When Dreams Come True Part Four

Hi again. Here’s part four. I know I said I’d finish the story today and I beg your forgiveness for not living up to my promise. My only excuse is that my computer is going wonky. Really wonky. Won’t communicate with my printer and when I turn it on I don’t know if it’ll boot up like a nice little computer or whether some strange symbols will appear. My plan is to take it to my favorite guru next week and have him do his magic. Until then, though, I decided to get what I could on this blog so there will at least be another part to the story of Jenna’s waking dream.
So have you ever had a dream while awake? I must admit I have not but I know people who have. They say there’s a difference between a waking dream and a vision. Again, I wouldn’t know because not only do I not have waking dreams, I’m not psychic either. But I know people who are and they are pretty definite about there being a difference.

Florence

PART FOUR

I didn’t wait that long because I couldn’t sleep. By the time the sun’s first rays sliced between those city buildings I’d left a message for work that I’d be taking a week’s vacation. Why not? My boss had nagged me unmercifully about not taking earned vacation time and that house in the forest needed occasional maintenance. It was a slow time at work but the yard to my forest house must be overgrown and the house itself should be aired out. So, taking enough time to stock up on a week’s worth of food at the neighborhood supermarket, I set off.

By the time that sun was peeking between trees instead of skyscrapers, I was almost home. I’d been raised in the city but, though I loved it, people and buildings close together never held the same meaning as the clapboard house in a clearing in the forest that belonged to my childhood.

When I reached that part of the forest that was deep enough that evergreens closed over the road, I took a deep breath and tried to think. I’d come willy-nilly, without a thought beyond finding out why this had happened but I didn’t know what I’d do when I found the object of my search. Whether MaryLynn Abigail Smith and her father would still be at the campground. Whether they’d talk to me if they were. Whether MaryLynn’s father would listen to my story or call the authorities because I was clearly delusional. Which is what I’d thought until seeing MaryLynn on television.

Now, as I turned into the entrance to the campground and slowed and took that deep breath, I didn’t know what to think. What to believe. Because the reality evoked more questions than the dream ever had.

Real morning, daylight and people moving around, arrived at the campground about the same time I did. It was a large place, with several long, winding roads with campsites on either sided. How to find one small girl among the hundreds of families there for the weekend?

A man was filling a water jug at a pump. I decided to ask for help. Maybe he knew about the lost girl. At the least, he could direct me to the campground host. A small girl stood beside the man, jumping impatiently from one foot to the other. There was something familiar about the girl. I looked closer and my breath stopped. It was MaryLynn.

I parked carefully, got out, took more time than necessary to lock it and made no move to approach MaryLynn and her father. What to say? I couldn’t function. I was frozen in place.

Not so MaryLynn. As she jumped from foot to foot, she turned, doing a little dance. Around and around, taking in the trees, the sky, and some birds that had her flapping her arms in imitation of the way they flew. And me. Her jumping stopped. Her eyes went wide. Her arms fell to her side, and then lifted as she moved once again.

“You came. They said you wouldn’t but I said you would.” The next thing I knew I was struggling to keep my footing as a very small girl plowed into me with the force of a runaway train. “What took you so long?” And I found my waist enfolded in a passionate embrace as that was as high as she could reach, her head buried in my tee shirt.

I looked over her head to the man who’d followed and was now carrying a jug of water as he stared at MaryLynn and me as if considering a riddle he couldn’t solve. Or didn’t want to.

I wished I’d chosen my clothes more carefully that morning. Something flattering rather than the first thing I found. Wished I’d spent time on my hair instead of tying it back in a ponytail. Wished he wouldn’t stare at me.

“You’re MaryLynn’s angel.”

I nodded mutely as I struggled to find my voice. “I’m not an angel.”

“Of course you aren’t. But you saved my daughter. You found her in the forest and brought her to me.” I said nothing, did nothing beyond hugging MaryLynn. “And then you left.” Our eyes met over MaryLynn. “Why? Why’d you leave her? Why didn’t you come to the campground?”

