Emma raised one eye upon hearing the front door close. Through the blankets and hair covering her face she managed to see the clock on Brayden’s nightstand read 2:14 a.m. As moonlight began to crawl up the bed from the window, she listened to Brayden walk through the house: he threw his keys in the bowl, bumped into the coat rack, and opened the refrigerator, all while murmuring some strange song. Emma rolled over and threw her hand into the night, searching for her phone. After knocking over a bottle of pills, her fingers managed to grasp the casing of her note 5. She clicked the screen on and stretched her legs, curling her toes between the fresh white cotton sheets. Downstairs, she distinctly heard the sound of Sportscenter going to break come across the home theater speakers. Her Instagram blinked, redrawing her focus, showing 50 notifications. She swiped through, reading comments and posts like Congratulations!!!, We’re so happy for you J, and OMG girl, you look so big!. Emma smiled from the support her family and friends sent out. She loved having such vocal love around her. Across the room the empty bassinet sat nestled in the corner. As she put her phone down, she noticed Brayden had shut off the TV.
Five minutes later the bedroom door creaked ajar, allowing Brayden to stumble inward. Emma peeked over her shoulder and studied her husband at his dresser. He slid his shirt above his chest, revealing the Sanskrit back tat he got on their honeymoon just south of Cancun. Flashes of memories from that night race throughout her: the dancing, the drinking, the stumble back to the hotel. Emma let loose a muffled laugh that startled Brayden.
“Shit,” he turned around, stubbing his toe against the stand. “Em?”
“Yeah, I’m up,” Emma pulled the covers lower across her chest. “How is everybody?”
“They’re good. Asked about you a lot,” Brayden pulled off his pants and threw on a pair of shorts. “Did I wake you?”
“Not really. I’ve been in and out for a while. I took a bath around nine and crawled in here shortly after. Just can’t get comfortable, I guess.”
Brayden walked into the bathroom and flicked on the light. The bulbs above the link sputtered on, revealing the quaint, sea-side décor. He grabbed his toothbrush, placed on some paste, and went back to bedroom.
“How are you?” Brayden asked through his toothbrush. His eyes moved from Emma to the iron pills scattered across the nightstand back to Emma.
Emma caught the direction of his eyes. “It’s nothing. I knocked them over when I reached for the phone. I…”
Brayden bit his toothbrush and moved to Emma’s side of the bed. Getting down to one knee, he began to pick up the pills and place them in his palm.
“Bray, I can do it in the morning, come to…”
“It’s ok, Em.” Brayden rose and funneled the pills from his hand into the bottle atop the nightstand, repositioning it next to the water. A stiff tinge of whiskey wafted from Brayden, taking Emma by surprise.
“Thank you,” she uttered quietly.
Brayden rose and walked back to the bathroom. From the bed, Emma looked to the open door, curious of what to say next. “How is everyone?” she asked. Brayden spit and rinsed, then appeared through the bathroom door. “What?” he asked.
“How is everyone?” Emma repeated herself, running her hands through her hair.
“Good, I mean, nothing changes with our friends, right?” Brayden took his phone from his pants and plugged it in to the charger on his nightstand. He slid in the bed and laid on his side, staring face to face with Emma. “You didn’t miss anything. I wanted to be here with you.”
“That’s bull. No one wants to be here with mood swings, and all that fun head-above-the-toilet sickness.”
Emma laughed, “Well, aren’t you great.” She lined the tips of her fingers up with his and grazed each finger, one at a time, up and down his corresponding finger, noticing, again, the aura of whiskey he had surrounding him. “You sure smell like you had fun.”
“Em…” Brayden started.
“What is that, Jameson?” Emma remarked.
“I…” Brayden tried to interject.
“I always thought you were more of a Kentucky bourbon guy. It’s good to know things change. If …” Emma interrupted before being cut off by Brayden.
“Okay!” Brayden placed his hand on Emma’s hip, slowly rubbing the curvature of her stomach. “It was nice getting a chance to talk to them. It was nice getting a chance to talk.”
“Good,” Emma smiled. “I thought you’d enjoy that.”
“Yeah, they said that.”
Emma’s eyes caught Brayden in a new, indiscreet way. The pale moonlight crept from her side of the bed towards her husband, highlighting the contours of his face as it slowly overtook the two. She took his hand, once more, and clenched tightly.
“I’m ok, Bray,” Emma began. “You have to be ok, too.”
An August breeze occupied the room as Emma’s words escaped their captivity. Brayden stirred in response. Anxiety trembled from his toes, to his back, to his throat, to his lips.
“What if we suck at this, Em?” Brayden’s words seemed to take residence in the inches separating him from Emma on the bed. “What if, what if having a kid hurts us?”
Emma paused before answering. She considered the relationships of everyone who had commented on her posts, she thought about her friends – the ones that Brayden met with earlier in the night. No one was perfect. Everyone had their faults, their hardships, their inconsistencies. She had to be truthful. “It could. There’s no way around that Brayden. But all of our friends, all of our families, all of the people we’ve ever known who have suffered in their relationships, they all fail because their bond breaks. Their communication dies. If that were to happen to us, it would be because we don’t keep everything in the open.”
“That’s a two-way street, Emma.”
“Yeah.” Brayden accentuated his response.
“Doc cleared me. As long as I keep taking the supplements I should be fine. You shouldn’t worry that much about it. I’d,” Emma coughed, “I’d tell you if something was really wrong. I’m not sick.”
Brayden knew she was right, but a resigned uneasiness still sat at the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t escape his creeping cause for concern.
“I guess I…” Brayden stopped short.
“What?” Emma asked.
“I want to know it’s ok to worry about you. I know you’re your own person. I know you’re strong. I love your strength. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Emma interjected.
“And you did the same thing. You do the same thing.”
“Ok, then what do you call the exercise I went through tonight?”
Emma playfully pushed Brayden’s shoulder.
“I just told the girls to have the guys take you out and take your mind off things. Get your head right.”
“And that isn’t a bit of Machiavellian manipulation?”
“It’s totally different. I…”
“Did the same thing,” Brayden interrupted.
Another wind blew in from the window. The moonlight crept from the bed towards the bassinet. A shiver overtook Emma.
“I’m cold.” Emma finished.
Brayden wrapped his arms around Emma and brought her close to his chest while covering themselves in the comforter.
“Maybe we’re more alike than we think,” Emma relinquished.
Quiet overtook both Emma and Brayden. Emma stared out the window, counting the stars as if they were sheep. Brayden stared at the bassinet, fully lit in the shifting moonlight. The calm caressed each of their thoughts, drawing them closer to the sleep they sought. Neither expressly felt the concern they experienced earlier. Neither totally was able to transition to sleep. Each stayed present in the moment, unwilling to leave the accord they achieved. Brayden held Emma. And they breathed, they thought, and they experienced the other as themselves. They existed.