We kept track at first by marking days in scratches on the wall. We just wanted to know, we weren't waiting for anything. But it's hard to tell whether a day has passed, when there's no sun, and laying together in bed until we decide to get up, feeling totally rested every time, it's hard to believe that we were getting up in a strict 24-hour cycle. The routines we developed served as our next calendar -- we had a rotation, periodically paying tribute to Jennifer, Perdita, and Edward, then on the fourth cycle to the hypothetical memories of our past selves.
But that, too, faded, like the routines of eating and sleeping. So did the pattern of distance and intimacy that played out over days or weeks or months, needing more time alone or more time together, chafing against one another or desparately needing each other. It's hard to generalize a relationship that way. It's also very hard to remember anything particular about that time.
We read a lot. Perdita's library was essentially our home, although we dragged one of the heavy leather chairs up to Edward's garden to support the occasional change of scenery Sola needed more often than me.
And of course, some nights, I would wake up shaking, sure I remembered stories of war, of pain and of family, echoes of my life before the black. Sola would wrap her arms around me, and hush me, and her face would mirror mine in the type, if not the intensity, of pain I suffered.
Eventually we figured out that those dreams came most often after I'd read a book that dealt heavily with immigrants living in a place called England, and Sola concluded that I was just having bad dreams about my books. We agreed that I would stop reading books about immigration.
She had nightmares when she read medical texts.
But it wasn't bad. Everyone experiences some amount of pain in their life, and if the books in Perdita's library (and the experiences of Perdita, Edward and Jennifer) are representative, Sola and I suffer a lot less pain than what seems to be the average. We don't really need to eat, we sleep whenever we like -- sometimes it feels like weeks at a time -- and we have the constant companionship of each other. I haven't been alone in what must be at least a decade.
When Sola needs time alone, I just go to sleep until she wakes me up.
The books on my nightstand had grown heavier, thicker and with smaller text. Sola's, too, had acquired a depth neither of us would have considered when we came here. It seemed that reading as one's sole hobby had at least that advantage. And I was getting bored of it, but I was glad in Sola's company. We talked about it, a lot, because there was never much else to talk about, but we tended to agree. the house was boring. But we loved each other.
And one morning (I say morning, because we were in bed and had just slept) we had just had that conversation, and were smiling and kissing and I heard a click and a creak, and I looked over, and the final door had opened.
I felt like the shadow of a bucket of ice had been dropped down the inside of my chest, but the feeling sort of fizzled. I braced myself to get terrified again, but I didn't.
"Do you see that?" Said Sola.
"Yeah," I said. "Are you okay?"
"I feel fine," she said. "You?"
"I'm okay." I stared at the ashen steps past the charcoal-black door, and tightened my grip around Sola's hand.
"So," she said, "What do we do?"
"Well, we've been saying we're bored. Maybe we should go for it."
"I think we should talk about it some more," she said. "I don't think I'm ready."
"Well, I absolutely won't go without you."
"Good," she said. She smiled, and kissed me, and said, "And I would never go without you."
We spent another several days living as normal, discussing the door, finishing the books we were reading and reading the books that we'd been meaning to read. We made meals of the things in the kitchen we'd always meant to cook, and we had the conversations that had been sitting in the dusty corners of our minds. And eventually she said, "We're going to do it, aren't we?"
"I think we are, yeah," I said. "I think we sort of have to, and I think we're ready."
"Okay," she said.
We dug through a bureau that had manifested one day, put away our clothes and found our oldest outfits. Sola put on her shimmering blue shirt. I put on my bright orange t-shirt with the red patch over the heart.
We held hands, and we went upstairs, to the library, and upstairs, to the garden, and upstairs, to our bedroom, and, then, upstairs.