Breath

She enjoyed watching him sleep.

It was the only time his brow was relaxed and she could see his naturally curled eyelashes. His nostrils flared rather gently as he breathed in and out. It wasn’t until he started balding that she noticed how attractive he looked when asleep. His prominent nose centered on his round face. His dark hair always covered his eyes and she never bothered to wipe it away anymore. She didn’t care to. She started smoking a cigarette as she laid on the bed next to him. She would inhale first and blow smoke towards the ceiling and pretended a night fog had come down in their bedroom.

She inhaled again and slowly exhaled smoke towards her husband. Sometimes he would cough and turn to his other side without waking, but sometimes he would open his eyes. Only for a moment. His brow would furrow and his eyelashes would disappear under the intensity of his momentary glare. Then he would shut his eyes again, back to slumber. So the wife began to follow her husband’s breathing pattern, so that as she exhaled, he inhaled. Much of the smoke would miss his nostrils and dissipate around the room.

The smoke alarm went off once and woke him up.

He saw his wife with a cigarette dangling from her fingertips and immediately scrunched his face in fury. He didn’t hit her, however. He stopped touching her altogether a long time ago. Without a word, he snatched the cigarette from her hand and put it out in his nightstand, the ash littering the wooden surface, and simply went back to sleep. The smoke alarm continued to beep, but it didn’t matter because he was already fast asleep by the time she took it out. The next night, she lit up another cigarette and made a goal to have her every exhale inhaled by her husband.

They had been married for over 6 years, and fell out of love slowly. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He was cordial to her, did not complain about her or her bed habits, nor did he let bring the stresses of work home. He asked her how she was and sincerely wanted to know. He bought her flowers on her birthday and on Valentine’s Day. The only time he expressed any frustration with her was when she refused intimacy with him one night when they were staying over at his mother’s.

“Not here,” she said, pushing him away.

She had never seen his face so red, and she still didn’t know if it was out of anger or shame. He quickly pulled the covers over his shoulders and turned away from her.

“It’s fine, sorry,” he mumbled and turned the lamp off.

She had difficulty remembering how she had fallen in love with him. He had always been too kind, almost afraid to offend her. She had deemed him a sensitive man, and that was exactly what drove her crazy. He would do anything to keep her, even at the cost of his own self. She breathed out a billow of smoke and he gulped it in and exhaled a wisp of smoke. Her smoke. She took a final puff and held it in momentarily before exhaling into him. Before he could breathe her out, she covered him with her pillow.

She wanted him to keep it in, so his last breath would be hers.

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