Her dress smelled sweet and faintly like alcohol, an amalgam of oils from the fifteen different soaps and lotions she used before getting ready to go out. It was her favorite dress, strapless, black, the one he'd bought her last Christmas from Nordstroms, the one that never quite hung right on the hanger, one of its interior plastic straps having snagged on a door frame that New Year's Eve. The hem was beginning to fray from use, though no one would have noticed if you didn't point it out.
On the floor next to the sofa, one heel of her red Louboutins sat crookedly in the other's toe. These too a present, but from her mother this past April, on her birthday. She'd never been one to wear such high-fashion shoes, but the darkened leather insoles told a different story now. She hadn't once complained about her feet the whole night, perhaps too proud but likely just contented, in that room full of donors and friends and free-flowing champagne.
Her stockings, simple black, were twisted slightly at the ankle and a small run had appeared at the back of her knee. He'd noticed it late in the night, though he couldn't be sure how long it had been there. Not worth bothering her about; she'd only fret instead of enjoy herself, even though these were not a present but merely one of a ten-pack from Target.
The fake Michael Kors she'd rather proudly gotten in Chinatown the day after she got her first bonus rested on the coffee table. To the people that cared, she said nothing, letting them assume it was real. To the people who didn't, she talked about the vacation she wanted to take with the money she saved.
As he eased the black leather barrette out of her hair, she stirred slightly, just an extra breath. He placed the silver pin on the coffee table but it rolled off and landed on the floor with a satisfying plink. Another breath, but still asleep. He drew his fingers through her hair to ease the tangles and let it drape over her chest, feeling the weight of her head on his shoulder.
Reaching over her into her purse, he grabbed the small pack of makeup remover wipes and took one out, gently running it around her eyes and across her lips. He tossed the gauzy red and black ball onto the floor next to the hair pin. It could wait until morning.
How many nights had ended this way, half dressed, the both of them tipsy, spread flat on the couch like rag dolls, not even bothering to turn on the lights? Innumerable. Each different, but all of them memories to be saved, opened at a later date like a time capsule. Rations for the days when their hair was thin and their bodies weak.
The darkness inside their condo was total, save for the effervescent glow of the stove-top clock. In a few hours, she would be up, peeling herself off the leather and trundling toward the bathroom. But he'd linger, finally able to close his eyes and rest as the sound of the water beat against the shower glass.
He never could sleep much on nights like this, but that was all right. The sounds of the city just outside the window kept him company. He found himself smiling, stroking the top of her collarbone simply out of habit.