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
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.