What to say? I took a deep breath as MaryLynn’s grip on my waist lessened and she tipped her head back so as to see my answer. “It’s a long story.”

He pursed his lips, and then looked around. In the short time since MaryLynn saw me, we’d attracted a small amount of attention. Several people watched curiously. Surely everyone in the campground knew the story of the little girl who was lost and brought back by someone she called an angel. Here she was now, hugging a strange woman. They smelled a story and moved closer to overhear our conversation.

MaryLynn’s father took in the onlookers with a sweeping gaze. “Come on. This isn’t the place to talk. Our tent isn’t large but it’s private.” Not wanting to become the object of stares any more than he did, I nodded and, unclasping MaryLynn’s hands from my waist and taking them in mine, I followed him to a green tent not far away. He opened the flap and we all crawled inside.

“Now what’s this all about?” Something about me bothered him. He didn’t trust me as his daughter did. I took a deep breath and decided I wouldn’t trust me either if my daughter had been lost and found by a disappearing angel. “Are you hiding from the law? Because if you are, I won’t turn you in. You saved my daughter… “He thought I was a criminal? The idea was so absurd that I laughed and he stopped mid-sentence. “Not that? You aren’t wanted for some crime? Then what? Why bring MaryLynn to safety then leave the instant you knew she’d be found by searchers.”

The laughter died in my throat. It was time for honesty. But where to start? I didn’t know so I just jumped in. “Because I wasn’t there.” He blinked and waited for me to clarify a clear untruth. “Not really. Not in the flesh.”

“Not there?” His eyes narrowed as his suspicion grew. “You talked with her, you showed her the way back to the campground. She saw you, she recognized you just now. But you weren’t there.” He made a guttural sound, the kind a father might make when defending his family.

My head dropped. I couldn’t meet that distrust any longer. “I can’t explain it any more than you can. All I know is that I was in the park across from my apartment in the city watching a baseball game when I had a dream.” I peeked at him. He was still angry, believing I was deceiving him somehow, but he was listening. “A dream while I was wide awake and MaryLynn was in that dream and she was lost in the woods where I’d played as a child and I knew I had to help her.”

He leaned back and placed his hands on his knees, examining me with a look that bored through me. I shivered beneath the force of that look but didn’t back down. “It’s the truth.”

Silence filled the small tent along with the first cracks in a disbelief that was pushing against me. It was too small a tent for anyone to stand in and we three were huddled close to each other, MaryLynn between us, holding hands with us. I let my gaze drift, waiting for more cracks to appear in that disbelief. Shadows of people moved past as the campground came to life and as news of the appearance of MaryLynn’s angel spread and everyone wanted to know what was happening.

MaryLynn’s father examined the shadows. “What say we go somewhere else? We can talk over breakfast.”

I almost cheered because the disbelief had lessened enough to allow normal human interaction between us. “We can go to my house.”

“You live nearby?” The eyes narrowed again, distrust returning full force. I’d just told him about my apartment in the city.

“I live in the city but when my parents retired instead of selling their house they gave it to me. Because houses in the forest don’t sell for much and I always loved it there.” I gave one last try at changing how he felt about me. “MaryLynn was less than a hundred yards from where I grew up.”

It worked. The disbelief disappeared or was temporarily suspended. “Okay.”

He led the way to a car loaded with gear. They’d been preparing to leave. If I’d been much later arriving, I’d have missed them. “Follow me.” He said he could shove some things aside to make room for me in their car but I had food in mine that should be refrigerated so he finally agreed to follow me to my forest home. “We can have breakfast there.” He didn’t care about breakfast. “When we’re done I’ll show you where MaryLynn was when she was lost.” That did it. He couldn’t wait to see where his daughter had been when he’d been frantically looking for her.

