by Shan Shaikh

The TV was giving the cat company. The voice of the anchorman set the tone for the mellow, yellow lights hanging all along the ceiling. It was barely enough light to walk, but just enough light to sit and talk. She set her laptop on the desk in front of her after the sound of keys against the door knob woke her, and made her way towards the door. As she reached for the knob, the wooden barrier between them flung towards her followed by a blast of cold, night air. “You're still awake?” He asked. “Shh! Why are you yelling?” He could only spare two seconds of his time to give her a look of confusion. He made his way into the bubble of warmth, but he brought with him the baggage of Wednesday. “Why are you home so late?” She took his scarf and continued to follow his steps around the house. She never once took her eyes off him.

His office was dark, but he knew where to place his bag and glasses. He removed his watch from his left wrist and used his right arm to gently run his fingers along the lighter strip of skin there. “Terrance and I had this brilliant idea for a film about two guys who rob a store-“ “You came late because you were spending time with Terrance?” He was still not looking at her. He pulled his sweater off of his sweaty body and hung it over his chair. “No, I wasn't just hanging out with the guy. We were discussing a very serious film idea. It was very important. We had to jot the stuff, we were lobbing out, down.” She was glued to his shadow for a while. Her sigh pulled his attention, but only long enough for him to notice she was in her pajamas. The “I need my freaking sleep” pajamas. “Oh shoot, I forgot your tea.” She stormed out of the room and knocked over the books stacked on the coffee table by the couch. “You almost knocked over your laptop, you psycho.” She was much too occupied with turning the stove off, and pouring his tea into his favorite mug in the dark, to pay attention to him. She managed. She's usually good at seeing in the dark, and she's the best at pouring the tea into the right mug. His favorite mug. “Come get your tea.” He was practically bathing himself in the bathroom sink at this point. Getting rid of the cold, night helmet, and putting on the warm, cozy mask. “Hold on, I'm in the bathroom.” She was walking on her toes, trying not to spill his tea. “I'm gonna set it down by the bed.” The sound of the water running in the sink drowned out her voice. “Did you hear what I said?” The cat followed her into the bedroom where she paced around a few times trying to find something worth looking at, but he was still in the bathroom. So, she went out into the living room and grabbed a magazine from the coffee table.

He was completely changed into sleeping attire now, and walked out of the bathroom with a small towel hanging around his neck. “Yes, I heard you sweetie.” He went for a kiss on the cheek, but she wasn't having it. She went straight into the bedroom. He grew a grin and went into his office, where he pulled out his laptop and began to organize some of the notes he took with Terrance. She came back into the living room to fetch her laptop when she noticed the light from his computer screen glowing in his dark office. He sat there, hunched over, typing away. She didn't hesitate. She walked straight into the man's chambers and pulled the screen down. “Hey, wha-“ “You're going to bed. Now.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him from out of his seat and up on his feet. “I know how to walk, ya know? I'm not four.” She removed her grip once he was in the bedroom. “Sometimes I wonder.” She said, rolling her eyes.

She turned off the TV, crawled into bed, and continued to read the magazine she had picked up. He took a sip of his tea, and then made his way to the foot of the bed. He sat there, looking out one of the three windows in the room. It was silent for some time. “The city is beautiful.” The cat's meows pulled his attention. It used its tail to brush against his night slippers and then it stared right into his eyes. “What are you looking at?” She set her magazine down on her lap. “Are you talking to the cat again?” He didn't turn to see her face. He just looked back at the city. “I swear he's up to something. You just don't know it.” He took the last sip of his tea and crawled into bed. The night light sat on her side. Once he was under the sheets, she set her magazine aside and turned off the night light. Back to back they were getting ready to sleep. It was like that for about five minutes, until she turned over. “Hey, you awake?” She asked, keeping her voice as low as possible. “Am I supposed to be?” The silence filled the room again. He turned over to face her. “Why, what happened?” She looked into his eyes and felt her heart beat faster. The same kind of heart beat when she heard his keys brush against the door knob. “You think the city is beautiful, don't you?” He crunched his eyebrows down to his upper eye-lid. “Of course. You know I'm a city-boy.” “More beautiful than me?” They stared at each other for a while. The window was cracked just a bit. Just enough to let the cars on smooth pavement and metal birds flying in the sky share their ambience. “You've seen the lights of the city right?” He asked her. “Yeah, what about them?” “The fact that they're always lit is beautiful. It makes me feel like I never have to worry about being in the dark. Someone's always watching out for me. But not a single one of those lights, not even the lights from the Arco building, shine as bright as you. You're all I need to see in the dark.” Her smile lit the room, and the contagious scent of satisfaction made him grow a smile too. They began to laugh hysterically. Her silly bursts of laughter and his low, sleepy chuckles. The cat jumped on the bed and meowed some more. “Man, you see. This cat is planning something. Did he help you make my tea?” “Ahaha, of course not. I never get help making your damn tea.” “I don't know. He was looking at me funny earlier when I was drinking it.” Their laughter caused lights around the neighborhood to glow in anger. “Would you keep it down!” Yelled out a bald man from the complex across the street. “Kiss my ass, Lex Luther!” He yelled out, scaring the cat. “Shh, shut up! Go to sleep now.” Their laughter subsided. They were back to staring into each other's eyes; the endless thoughts rushing in and out of their minds. “I love you.” He mumbled. “What did you say?” “Are you serious, dude?” And so began the laughter once more. The light never went out that night. And who's to say it will ever go out.