Here’s the end of When Dreams Come True. I plan to go over it and make any changes I think will enhance the story, then I’ll put it for sale on Amazon and Smashwords and a few other places. So if you like it and want to save it without having to pay anything, this mght be a good time to print it out.
I hope you like this story. Please let me know what you think. Don’t worry about my feelings, I can take it!
I apologized as I led them across a yard already giving way to the encroaching wilderness. “I don’t come here often enough. The grass is way too high and the house needs attention. I’ll get around to it.”
“It’s a lovely place,” was Jay’s reply. “I took my new job just so I could raise MaryLynn away from the city.” That low chuckle I’d come to recognize joined with the song of a nearby bird to create a two-tone melody. “This place is as far as it’s possible to get from civilization and still let us live a normal life.”
“You sound like my parents. My dad had a long commute to his job but he thought it was worth it.”
We reached the edge of the clearing and plunged into the forest, cool and distant from the sunshiny day, filled with slanting green light and patches of silence and woodland birdsong, a hushed sound, lower than the melody we’d left in the yard. It’s like that in the woods, quiet and serene. I paused, searching for remnants of the path I’d used so many years earlier. I was surprised to find it as well trod as the last time I’d walked to my rock water fountain. Close inspection showed that deer had been using it, keeping it clear. I mentally thanked them as we set off to retrace MaryLynn’s scary adventure and my dream.
When we reached the rock fountain, MaryLynn took a long drink from it, then Jay, then I sipped what was left, after which he took his daughter’s hand and began a seemingly casual examination of the spot. There was intent behind his action. He wanted MaryLynn to face and overcome her fear of the forest, most particularly the places that had frightened her. She glanced back at me and, in that subliminal communication that had developed between us without me even realizing it had happened, I knew she wanted me to take her other hand and complete the circle of protection that kept her safe in this place where she’d taken that first step away from fear and towards her father. I’d done so in our dream, she wanted it again. I took her other hand and Jay’s brief nod told me he understood and approved.
The rock water fountain was the start of a journey that slowly acquainted MaryLynn with all the places I’d played as a little girl, more than she’d visited in the dream. Many more. By the time our stomachs told us it was time for lunch, she could make her way with confidence from the house to the rock water fountain and back.
She could also unerringly find the hole in the ground that some winters served as a home for a fox. Other years a rabbit or a badger used it, but each spring when I checked it, there were signs of recent use and this year was no exception. MaryLynn declared that a rabbit had over-wintered there, holding up a piece of fur as proof.
Soon she also knew how to get to the campground though we didn’t go the whole distance, preferring instead to stand on a hill I knew about and watch the goings-on below. “There’s our camp,” she said, pointing, and she was right, she’d picked out the spot from which she’d wandered. Her finger moved. “Someone else is there now. And that’s where I saw the butterfly.” That had started her on her journey through the forest.
The movement of tiny wings caught our attention. “There it is,” she cried. “My butterfly. It knows me.” Jay suggested it might want to stay in the forest instead of being captured to live out its life in a jar. Her lower lip stuck out. “I guess so.” Then she brightened. “It’ll be here every time we come.” An earnest face turned to her father. “We must get this site every time. Every single time. So I can visit the butterfly because we’re friends.” She delivered the final argument. “I won’t get lost again because I know all the paths now. I can visit my friend and follow him to Jenna’s house and still get back to our camp.”
Jay’s expression said his plan had worked. MaryLynn was no longer afraif of the forest. But later, as we ate sandwiches on the porch of the clapboard house, he added wryly, “I’ll have to tie her to a tree, I think, every time we come camping or she’ll be at your house.”
“No problem. She can visit my house all she wishes.” The wind ruffled the too-tall grass and weeds that was now my yard. “And if you’re okay with me coming with my daughter, I’ll cut the grass. That way you won’t have to make so many trips and the yard will be kept up.”
I remembered something he’d said when we first met and an idea began wending its way through my mind. “You said you’re looking for a place to rent?” He nodded. “What about this house?”
He looked about longingly. “I doubt I can afford a place of this size.”
“I guarantee that you can.” I took a deep breath and plunged into the plan that had come to me moments earlier, as I’d taken in the tire swing that needed a little girl and the sagging porch that needed a man with muscles a hammer and some nails. Looking at Jay, I suspected he had both. No question about the muscles and there were tools in the shed if he didn’t already have them. “If you’re willing to take care of the house as well as the yard, that’ll be all the rent I’ll ask.” As easily as that, it was a done deal and I reveled in the fact that I’d no longer have to give up my vacation time to cut grass and scrape peeling paint.
