If Only in a Dream
a very, very, very short story
Amber Lea Easton
I look at the bottle of sleeping pills in my hand and know how easy it would be to simply go to sleep and end all of the bullshit.
I've failed. Everyone likes telling me what a disappointment I've become. I don't have enough money to pay all the bills. I've lost my credit rating. The house is falling down around my ears. My health has gone to hell. All of my friends have disappeared--or maybe I did the pulling away. I'm not sure anymore. My teenagers seem to hate me—they're angry all the time at the severe lack in our lives. My words of "it's going to be get better" feel like lie. I see the doubt in their eyes.
Yes, I've disappointed everyone in my life. My elderly father looks at me with contempt. Hell, I can't blame him. Looking at myself in the mirror right now, I feel the same. Where once sparks snapped in my blue eyes, now there is only a deep sadness that I can't hide anymore.
I tried. I really did. I fought against the despair and the doubters. I believed in dreams and hope and happy endings. Where did all of that get me?
Broke and alone, that's where.
I look at the pills in the palm of my hand. They look innocent enough. Maybe I'll only take a few for now...enough to make me forget but not die.
Sleep comes and I welcome the darkness.
My love meets me on the other side. I see him walking up a beach toward me with his familiar stride and easy going presence. I loved him so much, why couldn't see that? Why couldn't he believe it?
I fought for him, too.
I failed then, too.
He dances with me in my dreams, strokes my hair, kisses my forehead, tells me that he loves me and that he's sorry. I cling to him as we move in this blurry world. I grip his hard shoulders as I cry against his warm neck.
With him--here in this dreamland--I'm not alone anymore. Once upon a time, we'd had it all. I'd believed in love and possibilities and joy. Then he died and left me as an only parent with bills to pay and grieving kids to raise in a hostile place where people judged and no one cared.
I hold onto him tighter, not caring if this is real or imagined, only knowing that I want to stay. I've missed feeling him against me, hearing him say my name, swaying my hips against his. I press my face against his neck. I smell him. The scent is so strong--as if he were living and the nightmare of the past ten years had been the dream. I wish it were true. I'd give anything to wake up in his arms in the morning and have him smile at me and tell me that I'd simply dreamed all the horror and the sadness.
God, I wish it were true.
"Don't give up," he whispers against my skin.
I can't say anything. I'm afraid if I speak, he'll slip away. I don't want to wake up. I want to stay here. Reality is too hard. I want to stay where my love is. He died too soon.
I couldn't save him, can't save myself, what's the use in waking up?
"You're not done yet," he says to me as if hearing my thoughts.
I hold him tighter. I never want to let him go.
"You have a big life ahead of you." He kisses my forehead.
"I let you down, I let everyone down," I manage to say.
"I'm so proud of you." He pushes my hair from my face and smiles at me just like he used to do when he lived. So handsome. So understanding. "I remember all the dreams we had—"
"—But you gave up—"
"I did," he acknowledges, his smile slipping. "And I pay for that mistake every day. You need to live for both of us now. You were always stronger than me."
I shake my head, feeling the exact opposite of strong.
I don't want to talk, don't want to listen to the words. A part of me hates him for dying, another part of me knows I'll love him for eternity. I bury my head in the center of his chest and tighten my hold on him.
We dance—a dream dance on a nameless beach where the sun is always shining and the waves are steady. He whispers against my hair. I simply want to feel him, relish in the feeling of being part of a unit again, a we, a team.
I've been so lonely. I don't want to wake up.
The dogs bark at my side, alerting me that the sun's about to rise. I fight against waking, see my love fading, feel the pull of reality dragging my eyelids open. I blink at my dogs with their wagging tails and bright eyes. In this time between waking and dreaming, I still feel the warmth of his skin on my hands and feel the lingering sensation of his kiss on my forehead.
I pull myself from the bed, weary from the sleeping pills, and drag myself toward the door to let the dogs into the backyard.
Glancing down, I see sand on my feet. I touch my fingertips to my lips still salty from my tears. I smell him on the sleeve of my pajamas.
"Live," the voice is strong against my ear.
I turn. No one. Just an empty room with an overflowing laundry basket reminding me of tasks that need doing.
"Live," the voice again.
I look at the sand sparkling on my toes and remember the blurry beach in dream that feels more like a memory.
I walk outside where the dogs are playing and the sky is lightening with the hint of daybreak. I inhale the crisp mountain air, hug myself, and shake off the lingering effects of that in between world where I danced with my love—the world where he waits for me to join him one day.
But not today.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.