This is a fictional short story.
IN THE MENOPAUSAL MIND
It’s 2:17am Wednesday morning and I’m awake again.
I followed all of the rules the women’s magazines list for a good night’s rest.
I took the TV out of the bedroom. No more late night’s with Leno.
Computer’s in the kitchen.
I had a small, satisfying snack at 9:45 and was tucked neatly into bed by 10:00.
I had one 3 mg. Tablet of time-released Melatonin and a Benadryl (for my allergies, of course).
I read one Chapter of Tolkien’s Return of the King, because it’s a favorite, and there would be no temptation to stay up reading for hours, like there would have been with the new Evonovitch novel I have laying right next to it on my night-stand.
I felt pleasantly drowsy, and I didn’t even hear Nick come to bed.
My eyes popped open at 1:45 A.M., and here I am.
My bones actually ache with a hollow feeling I know is loneliness. Turning silently, I can watch Nick sleeping on his stomach, silky lashes closed, breathing softly. I can’t blame this on snoring. He doesn’t do it. He barely even moves at night, sleeping deeply, and waking up refreshed.
It’s completely quiet in the house, except for the soft rustle of the air-conditioner. I don’t need to check it to know that the thermostat is set at 68 degrees. The absolute perfect temperature for sleeping. So why do I feel like I’m being smothered?
I just have to get up. I push the quilt off and lower my legs to the floor and stand up without jostling Nick at all. I open the door, step thru, and close it again. Without making a single sound. I’m getting good at this.
I wander through the darkness, slowly making my way to the sliding doors at the back of the house. I push the sheers back and pull the door open a foot. There’s a whoosh of sound as the unnaturally cooled air escapes. It’s like opening a hermetically-sealed can. Standing in the door, I feel the fingers of the night gently lift my nightgown and mold it softly to my body. The wind is warm. A delicious shiver of feeling washes over me.
I take a deep breath and feel myself unwinding as I let it escape. I lift my arms, lean against the frame and stare out at the lush, black velvet of the sky.
The moon must be almost full: I don’t see it from this window, but it couldn’t be this bright without it. The grass is wet and shiny: the automatic sprinklers have already been on and off. And out beyond our little stab at civility, the desert hills are rolling and the wind is calling. Nick’s going to put up a fence this summer, but for now, we’re still wide open.
The night is a thousand shades of gray, not black and white like you would think.
I take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds and then exhale slowly. I’m really starting to relax.
What’s that? Up above, on the crest of the hill, the shadows twist and turn and then resolve into the shape of a jogger, running. I watch him for several seconds as he strides alone.
Suddenly he stops, turns, and seems to be staring straight down at me.
I’m startled. I turn and fumble the door closed. Shaking a little. How dumb is that? It’s time to go back to bed. But I can sleep now.
Thursday morning 2:24am. Oh, sigh.
Lifting the curtain above the kitchen sink, I look out. It’s beautiful again. I open the sliding door and step through. I try to number the stars, and then start picking out the individual clumps of sage on the hill.
He’s there again. Standing still. Before I can get totally freaked out, he turns to leave, lifting a hand in farewell.
Friday morning 5:54am. I slept until almost six o’clock in the morning! I feel reborn.
Saturday morning 1:47am.
There’s just no justice in the universe.
I sit on the couch for a while, the leather cool against my skin, then wander to the door despite by better judgement.
I watch for several minutes, looking carefully across the hills.
He’s not there.
Just me and the crickets.
I wander over to the couch, lay down and pull the fleece blanket up around my shoulders. I fall asleep watching the wind play quietly in the curtains and wake up a moment later to find him standing in the doorway.
I’m on my feet again, standing shocked and still.
I should be afraid. Maybe even terrified! But I’m really not. I don’t recognize him. But somehow, I remember him instead.
He’s dressed in darkness, a gray cloak floating in the wind like cobwebs. He smiles and turns toward the night, lifting a hand to me. “Let’s play in the moonlight.”
I don’t stop to even think about it: I grasp his hand and flee across the wet grass and up the dry hills.
It isn’t long before I fall behind. The sandy path turns rocky and steep. It hurts my bare feet. Looking above me, I see him running effortlessly up the hill ahead.
“Wait! Wait for me!” I stumble upward, breathless and crying. Always running. Always behind.
Coming to the top of the hill, I find the moon, big and full. He’s waiting for me there. I take his hand and he pulls me up against hot skin, under the cloak. Reaching up, I try to hold him, but the cloak get in the way. He disappears into nothingness, as the cloak wraps itself tightly around me, binding me in heat and darkness. I struggle to get free. I’m being smothered!
I scream and come awake as I fall off the couch flat on my butt. I fight my way out of the stupid fleece blanket, stand up sweating and shaking and...naked?
I walk shakily into the kitchen and drink a glass of cold water. I walk back to the sliding glass door. I can see two sets of wet footprints slowly drying on the cement. Looking down at my feet, there’s a piece of grass sticking between my toes.
The moon is still shining, the wind is still soft. I slide the door shut, push the lock down, pull the sheers across the glass and turn away.
It’s 2:45am Saturday morning.
I think I’ll read for a while.