He sets the alarm for half past six.  Every morning, that blaring siren shocks her from sleep. She rolls, presses the off button and he goes back to his dreams, while she lies, bleary eyed, unnecessarily awake. She watches the shadows dance on the ceiling, imagining patterns, shapes, thinking of anything apart from the here and now.

At seven o'clock, she slides from beneath the duvet, opens the curtain. A crack at first, as if testing the day, dipping her toe before taking the plunge. But it's delaying the inevitable. There's no escaping it.

Glancing back to the bed, she sees him. One hairy buttock exposed, a leg poking out, the cover angled across him. She tries to stop the grimace that her thoughts cause to form, but she fails, and turns away.

Shower. Too hot. Always too hot. He changes the dial, raises the temperature, and every day she has to set it back. Make things normal again. She looks for the shampoo. Lid off. Standing on the floor. Why? Is it too much trouble to leave it somewhere reachable, somewhere convenient? Conditioner. Still here. He doesn't use it, doesn't touch it. A small victory. It is here; it is hers.

She towel dries her hair and puts on her robe. The one from the set. The "His and Hers". They look ridiculous - or they would if they ever wore them together. But their routine overlaps, mismatches, never quite concurs.

Back into the bedroom, he's lying on his back now. Snores echoing, naked, fully naked now. She looks away. It's twenty past seven.

Unseen, she dresses. The pink frillies underneath, black shift above. She pulls on the stockings, slips on the shoes, nods at her reflection and smiles. She sees his reflection behind her, and the smile snaps shut.

It's half past seven. She dries her hair downstairs, adding a handful of mousse, scrunching out her curls. Stands at the mirror in the living room, and applies her make-up, leaning over the framed photograph of him and her, four years ago. Her in a cream dress, him in a suit, smiling. Then it felt like truth. This thing that they were. It felt real, it felt permanent. Then, there was hope.

Now what was left? The day-to-day, passing each other, sharing a house. Dinners left in the oven for later. Plans left on the shelf for later. Hope lost somewhere along the way.

She keeps catching a glance of the photograph as she's reaching out with the mascara wand, stroking her eyelashes. She looked so much younger then. Or happier. It's eight o'clock.

She reaches out for the frame, picks it up, studies the two of them in their newly-wed stupor. And she almost, almost smiles, until she looks up and sees him there, reflected in the doorway. She puts the picture back and carries on with the routine.


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