The confetti was still falling when the local news broadcast cut in. Ann pressed the "mute" button on the remote control.
"Well, kiddo," said Mitt, patting Ann's knee as he rose from the couch, "I guess that's all she wrote."
"Mmm," Ann said distractedly. She continued to watch the newscasters as they performed their silent pantomime of the day's news.
"Heyyy, whatsamatta, you?" Mitt said. "Those jokers aren't in it to win it. This one's for all the marbles, and, uh, heh, I think they might have lost a few of theirs. This puppy is ours to lose" He let out a soft laugh and then chucked Ann's chin. She winced.
Mitt stretched and yawned theatrically. "Think I might turn in. I've got an appointment with Mr. Sandman, and he doesn't take kindly to me being late." He began to walk toward the stairs.
He paused and turned back to look at her.
"It's–." Her throat caught on something. "I love you."
"You're not too shabby yourself, mon cherie. Love ya, and no one else above ya," Mitt said, grinning. He made a little pistol with his fingers and mimed shooting it at her as he winked. He mounted the stairs. She could hear him whistling "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" as he plodded around upstairs. She continued to watch the newscasters, losing herself in the soundless movement of their lips and, as her gaze began to lose its focus, the swirl of shapeless colors on the screen.
Her mind drifted back to an autumn morning many, many years ago, when she was just a girl. Mist clung stubbornly to the valleys, glowing gold with morning light. She stood ruddy-cheeked and muddy-booted before Augustus, her first horse. She gingerly brushed his forelock with her fingertips, but he twisted his head away, stamping his foot. He snorted and then sharply exhaled twin plumes of visible breath from his flared nostrils. She leaned in, closing her eyes and touching her forehead to his muzzle. He relented, moved into her. She could feel the throb of his pulse against her forehead. She patted his cheek. His hot breath tickled the inside of her forearm.
Minutes later, Augustus was carrying her at a full gallop across the tussocky plain. The wind whipped across her ears, a living silence. Augustus' hooves thumped rhythmically over the yellowing ground, flinging up a chaos of grass, weeds, and mud. Ann closed her eyes and drew in closer to Augustus. She was free.
"Ready, Freddy?" Mitt broke through her reverie. He was wearing his favorite set of pajamas: the striped button-up pair with 'WMR' stitched on the breast. She could faintly discern the outline of his temple garments underneath. "Last train to Tempurpedic Station. All aboard!"
Ann stood up, turned off the TV. Just as Mitt turned to walk back up the stairs, she caught him in an embrace.
"Hey, what's the big idea?" he said. Ann began to cry softly. Startled, Mitt began to stiffly stroke her hair. "Heyyy, honeybunch. It's not as bad as all that!" Ann looked up at him.
"Can you– Can you sing me a lullaby?" she said.
"Aaammeeerrriiica, the beeaauuuutiful," Mitt began in an unsteady warble. Ann buried her head into his chest.