Angela always had thought that Henry was supossed to be the strongest. During the more than 15 years they had been sharing their lives in which was a friendly arrangement disguised as marriage, she never had seen tears in his eyes. That was why seeing him in the middle of the night trying to sooth his trembling hands seemed so awkward, even anguish to her; if the person who has built an entire city to receive the one they’ve been longing for was falling to pieces, what little hope was left to her?
It was the third time that week that she was awaken in the middle of the night by a harrowing, anguished scream, coming from the next room. Angela put on her robe and stood up, feeling the warm and soft carpet under her bare feet on the way to Henry’s room. They didn’t sleep together, but in separate rooms, although next to each other’s, because in that big house to feel alone was very easy. In any case, they had a double room ready in case an unwelcome visit unleashed a series of rumors about their personal life.
Henry always had looked out for her in a tender and disinterested way. Once, they had gone to the most popular cafe in the square; they had agreed that to pretend being a marriage led to certain social responsibilities. Henry didn’t care what they said about him, but he behaved very differently if Angela was in the focus of gossip. Then, he took her hand, or stroked her hair. She never felt uncomfortable with this innocent show of affection, because they shared something that anybody even guessed.
Since then, the fact of going out together became very sporadic, but incidents like that were equally rare. Luckily, the city had grown, and tourists were no longer interested in the odd married life of the founders, they were trying not to lose all money in the casino or in the racetrack. His employees trusted Henry, and people respected him, and that was all that mattered, because everything had to be perfect for the return of the one for whom they waited.
Angela opened the door. As many times before, he was sitting in the bed, with a lifeless gaze and breathing harshly. Outside, the city was bustling with activity even in the middle of the night, and the gloomy blue lights coming through the window dimly lit Henry’s face, beaded with sweat. Henry was not a person who lose control easily, but extreme tension would always overflow, even in the most cold and focused person in the world. Henry didn’t believe in which everybody surrounding him took for granted years ago. Long hard work days filled with activity suppressed this idea, which became true during the long, dark nights.
Angela approached the bed unsteadily
“Henry? … Are you okay?”
“… Y-yes …”
She sat on the edge of the bed.
“That’s not true. You’re shaking”
Henry didn’t answer. For a moment Angela just heard his attempts to soothe his ragged breathing. He felt a surge of pity and fear in equal measure and drew him to her in a hug that Henry did not return; he was not fond showing signs of affection beyond a friendly smile or a handshake. Besides, he was too stunned. It was as if he was still lost in those dark ruins, his eyes wide with horror after he had found what he had never accepted. Angela felt his body shuddering in her arms, his heart beating so violently that she could feel it clearly. His voice was a strangled whisper.
“I saw him … he … was … oh, Angela”
He didn’t go on, but Angela knew what he meant because she had seen in her dreams that same image many times. She didn’t know what to say, because usually he was the one who looked at her in the eyes to tell her to maintain hope because the one for whom they waited was coming back soon. She stood there, holding him, until his body stopped shaking and his heart was again a distant, calm rumbling.
“I’m sorry” Henry said finally, in a monotone voice. "I should not lose control like that”
Moved, she kissed him on the forehead.
"It’s not your fault"
They said nothing more. Angela sat there until Henry went back to sleep, both clutching their hands, sharing in secret that hope for the return of the one both were waiting for.