She shifts onto her side again, resolutely avoiding looking at the other side of the bed. She can feel the cold, empty spot from behind though, a slight breeze gusting across her neck where his comforting breath should be. She squeezes her eyes closed, trying not to imagine strong arms wrapping around her waist, pulling her close, heat spreading along her spine right through her, warming her all the way to her heart.
A lone tear slides across her nose, making a trail across her face and dropping onto the pillow. She presses her lips together, willing her chin to stop trembling and blinks until her vision has cleared enough to stare at the alarm clock. 3:47am. Her phone sits silently on the bedside table.
She’s grown soft. The girl who could sleep under bridges, in a room full of fidgeting foster kids, on the hard plastic mattress of a jail cell, she can’t sleep in her own king-sized bed under a thick, downy comforter. She’s grown soft and she didn’t regret it, doesn’t regret it, because he dismantled her walls one by one and made himself a home inside, only now he’s not there and having no walls doesn’t keep the warmth in very well when the source has disappeared.
Pressing her hands to her eyes, she sits up again, swinging her feet one at a time onto the cold wood. She should put on socks, she thinks, but there’s something comforting about the numb weight of her toes sliding across the floor.
She goes downstairs because sitting in that room - their room - any longer, when she’s clearly not going to sleep, feels pointless. Halfway towards the light switch by the front door she pauses, changing course for the kitchen and leaving the room in the dark. The ghost of her four-hours-ago self flicking that same switch off is still too close. There’s nothing (no-one) to see with the lights on anyway.
Her hands fumble in the kitchen cupboard for the tin of hot chocolate powder, spending several minutes clutched too tightly around the bottle of Captain Morgan at the back of the shelf. The shaking of her hand from clenching the glass reminds her to let go and she feels for the tin, pulling it down and setting it on the counter. Every creak of the porch in the wind sounds like it could be a footstep.
Making the hot chocolate is an automatic process, but she still burns her thumb on the pan, tears springing to her eyes at the pain and then lingering too long. She presses her lips together, refusing to blink until the cinnamon is dusted on the top of the milk and she knows they won’t spill over.
The silhouettes of heavy snowflakes dash across the kitchen blinds as she picks up her mug. Her thumb is stinging, heat spreading fiercely from the epicentre of the burn. She focuses on that one glowing spot of pain, letting it drown out her heart. It leads her towards the front door and then she’s sitting on the top step of the porch, pressing her thumb into the snow building on the step below until it’s numb with cold.
Her eyes flick upwards towards the gate in the white picket fence - the same one she rushed out of not three days ago to kiss him and bring him in and feed him her milk dud popcorn until their teeth hurt from the sugar and he kissed the chocolate smears off her mouth as he pressed her into the mattress later that night. She takes a gulp of the hot chocolate but it burns her tongue and the boiling liquid burning a path down through her to her stomach is the wrong kind of warmth.
Pulling her numbed fingers from the snow, she wraps them around her mug and sucks in a deep breath. The thick flakes are slowing and she’s shaking in her thick winter pyjamas, watching clouds of warm air leave her mouth and disappear almost instantly in the chill.
‘I can’t lose you too.’
The snow has almost stopped and the air is full of deadened silence. Her traitorous ears wait for the crunch of snowy footfall but she should know by now that waiting never brought anyone back for her before.
She’ll just sit on the steps until she’s finished her drink.