She lay back on the bed and stared at the meagre blue sky  visible between the roofs of the buildings around. The white clouds passed by, twisting into different shapes as they went. A horse turned into an apple and the apple into fire. Then an airplane flew by, scattering the fire, in its haste to land at the airport nearby. Other clouds took its place, floating by in an everlasting tango.

She turned her head to watch his sleeping form. His brown hair tousled and sticking up every which way brought a smile to her face. She reached out to touch the salt and pepper scruff on his chin. She quite liked the sandpaper feel of it. She ran her hand up his face,  through the dusting of freckles on his cheeks, to his crow’s feet, to his forehead wrinkles. She rested her hand on his forehead and really looked at him. He was almost never this peaceful. He was always moving, twitching really, pattering his feet along a tune in his head, doing one thing or the other. Even when sleeping, he twisted and turned so much so that it was nearly impossible for her to get any sleep until she got used to it.

She wasn’t quite sure how all this came to be. He was just an idea in her head for the longest time. Even in the cynical character that she projected for everyone, in some inner recess of her mind, she fervently wished and patiently waited for someone like him to  come along. And when he did, it threw her for a loop. Everyone talks about falling in love, but staying in love is a completely different beast. There was no rule book, no guidelines. You were left to wander without a map.

She had built these walls in her mind over the years. They were partly to protect her from hurt, and were partly born out of shyness. The tallest and strongest wall was the one she built between who she actually is and what she called her public face. That wall never came down in front of anyone, not even her closest friends. He was patient, he was so very patient. A reasonable man would have run for the hills. But he stayed, navigating through her tantrums and insecurities and general unsociability, tearing down that wall brick by brick, piece by piece.

As her mind was wandering on these musings, the object of these mental meanderings opened his eyes. They were azure as the sky, deep and steady even when languid. They softened as he looked at her, crinkling at the corners in a half smile. She leaned over and pressed her lips to his forehead. His smile widened. He pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair. She laid her head on the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent. As his arms tightened around her, she felt truly safe.

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