Françoise remained a moment like a deer in the headlights, wondering what on earth she had just agreed to. She heard the pipes in the house that led to the bathroom fill with water. A sudden jolt of excitement ran through her body and she walked quickly to her room to change.
Quietly and barefoot, she walked into her room and slid open her dresser drawers. There were a few civilian day clothes and socks. In the top drawer were basic undergarments, some even more revealing than the nightgown she currently wore. In her closet were uniforms. She silently cursed at her limited wardrobe. The house became silent again, Albert had finished showering quickly. She didn't want him to think she abandoned him when he walked into his room and she wasn't there, so she closed the unaccommodating dressed drawer and went down the hall to his door, hoping to be there before he was.
Inside his room was plain and neat, there was no clutter or clothes on the floor like in Joe's room. A few books were stacked on his desk. The only thing that seemed out of place was a picture frame tuned over on the night table. Her curious fingertips touched the back of the frame when she suddenly sensed footsteps coming towards the room. She pulled her hand to her chest and wondered where she was supposed to be when he walked in.
Lying in the bed? Too presumptuous. Standing in the room? Too standoffish. Sitting on the floor? Not even an option.
Sitting at the foot of the bed seemed her best choice. Hearing footfalls growing louder, she hastily sat down on his bed, trying to look as calm as possible.
His frame came into view and filled the doorway, but his face was covered by the towel he was using to dry his hair. Francoise used this moment to simply look at him, without him seeing. His grey t-shirt and flannel blue and grey pants made him look the most casual she had ever seen. The towel dropped from his face and draped around his neck. Her eyes quickly met his. He too simply looked over Francoise, even knowing she was aware. A little smile tugged at his lips.
"What happened to changing?" he asked, referring to her chemise she still wore.
She almost pouted. He knew how much she was doing for him, but he couldn't help but tease her just a little bit. "I'm sorry but I don't have an extensive eveningwear collection." She said as she slightly held up her chin. He grinned at her, and then looked away.
"That's fine by me."
Francoise lowered her chin. A slight thrilling chill went up her spine, but then disappeared.
He slid the towel from around his neck and tossed it over the desk chair. He walked to the side of the bed and Francoise did not know why her heart was suddenly beating faster. He stopped by the night stand for a moment, and looked at the overturned frame. Without turning it over, he opened the night stand drawer and placed it inside. Francoise watched silently, observing his uneasy stance, not wanting to pry into his personal troubles. He took the wrinkled photo from his pocket and placed that inside as well. He stood silently for another moment. Francoise stood from the bed and reached out to touch his arm.
"I'm ok, Frannie." He said before she could speak. His hands went to his neck and pulled the necklace from under his shirt. Francoise's hand pressed against his chest, holding the necklace against him.
"No, Albert, you never take that off." Francoise protested. "I know you are hurting, but what good is it to get rid of the happier memories?"
Albert looked into her eyes. Even in the dark, his eyes reflected soft and pale. Francoise stared into them, trying to find how to help him regain his stability. She could see suffering, but also courage. And if she looked deeply, she could see strength.
"Even the happy memories are torturing me tonight. Please, Francoise, I need to do this."
She stared into his eyes for a moment before letting her hand fall away. He still felt the warmness of her touch on his chest, perhaps above the hollow of his soul. He lifted the chain from over his head and gently laid it in the drawer. He closed the drawer and sighed. He couldn't tell if he felt better or worse.
During his quiet deliberation, Francoise noticed her eyelids were becoming increasingly heavy. Unable to hold it back, Francoise let out a quiet yawn. Albert looked at her from over his shoulder.
"I didn't notice, it's past your bedtime."