24 - A Long and Lonely Night

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Liz lay awake, staring at the shifting pattern of darkness dappled along the ceiling. She should get up. She should go talk to Nat. She knew this, on an intellectual level, and even wanted to -- yet she could not summon the energy to move. 

She was tired. So very, very tired. 

There was no reason to be so tired. She had been sleeping soundly and dreamlessly when Liam woke her, and the flashing digital face of the clock by the bed assured her that she must have gotten several hours of sleep. But her exhaustion was deep, as if she had gone sleepless for a week. 

She had not felt so tired since Liam was an infant. He'd been especially fussy, prone to colic and impossible to soothe, and he hadn't slept through the night until he was nearly a year. It had been an awful year, full of bitter exhaustion and petty fights with Kyle, who had been impossible to rouse and even more difficult to get out of bed. He had not considered it his responsibility to wake at odd hours, to sacrifice his sleep before a long workday, despite his shared responsibility in bringing a new life into the world. 

It had been Liz who wanted a baby. And it was Liz's job to tend to him, like a punishment, despite the insomnia and the weight loss and the way her hair thinned and the constant arguing. The birth of Liam had, in its way, ushered in the birth of her temper, and both now had grown and begun to mature. 

But through it all, Liz had refused to begrudge the child, had loved him in spite of the difficulties, and eventually Kyle had come around, and things had gained something like peace and balance. And it was then, and only then -- after she'd gotten proper sleep, and begun once more to care for herself as a separate person and not a life incubator or round-the-clock human supervisor -- that she had realized how bored she was, how confined, and she had gone looking for more. 

And found Nat. 

The problem was not the child. The problem was the marriage, and it always had been, and once she was self-assured enough to know what she wanted, she had gone for it, and never looked back. 

She was so tired. 

So very, very tired. 

But she could no sleep, and so instead she stared at the ceiling and tried to will away the exhausted apathy that held her immobile. 

She should go talk to Nat. Poor Nat, sleepy and wide-eyed and disoriented in the night. Nat, who was probably curled up on the couch now, probably shivering under the air conditioner alone. 

She had been too short with her. It wasn't fair to round on her the way she did. And she hadn't meant those things, not really. She didn't fully understand why she had said them. It had just been frustration and tiredness, and maybe some unfair hold-over irritation with Nat. 

Nat who had not woken to tend to the child. Nat who had slept right through his cries, just like Kyle used to do, and who was needy like a child herself. 

A twisted, selfish thing coiled tight in Liz's stomach, and she realized as she thought about it that she was angry -- resentful -- and, in the darkness of the empty bedroom, that anger felt righteous. 

Perhaps she had meant to say those things, after all. Perhaps she had meant every word, and many more left unspoken. 

It was impossible to know for sure. Her thoughts were muddy, and she gave up trying to sort through them or make sense of them. Instead, she closed her eyes and waited for sleep to come. 

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