She starts awake. It’s still the middle of the night; still dark in their bedroom. She shouldn’t be awake yet. Why am I awake? Then she hears it; feels it. Serena is beside her, weeping quietly, but Bernie can feel her body shake and the bed shake in turn. Serena has nightmares; nightmares about Elinor, about that day, nightmares about being alone again. Serena rarely sleeps through the night, rarely doesn’t wake crying, shuddering against Bernie; who is doing her best to curl protectively around her.
“Hey,” Bernie whispers, tightening her grip on Serena’s waist, pulling her closer in. She starts placing gentle kisses on the nape of Serena’s neck, softly stroking circles on her belly, whispers terms of endearment and murmurs her love. “You’re alright.”
Serena doesn’t stop crying, Serena never stops crying, is what it feels like. Bernie feels her chest ache in the knowledge that she can't do anything to help her, in the knowledge that sometimes Serena hates her living children.
“I don’t…” Serena starts, throat hoarse and gulping for air. “I don’t want to be here without her.” Bernie feels her throat ache and tears press against her eyelids. This isn’t the first time Serena’s implied something like this, and it gets harder to hear every time. She presses herself as close as she can and tries to envelop Serena in what she hopes is warmth, what she hopes is comfort. Confessions like this always come in the night, with the nightmares. Serena never mentions them in the light of day and Bernie doesn’t either, thinking that Serena needs to make the first move, even with the knowledge of how serious they could be.
“I know, love,” she whispers. She can't think of anything else, doesn’t think that making Serena feel guilty about how she’s feeling will do any good. “You’re alright,” she says in her best soothing voice. It doesn’t work, and Serena’s cries become more violent.
“But she’s not, Bernie, she’ll never be,” she shouts. Bernie still isn’t used to Serena shouting at her, especially in the middle of the night when she’s still tugging Bernie to hold her close. It’s conflicting, and Bernie wants to scream and cry herself. It’s worse, though, when Serena pushes Bernie away and turns in on herself. She slips out of bed and sniffs and dries her eyes on her way out the door, looking back to find Serena still shaking, alone, this time.
“Bernie?” Jason’s voice is small, timid, not like his usual demeanour. Although Jason hasn’t been himself since his cousin died, since his aunt started acting like she resented him. Bernie’s heart breaks even more at the sound. She knocks once on his door and then pushes it open. He’s curled on the bed facing the door and there’s a wet patch on the pillow under his head and even in the dim light of the room she can see the tear streaks down his cheeks. She hurts, seeing him like this.
“What’s wrong, love?” She whispers, taking a step into the room and walking towards him. “How long have you been awake?”
“Why does Auntie Serena shout at you?” Bernie sighs and sits down on the bed next to him, quickly wiping her eyes as more tears fall. He hasn’t answered her second question but she guesses he’s been up long enough to hear Serena shouting.
“Because she misses Elinor,” she says, quietly. “We all miss her, but she’s missing her more.”
“I know that, Bernie,” Jason says matter-of-factly, “But what makes her so angry at you and me? Have we done something?” Bernie shakes her head and leans to squeeze his shoulder. She can't tell if she’s answering no or that she doesn’t know, hasn’t known the answers to a lot of questions recently. It feels like Serena asks her endless questions and she never knows the answers. It feels like Serena asks her endless questions she should know the answers to.
“I know you sleep on the couch most nights,” he says. It makes her feel ashamed; she had tried to hide all evidence of her sleeping habits as not to worry Jason more, but she always forgets how observant he can be, especially when he’s pottering around the house all day while he heals.
“Sometimes she doesn’t want me to be with her,” she says, fighting the press of tears and the lump in her throat. “A lot of the time she doesn’t want me to be with her,” she corrects.
She talks to Jason a while longer then says goodnight to him, makes her way downstairs and arranges the pillows on the couch to accommodate her ever-thinning form.
She starts awake. It’s still the middle of the night; still dark in their – her – bedroom. She shouldn’t be awake yet. Why am I awake? Then she doesn’t hear it; doesn’t feel it. Serena is not beside her. It’s herself that’s weeping quietly, and she can feel her own body shake - the bed shake in turn. She has nightmares; nightmares about Elinor, about Serena, about that day, and then about that day, nightmares about being alone. She rarely sleeps through the night, rarely doesn’t wake crying, shuddering against herself; no one left to curl around.
Serena is not beside her. Serena will never be beside her again.