It had been the longest night, of a fitful, light sleep between bouts of wakefulness. Each time she surfaced, the stab of pain had made her gasp. It had been the first night she had slept alone in years, and her body could not believe that he was not there. The space howled, the sheets tossed like an angry sea, and her hand reached out involuntarily as if it expected to find his warmth, that it had all been a mistake. But the night air moaned and muttered with his last words and she knew that those words could never be taken back. Even if she had wanted to forgive him, his pride would not swallow them.
Grey light fell through the cracks in the shutters and there could be no more pretence that there was still time for him to come home. The night was over, and he had not returned. He had gone where he had said he would, to those warm arms and fluttering, diaphanous smiles, all pulpous mouth and no words. As the light increased the hurt grew. She flung back the sheets and stumbled to the window, her back to the bed and the empty room. She raised the latch and pushed open the shutters onto a calm morning, lusciously damp and green. He had taken everything, she thought, even her pleasure in the secret dawn. Her mouth pulled into a tight, bitter line and she stared down into the garden angrily, as if she expected to find broken pieces of her heart lying among the flowers.
Then, slowly, hesitantly, the first bird piped the opening notes of its morning song. In the birch trees, the finches gathered, bright feathers catching the light, and the blackbird was joined by another, then the robin and the wagtails, the redtails and the tits, until the air throbbed and rippled with music. The tight line of her mouth loosened and she smiled. He hadn’t taken everything after all.