I wait, listening for your footfalls, heavy, weary from your work. The sun will rise soon. I have readied the water; warm for your bath, cold for your clothing.
The latch clicks, then the floorboards protest in solemn rhythm as you enter our home. Even in the sickly predawn light, I see the bow of your shoulders and the way you hold your bag away from your body as if displeased by its contents.
I come to you, taking your bag and tucking it in the cupboard. You shrug out of your clothing, leaving it heaped on the kitchen floor. You sink into your bath, eyes closed, breathing slowly. You are at peace; your work is done for now.
I take your clothes and force them into the cold water, feeling warmth flee from them as I press them down again and again. More soap, more water. Your clothes are never easy to clean, my love. Some stains never fade.
When you have washed, you say your prayers and go to bed alone as I empty your bath and return to my task.
More soap, more water. Who was it tonight, my love? I never ask, but the question hangs in the air. It is your cross to bear, your god to appease. Some days it seems you are a shell of pain and honor, doing what must be done yet no one else will do.
The water grows darker around my hands, and by the time the sun stabs through our thin curtains, it is as red and gleaming.
I fling the water away and slip into bed to lay beside you. Your breath is steady. No nightmares haunt your sleep. I lay my head on your shoulder and dream of soap, screams and red, red water.