We switch the light off and snuggle down for the night. “G’night, John Boy,” quips Alexander. We giggle gently together, then fall into that uncomfortable silence where you really want to fall asleep as quickly as possible. Only you can’t, because you want to so much, and the more you try and force yourself, the more alert you become.
I lie there, feeling Alexander shifting beside me, turning his back towards me. A muffled sniff comes from his side of the bed. Great, I think. This always happens when he stays over: Alexander gets a few sniffles and come morning, I’m the one with full-blown Beijing ‘flu.
Another sniff. And another. By the fourth, I realise that it’s not a cold at all. Instinctively I turn towards him and place my hand on his shoulder. It’s shaking with tears. He half-heartedly tries to shrug my hand away, but I keep it there, gently rubbing his upper arm. As I move towards him, he spins round and suddenly we’re facing each other. Alexander’s face buries into my shoulder and he lets out a horrible, inhuman sob. Both my arms go round him, and he collapses into my bear hug, gripping my T-shirt as he cries harder than I’ve ever known him to before.
Gently I rock him in my arms, playing with his hair as he lets his raw emotion spill out. This is the Alexander which nobody else sees, the veneer of make up, designer clothes and one-liners stripped away. Slowly his wails lessen, his sobs becoming empty. His breathing steadies, and I can feel the spasms that wracked his body diminish. I hug him tighter still, feeling him reciprocate. Delicately, I kiss the top of his head, inhaling the scent of his designer hair care regime. A delicate murmur of appreciation seems to form into barely audible words.
“Sorry?” I ask.
Alexander turns his head up to mine; although I can’t see them in the night’s darkness, I feel his eyes on me. “Thank you,” he whispers. “Thank you for not asking.”
I lean forward to kiss him on the forehead, but he’s anticipated me and moves upwards. We awkwardly bump noses before kissing sweetly, lip to lip. It’s not sexual at all, not even when we kiss again, longer and sweeter, our tongues rubbing subtly against each other. I marvel at my lower body control: here I am with one of the most beautiful faces I have ever known pressed against mine, tunnelling its way into my mouth, and down below – nothing.
Slowly our faces part, and Alexander snuggles into my shoulder. I feel his breath, calm and steady now, gradually slowing into slumber. I don’t want to sleep any more: I just want to protect him, the way his father and mother should have done. Come tomorrow morning, there’ll be a two-hour stint in the bathroom and he’ll emerge, dolled up to the nines, the showman once more.
I kiss the top of his head once more. Good night, Elizabeth.