Art slowly opened the door to the house. It was completely dark save for the faint light coming from the kitchen. He slipped off his shoes and made his way towards the light. He rounded the corner and was greeted by the stove light and a digital clock that said “12:15” His dinner was waiting on the island wrapped in cling film, he could see the condensation underneath. Art picked up the plate and eyed its contents. “Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans… You’re too good to me.” He peeled off the film and stuck his dinner in the microwave. He watched the plate spin slowly as his food heated up. The shadows coming from the microwave danced and played on his face as he looked on with weary eyes. He patted his cheeks with his hands. “Come on, stay awake.” With a metallic ding his food was done. He opened the microwave and was treated to a gentle wave of steam and the delicious smells of his wife’s cooking. Just as he was about to claim his amends for a night lost he heard a yawn. Art looked over and saw Vanessa standing in the doorway. She rubbed her eye and sluggishly made her way over to him before taking him into her sleepy embrace. Vanessa rested her chin on his head and rubbed his back.
“Welcome home my love.” Art rested his cheek against her chest and yawned.
“It’s good to be home.” Vanessa took her paw and put her finger under Art’s chin. She lifted his head so their gazes met and looked at the dark circles under his eyes. Vanessa frowned a little and sighed.
“How long until you can stop working late?”
Art shrugged “after this stupid project is done.” Vanessa planted a long kiss on the top of his head.
“Come to bed soon.” Vanessa left the kitchen and slowly ascended the steps leaving Art alone with his meal. He took the plate out of the microwave and walked into the dining room and flicked on the light. He adjusted the dimmer so that the room was filled with a pale glow rather than blinding light. He sat down and started eating. Art always loved dinner, but when he worked late he always hated it. Dinner gave him a chance to catch up with the most important things in his life and when he worked late he missed everything, big and small. He felt alone, a castaway on an island of light surrounded by a sea darkness. The table was usually filled with laughs and conversations but now the only sound was his utensils clanking against his plate. Art finished off the last of his meal and sighed. “It never tastes as good when I’m alone.” He set his plate in the sink and made his way upstairs. He quietly opened the bedroom door and peeled off his suit as he made way towards the bed. He laid down and almost immediately felt Vanessa cuddle up to him. The nice thing about being married to a tiger was that she loved to snuggle. It didn’t matter how long or cold the night was whenever Vanessa had him in her arms they just seemed to fly by. Even though she was incredibly strong Vanessa always treated Art with the utmost care. She squeezed him tight but never tight enough to hurt him. She always said that he was her prized possession and she proved it by holding him like one. There were downsides however, because of her fur it got pretty hot after a while. Art had quite a few memories of waking up drenched in sweat and held in place unable to reach his glass of water. Or the mornings when Vanessa would sometimes roll on top of him and he would be pinned underneath her, unable to go to the bathroom while she chuffed in his ear. Right now Art didn’t care about any of that. Report after report, meeting after meeting and cup of coffee after cup of coffee had taken their toll on him. As soon as Vanessa had him in her arms Art fell asleep.
His alarm came as a rude awakening. Art cracked open his eye and glared at the accursed box. With the palm of his hand he was able to silence it. Art stroked Vanessa’s paw then lifted it off himself. He groggily sat up and stretched out his arms and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He looked down at his feet and sighed. Before he could get out of bed a paw wrapped itself around his waist and pulled him down. Vanessa intertwined her legs with his and laid his head on her paw. She started to massage his scalp with her fingers. Art had lots of weaknesses and paw pads was one of them. The way they squished and molded to his head felt amazing. Art felt his eyelids get heavier and heavier as Vanessa continued to rub away. Before he totally lost conscious he remembered that he had to work today. “Vanessa please, I have to go to work.” Vanessa stayed silent and continued to rub his head, Summoning all of his willpower Art raised his head from Vanessa’s paw and tried to scooch away. He didn’t get far before Vanessa pinned him to the bed with her paw and got on top of him. She rested her head against his chest and hugged him tightly. Art struggled against her grip but found it to be a lost cause. Her warmth and weight combined with his lack of sleep was a killing combination. Art eventually ceased his struggle and dropped his head back on the pillow. Vanessa smiled and nuzzled her face into his chest.
“Text your boss that you’re taking a sick day.” Vanessa allowed Art to slip one of his arms out and grab his phone. He made up a lie about being up all night puking. Art sent the text and slipped his arm back under Vanessa. She hugged him tighter and started to chuff. “Just close your eyes and get some rest.” Art did as she said and fell back asleep almost instantly. Vanessa smiled again and whispered to herself. “You’ll need the energy for later.”