You found me here, lying on the lawn, my bare feet pressed into the grass, my knees arched to the night sky.
“I can’t sleep,” I said.
“Neither can I,” you said.
Though we’d only ever spoken to each other a few fragmented times, I clasped your thin wrist and dragged you to join me, to lie beside me, our nightdresses stroking our thighs.
“I’m sorry,” I said, realising what I’d just done.
You smiled, stayed.
The next day I glanced at you when we passed in the corridor. Your milky skin, I decided, was gaunt and grey now I saw it in the sunlight.
I lie sleeplessly delirious under each full moon, the bed always too lumpy, the pillows turned thin, the sheets suddenly and irreversibly too wrinkled around my feet. You must do, too.
When another full moon waxed in, I took myself and my restless energy back into the midnight garden. Soon you drifted down the stone steps and over the grass. And again the next month, and the next. We are witches, living for the lunar cycle.
“Will he find out?” you whispered as you lay beside me on your belly, your right leg tucked over mine. You smelt of sweet musty roses.
“No. He’s a heavy sleeper.”
Tonight, he’d been snorting in his sleep while I lay dwindling on the cusp of dreams, unable to shake the muggy room, hot with the stewed smell of me and him, each breath humid as it passed through my mouth. Out here, blanketed by buzzing night air, I lie in the dark and wonder how long I should stay here, waiting to have calmed and cooled enough to return to that room.
Fingers brush against my leg, and now you lay down beside me, your breath cool on my neck. Curled into each other’s bodies, we drift in and out of tranquil sleep. I wake every so often to feel you still there, your arms wrapped around my chest, then sleep again.
A cold wind snaps at me. I blink my eyes open. The black sky has melted to early dawn indigo, the quiet now abraded by birdsong. You must feel the change too, for you bury your face into my underarm and huddle closer, nuzzling.
“We should go inside,” you say. “The others will be getting up soon.”
In the hallway, the early sun tints your eyes bright pearls. You drag your fingers through my hair and gently untangle it, pulling out a wilted leaf.
“Again tonight? Maybe, this time, my room?” you whisper.
I try to find the best words to tell you how it’s a silly thing that takes hold of me only once a month – a lunar madness, lust – and it’s not otherwise grounded in this world.
As the words begin to form on my tongue, I realise. The sky was dark all last night. There was no full moon. Maybe heavy clouds obscured it, but that’s not true.
Caroline Butterwick is a writer based in Staffordshire. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including the Guardian and Mslexia. Her website is carolinebutterwick.com and she’s on Twitter @CButterwick.
photo by Ganapathy Kumar (via unsplash)