She was looking at the bedside clock before she knew why. Her glasses were beside the clock, so the glowing 2:42 was fuzzy.
Then the reason for waking came to her. Her husband, who usually slept stretched full length like a child, was curled up in a ball, his back pressing against hers. He whimpered.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, turning just her head, so she looked not at him but only upward.
“Migraine,” came the reply, at the same not-quite-whisper volume as she’d used. His voice was strained, though, almost hoarse. “Go back to sleep.”
“Oh, honey.” She relaxed down into the pillow, and he moved away from her slightly. There was nothing to be done, as she knew from years of witnessing these events. He had found no useful medication, and had given up entirely searching for one. The bouts were infrequent enough that they were not attended by the spectre of brain tumour, and they usually didn’t last more than a few hours. While they were on him, though, he was misery itself.
She lay there, eyes closed, trying not to think about his suffering. The unworthy part of her mind wondered pointedly why he didn’t shuffle off to the couch; didn’t he know she had to work in the morning? The part of her mind she preferred listening to suggested it might be wise to decamp for the couch herself. At least, out of earshot of his tiny grunts of agony, she might drift off. Against the move was the knowledge that she might not get back to sleep and would be less comfortable, and the certainty that whatever the outcome for her, he would feel guilty about forcing her out of her bed. Which, she knew, was how he would see it, however involuntary it was on his part.
As she debated the move, there came a sound. It had definitely been from his direction, and it was so odd she opened one eye in response. It was like the cracking of a knuckle, but louder, so loud that it had little echoes from the corners of the ceiling.
He whimpered again, and the bed transmitted a slight shivering to her. Her eye, heavy with sleep, began to slip closed against her will.
She opened both eyes at the sound of another pop. It was followed by a long low purring noise which put her heart in her throat even before she recognized it as something ripping. She was caught between breaths, unable to even raise her head from the pillow. Then, he sighed and murmured, “That is better.” He rearranged himself on the bed, drawing away the blankets a little, and she found she could move again.
Slowly, she reached for the nightstand, not quite decided between glasses and the light. She froze, hand half-extended, as she heard blended with the well-known sound of her husband’s regular sleeping breaths a rapid pattering of some thick fluid onto the floor on his side of the bed.
“Migraine” ©2015 Dirck de Lint