By: Kathy

It's the middle of the night and I'm lying in bed awake. I'm surrounded by the familiar, comfortable noises that fill the loft when it's quiet. The refrigerator's soft humming, the windowpanes rattling from the occasional gust of wind, the wood creaking as it cools down from the heat of the day. I should be asleep. Usually, those sounds are like a lullaby, gently soothing me to sleep. Especially after a long, weary day like the one I had today. But tonight sleep is evasive. Just as it begins to steal across me, wrapping me up in its embrace, it slips away, escaping from my grasp to disappear into the night. So I lie there, awake, listening to the
sounds of the loft.

Tonight, it's especially frustrating. Work was hard today. One of those days that makes me think about turning in my badge. Just move out into the wilderness and leave all of this behind. Leave all of the anger and violence and hatred and ugliness behind. I turn onto my side and punch my pillow a few times before scrunching it up and shoving it under my head. And I listen. It's raining now. Not hard though. The raindrops hit the windows and I can almost lose myself in
the soft, repetitive noise it makes. But I pull back. I fight its lure and resist the temptation to lose myself in it.

I sigh as I toss the covers aside and get out of bed. I go downstairs but I don't turn on the lights. There's no need. I walk over to the fridge and grab a bottle of water. Lightning flashes but the following clap of thunder signals that the storm isn't too close. I walk over to the balcony doors and stare out over the city. My city. My territory. I wonder what crimes are being committed out there at this moment. I wonder what atrocities, what violations, are being inflicted upon people as I stand here, a sentry who's weary and disheartened and nearly defeated.

The door opens behind me but I don't turn around. There's no need. A smile tugs at my lips as I listen to a jacket being hung up and keys being tossed into the basket. Then, there's the thud of a backpack hitting the floor and shoes being toed off and pushed aside. A weary sigh reaches my ears as socked feet softly tread across the floor. I can feel the warmth radiating along my back as he comes up to stand behind me.

He doesn't say anything. Neither do I. I shiver as he lays his hand on my back. The warmth of his touch penetrates, chasing away a coldness that I wasn't even aware of. I shudder then and turn. He doesn't move his hand away, just lets it trail across my arm and chest until it rests over my heart. I stare at him. His face is clear to me, just as clear as if it were broad daylight. I know that he can't see me. I'm just a dark figure to him, a shape lost in the night. I stand there, the silence between us seeming so natural and yet so unnatural as well. I look at his eyes and I know that he wants to say something. Wants to ask me what's wrong. He wants to know so that he can fix whatever it is that's bothering me. But he knows not to. He somehow senses my need for silence at this moment.

So he just stands there, his hand covering my heart, and the silence envelops us. Shrouds us from the world, protecting us from the ugliness, the violence and the hatred. In that second, in that moment, I can forget what lies waiting for me out there. I can forget the atrocities, the violations that lie out there, waiting for me to discover them. And for a moment, the sentry can rest. The sentry can find peace in that brief moment in time. A weary soul basks in that moment's healing. Gathering strength, borrowed strength, to face another day. To face another day protecting my city. Protecting my territory.

I reach up and lay my hand alongside his face. I let it rest there, a silent benediction. Showing gratitude that I can't adequately express with words, but that I try to with touch. He rubs his cheek against my hand. A silent acknowledgment to what I can't say. Then he steps back, severing the contact. For a moment, I feel so bereft, so lost. But then the sound of his heartbeat reaches my ears. I smile at him, though I know he can't see it. I touch his hair, a soft caress that
he probably can't even feel but one that sets my fingers tingling from the sensation. Then I turn and climb the stairs to my bed. I stand there for a moment, listening as he makes a quick trip to the bathroom before going into his room. Once he's settled in bed, I get in mine.

I'm lying there in bed, once again surrounded by the comforting sounds of the loft. This time though, I have no trouble finding sleep. As I close my eyes and lose myself in its embrace, the sound of his heartbeat follows me. Safe now, I rest easily knowing that my sentry is on guard below.

The End

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