He had another thought. “Please check up every so often to see how we’re doing. Besides, MaryLynn would love to have you visit.” The wind filled the following pause and forced me to pull hair from my mouth, something that made Jay grin even though he tried to hide the fact that he found my errant hair amusing. “So would I like to see you.” He cleared his throat as if it was hard to say that last. “Visit, I mean. To see if my work is up to your standards.”
“They will be.” It was a simple exchange of conversation but I turned away to hide a flushed face. Jay Smith was getting to me, no doubt about it.
After that I lived two lives. One in the city, filled with work and friends. But I no longer spent my Saturdays in the park watching my cousin strike out almost every batter who came to the plate. Instead, come Saturday morning, I found myself swept back in time to when I’d been a forest dweller. Strange how a love of the wilderness never leaves a person. How absence makes the return sharper, more emotional, more satisfying and leaving you wanting more.
Without realizing how or even precisely when it happened, perhaps because of that homesickness for the forest, I found myself staying overnight in the guest bedroom when I visited because the room I’d had a little girl was now MaryLynn’s and my parents’ bedroom was occupied by a man I came to respect more and more as the summer drew to a close and autumn turned the few hardwood trees and low-lying bushes bright colors against a luxurious backdrop of evergreens.
MaryLynn and I sat on the window seat, looking out at the colors. “This winter you’ll be able to see a lot more than now because everything that’s now colored will fall and disappear. Only the evergreens will still be green and full.” She thought that was interesting, which led to a discussion of Christmas trees. She wanted to know what kind of tree I’d had as a child. She was used to artificial ones. I explained, “We always took a trip through the woods until we found the perfect tree, then my dad cut it and we all decorated it. After Christmas, we put food for the birds on it and set it on one side of the yard.” I pointed to the spot, which was visible from the window seat.
So we all went in search of a tree. When we returned, Jay dragging a tree behind him, MaryLynn thought it was the most beautiful tree ever. Jay wasn’t so enchanted. “A bit thin don’t you think?” he whispered to me.
“It’s a wild tree. If you want thick branches, get one from a lot in town.”
“I don’t want a tree from town. I’m a resident of the wilderness now, I do things the wilderness way even if that means a Christmas tree that’s a bit thin.” He put the tree from him and examined it. “Lots of ornaments should help.”
I liked the way his eyebrows quirked, one up, one down, as he figured out how to make this tree look like the ones MaryLynn was used to. “There are boxes and boxes of ornaments in the attic.”
“So that’s what you did as a kid? Used a lot of ornaments?”
“Tons of them.”
I spent Christmas with MaryLynn and Jay. It was a quiet, relaxed day and we finished it off with hot chocolate with marshmallows as we watched the snow fall thickly on the other side of the window. Jay looked at me thoughtfully. “You might be stuck here for a few days.”
“I can work from home. In fact, my boss is constantly nagging me to do so. Says it increases production.”
“Then why do you stay in the city?”
Why indeed? Returning to the wilderness had made me realize how much I missed it. I was looking forward more and more to my visits with Jay and MaryLynn. Jay as much as his daughter. Perhaps more than MaryLynn, a thought that made me lose my breath because I wasn’t looking for a relationship, didn’t particularly want one. Though, if I were in the market for a husband, MaryLynn’s father would be at the top of my list.
“I moved to the city because I wanted a change. I’ll move back here eventually and take my boss up on her offer.” Realizing what I’d said, how my returning to my roots would affect their lives, I quickly added. “But not for a long, long time so don’t start looking for another place to live just yet.”
MaryLynn, on the window seat with her nose pressed to the glass, asked, “What’s that fence for? We couldn’t figure it out.” She pointed through the window. “Is it a yard for a dog?” Without stopping for breath, she added, “Daddy, can I have a dog?”
I answered, “It’s for the garden. The fence keeps the deer out.”
“A garden?” In the snow, the fenced-in area looked like anything but a garden. “Can we have a garden, Daddy?” Dog being forgotten in favor of gardens.
“I don’t know the first thing about gardening, Kitten.”
“I can show you.” Now where did that come from? I loved the produce from the garden but had always hated the work, loved the dirt and how I looked after an afternoon in the garden with my dad but didn’t like the bath I had to take afterwards.
The next spring, we had a garden. I wasn’t sure exactly whose garden it was because we three all seemed to have an equal say in what we raised, though I was the undeniable expert at freezing, canning and cooking the harvest come autumn. When the last green bean had been picked and the last tomato canned, we sat around in the comfortable silence that had become the norm during my visits, and I thought back over the time that had passed since having that strange dream. How my life had changed. How I now knew two people I’d not have met otherwise. Two wonderful people. People I loved.
