Darla hung her bra on the closet doorknob. She put her arms into her cotton nightshirt, raised it above her head and let it fall down her body.
She paused briefly as she turned back the covers on her side of the bed. Stephen’s pajamas were folded neatly on his side of the bed, not quite touching his pillow. She had washed the bedding a few times since that day when he walked out, but she had been careful to replace his pajamas where he had left them.
He hadn’t taken the pajamas – or anything else – with him when he left. Darla had bought the gray silk pajamas with the light blue striping for him as a Christmas gift only six months earlier, and he had been delighted with them. He folded them carefully each morning and placed them on top of the freshly made bed, ready for use with the coming night.
It had been almost two weeks since Stephen had worn his pajamas. During the three weeks before he stopped wearing them, he had grown agitated. He had trouble sitting still. He had taken up cursing the laws of physics when they mocked him, such as when a towel slipped off the rack where he had just placed it.
“Look,” he had said, “it’s not your fault, but I can’t take this any longer. I’ve got to get some space.” And he had walked out the door without shutting it behind him.
None of their friends knew – or would admit to knowing – where he was. Small sums of money occasionally disappeared from their checking account, which indicated he was still alive and eating.
Darla slipped into bed and pulled the covers up. She reached out to turn off the bedside lamp but stopped when she heard a noise.
The apartment’s door lock turned, and the door opened and closed. The lock turned again.
Steps slowly came toward the bedroom, and then Stephen stood in the doorway. He looked at Darla with a timid question in his eyes.
In answer, she looked over at his pajamas, drawing his attention to them.
Stephen looked at his pajamas. He sighed softly and relaxed a little. He looked at Darla again, the question in his eyes replaced by simple embarrassment. Darla chose not to relieve him of his discomfort and continued to wait in silence. Stephen’s head dropped a little, and he crossed the room to his side of the bed.
Darla made no effort to look away; she watched as he undressed and slid first into his pajamas and then into their bed.
She turned off the light, and he sighed deeply.
“Did you find your space?”
She heard the pillowcase crinkle as he shook his head. “No. I came back to it.”
She thought about that for a moment and then turned onto her right side, facing away from him. “Good night.”
“Good night,” he said
He wanted to touch her, to hold her, but she did not commonly sleep on her right side. He understood he would have to earn back their former familiarity. Instead, he slowly ran his hands down his pajamas, savoring their silken hope for reconciliation.