When Dreams Come True… Part Three

Well, here’s part three of my latest contemporary romance with a gothic feel. At least I hope it has that gothic aura. Let me know whether you think I’ve got that right.

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE
PART THREE

As we walked, I glanced at the sky and concern wormed through me. It was growing late. Late in the park across from my apartment and late in my dream, but dark would come in completely different ways in each place. In the park it would come peacefully, slowly, settling across the city landscape like a filmy shawl on trees and buildings alike, with a softness that was barely noticed. Not so in the forest. There it would drop with a suddenness that could leave unwary hikers breathless and panicky if they were in unfamiliar surroundings.

I wished fervently that this particular dream would become more dreamlike because in normal dreams time was elastic and days never ended and night might not fall. But even as MaryLynn and I walked I knew that wouldn’t be the case in this particular dream. Because this dream was different. It was almost real. No almost, it was real No, of course it wasn’t, how could I have thought it was? Dreams aren’t reality.

I didn’t want even a dream child to become frightened if dark came before we reached the campground. I moved our pace up a notch but the dream sun was dropping quickly and I became concerned that we might have to spend the night out of doors.

Then we heard someone calling. “MaryLynn.” Loud. Over and over.

I heard other voices calling too, different voices, some male, some female, some old, some young, and they were all calling the same name. “MaryLynn Abigail Smith.”

“That’s me.” China blue eyes grew large. “That’s my name.”

Something in me relaxed, a clutch of fear let go and I knew that everything would turn out right. This one small child would be reunited with her father. “I think they are looking for you.” We’d heard many voices. Many people had been searching. “We are almost at the campground.”

“Will my daddy be there?”

“I’m sure he will be.”

Then something happened. The dream changed. Became a dream like other dreams, no more and no less real than any other I’d dreamt while in bed at night. The trees, the little girl, everything became insubstantial.

I tried to hang on to it and failed. “Go to the voices,” I told MaryLynn almost in panic. “And let them know where you are.” What if the dream disappeared before they found her?

“What did you say?” She turned towards me, frowning. “I can’t hear you.” Her eyes went wide. “You’re fading.” She held my hand harder. “Don’t go. I need you. I’m afraid.”

“You’ll be all right.” The dream was disappearing along with Marylynn Abigail Smith. Evaporating. Panic curled through me. I spoke quickly, wanting to scream, not daring because I didn’t want to frighten her. “People are near, MaryLynn. Call out really loud so they can hear you. Yell. Scream. Someone will come.”

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, she was gone. The dream was gone. The deserted park that had recently been alive with people and a baseball game now was all that filled my field of vision. It was my whole world, my only world, while the dream that had seemed so real was gone.

I was so wrung out that I wasn’t sure I could move. But I did. Had to. I was alone in the park. Somehow I rose, picked up my blanket and the basket that still held pop and potato chips, and walked across the park to my apartment, where I put them away without conscious thought. Then I picked up my shopping list to head for the grocery store. Then I put it down, knowing I wasn’t up to driving anywhere, let alone pushing a cart up and down aisles and choosing what to purchase. Not today. Not tonight.

I dropped onto the couch and stared at the wall. Hours later I ate a can of soup right from the can then undressed and crawled into bed. The last thing I thought as sleep swept over me was that I didn’t want to dream. I’d had enough of dreams. I wanted a solid night’s sleep. Needed it. Deserved it.

And got it for most of the night. Only as that predawn dark began to fade to light did a dream come and then not the usual sort of dream.

Just a picture. A snapshot in time without movement or meaning but it pulled me to a sitting position and full wakefulness in an instant. Because MaryLynn Abigail Smith was in that snapshot, in a room in a house. We were side by side in that room looking out a large window at a yard not in that time of year between winter and spring, when fingers of snow still reign wherever the sun can’t reach while grass is turning green every place the sun shines. I knew well how those fingers of snow would grow smaller as the days warmed, could mentally picture the advance of green and the disappearance of white in that yard.

