Back then, there were secrets. I could see it in her eyes, that momentary hesitation before she spoke. Of course, we both lied, often to ourselves more than to each other.
Somehow, though, that time passed, the lies faded, and those secrets were hidden away as we tried to forget them. Occasionally a memory, a thought of other times, other places, other women, would cross my mind. Sometimes too, I saw Fiona staring off into the distance as if some memory lay on the horizon and she was wondering whether to acknowledge it, or let it sail away from this desert island where she was stranded with me.
We knew each other long before we married, but it was during those early years, when we became strangers to each other. I worked away for a while, across the country, going into the far north while she stayed behind. There were days then when I thought I would never go back. But every time I closed my eyes it would be Fiona I saw, never these other women. Now I can’t remember much about them, sometimes not even their names. I search Facebook occasionally, when I can recall enough of one of their names. But each photo is the photo of some stranger, and I struggle to remember details of their lives, wondering if that stranger is the women I woke up next to all those years ago.
I gave up that job in the north eventually, walked away from it and back to Fiona. She was ill, severe flu, and I nursed her. I lay there each night, next to her hot sweaty body, listening to her ragged breathing as sleep eluded me.
One night, not long after her fever broke, I woke in the night to find her lying against me. She held me as she used to back when we first began sleeping together. It was as if all those years of distance had gone.
She woke free of the fever and no longer with sore red nose and eyes. She looked up at me from where her head lay on my chest.
She made to speak, but I shook my head.
‘Let’s carry on like this,’ I said. ‘Let’s go back to how it used to be.’
She nodded slowly and then lay back down on my chest. I could feel the damp tickle of her eyelashes against my skin as she tried to blink the tears clear.
We never spoke again of those lost years. The children came along and we discovered those things in each other we thought we’d lost. Unlike so many couples who seem to grow distant and separate as the years pass and time takes its toll, we grew back together instead of further apart. We found we still liked each other, as well as still loved each other.
Then, in what seems like less that a moment, less than an eye blink, the children grew and moved away. We sat together; Fiona and I, watching each other turn first grey, then white.
Occasionally, one of those secrets emerges from the mists, but now we only look as if seeing some landmark pass on the road, never stopping. Just a glance as we move on, journeying down this road towards the end, side by side.