She opened the skylight window and stared into the night sky. The few stars that punctured Stoke Newington’s orangeade glow appeared feeble and dull for the effort. Even the moon had a dusty tiredness to its surface, as though the filth of the city itself was the source of that heavenly reflected light.
He muttered and grumbled as he turned over under the sheet. He was more settled tonight than she expected.
She had often wondered about the place he comes from. The Brisbane she knows is a city pieced together from maps, photographs, the odd web search, and the occasional scrap of detail Ethan has dangled before her. It is a place of kangaroos, droughts, and humid sweltering Christmases. He has mentioned a few things he misses: brilliant constellations that stretch across the night sky, cricket in long dry grass, even mosquitoes and cockroaches, though she wasn’t sure he was serious about those. His parents, his sister, his neighbour and friend from the years growing up: they are the vaguest of abstractions to her, little more than a name and a barely palpable sense of loss, a sadness that permeates even her husband’s happiest moments.
With any luck they would enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted night together.
He took in a sharp breath.
‘What are you doing?’ he said.
‘I was just looking out the window.’
‘You were looking at me.’
‘I’m allowed to look at my husband. That was part of the contract.’
‘I don’t remember that bit.’
‘Fine print,’ she smiled. ‘I was on my way to bed.’
This was how their day ended: their last good day.
‘I love you,’ he said.
‘I love you too.’
After that day, everything changed.