She liked to lay in bed and read. While she read in bed she had to have a bowl of potato chips on the bedside table, and a bottle of water on the pillow beside her. And a lamp, a little table lamp for when it got dark in the bedroom and she couldn’t read the words anymore.
All day, everyday she would read. Fiction, non-fiction, magazines, even the labels of on her sheets:
Machine wash warm and gentle.
DO NOT BLEACH.
And she would think, who bleaches anything these days? Unless it’s a sink or a toilet bowl, or maybe if you murdered someone and were cleaning the scene of the crime. Then maybe you would bleach the bath-tub, or the garage floor, or wherever it happened.
She especially liked to read the novels from when she was a child. She liked nothing more than to reenter the worlds of castles and woodland forests and knights and princesses with attitudes, and encounter statues of stone that came to life, and sisters who all became dancers, and little orphan girls with hearts of gold who were always rescued from attics by rich old gentlemen. They made her feel young. They made her think that maybe she too could charm old gentlemen into letting her live with them.
But of course, then there was sex. And she hated how sex would have to be part of the bargain these days, and how come they just couldn’t love her for her pure heart and witty laughter?
All day, everyday. Read, read, read. And she grew thin, of course, and her legs lost all their muscle and she couldn’t even have walked if she wanted to. And three times a day her husband would come in and carry her to the toilet, and change her bowl of chips, and refill her water bottle. He never made a fuss; well, that’s not true. He probably had a whole lot to say about her lying in bed all the time, and in fact, the truth is he did say things, often, and loudly, but she just never listened. She was too busy being chased by the Calormen army across the desert into Narnia. She didn’t hear her children come up to the bed every morning to say goodbye on their way to school, and she didn’t hear them when they came to say good night. They would stand by the edge of the bed and peer at their mother prostrate with pillows tucked ingeniously in all the sore and curves of her back and neck, and perhaps they would even read over her shoulder for a few minutes before they left. They seemed to only be able to read for a short while before they had other things to do, like sports, and computers, and play-dates, and supper time.
Even at night she would read until her eyes closed on their own accord, and the book slowly dropped to her chest, and then as soon as she awoke she would pick it up and start reading again. Crime, romance, philosophy. Every book they had in the house, she read it 3, 4 times.
Finally, her husband called a doctor. He came to see her in bed, this young doctor in a clean dark suit and with curly dark hair. His bag was new leather, and still shiny and he was obviously proud of it as he placed it carefully by her feet at the end of the bed. He looked at the woman, at her white, hollow-cheeked face, and thick hair tumbling all over the pillow and at her tight shut red lips.
You can leave us, he told the husband. The husband looked like he was about to disagree, then he shrugged, and left.
The doctor spoke to the woman, who was ignoring him completely, wrapped in her own mind.
Please, ma’am. Can you say hello to me? My name is Doctor Andrew. What is yours?
There was silence.
Ma’am…he started. He cleared his throat, touched her arm, and spoke a little louder.
Ma’am, please, I need you to at least acknowledge my presence.
She shivered under the touch of his arm, like a horse shaking off a fly.
His smooth brow furrowed, and he looked like David deciding to defeat Goliath. Ma’am, he said, then, without waiting another minute, he leaned down and kissed her full on the mouth.
This time her eyes closed, and the book dropped onto the coverlet. She kissed him back.
It was sweet and long, and finally the doctor pulled away and groaned. Oh God, what did I just do? He said.
The woman smiled, opened her eyes, and went back to reading.