They held hands as they walked down a familiar street. It was the street of her childhood, yet somehow it was different. The houses weren’t quite the same and something didn’t…well, it didn’t quite feel right.
She glanced up at the boy whose hand she held. Her mind was keenly aware that she didn’t “know” him, but her heart told her otherwise. His hair was short and the light brown color reminded her of the sand after it had been washed over by a wave. Her eyes followed the shape of his body through the shirt he wore. She could see the muscles in his arms, and his broad shoulders were hard to hide. His face appeared flawless and it took every ounce of willpower she possessed not to run her hand down his cheek just to feel the softness of his skin.
Then there were his eyes. They sparkled with such blue radiance that every time she looked at them, she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to look away. It was as though he could see right through her. She thought she should be uncomfortable with all of this, but for some reason, she was completely at ease with this stranger. He looked at her and smiled. His perfect teeth and full lips made him even more gorgeous.
They walked and he talked a lot. He told her things that didn’t make any sense to her. He spoke about where he grew up and how his house wasn’t there any more. He talked about a fire, horses, and mentioned something about a soldier and war. Katherine listened intently to all the information, but her brain didn’t fully process it. She didn’t know what was going on, really.
She tried to take in the details he shared and make sense of it but logic was pushed out of the way. She was too caught up in how she felt. The pure love that consumed her every time she looked at this boy was unlike anything she’d ever known before. If soul mates existed and there was such a thing, this stranger was all the proof she needed. It was as if nothing else existed or mattered in the world around them.
She wasn’t aware of the noise at first; she was so caught up in the blue of his eyes. Then she heard it more clearly; the sound of quiet screams started to ring in her ears. Or maybe it was more like muffled wailing. She wasn’t sure. But at that moment she felt her stomach drop to the ground beneath her.
“I’ll be right back. I have to go in there.”
He pressed his lips against her hand and then slowly started to untangle his from hers. “No. Please don’t go.” She pleaded with him to stay and gripped his fingers as tightly as she could.
“Katherine, I have to help.” He smiled at her, his blue eyes sparkling, and then repeated, “I’ll be right back. I promise.”
“You promise?” she asked him nervously.
“I promise,” he repeated reassuringly. She watched him slowly disappear through the front door.
Grief immediately washed over her. She fell to her knees and clutched at her queasy stomach. She felt a sickness she couldn’t define. She knew with unfailing certainty that he would never walk back out of that house. The pain and loss was so severe she thought it might stop her breathing completely. And then she heard it.
A single gunshot.
“Katherine? Katherine, are you okay? Wake up.” A familiar voice startled her awake.
Katherine’s eyes shot open to see her roommate Taylor standing above her. She focused on the blue eyes staring back at her. They had only been roommates a few weeks now, but they had bonded instantly. Katherine felt like she had known Taylor her whole life.
“My God, Katherine, are you all right? You’re crying so hard. I mean, you’re like really crying. What the hell were you dreaming about?” Taylor looked at her with concern.
“Dreaming?” Katherine repeated softly. “I was dreaming? He was a dream?!”
“He, who? Tell me everything!” Taylor’s demeanor changed from concern to girlish squeals as her blonde hair bounced along her shoulders.
“I can’t…talk about it right now, Tay,” Katherine could barely get the words out. “I don’t even want to move. It felt so real.”
“Dreams always feel real when you’re in them,” Taylor reminded her.
“I know, but this was different.” Katherine struggled to put her feelings into words. “Everything was so intense…and the guy. I’ve just never felt like that before.”
“WHAT guy? Come on, Kat, you have to tell me! I mean, you were crying! Like real tears! And you’re all weird right now,” Taylor begged.
“Taylor, I know this sounds stupid, but right now I’m still processing the fact that everything I just felt and experienced was a dream. It wasn’t real. I can’t believe he wasn’t real.” She wiped at her eyes.
“Crying again? Really? What the hell, Kat?”
“I’ll tell you everything, I promise. I just need a minute. Please?” Katherine pleaded.
Taylor pouted and walked away.
“I know it’s crazy Taylor. It’s just the minute I move, everything’s going to fade. It’s all going to disappear.”
“What do you mean?” Taylor asked, her eyes narrowed with confusion.
Katherine took a deep breath, “It’s like I can feel him around me. Like my dream is lingering in the air. And I know once I move, it’s going to leave. I just want to hold onto to it for a bit longer. Does that make any sense?” Katherine’s face crinkled as she tried to explain.
“Not really. But I’ll give you some space.” Taylor walked toward the bathroom and shut the door behind her.
