The glaring red numbers on the bedside alarm clock are imprinted onto the backs of my eyelids. Percy and I settled into bed for the night around ten. We brushed our teeth before then, bumping hips like everything is fine. For him, I’m sure it is. I, on the other hand, haven’t gotten a second of sleep. Instead, I stare through teary, tired eyes at this same damn clock, watching the minutes and hours pass by.
It’s getting bad again. I don’t know why, but it is, and I can’t flip a switch or press a button to turn it off. I have no reason to be so sad, I’m aware of that. I’m engaged to the most perfect man on earth, we just moved into a new house, we’re starting a life together. I’ve been taking my meds. I talk to my therapist. Yet my feet still drag despite all of that.
I stroke the top of Percy’s hand where it rests on my belly. False hope leads me to believe that he hasn’t noticed how terrible I’ve been feeling, which only makes me feel worse. We’re supposed to be a team, yet I can’t bring myself to tell him when something’s bothering me. Even when I’m not sure what “something” is.
Without any real reason to be, I’m a mess. It started a few weeks ago. My focus on work plummeted, and now I don’t have motivation for anything I’m not getting paid for. There’s a weight pressing down on my chest and no matter how many times I try to cry it away, it just steps right back on as I wipe my eyes and practice a fake smile in the mirror. Sometimes, Rhiannon will lay her head on my lap when I’m on the couch waiting for dinner to finish. Her big black eyes gaze up at me sadly and it gets harder and harder to fight back tears every time.
I can’t think of an event that could have started it. Everything had been smooth sailing during the few weeks after we arrived back home from Boston two months ago. Life returned to normal. No more fresh engagement buzz, no warm fuzzy feeling from reuniting with my friends. Percy and I went back to work and fell back into the cycle of home-cooked dinners and sleepy kisses before bed. I should be fine. I should be happier than ever.
Ever so carefully, I lift Percy’s arm away from my waist, slipping out of his hold. The first thing I do once I’m upright is take my engagement ring from the nightstand and slide it onto my finger. I sit on the edge of the bed and watch as he stirs, mumbling something soft in his sleep. I’m not worried about him waking up anytime soon. It’s two in the morning and he has work in a few hours. He sleeps like the dead. There’s a reason for that loud-ass alarm clock. I bend down, the sound of our bed-springs quietly contracting filling the silence in our bedroom. After pressing a kiss to his temple, I slide off of the mattress and walk over to the door. Carefully, I open it a crack and slink through.
The only light in the house that stays on after Percy and I retreat to our bedroom for the night is the one above the stove. It’s golden, faintly illuminating the kitchen and a few feet of the dining room. It’s kept on for the dog as well as the two of us, ensuring that we don’t trip and break our necks if we need to get up while it’s still too dark to see.
I take a clean glass from the cupboard and fill it with water from the sink. I only get about halfway before realizing that I turned the knob for hot instead of cold. I’ll never get that right on the first try, I tell myself, shaking my head and dumping out the lukewarm water. Once it’s refilled properly, I take a small sip, bringing it over to the head of the dining room table. The chances of me finishing the glass are slim to none, but distraction is good. I can do distraction. And a glass of water, though boring, will work just fine.
I end up downing half of it in… however long it’s been since I first came out here. An hour? Two? God, I wish I had just stayed in bed. I wouldn’t have slept, but at least Percy would be there to hold me and keep me warm. The house is freezing when all your wearing is your boyfriend’s old t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
Every few minutes, my brain drifts to a lense of self-pity, and I cringe at what I’m doing right now. I should be sleeping. Instead, I’m sitting at my dining room table covered in goosebumps feeling sorry for myself. Fresh waves of tears come and go, getting wiped away onto the back of my hand or the collar of my shirt.
I mindlessly bring the glass up to my lips for the millionth time, feeling the chill on my tongue. It’s then that I hear footsteps approaching the kitchen. Unless there’s an intruder, there’s only one person that that sound could possibly belong to. And it’s damn well not the dog. I turn away from the stove light, slumping down into my uncomfortable chair to make myself small.
“Monty?” Percy asks, his voice groggy with sleep. That angel, he doesn’t turn on any more lights.
