Before I even opened my eyes, I knew something was off. For a start, the pillow felt wrong, too soft. Not the crisp cotton pillowcases on my own bed. There was too much light in the room, too. I could tell that through my closed eyelids. But the biggest giveaway that all was not as usual was the soft snoring coming from my right.
I lay on my front, with my head to the left. I opened my eyes. Not my room, not my bed. I looked at the flower-sprigged curtains and matching duvet. Then I slowly turned my head to the right. And saw the last person I would ever have expected to see, lying there.
Henry. Dear, sweet, dorky, lovable Henry. In bed, With me.
I turned on my side slightly, and ran my hand down my body. Fully clothed. Well, not clothed exactly. I looked at one sleeve – fleecy, teddy-bear covered pyjamas, it seemed. Very odd. I had stopped wearing pyjamas to bed when I was twelve, and anything at all when I moved into my own place.
I looked at Henry. Thank God, he was in some kind of night attire too. Stripy pyjamas or a nightshirt, maybe – I didn't want to lift the duvet and investigate further, thank you. He was also lying on his tummy, his head turned toward me. He was well out of it. Actually, he looked rather sweet. There was light sprinkling of sweat on his forehead, and a similar patch just above his upper lip, and I had the sudden urge to wipe it away with the jersey duvet cover.
Oh no. What was I thinking? I was in a strange bed with a man I'd known since school, but who had never been much more than an acquaintance at best. Henry was the sort of guy we all invited to parties, birthday meals, and other celebrations. But he wasn't the sort of bloke you'd ever consider going out with. He was just... Henry.
I couldn't remember him ever being connected with anyone romantically. I don't think he'd ever had a girlfriend, or even seemed to want one. If I thought about it, I'd probably assumed that he was mostly gay, if he ever thought about that sort of thing. He wasn't shy – seemed to get on equally well with girls and boys – we all just assumed he wasn't that interested in ... relationships.
I looked around the strange bedroom. Surely this wasn't Henry's, either. It was too feminine, too floral, too...pink. It was too pink even for me, for that matter. No way could it be Henry's style. I imagined his taste would run to Star Trek wallpaper and matching duvet cover, and piles of books all over the floor. I certainly wouldn't expect the baby-pink fluffy rug by the side of the bed.
So – what was I doing here? It had been Sophie's hen-party last night. Maybe this was a prank the girls were playing. But surely it was the bride-to-be who was normally the victim of that kind of thing, not the head-bridesmaid-to-be. And I would have remembered, surely. I certainly didn't feel hung over. No headache, no sickly feeling, my mouth wasn't even dry, well, no more so than any other morning. And why Henry?
I looked at him again. Looked at him properly, for the first time ever. Well, there's no better opportunity to study someone's face than when they're asleep in bed next to you, after all...
In his deep sleep, he looked vulnerable and endearing, like a little boy. His face was relaxed, his full lips curved in a slight smile. Having a happy dream, perhaps. Maybe this was a dream I was having. It was certainly surreal enough. To test my theory, I closed my eyes for a few seconds. Then I opened them. No, Henry was still there, large as life. I continued my perusal of his face. I looked at his closed eyes – what amazingly long, curly eyelashes. Lucky guy – I'd never noticed them before and they were gorgeous. They'd be the envy of any girl. What a shame his glasses normally masked those. I found myself wondering what colour Henry's eyes were. I don't think I'd ever noticed before. I assumed they were brown, based on his complexion and hair colour, but were they dark brown, hazel, or somewhere in between? Suddenly I desperately wanted him to open them, so that I could see.
What on earth was I thinking? I was in a strange room, in bed with a man I hardly knew, and I was hoping he'd wake up so I could assess his eye colour? Clare, I thought, what on earth do you think he's going to say when HE wakes up and finds you here? The poor chap will probably die of embarrassment on the spot. Poor Henry!
I had to try and find a way to sneak out of this bed without disturbing him. I lifted the duvet slightly, and wiggled on my tummy, slowly, towards the edge, never taking my eyes off Henry's face. He shifted slightly in his sleep, and mumbled something, the corners of his mouth lifting even more. I froze in mid-wiggle. Something nice had obviously just happened in the dream, I thought. Henry's face relaxed again and I resumed my retreat.
I slid out from under the duvet and onto the floor. Then when I was far enough away from the bed, started tiptoeing to the bedroom door, never for a second taking my eyes off my erstwhile bed-mate.
Then I spotted my watch on the bedside table, on Henry's side of the bed. Quickly, I tiptoed back across the thick carpet and picked it up. I looked down at him. What lovely ears he had, another thing I'd not noticed before. They were beautiful – rather small and rounded, flat against his head. How could anyone who knew Henry never have noticed such perfect ears. Without thinking, I reached down and softly traced my finger from the top of the ear, down to the delicate, silky lobe.
He turned his head and opened his eyes, lightish brown, flecked with gold, I noticed, to look up at me. He smiled,and said, with no surprise, no shock, as if he saw me every day,
''Hello, Clare-bear. Sleep well, sweetheart?''