She had been here before with Alan, but it felt strange being here with him. She had visited their graves with her father after Alan went to the battlefield. But now, visiting it with Alan by her side felt different. This made her more aware of how her relationship with Alan had changed.
Before, these had been the graves of her friend’s parents, but now these were her husband’s parents. Everything had changed. It made her nervous. All this newness. Before, they used to be just her friend’s parents, nothing more than that, but now they were her husband’s parents.
If Alan hadn’t spoken first and introduced her, she would have frozen speechless. Did Alan feel the same way at my parents’ graves? She wondered. She shook her head to dispel the thought, he had been far too calm to even give away the fact that he was nervous.
* * *
It was already late when they returned to their home after leaving the cemetery. They had a simple dinner in the dining room. After the meal, Siana headed to the bedroom but was surprised and flustered to find that Alan, too, had followed her.
“Um, Alan?” she said, cautiously.
“Yes?” asked Alan.
“Aren’t you going to your own room?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said, confused, “This is our room, isn’t it?” Siana felt embarrassed even to have asked such a stupid thing. Our room…
“Why do you look so shocked?” asked Alan, “We are married. It’s natural for us to share a room. Does it feel strange?”
“Oh, no,” said Siana, not knowing what to say. They were ‘married’. We did get married today… All the newness and the change had left her so flustered that she was overwhelmed. She didn’t know what to think, what to do. And she kept making blunders. So, tonight would be the ‘first night’ after our marriage, but we already…. Siana blushed a deep red. What am I going to do if Alan wants to do it again? She clenched her leg together nervously. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but she wanted to hold off physical contact like that for a while. It had hurt terribly, and she remembered the pain. She needed time. But she didn’t know if she would be able to refuse it if Alan asked.
Alan saw that she was indeed nervous and perhaps not able to say the things she felt. He didn’t want to push her or make her feel even more awkward than she already was. “It’s alright, Sia,” he said gently, “I will have my butler prepare a separate room for me.”
“No, I…,” she said, hurriedly, “That’s not what I meant.”
“You don’t want to share a room, right?” he asked, confused.
“No, it’s not that we can’t share a room,” she stammered, “I just…”
He extended his hand and caressed her cheek. “Are you worried?”
“I…,” she began, “Just for today…” Unable to finish her sentence, she let her voice trail off. She was appalled at herself. Usually she could blurt out anything she thought about but today she felt tongue-tied.
“Yes, Sia,” urged Alan, “Today? What?”
“Nothing,” she said, “But it has nothing to do with the room. You can stay.”
“Okay,” he said.
Siana couldn’t bring herself to say it. And she felt stupid for bringing this up and not being able to go through with it. Why can’t I just tell him the truth? She would always be embarrassed and ashamed of what they had done yesterday. No matter how naked and bare they were with each other, literally and metaphorically, Siana would always feel the shame. And she didn’t want to make things up like the ‘rabbit story’ and have everything lead to another direction. It was good to be straightforward and honest, instead. But she couldn’t do that either.
Seeing her flustered fuelled his curiosity even more, but he didn’t want to push her. She looked very troubled, but he didn’t want to pry. She would tell him whenever she felt ready. He could wait. He had shamelessly pushed her yesterday and he still felt guilty about it. Since she said sharing the room wasn’t a problem, he would listen to her.
“Then go wash up first,” he said.
“Me?” she asked.
“Yes, unless you want to wash up together,” teased Alan.
The joke was lost on Siana. She shook her head violently and rushed to the bathroom. She was afraid of what he would suggest next. Siana felt the heat rise to her cheeks. She felt his gaze at her back as she walked to the bathroom.
She entered the bathroom and locked the door from inside. She tried to calm her fiercely beating heart. She turned the faucets on to fill the tub. Let’s just wash up first, I will worry later… She let go of her thoughts and washed herself making generous use of the aromatic oil, the soap and the shampoo.
When she stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in a lush, soft robe, Alan was getting ready to wash up. “You can go ahead and sleep if you are tired,” he said, “No need to wait up for me.”
