The first time I saw him was in a dream.
I stood in the park beneath darkening clouds. A storm was approaching.
"Susannah," a deep male voice called behind me.
I turned to see a guy about my age standing several feet away from me. He had jet black hair. His eyes were the palest blue I had ever seen. We stared at each other as the wind picked up and started to play with my long hair. I stood mesmerized by his eyes as he began to walk toward me.
My heart was beating wildly. The air seemed to be charged with electricity. How much of it was between us and how much was from the coming storm I couldn't tell. In the way of dreams, it took him a long time to reach me. Finally, he was standing close, and I was looking up into those incredible eyes.
He leaned down to kiss me. As his lips touched mine, the storm broke within me.
I felt disoriented when I awoke to find sunshine streaming in through my bedroom window. I closed my eyes again, wanting the dream to continue, but it was no use. Damn.
What a dream. What a guy. What a kiss! It had been wild. I had never experienced such a kiss in real life.
I was almost seventeen. So far I had only had one boyfriend. I had enjoyed kissing him, but it hadn't even come close to the passion in my dream. Maybe we wouldn't have broken up if we'd had that kind of heat. Kevin and I had dated for three months. When I wouldn't go further than kissing, he'd broken up with me.
Of course, he didn't exactly come out and say that, but I knew that was the reason. I wasn't a prude. I just wanted to wait until I was in love. I missed having a boyfriend, but I didn't miss Kevin all that much. I definitely wasn't in love with him. He wasn't in love with me either, since he quickly found a new girlfriend.
I stretched lazily. It was my last day to sleep in. School would begin the next day. No more hanging out at the pool with my best friend, Caitlin. We were going shopping for our back to school outfits.
I put on a pair of shorts and a matching top and headed down to the kitchen. Mom and Dad were both at work. At least we were easing back into school mode with only three days the first week. Too bad we couldn't have Monday and Tuesday off every week.
As I poured myself a bowl of cereal, I was still thinking about my dream. Where had that come from? I didn't know any guys who looked like that. I would have thought that I'd dream about my crush. Brad was blond with baby blue eyes. He was a football player and completely out of my league. Plus he already had a girlfriend. Mandy was a cheerleader.
My cell phone interrupted my thoughts. It was Caitlin. "Are you ready? I'm coming to pick you up." She didn't wait for a reply.
I quickly finished eating breakfast. Caitlin was knocking on my door shortly after I got done brushing my teeth. I told her about my dream as she drove to the mall.
"Ooh, hot! I bet it's a sign that you'll find a new boyfriend soon."
I laughed. Caitlin believed in such things. She was always checking her horoscope. It was part of her dramatic personality. She planned to go to Hollywood and become an actress when she finished high school.
"It probably just means that I've been reading too many romance novels," I said.
"And now it's time to start living it," Caitlin said as we pulled into the mall parking lot.
I ignored that comment. "Tell me again why we need to buy something else when we already spent so much money here last week."
Caitlin sighed. "I told you. We need a special trip for this. The first day of school is very important. What we wear tomorrow will set an impression in people's minds."
I laughed again. "They already have an impression of us. Most of them have known us for years."
"You never know," Caitlin said. "People can change over the summer."
I remember this as being the last normal day. You can take normality for granted. People call it the same old, same old. Half of the time I lived in my own world. I was given to daydreaming. I craved excitement and adventure. Being average in every way didn't make me appreciate what I had. I had average looks and average grades. I didn't even have a musical or artistic talent.
I didn't realize then what it meant to have the easy companionship of someone you've been friends with since second grade. Caitlin and I went from store to store. In the end I bought an outfit that was similar to the clothes I usually wore.
An exasperated Caitlin gave up. "You say that you want to stand out, but you won't step out of your comfort zone. You won't even try a new hairstyle. You hide behind that long hair."
"Maybe you're right," I admitted. "I guess I'm just not ready to change."
"Anyway." Caitlin bounced back to her usual excited self. "Let's enjoy our last day of freedom."
The rest of the day passed quickly. Before I knew it, bedtime crept up on me. It was hard to fall asleep, because I was nervous about going back to school. It seemed like I just closed my eyes and my alarm was ringing. There had been no dreams about gorgeous guys with pale blue eyes. I couldn't remember dreaming about anything at all.
I ate my usual milk and cereal for breakfast. Then I got ready for school. I put on the black skirt and bright red top I had bought the day before. Caitlin had talked me into buying the red top. "You should at least wear some color if you won't show any skin."
