Dream State: K. Z. Howell

Jen leaned against the shower wall, the heat from the streaming water relieving some of the tension from the chase and the long ride. The feel of the water cascading down her body was, in some small way, a reminder that despite the hardship of the last 24 hours she was still alive. It also freed her mind from the urgency of her fight or flight mentality and sent her thoughts careening wildly through her sleep deprived mind.
Where was Will?
What happened at the canyon that had allowed her to escape?
Why did a cold ball of ice form in her gut whenever her thoughts turned to her husband?
The fear and uncertainty of his fate at the hands of the armed men that had hunted them through the desert rocks came back now. It came back with a vengeance that dropped her to her knees under the relentless stream of liquid doubt. It wasn’t until the water began to turn cold that the tears and the awful shaking ended and she could unwrap herself from her fetal position and stand on quivering legs. Her hands shook as she dried off and put on a t-shirt from her bag.
Wills shirt.
Even through the days of being folded in a drawer and even more stuffed into a bag, it smelled of him. The smell was at once a comfort and a curse. It brought the image of his face into sharp focus in her memory and gave her comfort in its familiar scent. It also cursed her with his absence and brought fresh saltiness to her cheeks at the missing part of her soul. She did not feel the cold, hard tile beneath her feet as she stared at the small bed. Her mind refused to tell her legs to get under the sheet and lay her head on the pillow. She ached for sleep but knew that in that sleep she would find answers and suddenly she didn’t want them. For what seemed like hours she stood, mesmerized by the thought of never sleeping again and going on in blissful ignorance. She imagined Will walking through the door, smiling ashamedly as he explained that it had all been a huge misunderstanding. That the armed men had merely been out for target practice and had no interest in the two of them. In her mind they laughed in embarrassment at their epic overreaction and many years later told their children of the silly desert adventure they had had many years before.
It was with a sadness she could not explain that Jen drew back the sheet and lay her body on the mattress. She laid her head on the pillow, alone for the first time in 4 years.

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