Waking the first time is easy. The alarm blares and I know I have only a few second before it pulls Amber out of dreams as well. Stopping the alarm is all hindbrain and preconsciousness. Once I've done it, I can't quite remember it happening, existing as a hypnopompic twitch.
The second waking is the hard one. Amber read years ago that men who kissed their wives before disappearing to work tended to earn substantially more than those married fellow who didn't (I assume that the situation works if the genders are reversed or in gay couples, but the research didn't mention). Granting that correlation is not causation, it seemed to be the case that kissed men had a little something more to work for than those in loveless unions; it is not the kiss itself but the drive behind it that pushes their salaries higher.
This dooms Amber's peaceful sleep after 6:30 each morning. I shave and breakfast, but return to her by seven to rally my clothes for the day. I could plan my wardrobe the night before, could keep it upstairs, but that would defeat my excuse for this kiss. The fiscally responsible kiss has long since evolved from a chaste peck into crawling back into the bed and squeezing her to me, her skin warming me before I face my day. As I leave, she says, "Have a good day, I love you. Be safe, be awesome." It is one of our checkpoints during the day, followed by my lunchtime call and her crawling into my lap once I return from work. She tells me her dreams, I remind her of any tasks that might need to be attempted in our apartment. After a few minutes, I try to extract myself from the sheets and her warmth. Lately, I've gotten completely dressed in the darkness of her presence, then return for one last peck.
I long for the days when I return and may cuddle her until we both naturally wake, though our circadian rhythms are less in sync as in tune. On the weekends, I wake early without the help of an alarm, cursing staying up late the night before, write and have breakfast, then return to bed a few hours later. She tends to wake up without me and go about her day until I eventually am roused again.
When she doesn't go to bed at the same time as me-because she has an order for three thousand bracelets due in seventy-two hours, because I made the mistake of introducing her to a video game within half an hour of going downstairs-I feel as though I cannot sleep. I toss and turn, I call up to make certain she is okay. Even if I am sleeping, I am not dreaming and I never feel rested. Minutes after she slips between the sheets, cuddled against me, I drop off into contented slumber.
Soon in Xenology: The perils of poverty. Praise and negotiation. Knowing murderers.