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He opens the bedroom door to see a swath of moonlight falling upon her sleeping face. An abandoned book lays upon his pillow, her thumb hugged between the pages. The red numerals on the clock change to 3:00 am. He smiles knowing she had tried to wait up for him again and had failed - again. He quietly undresses then slips between the sheets carefully next to her. He is torn between his need to awaken her and his desire to watch her sleep. Her eyes flutter open to find him studying her. She gives him a sleepy smile before winding her arms around his neck, pulling him to her to kiss him.

"Welcome home Stranger"

Go and close the curtains
cause all we need is candlelight
you and me and a bottle of wine
going to hold you tonight

At times he feels like a visitor in his own home, a temporary spouse and father. He's had this job now for fourteen years. He loves it. He's good at it. The pay is great, but this job comes with a cost. Some would say it's a steep one.

Well we know I'm going away
and how I wish, I wish it weren't so
so take this wine and drink with me
let's delay our misery

He's a Geotechnologist. He works with engineers all over the country, mostly along the western coastline. He stabilizes the soil, waterproofs subways against the relentless assault of groundwater, and shores up the earth around structures making them able to withstand stronger earth tremors. His skills are invaluable to the people who choose to reside in these unstable areas.

There's a log on the fire
and it burns like me for you
tomorrow comes with one desire
to take me away

He performs plastic surgery on the earth, injecting her with chemicals here and there, tightening her up in places. He executes nips and tucks where they will do the most good. Since the Northridge quake, he's been back to LA many times, filling in the lines, smoothing out the cracks, holding the city firm against age. he knows how important his work is. People could die if he were not diligent. He feels the responsibility for these children of the sun.

It ain't easy to say goodbye
Darling please don't start to cry
cause girl you know I got to go
Lord I wish it wasn't so

He lives a lonely life. He has a large trailer that he brings from job to job, more home to him than the one up north with his wife and kids. Some projects last a couple of weeks, others last a few months. If he's lucky, the company will pay for travel home. The present one is allowing flights home every other weekend. The last one did not allow it at all. It was five months before he could reconnect with his family. His youngest son is twelve. He flits in and out of his life as work allows. The couple relishes the brief time they have together, stolen moments throughout the year to carry them to the next moment. It is marriage by piece meal, a series of honeymoons rediscovering each other.

Save tonight
and fight the break of dawn
come tomorrow
tomorrow I'll be gone
(Save Tonight, Eagle Eye Cherry)

He strokes the side of her face before leaning down to kiss her goodbye. It's time for him to catch his plane. She doesn't show sadness at his departure. She leans against the door watching the red lights of his car bouncing down the road until the dots are merely bits of afterimages on her retinas. Their life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. She knows the deal. It's part and parcel of the package. This is the price they pay.

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