Mornings.

My legs start moving first. I feel the friction of my skin rub up against the pillow that's been pushed lower and lower throughout the night. I turn and reach for Russ, my fingers crawling against his torso, anchoring me. I try not to stir. 

For a moment, I succeed. I feel myself falling back into oblivion, the deep dark of morning not yet tinted blue. But then I hear him. He's grunting. Half crying. Moving around in his crib, trying to find the perfect spot. 

I know it will be an early morning.

His cries turn more frequent, the comfort of sleep lost. Now, he's only concerned with his very wet — no, soaked — diaper and the fact that he cannot see either one of us. I know I will find him on his stomach, his arms tucked underneath him, his rear end perched in the air. 

But I cannot open my eyes. As much as I try, sleep is puling me under again and again and maybe I can rest here for five more minutes. I curl into my pillow, Russ has already gotten up and started his morning routine. I think I hear him whispering to Jubal, but I'm not sure. It's not until I hear his wails echoing off our walls that I know Russ is changing him. I smile. He hates being changed in the morning. 

I don't blame you, little lion, I think to myself as I lift my arms above me and stretch. 

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Within minutes, papa is walking in with Jubal and Neruda, our chihuahua. Jubal is already giggling, his mouth precariously balanced close to Neruda's ear. I'm sitting up now, rubbing my eyes and taking deep breaths, willing my body to wake up wake up wake up. I reach out for Jubal and Russ passes him off to me. I squeeze him against my chest, kissing his forehead. 

"Good morning, Jubal." I whisper.

He answers by kicking his feet and reaching for Trulee, our older dog resting at the foot of our bed. When she doesn't give in to his wish of kisses, he sighs and pushes himself toward the edge of the bed. Russ walks over and grabs him. 

"Come on, Jubal. We need to give mama her Valentines." 

Valentines. 

Immediately my mind migrates to where we were last year. I was here, alone in the house. This bed, with all of the pillows I could possibly fit, stacked on top of each other. Neruda, snuggled somewhere underneath.

At that point, we'd been separated for almost a month. Russ was in North Carolina with our son, waiting for courts to say it was okay for us to take him across state lines. When I went to work on Valentines Day last year, a coworker gave me an obsidian stone. 

"To dispel negative energy," he said. 

I cried at the gesture, and then cried myself to sleep that night — missing my men with an ache so fierce it felt like my heart would crack in two. 

But here — now — they are within arm's reach. Russ grabs something out of his drawer and gives it to Jubal to give to me. It’s a hat. Jubal immediately puts it on his head and I laugh softly at how it tilts on his head and hold my hand out, inspecting the word written across the front.

QUEEN 

I look up at Russ and he gives me the smile he reserves only for me. I lean forward, kissing him once, twice, three times.

"They had one that had KING across the front, but that's not really my style," he shrugs. 

I laugh again, my body waking up, and make a face at Jubal. He shrieks, amused by the hat now resting on my head. He falls forward, planting a wet kiss on my lips.  

I let myself breathe deep from my chest.

I am awake. 

Posted on February 14, 2018 and filed under The Memoirs.