You brushed your hand flat against the now cool sheets of the bed, finding a void where your husband should be. You strained to listen, but the night was still and you couldn’t sense any signs of the approaching dawn.
“Steve?” you called, turning to sit in the bed. You waited for a response, but the air was quiet.
Carefully, you placed your feet to the floor, as if your actions would disturb some unknown natural order, before making your way down the corridor. You stopped in front of Olivia’s room, and that’s where you found him. You heard him before you saw him, humming some unrecognisable melody. You leaned on the door jamb and hugged the frame, needing support in the dreaminess of the dark. You smiled at the sight of him, cradling the baby in his arms.
Olivia’s head rested on Steve’s shoulder, her black glossy hair seeming to bleed into his blond locks as he gently rested his head on hers. The expanse of his back rocking and swaying. Your heart ached and you wanted to capture this moment forever.
“Steve?” you whispered, reluctant to break the serenity of this daddy-daughter dance. He moved so that he faced you.
“Hey, what are doing up?” his voice as hushed as your own.
“Looking for you,”
“She was fussing so…” He placed as kiss to the top of her head and you could see she was fast asleep, mouth open, half hidden by his body.
Doubt crept into your mind, questioning. A mother sleep was easily broken by the needs of her child but was his? How many times had he required a firm kick or nudge from an elbow to raise him from his deep slumber? You wondered if he’d been awake already or if she’d really been fussing at all. You couldn’t blame him, the unconditional love of a child was forever welcoming and could melt worries away with ease. Olivia was your miracle. The only good thing to come out of Colombia.
Colombia had nearly broken you both. It stripped you down and took more than either of you could ever have imagined. He didn’t see the toll it took but you did, and you couldn’t watch. There had been no escape, no relief from the horrors of the drug war, it perverted the core of your lives, so you’d left. And when you did, he was a broken shell, tainted by the horrors he saw, and you didn’t know if he’d ever really come back to you.
But he did. When Steve finally returned the trouble and darkness seem to fall from him like discarded shackles, a new, or older self, released from a prison of his own making. The States and family replacing Escobar and the sicarios, the violence and the blood. But in the quiet moments like the middle of the night you knew a sliver of the past tormented him.
You wished he’d talk to you, but guys don’t talk. And Steve was one of the guys, he needed to be strong in the world were men battle others for survival. But it was more than that. He needed to be strong for you, he didn’t want to worry you, show a weakness when he should protect and console you. But keeping it bottled up wasn’t healthy - eventually bottles shatter. When you last saw him in Colombia, visited him after months apart, he broke at the sight of you and crumbled in your arms when you embraced. He shouldn’t need to carry the burden and guilt of it all and he definitely did not need to hide the weight of the responsibility behind some macho bravado. You knew that he gained strength from being with you and Olivia, and it tore you to leave him there again yet it was the promise of you both when he returned, the promise of the love of his family that kept your husband alive.
He placed Olivia into her cot, gentling covering her with a blanket, and came to you, his warm hand on the small of your back and a whisper of a kiss at your temple.
“Let’s go to bed.”
You climbed in, the rumpled sheets were cold and uninviting, but his long arms embraced you and feeling of contentment soon warmed you. His moustache tickled as he placed kisses to the crown of your head.
“Are you ok? You’d tell me if you weren’t, wouldn’t you?” you asked, once again breaking the still of the night.
“I’m fine honey.” You craned your neck so that you could see his face, “Don’t worry I got all I need right here.” he said giving you a squeeze. Moments passed with only sounds of his breathing next to you, wishing that his words were truthful, but like his nightmares of Colombia doubt niggled at you.
“Steve, you know if you need to talk about it…”
“Honey…” a heavy sigh.
“No wait listen, please. It doesn’t need to be me. It doesn’t need to be now. Just promise me that you’ll talk to someone, anyone. Promise me you won’t hold it in, it’s not good.” You were sitting to face him now, pleading for his life, your lives, “Promise me.”
“I promise.” And the tender kiss he gave you lingered - an offer of understanding, of reassurance.
And you fell asleep in each other’s arms, wrapped in the love and support of each other and thinking of the promise of tomorrow.