Mostly, there was nothing. The sporadic clacking of keys made a strange sort of music against the falling rain, the chair would creak, a leaf would smack against the window, but the house was breathing easy on this night. A wary candle threatened to sputter out with the occasional warm gust from the crack in the ancient frame. The computer emitted an unnatural hum that always seemed so out of place in the old log cabin, but she was finally getting used to it.
She sighed and stretched her arms up, lacing her fingers and cracking them. The clock on the laptop was off, as always, but the air had that in between feeling of three am, when nothing could decide if it was night or morning. Since Jerry left, her sleeping had been erratic, unhealthy. The dark circles under her eyes and slight shuffle in her walk were becoming almost embarrassing, but she could never keep to a schedule on her own, it felt too forced. She yawned; the air sucked into her lungs felt muggy and cold at the same time. The temperature of things was becoming all mixed up.
She glanced over at the bed, very much unmade, stark green sheets brushing the scuffed floor. There was a hole in the black comforter from the time she threw a pair or scissors at him for oversleeping on their anniversary; it always unnerved her. She hoped that one day she would glance over the fabric would be closed, that time itself might be patched, for another chance at something.
Jerry used to lounge on the table where the candle now sat, his head propped against the window glass in a manner that seemed almost comically familiar. Erin would often say he looked like he should be on a billboard for depression medication; “Do you feel sad all the time? Are you avoiding those you care about?” with a gray backdrop and drizzling rain outside, as was so often the case here. It irritated her how he was always hopping up on tables or countertops or laying on floors; he always seemed just outside her own circle of order- this made one more reason she could never reach him.
Yet he was not unhappy. This was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of their relationship. He was rarely, if ever, morose, and seldom rose to anger. His contentment with himself made him appear indifferent; he did not have a persistent neediness which she told herself would be normal and reassuring (in reality she found dependent males wholly unappealing and had turned down many in her past). Jerry could easily read alone for hours, then go out with friends at a moments notice, then return home ready for snuggling under the sheets and surprisingly intimate sex. These were not bad qualities, Erin acknowledged, but there was something suspect in his ability to switch from one frame of mind to another so quickly. To be so inside himself and then so loving within a span of hours. She always needed him, like a raw ache in her chest, and found solitary activities increasingly difficult; her mind would scatter, she felt that her skull was filling up with static until she was near him again. And yet, even being near him was often not enough, for Jerry could be a hundred miles away sitting right next to you.
A sharp whine caused her to jump, nearly toppling the rickety chair. "In a minute, Pepper," she muttered, trying to stretch some feeling back into her legs. The voice sounded hollow, far away. Sleep would have to come soon. The thought of lying alone in the dark with only her own mind, however, was frightening. Jerry had helped some with the insomnia; the scratchy warmth of him was comforting, and she even liked the way he snored, soft and erratic, like a child or a small dog. The sound of nails scraping at the screen door finally compelled her upwards, reprimanding the animal and shooing her in the house with swift, shaky movements. The scruffy mutt hopped on the bed gleefully and barked, thumping the bed with a stringy tail. Her cheerfulness was irresistible; Erin smoothed the floppy ears from head to tip and ran her hands through the scraggly black fur. "Always so happy. How can you be so happy when mommy is so sad? Hmmm?" Pepper's jaw snapped shut, she cocked her head as if she was seriously considering the question. Then she promptly flopped over and wagged all four feet in the air.
"Ohhh, so cute. So mangy and so cute." She relented and crawled into bed with the candle still burning, scratching the prone belly for a few moments until until her body gave out and both creatures fell into a death like sleep.