It was my yard. The yard of my childhood home in the forest not far from where I’d found MaryLynn Abigail Smith and I was seeing it as in a snapshot of the living room in which two people were standing, one small child and one woman. Me. As I wondered what was happening, why I was seeing this picture now, in the morning, after my strange dream had come and gone, the picture suddenly grew clearer in my mind, the way pictures do as the come into focus. And I realized something. In that snapshot… that imaginary picture… I was not only standing in front of a window with MaryLynn… I was pregnant.

I was out of bed in an instant, pulled by shock and some deeper emotion I couldn’t identify, dressed and pacing the floor, five steps one way, then five steps back, trying to make sense of what had just happened but nothing came of it, and all I got for my troubles was a headache. So I made a pot of strong coffee and turned on the TV to watch the early, early morning news from my couch, which is just a replay of the news of the previous evening because the morning TV crew hasn’t arrived at work yet. The news I hadn’t watched with the rest of the world in the evening because I’d been staring at a blank wall trying to make sense of a very strange day.

The announcer was interviewing a man against a background of trees. I recognized the campground near my childhood home, the home I’d just seen in snapshot mode that had brought me awake long before my usual time. “We hear she was headed straight to the campground when she was found. Is that right?”

“Another hundred feet and she’d have walked right into our campsite.” It was a pleasant, masculine voice and the owner was a man of a little more than average height who was perhaps a few years my senior. His hair was blonde, the same shade as the little girl’s hair in my dream.

“What a fortunate coincidence.”

There was a hesitation in the man’s voice. “Not according to MaryLynn.” My breath stopped and every cell in my body froze as I heard the little girl’s name. “She said someone showed her the way. Brought her almost the whole distance.”

“But this person didn’t stick around?” Skepticism was clear in the interviewer’s voice.

“I’m sure it wasn’t a real person.” Another hesitation but the interviewer was waiting and he had to say something. “She said it was an angel.”

I could almost hear the interviewer deciding how to proceed. “That’s very interesting.” A pause as he thought some more. “Would you mind if I speak with your daughter? Perhaps she can describe this angel. This person.”

The man nodded, then there were rustling sounds as someone moved away from the microphone. I heard people talking far enough away that I couldn’t understand the words, then the father returned and, after clearing his throat, said, “This is my daughter. MaryLynn Abigail Smith.” And the little girl of my dream and this morning’s mental snapshot stepped into range of the camera and soon was describing a nice lady who showed her the way back to the campground. A lady with brown hair and blue eyes.

Me. She described me perfectly. “But she didn’t bring me all the way. She told me to yell really loud, then she disappeared.”

“Into the woods?”

“No. She sort of faded.” MaryLynn looked at her father. “That’s how I knew she was an angel.”

I forgot my coffee, forgot the apartment and the wall I’d stared at so long the evening before. Because a plan was forming in my mind and it blocked everything else from my mind. As soon as the sun crested the city buildings and turned my apartment and the world daylight bright, I’d be in my car and heading back to that forest I’d been raised in where a clapboard house that I still owned overlooked a small yard where every spring fingers of snow were gradually replaced with green grass.

When Dreams Come True, Part Two

It’s been an interesting week. Everyone has the flu except me, so I’ve been chief cook and bottle washer and nurse for a couple of guys who think it’s unmanly to admit to not feeling well. So I’ve not been much of a romance writer the last few days while the wilderness outside beckoned. I’m glad I already had part two of my short contemporary romance, When Dreams Come True, all ready to go. So here it is, and expect Part Three on or about next Friday:

When Dreams Come True
Part Two

I chose to return to the dream, even as another person joined the small group around me. All I could do was hope they’d believe my story about a headache and leave me alone.

With my eyes wide open and staring at the people before me, I returned to my dream and a little girl who was a figment of my imagination but who seemed so real.

