I decided to change the featured image for this story, just because it’s been going for a few months. Felt like shaking things up a bit.
With her teeth freshly brushed, Alice tiptoed out of the bathroom and quickly crossed the hallway to the bedroom. Alicia was already asleep in her crib, which was pushed up next to the bed where Alice could easily see her at night, and Hackett was propped up on pillows with his phone in hand.
“Hey,” she whispered as she climbed into bed next to him.
“Hey,” he whispered back. “You look happy.”
“I am.” Alice snuggled against him and hugged his arm. “Though I have to say, it was super embarrassing when you called me brilliant, and all I could think of was, ‘Dur, I like sci fi.’ I didn’t come across as remotely smart.”
“Don’t sweat it. My mother loves you. She thinks that you’re the bee’s knees, and wants us to live happily ever after.” Hackett put his phone down and turned to stroke Alice’s cheek. “I knew she would.”
“Basil …” Alice scooted even closer to him and laid her head down on his chest. “Why didn’t you tell me about your brother?”
His breathing halted for a moment, then the air came out through his teeth with a small whistle. After a heavy silence, he said, “Thank you for not bringing this up in front of my mother.”
“I kind of sensed that I shouldn’t.” Alice hoped that she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing it up with Basil as well.
“Jasper was … well, I idolized him. He was a top student, good at sports, and got along with everyone he met. He was the sort who could make friends with just about anyone, and he was always striking up conversations.” He paused, so Alice nodded but didn’t say anything. Her fist subconsciously clutched at Hackett’s shirt, as if to brace herself for the rest of the story.
“When he was 17 and I was 14, someone broke into our house in the middle of the night. Jasper heard the intruder first, and he grabbed his baseball bat with the intent of sneaking up on him. As luck would have it though, mom came out of her bedroom while Jasper was still getting ready to hit him, and the noise alerted him.
They grappled for a bit, until Jasper managed to land a good blow to the intruder’s temple and he was knocked out. I remember I was about to shout triumphantly, when Jasper suddenly collapsed. It turned out that the intruder had a knife, and he had managed to get Jasper in an artery. He bled to death in my mother’s arms as we waited for the ambulance to arrive.”
“No …” Alice gasped. “No. That’s too horrible.”
“Mom used to blame herself for what happened, until one day she stopped talking about Jasper’s death entirely. I suspect she never got over it.”
“Oh Basil, I’m so sorry.” Alice felt like she was going to cry from the guilt of asking Hackett to relive the story all over again. “I should have realized that there was a reason why you never talked about it before.”
His hand closed over hers and he slowly kissed her forehead. “It happened 24 years ago. I found my peace, and that event was what inspired me to become part of the criminal justice system. I never told you because I didn’t want to place anything heavy on your shoulders with everything else that you were going through.”
“How are you so – I don’t know – ‘zen’ about everything?” Alice asked.
“Age, mostly. I was a lot angrier about the world when I was 21, and a lot more scared too. I even vowed to remain a bachelor for my entire life, so I would never leave anyone heartbroken when I inevitably died young.” His hand slid up her arm to her shoulder, then down her side to her waist. “Or maybe I was waiting for you, and using that as my excuse,” he whispered.
Alice moved so she could kiss his lips, thrilled by the way his hand gripped the curve above her hips, and she wondered if it was still too soon after giving birth to consummate their marriage. In the back of her mind she had to grudgingly admit that it was, but sharing a bed made the thought hard to resist night after night. The way Hackett’s body turned to press against hers made her decide that she didn’t care to resist after all.
His tongue found hers, and he leveraged himself over her as her heart pounded furiously in her chest, and she touched his neck lightly with her fingernails before sliding her hands up under his shirt. However, when she wrapped her legs around him, Hackett yanked himself out of the spell that had crept over them and he pulled away.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, then turned to lie with his back towards her. Alice felt hurt.
“Basil,” she said, then bit her lip to keep from crying.
He sighed, then turned to face her again. “I’m sorry, Alice,” he repeated. “Now isn’t the right time.”
“I know.” She couldn’t hold it in anymore, and broke down crying.
Hackett pulled her into an embrace and gently stroked her hair until she fell asleep from exhaustion.