"You look very pretty," my dad said when I came back downstairs.
"Yes," my mom agreed. "Very pretty."
I had never had an argument with my parents over what to wear. I just wasn't a rebel. Caitlin was right. I was too scared to step out of my comfort zone. But she was used to being the center of attention. She had been in every school play we'd ever had.
She was always changing her look. Right now her hair was red. I hurried out to meet her when I saw her pull into our driveway.
"Anymore hot dreams?"
I shook my head. "No. I'm starting off the year right. I'm ready to focus on studying."
Caitlin laughed. "Girl, you won't remember any of that ten years from now. What do people talk about at reunions? It's sure not what they studied. It's the experiences that they had."
She was right again. I found myself excited to see everyone after the summer. We all said hi to each other as we walked to our lockers. We stopped at Caitlin's locker first. I was talking about Brad's great tan when I stopped in midsentence. All I could do was stare. Caitlin turned to see what had grabbed my attention. I heard her gasp. That's how I knew that I wasn't hallucinating.
Now there was a sound in my ears like rushing water. It was my blood. Whether it had rushed into my head or out of it, I couldn't tell. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. My heart was in my throat. There had been other people here a second ago. Now there was only him. The hallway stretched into infinity behind him. It was like he had stepped straight out of my dream. He was even wearing the same clothes. I stood rooted to the spot as he walked right past me without even glancing my way.
"Suzy! Suzy!" Caitlin grabbed my arm when I didn't respond.
I finally looked at her. I seemed to be hearing her voice across a great distance.
"Suzy!" Caitlin shook me. "You look like you've seen a ghost. Was that? I mean, that guy looked like the guy you said you dreamed about."
"No," I said. "That was him. That was the exact same guy."
"Wow!" Caitlin recovered quickly. "Do you know what this means? That guy is your destiny."
"What?" I could barely comprehend what she was saying. I just kept wondering how this could be possible.
Caitlin was bursting with excitement. "You dreamed about him before you met him. He must be your soulmate. This is so cool!"
The warning bell rang. "I bet he's a new student. We have to find out his name. I'll see you at lunch," Caitlin said as she hurried to class.
We hadn't had time to go to my locker. I didn't have anything to put in it anyway. Caitlin had already brought a little mirror to hang in hers. We had gotten our locker numbers and combinations in orientation the week before. I was thinking about inconsequential things, rational things, in an attempt to calm down.
Somehow I managed to push aside my confusion and deal with meeting my new teachers. Luckily, there wasn't much to do on the first day. By the time I got to my third class, what had happened that morning seemed almost like another dream.
Then, as I sat down at an empty desk, I heard the girl beside me ask, "Who is that?"
By the way she said it, I knew who I would see before I looked up. He still took my breath away. Especially when he sat down at the desk right next to me. This time he noticed me staring at him.
"Hi," he said in that voice I knew from my dream. "I'm Duncan Mkkenna."
"Hi," I breathed. "I'm Susannah Hastings."
"Nice to meet you, Susannah," he said politely.
Then the second bell rang. Duncan turned his attention to the teacher. He introduced himself as Mr. Gates. After he took attendance, he informed us that these would be our seats for the rest of the year. I would be sitting next to Duncan everyday.
Almost everyone called me Suzy. I had introduced myself to Duncan with my full name, because I had wanted him to say it like he had in my dream. Thinking about my dream made me blush.
Duncan didn't notice. He seemed underwhelmed by me. I saw him checking out the girl sitting in the row on the other side of him. Brad's girlfriend, Mandy. Mandy had the kind of body that turned heads, and she dressed to show it off.
My crush on Brad seemed like the distant past. All I could think about was Duncan. It was going to be hard to concentrate in this class. Thank goodness it was English, which was one of my better subjects. So much for starting off the year ready to study.
Caitlin was bubbling over with news when I saw her at lunch. "His name is Duncan Mkkenna. He moved from California. Why would anyone leave California and move to Ohio? I would kill to live in California! I could go on auditions all the time."
"I'm sure you would have your own show by now," I agreed.
Caitlin was ecstatic when she found out that I had a class with Duncan. "You talked to him already? This is great. Did you tell him about your dream?"
"Caitlin! I would never tell him about my dream. He would think I was crazy."
"You want me to tell him?"
"No!" I yelled a little too loudly. I lowered my voice. "It's too embarrassing. Besides, he seemed pretty interested in Mandy."
"That's good," Caitlin said. "Now we know for sure he's into girls. Guys can't help but look at Mandy. But you're his destiny. That dream has to mean something."
