I wake from my dream, a foreign smile on my face that fades quickly.
I’d been cooking at the stove when I’d felt his hands on my hips, the weight and warmth of them, as he pressed his lips against my hair. I’d smiled, his strong arms and his scent enveloping me. The same scent that was fading out of the shirt I wore as pajamas.
I lift the collar to my nose anyway, inhaling his scent, tears soaking the edge. His unique smell was more memory than scent now after all these weeks. But I could smell him, feel his presence in the air.
It was both comforting, and painful.
It was like he’d just left the room and would be right back. Or maybe like he was standing right outside the bedroom door. I could feel him nearby.
I wanted this reality I’d woken to, to be the dream. A nightmare. I wanted to wake up and be back at the stove with my husband.
Please let me wake up.
But after six and a half weeks, I know this is not a bad dream. I am not going to wake up from this.
I roll on to my back, wide awake. Moonlight filters in through the curtains, making the room a little too bright for decent sleep. Or maybe it was the neighbor’s dog barking that woke me.
Or maybe it was because the bed was way too big, too empty, and I’d only just started sleeping in my own bedroom again.
My bedroom. It is, but it isn’t. It’s still our bedroom, our bed, and he’s still in here with me.
I roll over and face the vacant side of the bed. All I can do is stare at it, because there should have been someone sleeping there. Grady should have been there, one arm up over his head, snoring softly. He should be there.
But he isn’t. Grady is gone.
I lay my palm against the sheet as more tears leak out. I’d cried so many that I should be empty of them, but there were more. Always more.
Everyone experiences loss I knew, but here, in the middle of it, it felt like it hurt me worse than it’s ever hurt anyone else in existence.
There were thousands, millions maybe, of women like me. And yet I still felt utterly alone. No one missed anyone as bad as I missed Grady. No woman could ever love their husband as much as I loved mine.
I’ve lost my other half. I’m a soul without a mate, the tether between us severed. It’s as if he was savagely torn from my body, and I’m bleeding out.
Some days I can’t get out of bed. Some days I don’t care one way or the other if I do. When you can’t eat, can’t sleep, and find no joy in living, why would you? There was nothing to look forward to except endless days and nights of misery so profound I can hardly breathe around the pain. A real, physical ache where my heart was, that hurts even when I’m asleep.
If it wasn’t for my sister-in-law, checking up on me, bringing me food, making me eat and shower, I wouldn’t have made it through the last few weeks. The poor woman was grieving too, the lost of her brother, but I just had nothing to give her in the way of support. Or anyone. I could barely keep myself alive. I almost died of a broken heart.
Now I was glad I hadn’t. Now I made sure to eat regularly, even if it was just a few bites. Made sure to drink lots of water and take my vitamins. Tried really, really hard not to wallow too long in sorrow in case it caused too much stress.
For the baby.
Grady would have made a great father, I was certain of it. That he would never have the chance to be one was as great a tragedy as his death.
So much was taken from him. So much was taken from me. It was both a curse and a blessing that I had this little piece of him keeping me alive.
She was about the size of a peanut right now. She could be a he, but my instincts said ‘girl’.
I rest my hand on my still-flat stomach, one still palm-down on his side of the bed, trying to bridge the emotional gap and be ecstatic about the baby the way I should be.
But all I can manage to feel is tired. I’m so tired.
Maybe tired enough to go back to sleep without medication? I would try, but that stupid dog had to shut up first.
Heaving myself up, I go to the window to see what is agitating it. Sometimes skunks wondered by and the dogs end up getting sprayed—
I pull the curtain back and then instantly shut it again, heart pounding. Someone is standing in the street, staring at the house. I’d only had a split-second glimpse of a dark form standing immobile. Was someone casing the house? Should I call the police?
Slowly, my breath unnaturally loud, I pull back the curtain a millimeter at a time until there is a tiny sliver I can see through.
And the street is empty.
Nothing moves, not even trees. Even the dog is silent now.
I close the curtain and sit on the edge of the bed. His side. I pop right back up, feeling almost like I’d sat on him. Crazy, right?
But grief made you crazy.
I was not the same woman anymore. The Maisie with Grady as her husband was not the same as the Maisie without a husband.
Maisie-without-a-husband couldn’t make decisions, every thought shaky and uncertain. She had weird dreams and nightmares. She didn’t want to eat, or drink, or laugh, because he couldn’t do any of those things anymore. She couldn’t even sit on her husband’s side of the bed, in his chair at the table, or his favorite spot on the couch, without feeling like she was killing him all over again.
And, sometimes she heard and saw things that weren’t really there.
Making sure, I pull the curtain back one last time, but the street is just as empty as it was last time. Just as empty as it should be.
With a deep breath, I go back to bed.