My dream self grabbed her hand hard while the real me said, in what I imagined was a defiant voice, “A migraine,” to the people in the park. A woman, the newcomer, asked if I wanted some medication. She suffered from migraines, she knew how bad they could be and she always carried medicine with her. I shook my head and said I’d be okay, I just needed quiet for a moment. For a moment, I thought it wouldn’t work, that they’d call someone, stop the game, dial 911. But the woman who suffered from migraines made shushing motions with one hand and they seemed to get the message. They left me alone. They moved on.

With a sigh of relief, I leaned close to the little girl. No matter that this was a dream, she was so frightened that I felt compelled to reassure her. “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

“I wasn’t sure.” Her voice was tiny and afraid. “You got light and fuzzy, I could hardly see you. I thought you were going away.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Not until we find your daddy.”

She smiled and took my hand and hers was warm and grubby and solid. Looking at her was seeing the sun burst above the trees on a beautiful morning. I took a deep breath and looked through her to the baseball game and then back at the forest clearing, and I made a decision. I would forget the people in the park. And the baseball game. I would ignore anyone staring at me. Let them come, let them stare, let them think I was having a migraine. They weren’t important any longer. All that mattered was the frightened little girl in my dream who was growing more real with every passing second.

In some remote corner of my mind, I knew I’d have to eventually deal with whatever was happening to me. I’d have to deal with a lot of things. The fact that the baseball game was real and the little girl wasn’t. That this was the weirdest thing that had ever happened to me. That I’d carry what was happening to me to my grave because I’d never, never dare tell anyone lest they call a psychiatrist.

But I’d made my decision. Taking away the fear in those china blue eyes was the most important thing that had happened to me in a long time. I would not leave this lovely dream child alone and afraid in a place where I’d played happily years earlier. I wouldn’t.

I knew the area well and everything in my dream was where it was in real life. The spring wasn’t far from the bluestem patch, and the spring was where we’d find water. So, hand in hand, we walked until we reached the boulder that formed a basin for an almost unnoticeable flow of water from a moss-covered hillside. When I’d showed my secret place to my uncle, he’d explained the mechanics of water dripping on stone. I’d told him he was wrong and that a fairy had made the basin just for me. He’d thought a moment, then gravely acknowledged his mistake.

“See?” My dream self pointed to the boulder. “It’s a fairy kitchen, and there’s the sink.”

She believed me totally. “I suppose I should wash before I have a drink. My daddy likes me to stay clean.”

I eyed the trickle of water filling the basin. If she washed first, it would take the better part of an hour for the basin to refill with clean, drinkable water. “Seeing as you’re quite thirsty, perhaps this one time it’ll be it’ll be okay if you drink first and wash afterwards.”

“Think so?” When I nodded, her face plunged into the basin and didn’t come up until most of the water was gone.

“There’s enough left to wash with.” She scrubbed at her face until it wasn’t quite as dirty as it had been, then wiped it with a shirt that put enough dirt back on it that there wasn’t much difference. But she couldn’t see herself. “You look fine.”

“Now can we find my daddy?”

I nodded and we set off through the ghostly Jackpine forest that didn’t block out the end of the baseball game. As the little girl and I followed a deer trail that had been there since forever, I watched the park emptying of people. My cousin started towards me and I worried what I’d do when he came close because I didn’t want the little girl to become frightened once more if my dream image blurred, but someone stopped him before he reached me and said something. Probably explained that I had a migraine. I waved a hand and he nodded that he understood and eventually he left.

The park was now empty. I could concentrate totally on the dream and the child I’d promised to take to her father. I leaned back against the tree and closed my eyes. The feel of the rough bark disappeared as the Jackpine forest of my childhood became even more real with no baseball game and no park to compete for it in my mind.

