When the night is cold and long, the windows tight, the full moon outside shining through slats in the Venetian blinds, she returns.

When echoes bounce down the halls and tease the cat and tickle your ears, when you wish the things you hear are the recognizable creaks and groans of a settling house, she returns.

When dreams twist your mind and cause you to wake at half past three, when the clock’s numbers tint the table red, with your half-read book and that empty glass of water you hadn’t finished, she returns.

When you’ve had just a little to drink, not too much, not so much you can’t be awakened, but enough to tilt your vision and dry your mouth, she returns.

When you think you’re alone, safe, secure, even protected, she touches her lips to your ear and whispers your name.

When you roam the house, no longer able to sleep, riding the channels in search of an interesting infomercial, checking into that book once again, perusing magazines, wondering why your skin feels half a size too small, she brushes the nape of your neck with her fingers.

When you turn on all the lights, and the stereo, the computer, the game box, you catch a brief reflection in the screen, the window, the mirror, ever so sweetly she smiles.

She smiles.

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