Henry's Re-entry

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Chapter 35

“HENRY!”

His name dragged him up from the depths. He opened his eyes.

“Henry?”

Someone was looking down at him from the shadows, someone whose shape was defined only by the absence of stars.

“Henry?”

It was Alice. She seemed frightened. Her hand was locked on his face. “Alice?” he whispered.

“You were having a nightmare. I could hear you from the tent.”

Henry looked around and tried to get his bearings. It was still dark. It was still cold, but it felt good. He was still in the hammock, still wrapped in the sleeping bag.

“What time is it?” he said.

“Nearly dawn.”

“I was dreaming.” His voice felt hoarse.

“I know,” she whispered, “You were talking. You said a name.”

“What?”

“You called it in your sleep.”

“The dream,” he whispered.

“A recurring dream.”

It wasn’t a question. And he thanks the stars for it, because he wouldn’t know how to answer it if it was.

“It’s late, Henry.”

“No, really?” he said. It came out more sarcastically than he intended.

“That’s not what I mean,” she said, calmly, “I meant the time. It’s cold out here. Please come into the tent.”

The fire’s fading embers still simmered from deep in her eyes. He felt her brush the hair back from his face. Her touch felt like hope.

“You called for Zoe,” she said.

“Zoe?” He pushed himself higher in the hammock. “I said that? I said… I said Zoe?” The name came out harder than he’d expected, like pushing a cement block through sand.

“Yes,” Alice whispered, “Zoe.”

She was too close to him. She had her arm around him. Her fingers were through the rip in his Superman emblem. She was once again tracing some arcane image against his chest.

“I said that?” he said, “You’re sure?” He remembered Alice, remembered calling for Alice. How could he have said Zoe?

“Yes, Henry. You said Zoe. It’s a nice name.”

He shrugged. He didn’t have the energy for this, and he didn’t have the energy to fight it. He felt perfectly defeated.

Alice took his hand. “Come on, Henry. Come to bed.”

He looked down into the darkness where the river used to be. He heard it whispering below him.

She squeezed his hand and pulled just enough to urge him. “Come to bed, dear. It’s too cold out here. You’ll get sick.”

He resisted. He didn’t want to be comforted. He didn’t deserve to be. He didn’t want to soil her with his dysfunction. She was perfect, and he didn’t want to ruin her. “I’m fine,” he whispered, “I’m going to—”

She pulled his face up by the chin. Her eyes glowed red now, like a spark burned deep inside them. “It wasn’t a request,” she said firmly, “You’re coming to bed.”

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