she looked up from her magazine Rick felt her soft eyes settle on his body. “Ms. Fernando, well, you know how she is. She wants them to recreate a battle from World War II in their dioramas. Charlie picked D-Day. You know, where they landed on Normandy—“
“Yes Anne, I know what D-Day is.”
“—Well, that’s what he picked. He has the stuff all ready. He’s using his Lego men for the soldiers and he got some sand from the backyard. It’s all real cute, I think.”
Rick scratched his pointy chin. “He still plays in that damn sandbox? Isn’t he getting too old for that?” he said.
Anne ignored the question. She pulled her knees up, creating a tent with the beige sheets. She put the magazine on her knees.
“Hey Rick?” she said. “My back is really hurting me, could you rub it?” she said. “Just massage it real quick, for a bit, its really hurting me.” She pinched the skin on the back of her neck and grimaced.
He turned on his side and clamped his hands around Anne’s shoulders. He probed the lumps of her spine with his soft thumbs and she said, “Oh Rick, that feels real good. Go lower, Rick.”
Rick sighed, ”Anne, I’m not in the mood tonight. Maybe tomorrow or something. Maybe tomorrow night.”
She twisted under the covers and ended up on her back. They were both on their backs, staring into the white ceiling. Anne could see tiny, meandering cracks cutting into the otherwise perfect paint. Rick, without his glasses, couldn’t see the cracks. The ceiling was just a white ocean to him, the lamp casting soft shadows over the entirety of it.
“Hey Rick?” she said. “Do you dream much?”
“No,” he said.
“I had this dream the other night. I meant to tell you about it. We were at some carnival somewhere, I don’t know where, we were young. But I had Charlie. I was pregnant with him I mean. And we went on those swings, you know those things. And they went around and around, really fast until the rest of the people were a blur and all I could see was you on the swing in front of me and I reached for you,” she choked here as if she was going to cry. As if this had really happened. “But when I reached out the tethers to my swing started stretching and tearing, I heard them Rick, oh God it was awful. They snapped like rubber bands and I screamed for you. You turned around and just looked at me and watched them snap and watched me fall to the ground.”
“Jesus Anne, what’s wrong with you. That’s horrible, you with Charlie and everything…” his voice trailed off. He turned on his side. His back faced Anne. They were silent.
“Hey Rick?” she said. “Rick, are you still up?” she said.
“Oh, okay.” She wrapped her arm around Rick and rubbed his chubby belly. She calmed herself in the rise and fall of his chest. She tried to mimic his breathing to lull her into sleep but it was too short and choppy and she had to take deep, long breaths every once in a while.
After several minutes she swung her feet from under the covers and put on her bathrobe. She put on her pink slippers Charlie given her for Mothers Day. The left one read Best, the right, Mom, so when she looked down she could read it. Charlie’s room was dark and she heard soft snores coming from his lips. His jaw hung open, and then snapped shut, then slowly hung open again. She pulled the covers to his shoulders and kissed him softly on the forehead.
The air was much cooler downstairs; Rick claims that it’s a waste of money to heat the first floor when they are on the second floor. She grabbed a glass from the cupboard and dropped three cubes of ice in it, and then she filled it with tap water.
She sat down in Rick's leather La-Z-Boy recliner and grabbed a magazine from the coffee table. She looked at the cover, Bon Appetit. She thumbed through the glossy pages. She realized she had never read Bon Appetit in her life. She didn’t even like cooking. Rick had subscribed to several magazines he thought she would enjoy. In fact, nothing in the house was hers. He picked out the chair she was sitting in, the ugly flat gray wallpaper, he insisted they get the biggest flat screen they could afford to watch his college football, even the glass was his. She peered at the glass, the ice had already melted and the water was quiet and still, as if it were frozen. It reminded her of the lake she went to as a child, with her parents and grandparents and they ate hot dogs and dangled their feet off the dock, running them through the water.
Upstairs the morning sun had begun to sneak through the shades, bathing Rick in a holy light. She looked at Rick. She loved him, she really did. His pudgy jowls flapped with each breath like a young Pug. His face twitched and she heard his whiskers rub the pillowcase.
Ricks body created a massive shadow that enveloped the imprint of Anne’s body. It covered her entire side of the bed. She looked at the shadow and felt that her life was going to change. Maybe they could see Dr. Antisdel again, with Charlie even, maybe Charlie could go, she thought. And she would really talk this time, not just lie.
She slid into bed behind Rick. His silhouette covered her like another blanket. She ran her fingers up into the coarse ringlets of his chest her, knotting herself into them. And when she relaxed she felt safe.