He then went to the bathroom. But she was too anxious to fall asleep just yet. And the occasional splashing sound of the water from the bathroom set her nerves on edge. She tried to calm herself, took deep breaths and dried her hair. When she was convinced that it was dry enough, she nestled under the blanket. No place seemed comfortable at that moment. She tossed and turned to find a comfortable position. Just then, Alan came out of the bathroom, wet hair glistening under the light.
Seeing his solid, muscled chest under the robe set her heart thumping again. She had seen him whole only yesterday so why was it that she was acting all fluttery and stupid today too? It occurred to her how handsome Alan looked right at that moment.
Alan hung the towel at the back of the chair and walked towards the bed. Siana’s heart threatened to burst out of her chest. “Do you want me to turn the lights off?” he asked.
“Y-yeah,” she stammered.
He turned the lights off. The room was bathed in darkness. Her senses became hypersensitive in the dark. She could hear him walking towards the bed and getting on the bed. The rustle of fabrics. She heard him get under the blanket and his arms wrapped around her and pulled her close.
Siana felt embarrassed but thanked her lucky stars that Alan, at the least, wouldn’t see her blushing in the dark. Not knowing what to do, she tried to relax and not be so stiff. Alan buried his face into her hair.
Alan was silent. Perhaps he had fallen asleep. Good, seems like he just wants to sleep… She was just relishing the feeling of relief when she heard him speak above her head.
“Sia,” he said.
“Goodnight,” he said softly.
“Goodnight to you too,” she said.
She felt relief wash through her. But why did she feel disappointed as well? She hadn’t wanted to do what they did yesterday, obviously. I must be going insane… She was appalled at that devilish part of herself that she never thought existed. She knew it wasn’t bad, because people are bound to have these thoughts and urges. People, after all, belonged to the animal kingdom. Besides, he was her husband! But it felt awkward and unusual to expect intimacy from Alan even if they had done it once. He was her childhood friend!
She wanted to turn around to the other side but his arms around her held her firm, hugging her close to him. She stared up at him when she was sure he was asleep. She saw him vaguely in the dark. His blond hair, his sharp nose and deep-set eyes. His even breathing was soothing. And he looked so serene when he was asleep, like nothing in the world could stress him. She snuggled closer to his chest. She could still smell the faintish scent of the lavender soap on him. And his warmth lulled her to drowsiness. She probably smelled the same. It was the same soap and the same shampoo.
The thought was strange too, but she thought she could get used to this. She smiled as she thought that and slowly drifted off to sleep.
Siana woke up in the middle of the night. Something had woken her. A sound in the dark.
The room was still dark. It wasn’t morning yet. She felt very foggy from sleep and struggled to clear her vision, when a groan startled her awake. It was Alan. She turned on the magic light next to the bed, on the side table.
The room lit up dimply. Alan’s face was contorted in a grimace. Siana put the back of her hand to his forehead. It was drenched in cold sweat. Alan looked like he was in pain.
“Alan,” called Siana, worry gripping her heart, “Wake up.” She shook him a little.
Alan’s eyes fluttered open. He was breathing roughly, as though he couldn’t get enough air. “Are you alright?” she asked. “You looked like you were in pain. Are you hurt anywhere?” She tried to examine his body to see where it hurt but he extended his hand and wrapped them around her, pulling her close to him. She could feel his thudding heart through his chest.
He was still taking staggering breaths. It worried her. He was silent for a long time. She thought maybe he had fallen asleep again when he, at last, spoke.
“I am alright,” he said, “Just a dream.”
“A nightmare?” asked Siana.
“Yeah…a nightmare,” he said softly.
“What happened?” she asked, “What did you see?”
“Just something from a long time ago.”
She was glad that his breathing had become stable and he looked calm. If it wasn’t for him groaning in pain and sweating buckets a while ago, she would have believed nothing serious had happened. But she knew better.
“Like what?” she asked. “Were you in pain?”
“It’s not important.”
“I want to know.” She looked up at him. Alan was silent for a moment.
He let out a weary sigh. “I will tell you another time.”
“Is it very difficult for you to talk about?” she asked.
“A bit, yes,” he said, his hands on her back pulling her closer to him.
Siana turned off the light. He seemed agonized and she didn’t want to push him further. She was, however, curious and thought about whatever it was for a long time when she felt her eyes close and she drifted off to sleep again.