Everett absently coaxed already blazing flames with a fireplace poker, getting angrier with every poke until there were glowing embers fluttering up. He stood up. “What is going on down there?” He resumed pacing. “Is that a sound?” He stopped pacing. He listened. “No, it is nothing.” He took a step, then another, until he might be called marching by more militarily inclined members of society than he. Hardly military issue, flop, flop, flop went slippered feet on hard wood.
“Perhaps Laura is unsure whether it is warm enough. I have made a bridal chamber as comfortable as anyone could desire. Clean sheets, pleasant aroma, a suitably warm fire.” Everett’s absentmindedly held fireplace poker pointed in fitting directions as he thought of each. “There is nothing here worthy of reproach! Laura couldn’t possibly be that picky!” He stood indignant, arms folded. “No, that cannot be it. My bride isn’t that kind of woman. Laura must have some other reason to tarry downstairs.” He paced some more.
“It is strange that a newly married wife should take so very long to join a newly married husband in a newly married bedchamber, right? What on earth is taking so long? It is true that we hardly knew each other before marriage. Could it be that Laura doesn’t like me?” He paused. “PISH,” drawing a diagonal line on nothingness with venerable aforementioned fireplace poker; “POSH,” he drew a second, intersecting line to complete an X. “Laura would never have gone through with marriage if that were true.”
Everett went to a mirror to examine himself, almost to reassure himself. Clad in a nightshirt, he thought he looked decidedly unmanly, even with reliably present fireplace poker held as a sword. Somewhat narrow shoulders, gangly arms, spindly neck, a face appearing older than it should. He felt a little stubble. He last shaved this morning. He waved a hand with loyal fire poker, accidentally jostling a light fixture. “No matter. Laura doesn’t care about such trifles.” He resumed patrolling.
“So, what then? Perhaps Laura is afraid.” Three words shouted at Everett: “I am afraid.” He stopped pacing a moment. “I have never done this before either. I hope I know what to do. I hope I don’t make a complete fool of myself.” He sighed. “People have been facing this exact dilemma as long as humans have existed. Countless ancestors have managed. I’m sure it is fairly self-explanatory. We shall learn together.”
He resumed walking, hands clasped behind back, dearest friend fireplace poker still dependably in hand. Everett’s pace slowed as a little self-confidence escaped with every step. He stopped again, no longer angry. Instead, full of self-doubt. Suddenly, he hoped that Laura would take forever to come upstairs, “Until tomorrow morning at least.” At that same moment, he heard timid, unmistakably female footsteps coming up from below.