The night was restless and warm for early December. Huddled under the blankets, she thought she heard a faint rumble. A winter thunderstorm was not unheard of, but hardly welcome right now. She’d only been at St. Marie for a week, but finally her spiritual and physical exhaustion had worn off. All of a sudden she was up again, almost manic in her mood. Today, all day, her nerves were completely jangled. It wasn’t just the move and the transfer, or the thoughts of seeing Braden from time to time. Not after the terrible last three months, where they didn’t see each other at all, ultimately leading up to her transfer. The reality of what she had done was catching up, and she had to start teaching a new class Monday morning at eight-forty-five sharp.
Now she couldn’t sleep. The room was too hot. The blankets were too thick, but to take them off meant a draft and a chill. Air whistled around the window and much of it came in. She was on one side, and then the other, with her upper knee drawn up and supported by the balled-up blankets. It was like her brain just wouldn’t switch off.
Rain lashed the rooftop, less than ten feet away in her third-floor suite, way up under the eaves, a bit bigger than her room for all those years back home. That was one way of describing it. It wasn’t home. She wondered if it ever would be.
She was in a semi-aware state, not unpleasant in itself. If only she could drop off into real slumber. Heather would be ever so grateful. Sleep was the last refuge. She’d read that somewhere.
The place had its own atmosphere, and in the long hours of the night when quiet reigned, the big old house had a set of obscure noises all of its own. Most of them were unidentifiable, but the pish-pish-pish of the heating pipes and the sound of someone in another room flushing a toilet or getting a drink of water were familiar enough. The occasional loud crack or pop could be put down to the age of the building, or the settling of the ground it was built on. It was the expansion and contraction of the maple hardwood floors, when the sun crossed it during daylight hours. The house had a life of its own by now, being over a hundred years old.
The distant crawling whine of transport trucks on the highway, or cars in the street out front weren’t threatening. Voices of people going by were clearly outside and down there, respectively. Branches scraping at the weathered brick wall outside made her hair stand on end, at least until she figured out what it was.
Her eyes opened and she looked at the clock. Only a little after one a.m. She still had time to get a good night’s sleep. God, please.
She had just closed her eyes and rolled over when a solid clunk came against the wall under her window. At first, she though how pleasant it would be to look out into the treetops in summer…
“Ah.” She turned her head and neck against the resistance of the pillow, which was a lot softer than she was used to. “Um.”
It felt good, but it wasn’t sleep.
There were more small sounds, little bumps and a rasping sound. She thought it was the tree branches again, the wind must be really picking up out there.
Her eyes flickered. It wasn’t working…it was like she just couldn’t drop off. Every so often she had a night like that, of course. It was never welcome.
A strong thud came right at the window, looming eight feet away from the foot of her bed. Panes rattled and the curtains trembled.
“Argh.” She thought for a moment and then decided to whisper a single expletive. “Shit.”
There was quiet now except for the sound of light rain on the glass. She was just turning from her right side to the left yet again, when the sound of a regular tapping on the window made her growl in frustration and finally snap on the light and sit up, strongly tempted to go over and reassure herself it was just branches in the wind. She glared in the general direction of the offending window.
There was a dim red shape in the glass, visible through a narrow gap in the dark brown, patterned curtains, down low just over the sash. It took sudden form in her consciousness.
Her jaw dropped.
Braden! What instinct for self-preservation stopped her from shouting his name, or anything at all for that matter, was a blessing of the first magnitude.
Oh, my God.
His hand beckoned, as he mouthed words silently. His face was wet from the downpour as she swung her legs out of bed and went to the window, putting her toes down first and making a minimum of thumping sounds of her own. She pulled the curtains away and tried to lift the window.
The thing was sticky in the guides. She bent low, put her back into it and got a good grip.
She bit her lip. It made a groaning sound. She shoved the thing up as high as she could get and then stood back, keeping the window up with her left hand as Braden clambered up and over, dripping a trail of water and grinning like a drunken idiot who has just won the lottery after a lifetime of total mediocrity.
Her eyes slid to the window. Braden nodded, and took over. He eased it down until it was up just enough to get his fingers out from under it. She looked around, and settled on a rolled-up magazine to keep the window from dropping the last bit. He stuck it under and gave a small push on the top of the frame. He pulled the curtains tightly closed. They billowed slightly in place from the remaining air flow.
Putting a finger to his lips for silence, he pointed at the bed and so Heather gratefully retreated to somewhere soft and warm.
Sitting with knees up and a blanket over her legs, she watched as Braden took off his ball cap and opened his jacket. The silence of the room was all too loud now. What in the hell was he thinking?
Yet the thoughts of having sex silently, which perhaps might not be truly impossible, stirred her and she wondered if Braden was some kind of a genius. The last three months had been sheer hell. Her groin throbbed at the thought of sex. The first week here, had brought on a kind of desolation of the spirit. She had been struggling with it. He stood at the end of her bed, looking down in total seriousness. His initial smile had vanished.
She licked her lips and watched his eyes, breathing deeply in anticipation.
Unzipping his jacket, he came over and sat down on a small chair she used for dressing. He reached into his side jacket pocket and pulled out what looked like a sandwich bag. She wondered if he had condoms in there. The notion of a snack or something seemed out of odds with what was happening…
He opened the top and proffered a note in her direction.
“Read it.” The words were barely perceptible, but they both flinched slightly from the unthinkable possibility of one of the other sisters waking up in the next room or across the hall.
His eyes traveled the walls and the layout as he held a small flashlight, elbow propped up by the night table, and she opened it up and began to read.
I'll be reading through the novella a couple of more times but the story will be available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Diesel Books, Sony and Kobo, as well as Amazon very, very soon. Thank you for reading the excerpt.