Kay pulled the duvet closer to her chin, turned restlessly onto her side and kept her eyes shut. It was warm, comfortable and dark but it was no good. She turned on her left side, her right leg drawn up towards her chin. She adjusted the pillow to support her head, pulled the duvet back up under the chin and thought of Mother. She could see the photo of her on the mantle above the gas chimney with that Mona Lisa expression that you could not decipher. Perhaps it was a smile, but just as easily it was a tight, forbearing grimace of someone not willing to accept what just might be about to occur; or a very polite boredom.

Now what did that mean?, thought Kay. It was no time of night to let one’s mind go wandering. It was too hot under the duvet and she tossed it off, felt about for her glasses on the headboard. She hooked the side wings on her ears and peered at the large red letters of the digital alarm clock that she had bought for her mother. It had a built in night light that glowed just enough to define the objects in the room – the single bed, the simple dresser topped with a Japanese vase, the little screen behind it, the lamp which would be too bright to turn on in this otherwise pitch black. The clock flickered and the numbers changed to 5:00.

Kay rose and went to the bathroom guided by the night lights and returned. Maybe that would settle her. It was far too early to be getting up. She put her night sweater around her shoulders, carefully repositioned herself on her side, drew up the duvet and readjusted the pillow. She closed her eyes firmly against the night light which now seemed too bright. Try and get another hour or two of sleep, she counselled herself. God knows, you need it.

As she pulled the edge of the duvet cover under her chin, Franc came to visit her thoughts. He must be in Cambodia by now. His flight would have taken him twenty four hours, and then there was his travel out of the city by bus up to the beach resort. What would he do there? How lonely was he? Would the newness of the travelling occupy him for a while? Make him happy?

He had looked altogether too thin at the airport; the conversation was altogether too brittle.

He had leapt out of the car, extracted his brand new backpack on wheels, and returned to give Kay a peck on the cheek.

“I’m getting out for a hug,” she said and didn’t allow him to complete his gesture. She came around and held him, her hand on his waist, and she looked up searchingly into his rigid eyes. There was silence for a dreadful moment, then, “Well, have a good trip. Take good care of yourself.” It sounded hollow.

He was stiff and brittle, hardly daring to feel. Perhaps he didn’t know what he was going off towards either. “Iis there anything else to be said?” he asked. He was waiting for a word that did not come.

Kay was still caught in that dreadful silence with Franc that had overcome her since July. She didn’t dare speak. What could she say? Nothing had been resolved; nor would it be, perhaps. Something had broken badly and perhaps it couldn’t be fixed. Worst of all, she couldn’t say what she felt to him. It was too dangerous.

“No. I don’t think so, ” she said. She could not tell him she still loved him, despite everything. It was fraught with emotional danger for them both.

“Well, then,” he replied, bent so slightly forward to touch Kay’s lips with a dry, perfunctory kiss. He shook out the handle on his pack and wheeled it into the terminal.

What was it, Kay thought, that made her care so much? Why had she cared about so much about Mother, lonely and huddled in her big house with four other people, family, passing like tankers in a commercial shipping lane, tooting a horn, waving, never communicating. Kay remembered her sunk into the large floral arm chair. looking smaller and smaller, waiting. Waiting for Kay to come home. Waiting for someone to make her a cup of tea. Worried about the light bill going up. Not willing to put on the lights for a few cents of electricity while she waited. Not just for the tea, but for someone to ask her what her day was like. Someone to ask about the outside world where one worked, played, shopped; anything but this sitting and waiting.

What was it that made her care so much? For the baby robin that had fallen from it’s nest, which she had found at the bottom of the garden when she was six or so.

Why was she worrying about Franc? Franc, who in his fury in July, had left her without a word for five months until his cat died, and then he called, frantically grieving, not just for his cat but for the loss of their relationship. Franc, who was now heading off into a world that she did not know. Would he be safe? Who would he call if he ran into difficulty? Those countries could be volatile, harsh, unforgiving. Tourists were not always welcome.

Kay restlessly turned onto her back and readjusted the pillows . She was wide awake now. She listened Where there had been dead silence, now there was the swishing of a car approaching from a distance, clarifying into a rumble then moving back off into the other distance. A crescendo and diminuendo of car noise on asphalt. It seemed precise and specific then it disappeared into nothingness. Silence.

Kay listened intently. It was a few moments before another car went by. It was funny, she reflected, that at midnight when she went to bed, this house could have been out in the wilderness. There was not a sound to be heard. It was that delicious, safe dark silence that you could sink into and sleep well with. Another car went by. Kay, still listening and alert, could hear a truck approach, pass and go away. Different vehicles had different sounds. It was mostly cars, but there were vans, motorcycles, light trucks and heavier ones. There was a different sound when two cars went by one after the other. People were heading off to work. There were fewer and fewer silences between them, like the exposition and development of a fugue, the same tunes built up and combined together, each with it’s distinct melody, reaching a pitch of cacophony.

Kay turned on her right side, felt for her glasses, put them on. It was only 5:33.

This is pointless, she thought. I’m not sleeping. I’m not fixing anything by all this. Might as well get up, get a coffee and spend the time writing.

And she did.


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