The bluestem patch and the cool spring water and the campground we were heading for were as real and as familiar as the park and the baseball game and I could touch out and feel the prickles of the Jackpine needles. But they weren’t real, I knew that, so as the little girl and I walked I kept reminding myself that this was a dream and I was leading a dream child to a dream father. By now I was determined to see the dream to its conclusion even as I feared becoming trapped in some imaginary world. I knew nothing about dreams, didn’t know if I could become so lost in my dream that I’d not be able to find my way home.

Still, I couldn’t leave the little girl alone. I couldn’t. So, taking a deep breath, I deliberately left the real world, the world I knew, the world that consisted of the park across from my apartment and stepped completely into the dream world that was rapidly becoming as real as the real one. Then I took hold of MaryLynn Abigail Smith’s hand, and began leading her to a campground that wasn’t all that far away in the forest of my dream, a campground where I hoped we’d find her father.

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE Part One

Here’s part one of a continuing story as I promised. Part two will be published on or about next Friday, May 11. I hope you enjoy the entire story.
Florence Witkop (contemporary romance with a gothic feel)

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE
by
Florence Witkop

PART ONE

I had the dream while wide awake. Sitting on the grass in the park across from my apartment watching my cousin handle first base with his usual finesse, putting runners out with ease while I yelled encouragement. Yelled instead of playing because I can’t catch a ball if someone hands one to me. But I can cheer with the best of them, so that’s what I do. It’s what I do every Saturday, every summer.

My normal routine is to show up shortly after noon and lay out a blanket on the sidelines, then hand out pop and potato chips to any kid who happens to be passing by even while I yell encouragement to my cousin and the rest of the team. By the time the game is done and I wrap up the blanket and head off to do my week’s grocery shopping, I’m hoarse and the neighborhood kids are so full of pop and potato chips that they don’t eat dinner and I hear about it later from their parents. I am definitely not popular with parents on Saturday nights.

So that’s my usual Saturday schedule. That afternoon was no different at first, just another afternoon at the ball game. Until it suddenly got weird.

As my cousin Joe prepared to tag still another runner out and I opened my mouth to let out my usual scream of triumph, a picture flashed before my eyes that was so vivid, so real, that the sound died unuttered and all I could do was sit there with my mouth frozen in a cheer that never materialized as a scene appeared before my eyes that was every bit as real as the park, as solid as the blanket beneath me. A scene as familiar to me as the dogs and kids and parents who were yelling and screaming even as I went mute but that couldn’t possibly be real because it belonged two hours away in the wilderness where I grew up.

It wasn’t real, of course and I knew that. It couldn’t be because it wasn’t blocking out the baseball game, rather it was superimposed upon it, a ghost image with colors that were vivid and true to the colors I knew belonged in that place.

It wasn’t real. Didn’t matter that I could see it as clearly as the baseball game beyond. Couldn’t be, though I could actually feel the tall bluestem grass of my childhood waving about my body as a gentle breeze moved through it. Bluestem doesn’t grow in the park and there was no breeze to cool the baseball players. I knew that, knew I shouldn’t feel it. There was a breeze, though, in that clearing, slipping through a clearing I loved so long ago surrounded by the Jackpine trees of my childhood home in the forest and I felt it and was grateful for the way it cooled my heated skin because it was a hot day, too hot, really, for baseball.

I stared at the mirage, willing it to disappear but it didn’t and the more I looked, the more I realized I knew those trees as well as I knew my own name. I saw them so clearly that I felt I could reach out and run my hands over the bluestem even as I also saw the game with my cousin on first base.

I knew it wasn’t real. I knew that if I reached out my fingers would touch nothing. Which meant it was a dream.

I’d heard of people having dreams while wide awake though it had never happened to me. But that had to be what I was experiencing. There was no other explanation. The trees, weeds, wind, all of it, even the little girl in the middle of that clearing surrounded by bluestem taller than she was and sobbing her heart out was nothing more than a dream. It wasn’t real. She wasn’t real. Couldn’t be.

