Chapter 18 – Beach dream

(Occurs following the evening Chris spends viewing the stars with Susana)

©iStock.com/zimmytws

©iStock.com/zimmytws

The next morning, Chris awoke slowly, savoring every sensation left over from his beach dream. He’d had it several times over the last couple of years, and it always left him sublimely content. In it, he was walking along the beach hand in hand with his future wife, their daughter riding on his shoulders. They were all happy—he could see it, and he could feel it.

When his daughter started bouncing on his shoulders, he set her down and she splashed into the waves, squealing in delight. Chris and his wife stood watching, encircled in the joy of each other’s company.

Two things invariably happened as he awoke from the dream. One was that he felt compelled to correct the image of the girl on his shoulders to a boy. The image of a wife he enjoyed being with, a true companion, seemed possible to him. However, the image of a daughter made the dream seem unattainable. Striders didn’t have daughters. Rosie was a fluke—the only girl born to any Strider in well over a hundred years, and then only with a twin brother.

Chris knew guys who were skittish about marriage, but he wasn’t one of them. His brothers and father, who all enjoyed marriage, had found their mates while younger than he was now—a fact that often made him wonder what his problem was. So the question that usually propelled him out of his dream was, Who is she? But once he awoke, all he remembered was that the girl in his dream wasn’t his current girlfriend. He figured that was his subconscious’s way of giving his current girlfriend the thumbs-down.

This morning, however, as the question, Who is she? formed in his sleepy brain, the answer came with certainty: Susana! Her name echoed over and over in his mind until she seemed to be swimming with him in his warm, semiconscious pool. At one point, he was sure that if he opened his eyes, he would see her sleeping beside him.

And so, for the first time, he actually tried to awaken from the dream. When he reached the shore of consciousness, though, a sinking feeling spoiled his bliss, for the only thing in his bed was his own pillow.

Nevertheless, the excitement of his discovery overrode his disappointment. He didn’t think of the dream as prophetic, so didn’t see his discovery as a call to action. Rather, he accepted it as a signpost indicating that he was on the right road—finally.

When he later passed the open door to Rosie’s room, Susana was at the dresser, her back to him. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he said, “Good morning.”

“Good morning.” She smiled as she settled back into his embrace. “I’m sorry about last night. I’m afraid I wasn’t very good company. I don’t even know how I got to bed.”

“I carried you to bed,” Chris said. “And you were great company.” He turned her around and drew her to his heart. “Very good company indeed.”

“Really? Did I talk in my sleep or something?” When he didn’t respond, she prompted, “Chris? I’d really like to know how I could be good company and not be aware of it.”

“Suze, I—” He reconsidered. “Forget what I said. I don’t want to scare you.”

She drew away. “Well you just did! Please tell me what I did!”

“You didn’t do anything, Suze, it’s …” He sighed. “It’s just a dream I had.”

“What kind of dream?”

He’d really stuck his foot in it this time. There was nothing to do; he was going to have to tell her. “Okay, but don’t get scared. It’s just a dream.”

“Please tell me!”

“I’ve had the dream for a couple of years now. I’m walking on the beach holding my wife’s hand and carrying our kid on my shoulders. That’s it—just a simple dream—but it always makes me feel good—contented. Except when I wake up, I get frustrated because I can never remember what my wife looked like. Last night—” He paused, a flush warming his neck , and mumbled quickly, “Last night, her face was yours.”

Susana turned away to her suitcase on the dresser.

“I’m sorry. It’s way too soon to be talking like that. But don’t be scared—I don’t mean to push you into anything. It’s just a dream, that’s all.”

“I’m not scared, Chris.”

“Then what?”

She wiped at her face and turned to him. “I have no doubt that those pictures will one day come true—for you. But I’m not naïve. You’re an attractive guy, and smart and nice besides. You can, and should, have a wife you’re not embarrassed to introduce to your family and colleagues, including your uncle. You won’t have any trouble finding the beautiful woman who will be that face in your dream.”

“But you’re wrong. I have had trouble finding her. At least, until now.” To her unconvinced look, he said, “Suze, I was not embarrassed because of you yesterday! I was embarrassed because of Uncle Bob’s behavior, I was mad at him, I felt bad that he would hurt you like that, I was frustrated that I couldn’t think of the right thing to say—I was a lot of things, but embarrassed because of you certainly wasn’t one of them!”

When she made no response, he continued. “Look, people have treated you badly because of your scars. I get that. But—although it may not seem the same to you—people have pigeon-holed me because of my looks too. Maybe I’m to blame in part, maybe I’ve been guilty of accepting their stereotypes. But please don’t be one of those people. Give me a chance.”

She searched his eyes and conceded, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. You’ve already proven that you’re deeper than that.”

She wanted to mean it—he could see that. But he could also tell that she didn’t actually mean it. Not yet, anyway.

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