Sleep Like a Baby

09/18/23

Ariella wasn’t on the train. She always took the 5:45 from Hoboken to yoga class. What had changed?

Despite hating yoga, Denise attended class religiously. It was her one chance to spend time with Ariella. Denise’s intermittent reflection in the train’s window tricked her brain into thinking Ariella stared back. Watching the girl each week was like observing herself. But Denise was fifty, and Ariella twenty-five.

Ariella. Using her mother tongue, Denise savored the feeling of the young woman’s name as it flowed through her mouth with its lightly rolled r and the ll as a y. Denise rarely used her birth language. Not since her husband had given her elocution lessons as a wedding present and insisted on English only. All the time.

When Denise was Ariella’s age, she’d loved Roberto. She’d have done anything for him. And she did. She didn’t complain when he’d changed not only her family name but her Christian one as well. His demands for a spotless house and ironed socks had been met with a smile. She’d even signed over her herbal remedy business to him. Three days later, he’d vanished.

After Roberto’s disappearance, Denise tried to get her company back. She deserved what she’d spent her life building; she deserved happiness. Lawyer after lawyer told her, the only option for the former was to remain married and outlive the man who’d turned into a ghost. Until that happened, she couldn’t achieve the latter. It’d been ten-plus years of looking, and he remained little more than a memory.

Off the train with her gym bag flopping against her body, Denise speed-walked through the horizontal rain that’d been pounding the city for days. She stopped short under the scaffolding lining the building next to the yoga studio. There was Ariella stepping away from a sedan. No, not away. She leaned in through the BMW’s open window to kiss her man. His car’s rhythmic wipers revealed a familiar silhouette. Denise had seen them together before. The girl rushed into the studio, and her man stared through Denise before merging into traffic.

“I missed you on the train today.” Denise followed her younger twin to the changing area.

“Robbie made me late, if you know what I mean.” Ariella giggled.

“Ah, so Robbie’s gotten his mojo back?” Denise had heard about the man’s anxiety-caused issues.

“He sold his business this week, so he’s laughing again, chasing me through the apartment.” Ariella twerked.

“Fantastic,” Denise said, and she meant it. “I hope you both get what you deserve. Has Robbie’s sleep improved?”

Ariella rolled her eyes. “No. He’s still getting like two hours a night.”

“Sleep’s a fickle lover once you turn fifty.”

“But he’s only forty-five.”

Denise frowned. Maybe she had it wrong. “You’re so lucky. He’s unmarried and young?”

“He was married once. To Isabel. She died, and he vowed he’d never love again.” Pausing, Ariella lowered her eyes. Reverence over, she added, “Until he met me.”

Ah, Roberto. Once a liar, always a liar, Denise thought, confidence restored.

“You’d mentioned something about the sleep problem before. I brought one of my packets.” The older woman reached into her gym bag, selecting the sachet labeled, “For Sleep.” She’d stowed the same compound in one labeled, “For Love,” just in case.

Ariella took the tissue-wrapped plastic sleeve and discarded the paper. “It’s from Robbie’s company, but the graphics seem off.”

“It’s a little old.” She’d found the label buried in her moving boxes. “It still works. Add the whole packet to his evening tea or whiskey, and he’ll sleep like a baby.”

Exiting the locker room, the two women split in different directions.

Ariella turned. “Aren’t you coming to class?”

“Go ahead. There’s something I must take care of. Buena suerte poniendo a mi esposo a dormir.”

“What was that?”

“I said, ‘Good luck getting your boyfriend to sleep.’” Denise waved her on.

Alone in the corridor, Denise jogged to the front desk to cancel her yoga membership. She didn’t need it anymore.

~ fin ~

julie-hastrup

Julie Hastrup grew up in the Appalachian region of Ohio, but her home now alternates between South Florida and a small fishing village in Denmark called Gilleleje. Her writing pulls from her career running global organizations prior to becoming a full-time writer.