Flash Fiction: Sleeping Sound (445 words)

“All I want to do is go to sleep,” Ceila said. She leaned her head against her hand, fingers wrapping though her hair, as if it was too heavy even there, and she was afraid of falling farther. She had her ribs braced against the table top, and her ankles crossed beneath the bench, both feet held up just a little higher on her toes. She’d poured herself a warm mug of honey and spice. The steam rose off it in a perfect mix of sweet and sharp and something that felt cool on the tongue even inside the heat. But she didn’t lift the mug off the table. She turned it against the table, settling the handle against her palm, then releasing it, turning it again.

It had been a long day. A long night before that, and a long week, long month, long year, if she looked at it too closely after dark. Everything looked long after dark, though an hour was an hour, and a minute still knocked through its allotment of seconds. It was just heartbeats that slowed, dawdled, and memories that stretched.

Hadlyn smiled apologetically across the table at her. She put her own mug down, more honey than spice, and touched Ceila’s wrist. “I’m sorry,” she murmured.

Ceila’s mouth twisted into a smile, too tight, and inexact. “I just want to go to bed and not crawl out for a thousand days. I don’t want to open my eyes, or say or do or need anything. I don’t want to be bothered, and I don’t want to move.”

Hadlyn hesitated. Steam curled off Ceila’s mug, and the other woman lifted one finger to twist through it, half-hearted, and she wrapped her hand around the handle again in a moment. Her arm rested against the table from her elbow to her fingers.

“You don’t really want that,” Hadlyn said haltingly.

Ceila’s smile widened, more proper in its proportions, and halfway into a laugh. She slid her hand down, to catch her forehead and she hid behind it, shaking her head. “No,” she agreed. “I don’t want to miss all that. I don’t want to skip a thousand days of work, or a thousand breakfasts, or a thousand… anything.” Her voice dropped into a whisper that Hadlyn almost couldn’t hear: “Stars, that sounds terrifying.”

Ceila gave her head one more good shake, lifted it up and set her cheek on her fist while she met Hadlyn’s eye. “Honestly,” she said. “I just want to wake up.”

Nodding, Hadlyn looked down.

Ceila took a long breath. “But,” she said. “I guess, the only way to do that, is to go to sleep first.”

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