FanFic - Other
"Before I Sleep"
Part 1
by Mala
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me
Summary: A wife thinks about her place in her husband's life.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Its been years, but I know he still thinks of her. Sometimes he'll call her name in his sleep while tears slip down his cheeks.

I try to tell myself he doesn't feel it when I kiss them away or when I wrap my arms around his waist and squeeze--that I might as well not be there when it is *her* he wants in his bed. But in the morning he looks at me with those eyes and the gratitude is there, in their depths and in his silence.

He does love his way.

Maria asked me once why I stay...why I can accept being second best... why I can accept being in a marriage based on convenience and the keeping of age old secrets.

She's bitter and protective and the hurt in her voice is understandable. All she's seen is pain and loss. She hasn't seen him laugh and splash orange juice all over the morning paper when I come into the kitchen wearing nothing but his thick wool socks.

She hasn't seen him gently take the paperwork from my hands and carry me up the stairs when I'm too tired to move and too busy to admit it. She hasn't seen him like I see him right now...lying next to me.

He looks like a little boy, his sandy hair sticking up every which way. The lines on his face disappear at night...the creases between his eyebrows relax. All that's left of the burdens of day is the things he whispers sometimes or when he tosses and turns fitfully.

I'm not second best.

There is no second...because there's no longer a first. For either of us. He may say her name once in a while, but it is me he comes home to. It is *my* hand he holds here under the sheets. His fingers are so strong...and so sure. They swallow mine up.

I lay my head on his chest and I can hear his heartbeat. It started skipping a beat two years ago. Arrhythmia. He's not as young as he used to be. Neither am I, come to think of it. I find one more gray strand in my hair when I look in the mirror every morning. He usually comes up behind me when I'm plucking it out and chuckles "Kyle's stepmom is showing her age, hmmm?" That's when I throw his toothbrush at him and swat his ass.

Kyle hasn't lived at home for six years...and he certainly doesn't admit I'm his stepmother. He doesn't admit I'm much of anything. Because I'm not *her*. I'm not--

"Michelle." Jim is crying. I just hug him hard and murmur soothing things. "Shhh...its okay, Honey...its okay." He clutches me tightly but doesn't wake up. Maybe...just maybe in a few more years he'll say my name.

Like he does in the daylight--with a hint of laughter and admiration and flirtation. Maybe some night before he's hunched over and gray and I'm vapor and slime, he'll say "Isabel." And maybe he won't.

--The End--

Part 3
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