Please don’t crack, please don’t crack, please don’t crack . I bite my lip to stifle the tears rolling down my cheeks. “Yes?” I return, my voice cracking immediately.
The steps get closer until he’s crouching right in front of my chair. “Can you look at me please?”
I avoid his eyes like a child. “No.”
I roll my eyes, finally setting them on his with a frown. His brow is furrowed with concern, his lips open in an O shape. He has one hand set on the back of my chair, the other flat on the table. Conveniently, a couple of tears fall as I blink.
“What’s wrong, honey?” he whispers, brushing my hair back and taking some of the wetness from my face with it.
“Nothing,” I lie, blinking rapidly. How could I possibly tell him what’s up if I don’t know myself?
“Are you sure?”
God, his voice has always had the power to make me crumble like a cookie. “I don’t know, Percy. I don’t know.”
“Okay,” he mumbles, running a hand through my hair. I lean into the touch. I’m so exhausted. “Have you been taking your meds?”
“Yes. You see me take them every night.” The antidepressants that I should have been prescribed years upon years ago. It only happened a little while before we moved. Another example of how my life should be on the uptick.
Percy’s lips twitch upward. At least I’m doing something right. “Good. I’m proud of you.”
“I’m not five.”
“And I’m not kidding,” he tells me with a raised eyebrow. I barely glance up when he stands, turning on his heel and walking into the kitchen. “Do you want coffee?”
That gets my attention. “You have work in the morning.”
The coffee maker clicks as he messes around with its buttons. “They’ll understand.”
“No, they won’t.”
“They’re going to have to. This is my top priority, and I won’t stay awake without help.” Percy never drinks coffee. I’ve only seen him do so twice, once before an early job interview when we’d had a long night , the other time when he was so determined to finish a book he had gotten from the library before its due date, he stayed up until three in the morning to do so.
I stay silent after that. My ring clinks against the glass as I tap my finger on it.
He steps back into the dining room moments later and hands me my favorite mug, filled to the brim with delicious smelling coffee. Percy sets his cup in front of another chair at the table and sits down. I hold my mug in both of my hands and sigh at the warmth of it.
When I open my eyes back up, Percy’s staring at me. I huff. “Why are you doing this? I told you I don’t know what’s wrong. There’s nothing more to say.”
“I know. But I’m not sleeping in our bed while you’re out here alone.”
“The dog is here somewhere,” I murmur.
“How long has this been going on for?” he asks, ignoring my failed attempt at humor.
“Couldn’t tell you. One day I just couldn’t get out of bed and then I started turning on the shower to cry in the bathroom so that you wouldn’t hear me,” I rush.
Percy shuts his eyes in disappointment. Not directed at me, but at himself. This is exactly why I didn’t tell him. He probably thinks it’s his fault for not doing anything sooner. But it’s not, because there’s nothing to be done. Percy just doesn’t accept that easily when it comes to me. “Oh.”
“Yeah.” I rub at my eyes tiredly. “Can we be done now?”
“Are you going to sleep if we go back to bed?” Percy challenges.
I run a hand through my hair and don’t answer him.
“Exactly,” he says, watching me over the top of his coffee cup. His hair is completely wild from sleep. It rests on the folds of his hoodie collar. I’m sure mine is the same, if not worse.
I shut my eyes. “I’m sorry for not telling you.”
A beat passes. “It’s alright.”
I scrub my hand over my face. “No, it’s not. You des-“
“Monty.” He gently takes my wrist, dropping it down to the table and twining our fingers together. “It’s okay . You’re struggling,” he whispers.
“Yeah.” Oh great, here come the tears again. My nose scrunches as I press my free hand into the bridge of it. “Yeah, you’re right,” I say, and it’s farther than I ever would’ve gotten this time last year.
Percy softly kisses my knuckles as I sniffle and rub my face red. Who knows how much time passes. The entire house is silent except for the noise I’m making. The coffee Percy made for me is getting cold. When the crying grows softer, he tells me, “I’m here for as long as you need me to be.”
“I know, I just- I’m supposed to be so happy. I have every reason to be, right? So what’s going on? It hasn’t been this bad since,” I wipe my nose, “before we moved.”
