‘Yeah. Did I wake you?’
‘Uh-huh.’ I blink. My mind is groggy. ‘What time is it?’
I frown. Shit. I planned to go after we’d eaten. Why am I still here?
‘Why are you awake?’
He lifts his mouth higher, finding my breast and kissing the underside before reaching a nipple and wrapping his lips around it. It is bliss, but too short. He moves higher, pressing his lips against a pulse point at the base of my throat, and then he samples my lips.
But it’s a kiss that lacks our usual desperation and urgency. I am tired and he is probing me. Curiosity is at the fore of this exploration.
I sigh softly.
‘I never sleep after a concert.’
‘Really?’ I lift a hand up and stroke his hair. ‘Why not?’
He shrugs. ‘Too wired.’
‘Let me teach you a trick.’
‘What is it?’
He does, on his back, beside me. I rearrange myself so that my head is on his chest, listening to his heart, and search for his hand, lacing our fingers together and resting them on his chest.
‘What do you usually do instead?’
‘No. Instead of sleeping.’
‘Oh.’ His fingers wander over my hair distractedly. ‘I go out with my crew.’
‘Yeah. Like technical crew. Not gangsta.’
‘But not tonight?’
His fingers still for a moment. ‘No. Not tonight.’
Because of me.
The implication is so beautiful. And so problematic.
‘What’s the trick?’
‘Oh. This. Is it not working?’
He breathes in deeply. I feel his chest move and smile.
‘Kind of.’ He yawns. ‘How could you have ever hated your hair?’ He murmurs. ‘I have dreams about it.’
‘Of course. Your hair. Your body. Your smile.’ He yawns again. ‘Your eyes. Your body.’
‘You said that one already.’
‘It’s worth an extra credit.’
I smile. My fingers, still held by his, stroke his chest beneath them. I touch him rhythmically, enjoying the feel of his body, the way it is so vibrant and alive, warm and smooth.
I shift a little, burrowing against him.
‘Thanks for staying tonight.’
I don’t respond. I don’t plan to stay. It would be really, really stupid. But I’m tired, and he is asleep before I can think of the words. I don’t want to risk waking him up. And besides...
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
I can say it to myself. There’s no harm in that, is there?
* * *
I am falling asleep. Ally is against me, our breath-sounds matching. We are our own music: a song of our bodies’ making. I stroke her in time to the lyric-less song and it is perfect. A slice of time that belongs with the stars for its beauty.
But the stars are so far away. Beautiful, yes, but distant—and I don’t want to make that comparison with Ally.
Nor do I want to think about how good she is at this. How right it feels.
I don’t want to wonder about who else she has held so close, breathing in sync with him, helping him to fall asleep as she is me.
IT IS LATE when I stir, and Ethan is no longer in bed. I blink, a little disorientated, a lot satisfied, and stretch my arms over my head, smothering a yawn. Then I am still. I listen. I hear music.
I push the duvet back and step out of bed, padding into the lounge. He has his back to me, sitting in the wing-back armchair, looking out of the window at Manhattan. It occurs to me that no one out there has any idea that Ethan trending-on-Twitter Ash is right here, high above them like some beautiful, sexy sky-angel.
I know the song he’s playing. It’s not his. I think it’s Bob Dylan’s. I listen, trying to catch the words, but he’s humming them quietly, as though he’s not even aware he’s singing.
Is this what it’s like for him? Does the need to make music simply overtake him? Beyond his control, his realisation, his intention?
Much like the way I am moving towards him, which is also beyond my intention. I have sometimes felt that there is a sort of magnetism between us. I don’t really go in for all that woo-woo universal energy stuff. Or, I didn’t, at least.