She can hear the dog running in his sleep. A shuffle. A swoosh. A whimper followed by a grunt followed by a sigh.
Must’ve caught the squirrel. Lucky bastard.
She blinks and purses her parched lips.
It would take six steps to reach her goal. She runs them through her mind again.
Move his hand from her chest. (Gently but swiftly)
Swivel on to her left side. (Use hip as pivot)
Unzip the bed net. (Ignore dog that is startled by the sound)
Climb out of bed and walk to the kitchen. (Ignore dog that will undoubtedly follow her)
Open the fridge door. (Ignore increasingly excited dog hoping to be fed)
Unscrew bottle and take a sip. (Ignore dog)
She purses her lips again.
What if he wakes up? She doesn’t want to wake him up, he only has a couple of hours of sleep available to him. Two more hours until duty calls again.
The new batch of cadets landed last week and he’s responsible for their early morning full-spectrum workouts. She places her hand on his chest and feels him rise and fall.
Thud — Thud — Thud.
The soft grizzly hair and the warm skin and that ever-beating heart. When was the last time she felt him? She strokes his chest and strains to remember.
When they were younger she would feel his heart every night. On warm and sweaty nights, she would lay by his side, much warm and much sweaty and much blissful herself, feeling his virility through the tremors of his grizzly hair.
Thump — Thump — Thump — Thump.
Her favourite sound in the whole wide world.
Central African summers are stifling, so sultry even the leaves get stuck to the air around them. Nothing moves at night except for the plump mosquitoes languidly buzzing around the bed net, waiting for her to let them in. She feels herself getting thirstier as she hears them buzz, a faint anxiety enveloping her as she wills her body to unmove whilst dreaming about moving.
She closes her eyes and distracts herself with memories of that baked fig and sherry ice cream from her ma’s kitchen. A product of hours of churning and swirling and ‘run along now and get me another fig from the garden darlin’. She licks her lips and there it is — that hint of figs. A fleeting touch of sherry that itself holds within it chocolates and cherries.
It’s now or never. Go back to sleep or man up and carry your darn plan through. She opens her eyes and creases her brow with renewed grit and moves his hand away from her chest. With the certitude of a ninja (or a yoga instructor), she swiftly swivels on her hip to the left, unzips the bed net, jumps out and zips it up again. With bated breath, then, she listens for sounds of stirrings.
Grunt — thud — thud — thud — sigh. (Ignore dog)
Success! Sweet, sweet victory!
She smiles a victorious smile and walks to the kitchen. (Ignore stupid, stupid dog)
The gust of cold relief from the refrigerator lends her time to pause.
She hesitates. ‘Do it. Step six and then you’re back in bed. Do. It’
She nods to herself, unscrews the Absolut, takes a deep gulp and sighs.
The thirst subsides.