Percy squeezes my hand, causing me to look up into his eyes. “Monty, you have depression. You’re going to get depressed. Just because you can put a name to it now doesn’t mean it’s going to feel any different than it always has.”
“The meds aren’t working then,” I scoff. He’s being too… rational . Nothing about any of this is rational. We’re sitting at our dining table in the middle of the night drinking coffee as if work doesn’t exist. And to make things even better, we’re filling the time by discussing my completely stupid depressive spiral.
“I think they are,” he shrugs. “You haven’t felt like this since we moved. That’s something. And you haven’t thought about…” he breaks eye contact for a second, “ hurting yourself have you?”
“No,” I mumble.
He reaches out for my free hand and I place it in his. Both of our intertwined hands rest on the tabletop. “Then it’s been better. But that’s not just because of the medication. You are so strong, love.”
Don’t start crying again. “Thanks.”
A bout of silence falls where neither of us does anything but breathe. I lay my head down on the fat of my upper arm and close my eyes. The ice maker in the freezer clicks on. “Wanna play a game?” Percy asks.
I exhale a puff of air through my nose. “Are you kidding?”
“No.” I stay silent, so he sighs and continues, “Did you know that my favorite color is-“
“Baby blue,” I interrupt, my head still smashed into my arm.
“That’s an easy one,” Percy says, and I can hear the smile in his voice. “Your turn.”
“We aren’t playing Uno .” After some more petulant silence from me, he says, “Did you know that you make me smile the most out of everyone on Earth?”
“No, I didn’t.”
Another hand squeeze. “Now you do. Did you know that I’m so lucky to be in love with you?” He’s stopped waiting for me to respond. “And did you know that I can barely wait to marry you?”
“I can’t either,” I mumble.
“Did you know that Rhiannon loves you too?”
I balance my chin on my arm. It hurts a little, but I don’t care. I want to look at him. “I know. All she does is lick and jump on me.”
Percy snickers. “Yeah. You love her though, don’t lie.”
“I never said I didn’t.”
His smile sobers. “Monty, did you know that every day I thank god for the fact that you exist and choose to spend your days with me?”
I bite my lip. “Percy…”
“Did you know that?” He asks, our eyes locked.
“Yeah,” I say, tears welling up in my eyes. “I love you.”
He tilts his head. “I love you too, and I’m here whenever you need me. And if you need some time for yourself, I can do that too.”
A few seconds later, I’m on my feet. When Percy follows my example, I basically crash into his arms. Partly from exhaustion, partly from relief, partly from how lucky I am to have him. I squeeze him tight around the middle as he continually brushes my hair back with his hand.
“I didn’t finish my coffee,” I sniffle. I barely even touched it, actually.
“That’s alright, darling.”
“What are you gonna do about work? You’re gonna be a zombie,” I mumble into his hoodie.
He laughs breathily. “I figured I’d take tomorrow off. I have one or two sick days saved.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Well, it’s not really much of an option. It’s way too late. I think I could sleep for years at this point,” he muses.
I don’t argue with him. Now that everything is out on the table, a full day alone with Percy sounds amazing right now. Like stepping into a warm bath after a day out in the snow.
“Speaking of that,” he whispers right in my ear, “did you know that you just made me drink coffee ?”
“I didn’t make you do anything,” I return in full volume. Well, full volume for three in the morning. He hums, adjusting so that his cheek rests on the top of my head. I lean into him further. “Did you know that I’m tired as hell and that I would like to go back to bed?”
“I share that sentiment.”
“Good.” I pull away, but his arms stay around my waist. “About that. Would you maybe like to-“
“Yes, I will carry you,” Percy says, finishing my sentence with a smile. I lean back into his chest as he picks me up by my thighs. Latching onto him, I bury my face in the crook of his neck with my arms looped around it.
“What about the mugs?” I ask when we’re already halfway down the hall. I don’t know why I care so much about them all of a sudden. Maybe I just want to hear Percy’s voice a little more.
“Don’t worry about that, love,” he whispers.
“Okay,” I say, deciding it’s not worth wasting my breath on. I close my eyes once more, breathing in the scent of his shampoo. I want to get better. I will get better. Percy’s love isn’t going to magically relieve all of the pain but… Well, it’s nice to have a safety net to fall back on.