She was crying, not fiercely but persistently. Alex’s chest ached in sympathy but his eyes were dry. There was a honey-colored window over the front door and it flooded the parlor where they sat with light the color of strong tea.

“What do you want me to do?” It was a complaint but Alex’s voice was soft. “I’ve already woken up a couple of times.”

“Just go away,” she said, “damn you. It doesn’t matter.”

“It really doesn’t,” he told her. “Matter, I mean. None of this is real.”

She didn’t say anything, just kept crying. She had a heart-shaped face framed by the hair that swung down by the point of her jaw. She might have been his sister; their faces were similar. He let her cry, fascinated by the light caught in her hair. It was patient crying; not stormy. I am crying, she seemed to say, not because the pain is great but because there is nothing else to do.

The light never changed, and he never moved, just sat there with the woman who might have been his sister, watching her cry, waiting for the end.