Dawn Chorus by Norah Blakedon

A mass of screeches reverberated across the sky and thundered through the open window.  

Bloody gulls. 

I missed the gentle dawn chorus, made up of starlings and blackbirds, rousing me from sleep; shrieking coastal birds were my early wake-up call these days. 

Rolling my head on the pillow, I regarded the man next to me. Even in slumber his lips pulled into a tight line, brows drawn low, as if his dreams angered him. Strands of gold shimmered along a sandpaper jaw in the morning hues of peach and apricot. 

I must get blackout curtains. 

He grumbled something about the sunlight as I climbed out of bed. Ignoring him, I padded through to the en suite and switched on the shower. I didn’t need to undress since I slept naked; a habit from the early days of our relationship, and not one I was particularly comfortable with anymore. 

I turned the stainless steel handle to the hottest setting, braced for stinging heat. The evidence of coitus trickled down the inside of my thigh, washed away as if it never happened. We still had our routine, although reduced to a weekly occurrence and usually with the lights off. In the dark, my waist cinched. I could pretend my breasts didn’t flatten, and my legs were slim. The figure above—or behind, in last night’s instance—was somebody else, an imagined stranger as beautiful and taut as me. It rarely achieved the desired outcome, and I performed a familiar role that had me fake moaning, which triggered an extended grunt and final thrust from him. Maybe I should be grateful he had time to kiss my head before sleep devoured him. 

Gritting my teeth, I tolerated the morning ritual as my limbs glowed sunburnt-pink under searing water. Once slender thighs bulged through hazy steam making me nostalgic for their smooth days. Dimples flourished with each passing year. Now, the tops resembled scrambled eggs. How slowly it had crept upon me. 

I twisted the lever 180°. The water spluttered, then gushed, hacking inflamed skin with a billion mini ice picks. The extreme temperature change stabbed life into my numb soul and filled me with relief at feeling alive. Temporarily alive. 

As the cold water lashed down, archived images flashed on a slideshow: my brown eyes gazing into blue ones, laughing until our sides ached, entwined fingers on an amble through the woods, strolls along exotic beaches, meaningful love-making, teary vows in a rustic church… 

“I’m trying to sleep!” His muffled voice carried through to the en suite. 

I shut off the shower and caught the tail-end of his sentence. “… every frigging morning!” 

His complaining went unacknowledged. I wrapped myself in a towel that had long since lost its fleeciness, and opened the door; frigid air slapped my face.  

“For once I’d like to wake up after six a.m.” He scowled and leaned against the headboard. Thick, yet receding hair stuck up in a way that used to be endearing. Tortoiseshell stubble dulled: tan, russet, copper, newly-sprouted wisps of silver. Striking shades made unremarkable. 

A monotonous coo of a lone wood pigeon replaced manic gulls. The incessant hoot equally irritating, and I wondered if she called her lost love to return. Did she beg her feathered partner to bring back forgotten passion? Did she cry for their courting days of mutual respect? Had he given up on them? Had his wings flown him towards new adventures? 

Before I could apologise for waking my husband—or perhaps I’d have told him that I, too, would like to wake up later—footsteps ran across the landing. Chubby hands pushed the door ajar, flooding the bedroom with energy. Bright eyes gleamed from a rosy-cheeked face. Three-year-old arms embraced legs poking from a towel that seemed to have grown a little fluffier. Small fingers gleefully sank into over-ripe thighs.  

My hand ruffled fine hair, a shade lighter than mine but darker than his father’s. His lips brushed my skin, and he rushed to the bed, leaping on the creased duvet. 

“Daddy!” 

“Champ!” 

My husband shone as he bear-hugged our son. Hooded eyelids lifted, releasing a kaleidoscope of blues. Tight lips loosened, smiling warmth into the room. A tortoiseshell jaw glittered. And thick, yet receding hair, became a touch endearing. 

Outside, the solitary wood pigeon’s call was answered. The duet no match for the harmonious dawn chorus of starlings and blackbirds, but maybe their ballad could strike up its own kind of rhythm. 

Biography
Norah Blakedon resides in northwest England. She’s had several short stories published and is currently working on a modern-Gothic manuscript. When not writing, she can usually be found with her head buried in a book, or amongst nature with her dog in tow. Twitter – @NBlakedon

Image: unsplash.com

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