Stacy padded towards the living room, her bathrobe wrapped around her, untied, her bare feet stepping lightly over cold floor boards. Squinting against the electric glow of the muted television, she surveyed the room. Greg sat hunched in the corner of the couch, his legs stretched onto the coffee table, arms crossed over his chest. His head was bowed, eyes cast downwards. His chest deflated with a soft sigh.
She drew close to the couch, approaching silently. Her eyes fell on a stack of papers, only a quarter-inch thick, that occupied the adjacent cushion. Ivory paper. Cotton fibers. Her finger traced the printed letters of his name, dragged over the neat list of publications, qualifications, certifications.
"I got fired."
She nodded, knew better than to pry, and set the resumes on the end table. Wordlessly, she settled onto the seat beside him. His face turned away from her. Stacy chewed on her bottom lip, uncertain. She swallowed the barrage of questions rising in her throat. "Do you want to talk about it?" Her voice rasped, scratchy with sleep.
Greg shook his head, arms tightening across his chest.
"Honey, you should come to bed. You could deal with this in the morning." Her fingertips ghosted through the hair at the back of his head.
"I can't sleep," he admitted, his eyes still averted, a forced swallow following another sigh.
Stacy dropped her arm across his shoulders and urged him to turn, whispering, "Come here."
"Stace, no, I don't want-"
"Just shut up, Greg." Amidst his weak, half-hearted protests, her hands guided his body to lie flat, his head resting in the circle of her folded legs. As his eyes closed, she lifted the bottom hem of his shirt and slid her hand over his body, tracing a broad line from his hip to his chest. His head turned, his nose nudging her leg, and one arm rose to curl around her thigh, his hand coming to rest low on her back. A soft, sleep-laden smile pulled at her lips as she lifted her other hand to his head, stroking his hair, his forehead with light sweeping motions. His fingers lazily mirrored the movement and gradually slowed to a stop, his face relaxing, his breaths evening out with sleep.
Stacy reached behind her, adjusting one throw pillow for herself before slipping another under Greg's head. She reached for the blanket draped over the back of the couch, unfolded it, and laid it over his body. This, she thought as she settled her head on the cushion, was worth a stiff neck in the morning.