The Other Half

by Meagan Johanson

She’s exhausted and addled limp-minded and spent and her girls want to sleep in the big bed tonight she says no separate beds so they’ll sleep until 8:00 or at least lucky 7:00 but they slip hands in hers ask please mom can we please and its winter in Vermont school shut down to boot and she understands loneliness filling a bed the pale longing that hums across cotton expanse so says yes you may sleep in the spare room tonight where he used to go too when his job ran too late slipping into the basement so as not to wake but his clothes in the hamper still smelled like fresh sex like some sex not of them but she let it go on for the sake of their twins for the sake of the love they imagined to life so okay its a yes girls now go brush your teeth and change into pajamas then hurry on up Mommy’s sleepy too and they let go and squeal and rush off to their tasks and its two towheads peeking out from the duvet four pink cheeks and two grins with their scatter of teeth and they stretch out in bed like snow angels on sheets but they could be babies in the edge of the light when she always had something to hold and to keep and to kiss and to feed and to love and to need and no wonder they want to sleep in the same bed don’t we all crave somebody who seems like ourselves some body to hold while we sleep and we dream and to share the same air and to make the same heat who would shake us awake if a nightmare took hold and she knows that they’ll stay up far past when they should but they’re children just once she reminds herself this and they could wake up women tomorrow who knows but right now they are babies right now in this bed with nothing to wish for save snow the next day or if Dad’s coming home so she hugs them and kisses their foreheads and chins pulls the blinds tight to sill and then turns off the light says I love you to one and I love you to two and to Daddy they say and she closes the door.

Her own bed is empty and wide. The sheets are cool and taut. She can hear everything, when she holds her breath: the girls, still awake. A car, maybe his, in the distance. Her heartbeat. Her heartbeat. She wraps her arms across her shoulders criss-cross like a bat, tucks her hands beneath her chin. Then she stretches her legs across the bed, trying to bridge some impossible space, extends her toes into the farthest corner where the sheets are always tucked tight to the bed. She can barely reach, but she tries.

Meagan Johanson is a writer from Oregon, where she lives with her family and one very good cat. She enjoys playing the piano, watching things grow, and sticking the landing on a new recipe. She is always seeking a new obsession, and has lived many exciting lives, at least in her imagination. You can find her on Twitter: @MeaganJohanson.



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