A Writing Challenge Contest submission

She wakes, thinking she had heard his laughter in the other room. She wanders but can't see him, can't find the light from his eyes, so she turns on a lamp. She sits quietly for a moment and tries to slow the thunder of her heart. Is worried it will wake the neighbours.

She pulls on some clothes because she's suddenly cold from the emptiness of 3:57am and wants to feel the morning air on her face. Hopes the wind will kiss her as gently as he did. Wishes he would appear for just a moment. Just so she could memorize the length of his body and the width of his shoulders and the exquisite brightness that flowed from him.

When she steps out on the balcony to smoke a cigarette, she recalls the spectres in her dreams. Can just about make out his face and the corners of his lips. She sucks at her cigarette carefully, greedily drawing out time so she can hold on to him a little longer.

The conversations were mostly in her mind. The nights were never long enough, fatigue set in too early, she always hung on to a certain word or smile for too long and would miss parts of what was said. Often hoped he would say something else so she could know.

When she exhales, she reads the smoke like tea leaves and tries to sift between the desired and real. Words jump out at her and she holds her breath, trying to hold on to the moment the connection was authentic.

It was there, wasn't it? It wasn't fiction. It was said. She did say. He did too?

Their happiness was brief, almost as though it had never happened. She wishes, not for the last time, she could travel back to the first night, to the opening act and rewrite the script so the memories wouldn't stalk her. So the desire could never be realized.

She sees the spark of his light when the sun rises. Wishes it would stay when darkness came, and it could cover her like his large hands once did. But she is painfully aware that sometimes her mind plays tricks. That sometimes her dreams creep into reality so she can never be sure.

3:57am has quickly passed and she realizes she had been thinking about him for hours. She travelled forward in time while glancing backwards. She regrets these lapses. Knows she should be doing something else. Anything but thinking about him.

So she brushes her hair. Almost religiously. Makes herself pretty for the memory of him. But she is not in a dream, merely dreaming. She knows she is not of one or the other, but of both in a terrible balancing act, teetering one way, then the other. She is not just this.

Her days pass in repetition. Always on time for the show; always knowing how it will end. When night comes, she falls asleep dreaming of him. And always wakes at 3:57am, thinking she can hear him laughing in the other room.