The year fell into cold and darkness. The summer had been long and hot. It felt that something had changed as the late spring eased into early summer. Something new had grown between us in the strengthening summer light.
But now the darker days were coming.
She turned to me, as the nights grew colder. Wrapping herself around me as though I was the core she needed to keep her living warmth. She stayed close during the night. Sonja said she dreamt of me and I had no reason to doubt her. Although, I find it hard to believe that I’m the stuff which dreams are made on.
‘Are you sure they are not nightmares?’ I asked one morning after she’d told me her dream as she lay with her head on my chest.
She looked up at me, tilting her head back. She shook her head and lay it back down. He hand moved down my body as though seeking some kind of reassurance.
If there ever was such thing as a beginning, I suppose I can trace it back to that October morning. She got out of bed not long after I’d made that comment.
It was unusual. I was usually the first up, making her coffee and toast while she lingered in the shower.
She watched me over the rim of her mug, the steam from the coffee rising in front of her face.
‘What?’ I said.
It was a Sunday. We went out for our usual walk by the sea along the beach.
Most times, she would walk with me with her two arms wrapped around my left arm, head leaning against me as she watched her feet, or looked out to sea.
That morning though she walked a distance away from me. She claimed to be looking for flotsam, shells, driftwood for one of her pieces. But I saw her every now and then glance up at me as though I was a stranger, someone to be wary of.
That night in bed, Sonja rolled away from me, instead of towards me.
I reached out… her back was cold.
She shivered at my touch and drew the duvet around herself.
I wondered what I’d done wrong. I knew she would not say, even if I asked her.
I lay there in the darkness, listening to her breathe.
I must have fallen asleep at one point, because her scream awoke me.
I reached for her.
She pushed me away.
I switched on the light.
Sonja stared at me, fear in her eyes.
‘What’s wrong?’ I stroked her hair.
She cried and pulled herself to me, hugging me tight.
‘A nightmare,’ she said between sobs. I could feel her wet tears on my chest.
‘Don’t worry. Only a nightmare. It is over now.’ I held her tight, kissing the top of her head.
‘Is it?’ she muttered. ‘Is it?’
From then on, the nightmares grew more frequent until she was having one a night, then more than one a night. Neither of us was sleeping very well. Sonja was afraid to close her eyes, and I found it difficult to drift off, on the alert for the first signs of her dreams turning to nightmares.
Eventually, exhausted one night, I did sleep.
Only to find myself start awake to find Sonja looming over me, kitchen knife in her hand, a look of terrified horror on her face as she drew back the knife and plunged it deep into me.