Autumn is here and the flying foxes have deserted the palm where they have squabbled outside my window through the balmy summer nights.
It is cool and quiet except for the low sound of the television in the next room. I spread out in the bed, stretch my legs out into each cool corner of the mattress and will myself to sleep. I slow my breathing and relax each muscle in turn.
I hear the door open and close as Charlie quietly moves into the bathroom. Then the loud bang of the toilet lid. The noisy flush and the sound of water running.
I have missed my opportunity to drift into sleep before he lowers his considerable weight into the bed and pulls the carefully tucked covers from the foot of the bed.
Then the nightly ritual. The radio is turned on and the little wireless show grates on my ears and nerves as Phillip Adams launches into yet another hour of Trump news.
‘Turn the radio down,’ I say irritably.
‘Go to sleep,’ Charlie whispers in my ear.
‘I’m over Trump. Turn it off or change the station.’ My voice has the whiny note I dislike.
‘Turn over and I’ll cuddle you.’ Charlie nudges me away from him and wraps his arms around me. ‘you’ll be asleep in minutes.’
Some nights I do drift off easily but tonight it’s full moon and I have inherited my mother’s restless response to the moon’s cycles. We children slept on the verandah and often I would stir as mum glided past through the moon shadows, a ghostly apparition in her long nightdress.
It’s Charlie who drifts off now as he does most nights. Radio National is more potent than any sedative drug for him but for me it’s an irritant.
We have been over the obvious solutions. Head phones. ‘Do you want me to choke in my sleep.’
Set the switch off button for fifteen minutes. ‘I don’t go to sleep that quickly.’ He often does.
Tonight, he is asleep in minutes, his breathing soft and rhythmical. I slowly ease myself out from under his heavy arm and quietly slip of bed. I make it around to the radio but as soon as it clicks off Charlie stirs. ‘What are you doing?’ he murmurs.
‘Shh,’ I say softly. ‘Go back to sleep.’
I ease myself into the bed but Charlie has already reached the radio. Phillip is still interviewing the latest Trump deserter.
Charlie drifts off again and I try to relax. At 2300 the radio timer switched Phillip off. Thank God tonight I am spared the Quiz. One more night of that inane chatter and I swear I will throw the radio into the pool.
I need to turn over and once again Charlie stirs and reaches for me. Half asleep he kisses me gently on the back of my neck ‘I love you,’ he murmurs and I drift into sleep.
At piccaninny dawn the early birds and a full bladder drag me reluctantly awake and my pleasant dream, despite my efforts to hold it, slowly dissolves.
I look at the clock. It’s 0455 and I judge I have a slim chance of making it to the toilet and back before Charlie wakes and realises it’s news time.
I gently ease myself out of the bed and in the half-light make the trip to the toilet and back into my cold side of the bed. So far so good.
Charlie reaches out and pulls me close. ‘There were teardrops on my pillow,’ he says, ‘because you had gone and left me.’
‘So romantic,’ I whisper
‘I think I was dreaming,’ Charlie responds but still I snuggle close and a wave of contentment settles over me.
‘Look at that,’ Charlie looks at the clock and says in surprise. ‘Good girl. You’ve woken me up just on news time.’
So now the day begins with a litany of horror. How many killed on the road, how many thousands have succumbed to the virus.
‘Go back to sleep,’ Charlie says as he gets to his feet. ‘I’m going to do some work. I’ll bring you a coffee later.’
Charlie’s home is usually the boat and, on those nights when he sleeps on board I lock the house up early and settle down for what I hope will be long, sound, slumber.
But no. Instead each slight noise disturbs my shallow sleep. I strain to identify each sound. Is that door closing really on my neighbours’ side of the fence? Did I in fact lock each door?
I slow my breathing and relax. My heart rate settles. But no. That noise is surely in my yard.
Despite my good intentions, the radio goes on. I won’t tell Charlie that.