Chapter Six

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Mathew was surprised to find Sunny asleep in their bed. Most nights she'd bypassed their bedroom altogether and sequestered herself in the nursery. Her body was still and he closed the door as gently as he could, trying not to wake her. Bunny looked up at him from his spot under the window, but quickly returned to his doggy dreams. Quietly, he slipped off his shoes and tiptoed around to her side of the bed. The light was on in their bathroom and it fell in a narrow sliver across her face. He studied Sunny, relieved to do so without the fear of her running away. In those first few days after losing Lucien, he'd set his alarm for four in the morning, just so he could silently venture into the nursery and watch his wife as she slept. This is what their marriage had become: Sunny lying imprisoned inside an invisible cage while he observed her from a safe distance. He wanted to shake her—to wake her up from her seemingly comatose state. But then what? He didn't have the answers.

He yawned and began to undress, eager to slip into bed beside her. He reached into his pockets, removed some spare change, the phone message from Leo, and a little sterling silver heart. He placed the items quietly on his dresser. His heart began to beat rapidly as he tried to remember the design of the headstone. They hadn't been to the cemetery since the day they buried Lucien. Mathew had driven by there twice that evening, but couldn't bring himself to turn in. Tomorrow, he'd have to put fear behind him. He wanted to be there when the marker was placed. But could he convince Sunny to go? She hadn't left the house since the funeral. Maybe this would be the first step.

He eyed the silver heart, lying among the shiny coins. It had been a part of him from the moment Sunny gave it to him. He'd carried it everywhere. Even in those first days following the funeral. The days when he didn't make it out of his robe. It was there, providing unseen comfort whenever he reached into his pocket.

Maybe she needs it now, he considered, picking up the heart. He turned it over and over between his fingers, but it slipped from his grasp and fell noiselessly to the floor. He bent to pick it up and that's when something else caught his eye. The wastebasket underneath Sunny's antique writing desk—overflowing with a mass of papers. Papers that hadn't been there that morning. His curiosity kicked into overdrive. He recovered the little silver heart, picked up the wastebasket, and tiptoed back out of the room.

The door to the nursery down the hall was closed but light glowed from underneath the door. He walked down and pushed the door open with his foot. A night light beside the crib filled the room with soft pink warmth. He settled himself on the floor in the middle of the room and dove into the trash can, eager to dissect its mysterious contents. Some pages were wrinkled. waded up in tight balls. Others, it appeared, were merely dropped into the receptacle without a thought. There were pages and pages, written on all manor of things--monogrammed stationery, the kitchen notepad, sheets of plain white copy paper, lined notebook paper. He quietly sorted them out on the floor in front of the crib, amazed at the sheer number of pages. She's been writing letters this whole time...

Mathew sat on the floor, wearing only his suit pants and socks , and read her every word. It had taken a while, but he made it through every single letter. The tears he'd cried on the side of the road earlier returned and he didn't even try to stop them. Every line was composed with the all encompassing love that could only come from a mother. They were both beautiful and heartbreaking and Mathew ached with the realization that Lucien would never know the beauty of his mother's smile, the warmth of her kiss, or the calming nature of her hands upon his skin. Wiping tears from his eyes, he wondered if he'd experience those same blessings again himself.

It was almost three, and he decided to put Sunny's letters out of sight. On the shelf inside Lucien's closet, he located the box that contained his baby book. He removed the lid and book and placed the stack of letters inside. Replacing the lid, he pushed it silently to the back of the shelf. The baby book, he decided, would be better camouflaged if it remained out in the open. He wiggled it in between The Big Book of Mother Goose and Five Minute Bedtime Stories on the large bookcase. Walking to the door, he turned for one final look. He studied the mural of The Little Prince on the wall. The boy's regal expression made him smile.

He returned to their bedroom and found a vacant spot on Sunny's side of the bed. He heard water running and wondered if he should venture into the bathroom or just wait for her. But the decision was made for him as she rounded the corner, stopping cold when she saw him.

"You're home?"she asked.

"I got in around midnight."

"Where've you been?"

"I couldn't sleep. I was just in the other room—reading. I didn't want to wake you."

"Oh." She nodded.

"Leo said you didn't eat much for dinner. You want me to go down and get you anything?"

"No. I'm not hungry."

"Something to drink? I could get you some juice or something."

"I don't need anything," she said, her tone despondent.

Yes you do! You need me. Say it! You need me, Sunny, just like I need you. Please don't do this to me. I can't live like this. I don't want it to be this way.

"Alright. But if you change your mind..." He sighed, looking at her with helpless longing, but she made no further response.

With conversation at a standstill, he headed into the bathroom to complete his nightly ritual. He'd now been up close to twenty four hours straight, and he could fight off sleep no longer. Luckily, the firm could function without him and if he called in sick later, who would notice? He dropped his toothbrush in the cup beside the sink and turned off the light. He'd fully expected to find their bed empty, thinking that Sunny had probably moved on to the nursery. But she hadn't. She was back in bed, her back to him. He wanted to take it as some sort of sign but he knew better. Too many times he'd thought that maybe—just maybe—she was coming around. But it always ended in disappointment and his hopes were always severed. Crawling into bed, he turned onto his left side to face her. He wanted desperately to touch her, but he talked himself out of it. Another minute passed and he felt himself slipping away. His hand found the edge of her pillow and the tips of his fingers brushed against her hair. It wasn't much, but it was enough. Just the feel of a few wisps of her golden hair relaxed him in a way he couldn't describe.

"Mathew?" she whispered.

"Yes."

"I'm glad you're home."

"Me too." He reached out and stroked her head, letting his fingers run softly through her hair.

She didn't respond, but she didn't pull away either.


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