I wasn't so sure. It was hard to believe that a guy like Duncan could ever be interested in me. I didn't know what to think about my dream. I decided to try to put the whole thing out of my mind. It turned out that I only had the one class with Duncan. That would make it easier to focus on learning. Stop it, I told myself. Duncan is just a guy like any other guy. I was not going to obsess over him.
Convincing Caitlin to drop the subject would be another story. I could only hope that once she started rehearsing for the next school play that she would be too distracted to worry about my love life.
As expected, during the ride home, Caitlin was brainstorming ways for me to get Duncan to ask me out. I kept trying to change the subject.
Caitlin stopped at a red light and turned to look at me. "C'mon, Suzy. This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to you. Don't tell me that you're scared."
"Scared of what?"
"Scared to take a chance, like always," Caitlin said.
"I'm not scared," I said defensively. "I just don't see any reason to chase after him."
"It's not chasing," Caitlin said as she pulled into my driveway. "It's just encouraging his interest in you."
"But," I said as an idea formed of how to get her to cool it with this. "If he's my destiny, then I don't need to do anything. It'll happen anyway."
"Well," Caitlin said. She thought about it for a minute. "Well, I guess that's true, but-"
I cut her off. "It's settled. I just wait and see what happens."
Caitlin laughed. "So what's different? Anyway, I don't have time to argue with you. Alex is taking me out for ice cream before he goes to work."
"Caitlin!" I squealed. "He asked you out, and you didn't even tell me." She had developed a crush on Alex during the last few months of school last year.
Caitlin smiled triumphantly. "He said that I look good with red hair. See, if you would change your look you'd get more attention."
"Call me later," I said. "I want all the details." I waved as she drove off.
I went into the house and set down my backpack. I had no homework yet, and it was too early to start dinner. After changing into shorts and a tshirt, I felt restless. I decided to go for a walk. That always helped to clear my head. There was a park at the end of our street. I often liked to walk there and lose myself in my thoughts.
A couple of joggers ran past me. Otherwise I was alone on the path. This was the same park from my dream. There was nothing unusual about that. This place was very familiar to me. It was not surprising that it would be the setting of my dream. The part of my dream that I couldn't explain was Duncan. How was it possible that I had dreamt about him in such vivid detail when I had never seen him before in my life? I had even been right about the sound of his voice.
Suddenly, Duncan was in front of me as if my thoughts had conjured him.
"Hi," he said. "You're in my English class. Susannah, right?"
"Yes, hi," I said. "And you're Duncan."
"Yes." He smiled. "I'm new here. I thought I'd explore the neighborhood a little. This is a nice park."
"Yes," I said. "I walk here almost everyday. I live on Chestnut Avenue." I wanted to kick myself. What did he care what street I lived on? "What street do you live on?" Great, now I sounded like a stalker.
Duncan didn't seem to mind. "I live on Brookdale," he volunteered.
"Oh," I said. "My best friend Caitlin lives on that street. She's so jealous that you lived in California. It's her dream to move there."
"How did you know that I lived in California?" A suspicious note had crept into Duncan's voice.
I blushed deeply. "You said that you're new here. Word travels fast at Valley View High, and Caitlin is always in the know. I think she has a source in the school office."
"Oh." Duncan visibly relaxed. "I'll be happy to tell Caitlin about life in California. You can introduce me to her."
I didn't like that idea at all. Caitlin living on the same street as him was too close for comfort. Who knew what she might be tempted to tell him?
"Your mother is worried about you," I said absently.
Then his cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and answered it. "Hi Mom."
He listened to the reply, all the while regarding me with those pale blue eyes. "Yes. I'm sorry. I just lost track of time. I'll be home soon. Ok, bye Mom."
Now Duncan was the one who was staring at me. "How did you know that?"
I shifted nervously. "What?"
He stepped closer to me. It seemed like he was looking right through me. "How did you know that my mom was about to call me?"
"I d-didn't…" With him standing so close it was hard to think. My heart was racing as wildly as in my dream. I was mesmerized by those eyes of his. He was looking at me so intently. His gaze held me there as time seemed to stop.
Then he abruptly stepped back. "I should get home. See you at school." He turned quickly and walked back the way he had come.
I stood there as feeling suddenly bereft as I watched him walk away. Gradually, I became aware of the passing of time. I began to walk back home. What had just happened? I replayed our conversation in my mind. Your mother is worried about you? Where had that come from? My ordinary life was becoming weirder by the minute.