Now where did that come from? I had no problem loving MaryLynn, anyone knowing her would feel the same. But Jay? A man-woman thing? I shifted uneasily as thoughts I was having more and more difficulty suppressing assailed my body, sending heat to places I didn’t wish to acknowledge in connection with MaryLynn’s father.
When MaryLynn was asleep, Jay walked me to my car. Leaned in as I started the engine. Kissed me goodbye lightly. And repeated that action every time I returned to the forest and prepared to leave. “You should stay.”
“I have a life in the city. A job. And two wonderful people I trust to care for my house here in the forest. So I don’t have to worry about it.”
“You should stay.” I pulled away and smiled to myself all the way home, all the while wondering whether he’d read my mind and responded to my unsaid wish or had simply kissed me on a whim.
I spent a second Christmas at the house in the forest. By then we were old, experienced tree trimmers, working well together because we’d done this before, only this time no storm outside held me back from returning to my city apartment.
But something did.
“I’ve been thinking.” Jay looked at MaryLynn, asleep on a blanket beneath the tree, exhausted from Christmas. He and I were on the window seat looking over the garden that slept even deeper than MaryLynn.
“Ready to plan next year’s garden?” Seed catalogs would come soon in the mail.
“I was thinking about something else.” His voice was scratchy.
“I think we should get married.”
“Huh!” I knew how I felt but he either hid his feelings well or wanted a marriage of convenience for MaryLynn’s sake. I loved Jay’s daughter but not enough to marry her father without love. So I asked, “Why?” and waited for his answer.
He fiddled with his shirt. “We get along well.”
“We get along well?! That’s why you want to marry me? Sorry, that’s not good enough.”
He raked one hand through his hair. “You’re not making this easy, are you?”
I folded my arms, knowing in a sudden swoosh of knowledge that he did feel the same way about me. Yes, we both loved MaryLynn and that had been the starting point, but from that strange beginning our relationship had snowballed into… whatever was happening now. “Should I make it easy?”
“I’d appreciate it because I’m not good at this.”
Something inside of me relaxed. Warmed. Knew this was the right thing, what I’d been heading for since seeing MaryLynn in a dream. Somehow, some way I didn’t understand, that day had led straight as an arrow to today.
Jay raked a hand through his hair for a third time, made a guttural sound, and simply reached for me. Gently, carefully, still unsure of me and not wanting me to feel pressured. And what did I do. Just as gently and carefully as he reached for me, I leaned into his arms and that was all it took for us to become engaged.
We were married the following spring in the back yard, next to the tire swing, with family and a few friends attending. My parents liked Jay. He and my dad spent hours going over the place together deciding what needed fixing and what could be put off for a while.
Everyone thought it was wonderful that I’d continue to live in my childhood home. There were lots of remarks about continuity and generations and family roots and stuff like that. I got so sick of hearing such remarks that I almost puked but, when everyone was gone and Jay and I collapsed on the porch swing, I realized I was glad to be here with this man in this place where I’d lived most of my life and would continue.
By the time the snow began to fly, I was comfortable working for my city boss from my home in the forest, and I was pregnant. We hadn’t planned on another child so soon but it happened and MaryLynn prepared for the responsibility of being the oldest child.
In early spring I felt the first faint stirrings of what might be labor pains. The sun was high enough and warm enough to thaw the snow into long fingers across the yard. MaryLynn was fascinated as the fingers grew smaller and the exposed yard grew larger.
“Will the baby help with the garden?”
“Not this year. He’ll be too small. Perhaps you can watch him while Jay and I do the gardening.”
She accepted that responsibility along with others that came with having a baby brother. “I wish the snow would go away. I want the garden now.”
A second twinge told me I’d better call Jay. It could be a false alarm but the hospital was miles away and I didn’t want to take any chances. But it could wait a minute or so. I joined MaryLynn at the window and together we checked out the garden plot.
And it hit me like a brick.
I was living the second dream I’d had, the one that was no more than a snapshot of MaryLynn and me standing side by side in front of this window, looking out at fingers of snow splayed across the yard. As in that snapshot, I was heavy with child.
I felt rather than heard something that hadn’t been evident in that dream because there had been no sound, just a picture. I felt the light but steady beating of my child’s heart a sound that now bound us together, MaryLynn, Jay and me.
I’d dreamed it. I’d responded. It had come true, every piece and part of both dreams. Now, with something like awe but mostly because I was in labor, I called Jay and told him it was time.