She seemed real, though.. Four or five years old, with blond braids, tear-filled eyes, a dirty face with tear streaks that were the only clean part of her face, and a voice as frightened as the eyes, small and hoarse from much calling for help said, “Please…”

That’s when I realized there was a second person in the dream. Me. I, too, was in the dream. Near the little girl, standing in that bluestem field, looking down at her. Holding out a hand because she was frightened and needed reassurance. My dream self said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Her breath stopped. Her eyes grew large and round as she stared at me. “Who are you? Where’d you come from? You weren’t here before.”

Where indeed? But this was a dream and dreams by their very nature are strange and therefore don’t need explaining. So my dream self merely smiled and said, “Who are you? I don’t believe we’ve met.”

That stopped her. “MaryLynn Abigail Smith.” Recited so carefully I knew someone had coached her.

“Okay.” I smiled widely to reassure her and some of the terror in her eyes retreated. It was still there but in abeyance. A good start, my dream self thought. “And what are you doing here?”

The terror started to return so I squeezed her hand tight and it helped somewhat. But I’d have dropped her hand at her next words if she hadn’t been holding so hard. “I’m lost.”

“Lost?” My dream self looked around. “You’re not lost. You’re in the bluestem field. I used to play here when I was your age.”

She licked her lips. “I don’t like it here.”

Our eyes locked. This small child was terrified in a place I’d loved when I was young. “Nothing will hurt you here. It’s a good place.”

She shook her head hard. “I don’t like it. I want to go home. I want my daddy.”

I knelt before her. “Where is your daddy?”

“I don’t know.” The words were so soft I could barely make them out. “I looked and looked but I can’t find him.”

Okay. Now I knew what had happened. The clearing with the bluestem field was near a campground where families often spent a weekend. “You were camping with your family and got lost?”

“With my daddy.” My dream self waited until she continued. “I saw a butterfly and wanted it.”

I hugged her, dirt and all, pulling her small body against mine. The dream was so real that even as I watched my cousin put still another runner out on first base in the park I felt the warmth of her small dream body against mine and the beat of her heart as the sun beat down on us in that patch of bluestem in the forest clearing. “I used to chase butterflies when I was a kid. I caught some.”

She examined me. “Did you keep them?”

“Once I got them I didn’t know what to do with them so I let them go.”

“If I’d have got it I’d have let it go too.”

“Was it hard to catch? Did you chase it very far?”

“I chased it a long ways. I almost got it. Then it flew too high so I wanted to go back but I couldn’t find the way.”

“It’s not far.” I stood up, still holding her hand. “I’ll show you.”

She rubbed a dirty cheek. “Will you?”

I considered her. “When did you see the butterfly? After lunch?”

Her head shook, braids flying. “Breakfast. It was after breakfast.”

I tried to hide a quick inrush of breath. It was now late afternoon and she’d been lost since some time in the morning. “Maybe first you’d like something to drink. And to wash.”

“Do you have pop?”

“No but I know where there’s a spring that has the best, coldest water anywhere. And you can wash your face there but it’ll be with cold water.”

“No pop?” I shook my head. That is, my dream self shook her head. “I suppose cold water will be okay. My daddy likes me clean.”

The dream was becoming so real I was losing awareness of the park and the baseball game. “Then let’s head for the spring.”

A sound brought me away from the dream. Several people were staring at me strangely. One of them had asked a question. I focused. “Are you okay?” I said I was but even to me my voiced sounded wrong. “I have a headache.” Better than telling them what was really happening to me.

“Don’t go! Please stay with me!” The little girl’s terrified voice pulled me back into the dream. I felt dizzy and had to concentrate on her voice. “You came back. I’m so glad. You were going away and I thought I’d lost you like I lost my daddy.”

I wanted to answer, to tell her not to be afraid. To tell her I’d stay with her. But people were looking at me. People I knew. People who would do something if I didn’t snap out of it and pay attention to them.

What to do?