I Met You in a Dream
Five days had past since she'd been evicted, a month since she'd lost her job. The money in the bank had long run out, and the storage fee on those few precious items she'd not yet pawned would be due with in a month. Life didn't seem to be looking up any time soon, but she'd lived worse. Digging through trash and selling what she found wasn't worst she could do. She tried to keep herself convinced of that, but she knew that she couldn't do it much longer. She needed a real job, and none were in sight. So for now she trudged on, living as she could.
Carrying her heavy duty black back pack, wearing worn out blue jeans, plain but clean tee shirt and her knee high combat boots, she fit into the crowd amazingly well. She looked like an average college student, unless you looked closer. Then you noticed the wear of hard times, the exhaustion and struggle she hid so well the rest of the time. A closer look also said that this was no college student looking ahead to a successful future. That dream had died long ago. Now the only dreams she had were the dreams at night where she'd do things she knew she'd never do, meet people she knew she'd never meet, and live a life she knew she'd never live.
Bleak reality and the intense heat pressed on her, combined with the lack of food, she'd become rather light headed. The cement sidewalk seemed to only reflect the sun, and the buildings offered no shade. Cool air wisped out of doors as they opened, but the doors closed quickly, and the bit of arctic wind never reached the sidewalk. Summer in Steinberg wasn't a pleasant time. Any season in Old Town Steinberg didn't seem much better. It seemed to sag with weariness and age. Most of the buildings dated back to a time long forgotten, and the romantic and stately presence of them had long faded. It was a place of forgotten people. The people society had forgotten or tried their best to forget. Yet it was on these streets where she was remembered, and helped to remember.
"Ellette? Ellette! Is that you?" She turned instinctively towards the sound of her name. She focused on the voice, trying to place the speaker. An exotic looking young man, not much older than her, or taller, for that matter, rushed towards her. A street bum grumbled at flailed a bottle when man disturbed some of the bum's garbage sacks. The man apologized and turned back to Ellette, though the bum just kept muttering drunkenly. She recognized him, but could not recall from where. He was dark, dark hair, eyes and skin, very northern Native American looking, but his eyes and other features suggested Asian heritage of some kind as well. A memory of the same face, bandaged and bruised, flashed across her mind's eye. Still she couldn't place him.
"Yes?" She asked, her normal mask of energy and mischievousness flying into place. He smiled ecstatically, now sure that shewas who he thought she was.
"God! I can't believe I found you." He exclaimed. He moved his hand toward her shoulder as if he wanted to touch her just to see if she was real, but restrained himself.
"I didn't realize anyone was looking for me." She tried to sound nonchalant and confident. She feared betraying any of her exhaustion just in case he was one of the local crazies.
"You don't remember me, do you?" He asked, his face falling. He was so sincere, she couldn't help but wish she could remember him.
"I do, but I don't. I can't think of where I know you from." She answered, hoping he'd jog her memory.
"My name's Rand." He paused as she searched her memory. "You helped me out a little over a year ago in Clarenceville." The two names triggered he memory. She began to put the pieces together, but they didn't seem to fit right.
"It was a dream." She said quietly. Panic tremored in her voice. She was sure it was a dream, she even remembered waking up afterwards and thinking about it. Yet here he stood, the man from her dream. She'd joked with her friend Kim about how real her dreams were, and about how scary the one with a man named Rand in it had been. Jessie had stayed with her the night the night she'd dreamt it. She pressed her palms to her eyes and removed them after a brief moment. Rand was still there, and she wasn't asleep, but he was a dream. He looked at her questioningly. "I've helped people in dreams before. They're only dreams." She said. Her mind began to whirl as the reality she knew no longer made any sense. " I helped you in a dream. I met you in a dream..." Her worn state and lack of food wasn't helping her sudden panic. She didn't see the cement drawing closer until it was too late for her to put a hand out. With a distant sort of amusement the thought, I think I just fainted, fluttered through her mind before everything went black.
"How's your head?" Ellette just groaned. "Sorry, stupid question. Here, take this." She opened her eyes and squinted up at the speaker. It was the man. Rand was his name. She'd saved his life over a year ago, in a dream. She was positive it had been a dream. Her life was never that exciting. She even knew it was a dream when she was dreaming it. This though, this was real. Especially her headache. "You passed out and hit your head on some railing. I couldn't just leave you there, so I carried you to my apartment. I hope you don't mind." She stared at him, the same pleading dark eyes, high and weathered cheeks, expressive brow, well defined nose and stubborn chin of the man she'd met in a dream stared back.
