I was told, once, never to begin a book with the character waking up. That is, of course, exactly how I started Dancing in the White Room. Though Mallory is not waking so much as lying awake.
The alarm goes off at four-thirty, and I stare at the skylight of our sleeping loft. Bell
bangs on the clock to keep it from singing out again. I turn my back and nestle under the blankets. It’s almost March and it shouldn’t be as cold as it is—five below last night according to the thermometer propped outside the kitchen window. The temperature inside’s not much warmer. Bell would probably say I’m the one causing the freeze. We spent the past few days fighting. I did my share of pleading and cursing. I refused to help him pack his gear.
I wait for it, the hand that comes to my waist soon enough. Bell’s long fingers caress the contour and follow up under the curve of my breast.
“Mallory, you awake?”
I try to decide if I should answer him. I try to decide whether I want to have this conversation again, the one we’ve had off and on for the last six months, ever since he let slip he would be going back to Alaska to do the glisse on the West Rib of Denali.
I’ve never been good at pretense, so I turn to face him. His face is angular in the gray light of the room. His blond hair shuffles around his shoulders. He reaches over, his arms still warm from the down of our comforter, and kisses the arch of my shoulder.
“I’m going to miss that.” His voice is as inviting as a warm bath in the winter. It would be easy to fall into his warmth, easy to make this goodbye tender and inviting,the way our goodbyes usually are. Soft and intense, full of a kind of sweetness that can hold us,both of us, for a week or a month. A goodbye that promises a return, that says we’ll be here again, together.
Today, I push him away. I’m in no mood for sweet goodbyes. Last minute lovemaking won’t change his mind. And what I want is a mind change. What I want is a turnaround. I’m too stubborn to settle for less.