My nightmares had tapered off during November, as if the dream on Halloween night used up all their energy; but tonight, almost as soon as I dropped off I was back in Hurtgen Forest, and the man who’d tried to mug us now wore a German uniform and shouted, “Give me your wallet!” before his machine gun opened fire.
I jerked awake and scrambled for my rifle before I remembered when and where I was, and sank back into bed, trembling. The house was so quiet even my damaged hearing could pick up the ticking of the grandfather clock in the passage. For a minute or two I tried to breathe along to its measured rhythm, and then grabbed my cane and a dressing gown and left my room. I wanted Noel so badly I could only hope he would forgive me for taking this risk.
I let myself into Noel’s room and searched the bed for him with my hand. It was too dark to see without pulling back the bed curtains, and after a minute I realized the bed was empty. I shoved my hand through my hair, despairing — and then heard the quiet sound of piano music.
If it was Simon, Noel would be there.
Hastily, I made my way downstairs to the music room, where to my surprise I saw it was Noel at the keyboard. Not watching unseen hands press the keys, as I now knew I had seen before, but playing himself, his gaze fixed on the windows opposite the piano even though there was nothing to see in the darkness. The song was melancholy but sweet, and after a moment or two I realized this was the song the band had played at the 4/4 Club, the song Simon had written.
I went to him, hesitated, and then sat on the bench beside him. Wordlessly, he stopped playing and wrapped his arms around me, I wrapped mine around him, and we clung to each other and trembled and kissed.
When I was calm again, I whispered, “Bad night for you, too, huh?”
“I’ve had worse.” He paused, then whispered, “I wish we could go to bed together.”
“We have been in bed together.”
“I mean,” Noel said, “I wish we could brush our teeth and kiss good night, and fall asleep around the same time and wake up to the same alarm clock. That’s what I wish.”
I lifted my head from his shoulder and studied his face. I wanted it, too. “We’ll have it someday.”
“I hope so. It’s hard to be patient.”
“I know. Usually I’m not patient at all.”