She held her peace until Nick was safely outside, playing in his sandbox, a rare treat so late in the day. She could hear him jabbering happily to his toys, oblivious.

They stood in the front room of the house, she staring at the carpet, he at the drapes.


He started, almost as if she had broken some kind of spell.

And then again, louder. "Charlie."

It was strange. She'd always thought she'd be the one crying, but there was Charlie, crouched on the floor, sobbing his heart out. She stared at him as if she was viewing a film, disconnected, the sight of his pain somehow banishing hers, or so it seemed.

She went to the kitchen and started washing the dishes. Charlie didn't leave.

As if in a dream, they did things the way they always had, a well-orchestrated drama. Dinner. Time with Nick. Bed time.

Bed time. Charlie changed into Joe's pajamas and settled into her side of the bed. Oh, right, Charlie liked that side. She climbed under the covers next to her husband, finding brittle humor in the idea that for the first time in three years, things were back to normal.

She woke in the middle of the night, as usual, and contemplated her normal routine: Get up, make tea, have a little cry, and then determine to carry on. That's how it always was with Joe, but the man sleeping next to her wasn't Joe.

As she stirred, she felt a warm hand reach out to tentatively arrest her movement, and she made a decision.

Draped across Charlie, she fell back to sleep in minutes.