He awoke slowly; grudgingly. The new pills not only kept him asleep through the night-or at least more of the night than he was used to-but made waking a slow, weighted swim up from of the bottom of a deep pool. It was a chore that he deferred most mornings. He allowed himself a few minutes gazing at the ridge line until he could just make out the bare limbs and branches etched against the graying sky.
He rose and stretched-hands high-counting the pops in his spine as he bent this way, then that. Then listened to the cracks in his ankles as he walked, squinting to unlock the bedroom door in the darkness. An unnecessary precaution as it turned out but one he felt he had to take.
He padded across the hall and paused at the slightly open door to the front room-just as he’d left it. Her deep regular breathing was the only sound on the floor. He slipped the door open wide enough to enter. This side of the house fronted the lake and the light of the dawn moon falling over the far hills pointed a silver sword their way across the water. He watched the flickering light crawling directly at him and fell under the spell of her breathing.
He allowed himself to be borne away by her rhythm, inhaling deeply with her and exhaling as she did. Not being asleep, the exercise left him feeling winded-in need of quick swallows of air. The room carried the sweet aroma of his grandmother’s bread dough rising in her tiny kitchen-a heady mix of sleep, damp heat and last night’s lovemaking.
He approached the bed where she was on her side sunken deeply into the old mattress the sheet around her shoulders. He checked the knots around her ankles and gently slipped a finger between the bonds and her skin. Secure and not too tight. He then pulled back the sheet to check her wrists, bound before her as if in prayer. Her breath feathered the back of his hands. The rope securing her wrists to her ankles was likewise fast.
And lastly, the knife. His own deer knife, a nine inch blade sharp enough to shave, cut and gut. Happily, it was safely sheathed within her easy reach. His suggestion was to bind her lightly so she could easily release herself if necessary during the night. She instead wanted to be bound tightly, with the knife as her out card.
He knew she was mad from the first. But the first was so long ago that the knowledge did him no good now.