There are only two of us rattling around the house this week. Nick left with his travelling case at the very crack of dawn last Friday and slowly made his way over land to Seville in Spain. He called to say that it had rained nearly the whole way and yet I couldn't feel any schadenfreude about it, because I was missing him so much and trying hard not to have one of those silent phone calls, punctuated only by the sound of fat tears dropping onto the receiver, as my mouth soundlessly forms an 'O'.
He is immersing himself in Spanish for over two weeks, after studying it for four years at home. When he calls after lessons have finished, in the deep quiet of late afternoon siesta, I can hear the heat rising from his sun warmed body and his soft voice is oiled with jamon.
Fin goes to sleep every night clutching a medley of comforting objects to make up for Daddy's absence; a velvet pig and fluffy dog, an item of clothing that smells like Nick and a piece of rose quartz to soothe over the gap in his heart that will only be filled by Daddy. He is six now and the status quo is changing. Nick has acquired the new status of demi-god in his eyes and I am just, 'mummy', always here taking care of the mundane stuff - reliable, steady. After years of running to me for comfort and sustenance I'm relegated to, 'not quite as exciting' and although sometimes it's a welcome rest - at the end of a long day of answering every possible need, dancing like the court fool, cajoling homework and finally tucking Fin into bed, my heart sags when he cries for Nick.
Without someone else to take me upstairs at a reasonable hour I find I am a night owl again. There are books to be read, films to watch, skirts to hand stitch and blogs to browse. In the blink of an eye it's midnight and I seem to have skipped through the sleepy stage of the evening to the one where I could stay up all night and do the things I have been putting off. If I'm not careful I can find that the living room floor is suddenly clothed in pieces of fabric and ribbon whilst an old film rumbles in the background. All those years of training myself to get up with a small child and early bird husband evaporate as soon as I'm left to my own devices.
So I make myself a medicinal chamomile tea, turn off the lights and tread lightly upstairs. Our electric toothbrush hums loudly into the heavy silence while I lean out of the window to see if anyone is about. But this is a small town where everyone else is sleeping now and my sole companion is a lone seagull sweeping through the air in lazy circles, bone white against star punctured blackness. I push my pillow into the middle of the bed and try to enjoy covering as much of it as possible, but these nonchalant acts are scant consolation for the absence of a warm back to curl around. So I read and read, until eventually I can't hold my eyes open anymore and I let sleep gently smooth the blanket up over my shoulders.