Before dinner, we were lounging in the living room with some kind of light entertainment on a low volume. Jame’s face suddenly darkened, as if something else had just occurred to him that he’d rather not think about.
“What’s up?” You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He laughed nervously.
“Have you ever sleepwalked?”
Not an entirely unexpected question, given recent events. But my defences went up anyway.
“Where is this going?”
“I couldn’t get to sleep last night, so I went downstairs to watch TV. I thought you were sleeping when I left. But a few minutes later, I saw, or rather felt, someone going into the kitchen. But it was weird, because I hadn’t heard anyone come down the stairs. But it must have been you or Freya. So I stayed put and didn’t think much of it. Then, on the way back, you stopped in the living room doorway.”
“Did I?” slow dread was creeping up my knees.
“Yeah. It was definitely you. But you looked funny.”
“I had never seen those pyjamas before.”
“You never were very observant” I managed to choke out. It was now at my throat.
He smiled weakly, “and then I didn’t hear you go back upstairs either. And I had forgotten about it this morning, but it just came back,” he blinked as if dazed, “so I have come to the conclusion that you’re a light-footed sleepwalker.”
By this point, I had managed to swallow once or twice and look him in the face. The thought had already occurred to me too.
“You might be right” was all I could add to that. My thoughts turned to the last evening. I had been so screen-weary that I’d gone upstairs only an hour or two after dinner. I had done some perfunctory housework and snuck into bed, and the last thing I could remember was James half-waking me when he slid into his side. I thought I had slept like a log until early the next morning. Maybe I was wrong.
“You’re sure it was me?”
James frowned and his eyes glazed over. He was slowly starting to look unsure of himself.
“Yeah, who else could it have been? Freya looks almost nothing like you.” That was true. When we saw her blonde curls and dark eyes, we sometimes used to joke that she must have been swapped in the hospital. But since her temper started to develop, James changed his mind about that.
“What did my pyjamas look like?” I murmured.
“I’m forgetting already. But long, loose and pale. You looked like an inpatient” he smiled, but it was tight-lipped.
“I don’t have any pyjamas like that. Don’t you remember what I was wearing when I went to bed?”
“Actually, no. I turned around and you were gone. I thought, finally, I can watch a regency drama without feeling judged,” he rolled his eyes, trying to lighten the mood, but I could tell he was fronting, “but now I know I must have been mistaken. It already feels a little hazy.” Now he was hedging, minimalising, like usual.
“Hypothetically, If I have been sleepwalking, it could explain last night, and the boots,” I frowned. I still didn’t think I was the sleepwalking type. “But there’s one thing it can’t explain.” I drifted off into a pregnant silence. The gravity of my tone didn’t match the ridiculousness of the subject.
“What?” James was absentmindedly ruffling my hair again.
“How did the glasses get in the fridge? I had been wearing them that same morning.”
“Aren’t you going to finally admit it was a pretty lame joke?” James nudged me with his elbow but his smile faded when he saw the look on my face.
What other secrets did this house have in store for me? Or was just me? Had I literally become a sleep-walker overnight? Or was it James, trying to rattle me? But why would he? I rubbed my temples. I didn’t believe in ghosts, or omens. There was no need to make life more complicated than it already was. I debated registering at the doctor’s to get a refill on my old prescription, although I hadn’t for the past year. But they probably knew James or his parents. For the first time since my move, the creeping loneliness inside me burst into a jagged blossom of pain. My husband put his arm around me, but his hand felt cold to the touch.
He cleared his throat quietly.
Shit. Netball club.