He rapped lightly, already turning the knob, made his way through the semi-darkness through the familiar room. Adrift in the queen-sized bed, curled on her side her form shook and trembled. She was beyond conversation, the covers crumpled in the ferocity of her hysterical grip, one corner of the coverlet stuffed between her teeth to muffle the sobs. He thought of calling out, even opened his lips to speak. Below his gaze she gasped as if drowning.
Not knowing what else to do he laid down alongside her. He moved in close and felt her sink her back gratefully against his chest though the deluge continued. He put his arm around her, protecting the breakdown. Warm tears sprinkled his hand. He pressed his mouth to her head. Her hair smelled of citrus and soap.
She cried for a long while, sometimes with curses and anger, sometimes with hushed mourning. Throughout, he held on and kept quiet. He worried that words would wound her more. When it seemed she was winding down he brushed his knuckles against her clammy cheek. She stopped breathing then and held her breath longer than he thought she should have been able to and then as suddenly expelled the compressed air and with it the tension in her shoulders. She went limp against him- worn out, body and soul.
He gathered the liberated linens, unfurled them and pulled them up over her. From the corners of her eyes, through long dark lashes she warily watched him. He separated a few teary strands of hair from her face, hooked them behind her ear. Her eyelids fluttered and fell. Again he laid with her wrapping himself around her as much as he dared. Her hand rose to rest gently on his forearm. He kissed the edge of her shoulder before dropping his head to the pillow.
In the dark he listened for her breathing to calm, strained to tell if she was crying again or resting. He imagined he could make out the sound of her eyelashes gently scratching against her skin, flickering as she dreamed. What did she dream of? What monsters visited her in sleep- what joys, if any? He couldn’t recall if he had ever seen her smile and mean it.
She was decimated, this thing in his arms, stripped of peace, love, sanity- fragile yet tenacious. Put in her place, he wasn’t sure he could fight the savage darkness that seemed to be always reaching for her. His thumb glided along the path from her clavicle to the cleft of her bosom. She stirred and in sleep her breath whispered his name.
“You’re safe,” he whispered in return. “I’m here.”