"You're not real, you were just a dream." Ellette found herself saying.
"That's what you said before you went down..."
"My dreams have always been vivid, and I could always control them, mostly. I always knew I was dreaming. You were a dream, but I'm not dreaming now." The words tumbled out one after another. "If all my dreams have been real, and I just thought I was dreaming..." It only made her head ache worse to think of the possibilities. She took the icepack that Rand was holding gently to the back of her head.
"I think maybe you were just exhausted by the heat and hit your head." He said with a kindly understanding smile. Ellette began to shake her head, but as decided against it as pain shot though her head again.
"Maybe... I don't know."
"Well, you can stay here till your head clears." He offered.
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Least I could do after what you've done for me." They sat in silence for a while, Ellette holding her aching head and Rand picking at the fabric of the sofa. She watched him out of the corner of her eye with only one thought in her head: He shouldn't exist. The silence seemed to be getting to him, so Rand got up and went to the rickety metal bookshelf and retrieved something from the top. He sat in the only chair in the place and opened the long rectangular box. The metal hinges creaked softly, barely audible over the traffic noise from the street below. Ellette watched him more attentively, wondering what the box held. He seemed very intent on it's contents, as if he'd forgotten all about the stranger siting on his couch. Then he looked up at her, his dark eyes almost pleading. "Would you like to hear me play?"
"Sure, I guess." She stuttered. He removed a finely crafted, though rather plain, wooden flute from the battered old box that she had been eyeing with interest. He lifted it to his lips and began to play. It was soft, eerie, and enchanting music. It was like the sounds of the wind through canyons. Then the through every different type of tree imaginable. Then like the soft tinkling of wind chimes. The music was all of that plus more all put together melodically. All too soon, it stopped, like the breath of god had been suddenly stilled. Ellette opened her eyes, which she didn't remember closing and stared at her host. He was studying the instrument, running long fingers along the dark wood. Ellette studied his hands, remembering that dream from over a year ago.
His fingers had been broken, and his hands, arms and back covered with long knife wounds when she had found him. They hadn't even looked like hands, even after he'd been cleaned and bandaged. Crippled for sure, she remembered the doctors saying, and he'd cried. He didn't cry out in panic or pain while they'd beaten him, nor when Ellette had shot off her gun to scare off the attackers. Nor had he done anything but clench his teeth against the pain when she had cleaned him up or when the paramedics had done their share. But he'd cried when they told him about his hands. Ellette hadn't understood why then, and never thought about it later, after all, it had been just a dream...
The hands that held the instrument were terribly scarred, and the fingers, though long and elegant, were still notably malformed. "You play wonderfully." She whispered, looking down at her lap, and her own hands that rested there. She could hear him putting the flute away, the sound of the velvet against the wood, the creaking of the small brass hinges, the soft crack of wood against wood, and the final click of the lock. Finally she met his eyes, knowing that there was more to his story. It was an unspoken need for he to tell, and she to listen.
"My mother gave me the flute." He began. "It was part of my heritage." There was more to that story as well, but he moved on. "It was the only link I had to home, and my sanity while my life turned to hell. I'm not really sure how it happened, my life going down hill, that is. Everything just built up, bills, debts, losses, and enemies. I know it seems petty, and you're asking in your mind, 'how could you not notice?' I wish I had, but family tragedies can sort a make a person blind. Then comes all the stupid self-pity and depression. I should have died that night, I was already dead, until an angel in black with a gun showed up." He smiled at that, and Ellette realized that he was referring to her. "You stood by until they were sure I'd make it. I thought I'd been given another chance until they told me about my hands. Music was the only thing I had left..." His words drifted off, and he lightly caressed the old wooden box that held his flute. "I was sure I'd been given another chance when you spoke to me. I remember you saying. "Everything you are, everything that'll be will be gone in the briefest of moments. Life may seem bleak at times, but you still have a life to live. Don't forget." I didn't forget." He got up and put the flute back on the shelf. Silence hug in the air once more.
Ellette fingered the bump on the back of her head, wishing her mind wasn't so muddled. Despite her sluggish thoughts, she realized how much she'd needed to hear those words again. One of her foster parents had told her something along those same lines years ago, and they'd stuck with her, only more recently she seemed to have forgotten. "Would you mind if I stayed with you a while?" She asked softly. Dream or not, there was a reason they'd met up again. Something bigger than both of them had its hand in their meeting. She was one to believe in fate. He looked at her questioningly. "I need to get my life back together. I'd forgotten how much of it I still had left to live."