Katherine briefly thought about going back to sleep, but she resisted the urge. She forced her body out from under her covers. With every move, she could feel the dream and her memory of him fading. She knew it was inevitable, but it hurt. And that confused her.
“Taylor?” she yelled out toward the bathroom.
She heard the door open and Taylor’s head popped out. “Oh, so you’ve decided to join the living today, eh?”
“Yeah,” she replied solemnly. “I want to tell you everything. This guy—this dream—it was crazy. I don’t even know how to start talking about it because it was more of a feeling than anything else.” Katherine sighed before she continued.
“Even saying that out loud sounds stupid, I know, but it’s true. I mean, not much happened in the dream, aside from him getting shot and killed, which was totally awesome,” she added sarcastically.
“What? Who got shot and killed? I’m confused,” Taylor looked at her and shook her head. “You have to start from the beginning. And you have to hurry because we have class in half an hour!” She glanced up at the clock on the wall.
Katherine filled Taylor in on every detail she could remember. The house. The fire. The gunshot. The soldier and the war. She did her best to put her feelings into words, although she knew no words could ever do her feelings justice. She described the guy, what he looked like, what it felt like to be around him, what it felt like when he left her and how she felt when she heard the gunshot. Taylor wrote it all down; every single word.
“What are you doing?” Katherine asked quietly.
“Taking notes for later,” Taylor explained.
Katherine thought Taylor looked like a detective with her pad of paper and pen sitting on the chair with her legs crossed.
“What do you mean, later? You’re so weird.”
“Really? You have some dream that makes you cry and I’m the weird one?” Taylor teased.
“No really, what do you mean?”
Taylor paused, “Let’s just say for the sake of exploring all our options, your dream guy is real? We need to write down what he looks like and stuff so we can find him.”
“Real?” The idea of him existing hadn’t even occurred to Katherine.
Taylor’s voice rose. “Yeah! I mean, what if? What if he came to you in your dream and you’re going to find him in class or something? What if he goes to our school? You never know. Why else would you dream about this guy and have all these crazy feelings if he wasn’t real?”
Taylor’s question sparked curiosity and hope in Katherine. Her face relaxed and her eyes brightened. “Maybe he is real? Can you imagine?” Katherine smiled for the first time that morning, “I mean, why else would I have had that dream? There has to be a reason, right? There has to be a point to all of this madness.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Taylor responded excitedly.
“I should probably do something with myself before we leave for class. I mean, what if my dream guy is there?” She hopped up and headed toward the bathroom smiling.
“You can start by brushing that hair of yours!” Taylor sarcastically shouted toward her.
“What would I ever do without you?” Katherine piped back.
“Clearly, you’d walk around with nappy hair all day.”
Katherine brushed her long brown hair as Taylor had instructed her to. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint,” she mumbled at her reflection. She coated her eyelashes with dark mascara to accent her bright hazel eyes and tried to cover up the light dusting of freckles across her nose with some powder foundation.
“He could totally be real,” she repeated in her head until she said it out loud by accident.
“That’s what I keep telling you. He has to be. Oh, Kat, this is so exciting! We have a mission.” Taylor beamed. “It’s too bad you didn’t get his name or something. Because I could search online for him if you had a name.”
“Sorry, Tay, he was too busy getting killed to tell me his name. But if I see him again, I’ll ask.” Katherine felt her personality slowly coming back.
The two girls headed out of the old brick dormitory and walked through campus toward class. Katherine looked around at the stone buildings that surrounded her and smiled. She thought about her home and how no buildings looked the way these ones did. She loved Southern California, but wanted to experience something different for college.
She could have stayed there, but she knew it would just be more of the same— gorgeous people consumed by celebrity, fame, reality TV, and their future careers. She wanted to meet new people and wondered: what could be more different from the constant sunny days of Los Angeles than the snowy East Coast?
She remembered how she felt when the information packet arrived from a school in New Jersey she had only vaguely considered at first. But something about this particular college called to her. She wasn’t sure if it was the old ivy covered buildings, or the tree lined campus, but she knew immediately that she wanted to be there. So when her acceptance letter arrived in the mail, she was thrilled.
Taylor’s voice interrupted her memories, “Is that him? What about that guy?” Taylor pointed out guys who fit the description of Dream Guy. “Oh, what about him? If he’s not your Dream Guy, I’ll take him to be mine. Hotness on a stick.”
“You’re going to make me crazy. How about if I see him, I’ll let you know? And really, hotness on a stick? Who are you?” Katherine cracked up.
“We could put an ad up on the school’s website? Or in the paper? We can totally do this.” Taylor’s eyes twinkled in excitement.