“Hey, stranger.” The voice cut through her like a sharp knife and she turned to see him above her.
She almost choked as her heart leapt into her throat. His broad shoulders blocked out the setting sun. His facial features and hair looked as if someone drew them. Nothing was out of place. She had almost forgotten how flawless his skin appeared. And his eyes were such a radiant color of blue she wasn’t sure exactly how to describe them. He was the very meaning of the word perfection.
She could barely get the words out to actually speak; she was too caught up in how he looked and how his presence made her feel. “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?” she asked nervously, unsure of what his response would be.
“I’m sorry I’ve been gone. It’s hard to get through that steel trap of yours,” he joked.
“What? Steel trap?” she responded, confused. “Oh, my mind?”
“Yeah. You try so hard to see me that you end up blocking me out. Tonight was really the first night you fully let go. It made it easy for me to slip in and find you,” he informed her. “Of course, I understand why.”
“Well, that makes sense, I guess.”
Katherine smiled and her whole body filled with warmth and love. She stood up to hug him. He was taller than she was, but not by much. She guessed that he was probably just about six-feet, maybe five-eleven. She wrapped her arms around his waist and refused to let go. Brody wagged his tail as sand scattered in every direction.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Katherine told him, her voice shaking. This boy made her feel things at a level she couldn’t wrap her head around. Every emotion felt as if it was rooted in the very fiber of her being. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. There was no Cooper here. There was nothing but the two of them.
“I’ve missed you more than you know.” He sat on the bench and she followed his lead. “This will be our spot from now on. When you want to find me, you’ll come here to this beach and sit on this bench. And I’ll always find you. I’ll always come.”
“You promise?” she asked him, genuinely.
“I promise,” he reassured her as he stroked her fingers. Katherine could feel her eyes welling up with tears. “What’s the matter?” he asked her and gently touched her face.
“I’m not sure. I just have this feeling…like I’m going to lose you.” She felt her chest tighten and knew she was going to cry.
“I’m not going anywhere.” He looked into her eyes. “I promise I’ll never leave you. I’m so sorry for what happened last time,” his face writhed with pain.
“Last time?” The words stung with familiarity, but she couldn’t quite grasp what he meant.
“Yes, in our last encounter. Or I guess I should call it our first encounter…or more accurately, your first encounter with me.”
“Right. Last time,” she looked away from his gaze and settled on the sand at her feet. Her mind struggled to put the pieces together. She willed it to assemble this puzzle, but she couldn’t.
“You don’t remember, do you? That’s okay. Control over your memories while we’re together will come with time.” She still had no idea what he meant, but she didn’t care. All she cared about was being with him. He smiled at her and she felt her heart melt.
“Time to get up, sunshine. Oh, sleeping beauty. Nappy head. Wake up.”
“What is that,” Katherine thought to herself. She could feel herself being pulled away from the beach…and the bench...and him.
“I don’t even know your name,” she yelled out, but it was too late.
She looked at the smile on his face one last time and then opened her eyes. Taylor stood above her.
“Jeez, Kat. That only took me like twenty minutes. For the love, get up girlfriend, you’re going to be late.”
“Taylor?” Katherine was confused. “Taylor, I was dreaming about him again. Oh my gosh. That was intense.” Katherine shouted out with a smile. She quickly realized what she said and her smile faded. “A dream. Dang. Every time I wake up, I’m sad all over again that it wasn’t real. But this time was different...”
“No way! Tell me everything,” Taylor sat on the edge of her bed.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I’m not sure what this guy is. I mean, he told me that he would always find me. And that we had a spot. And I just have to go there anytime I want to see him. And what the hell is going on? It’s weird right? Am I making it all up? Is this crazy? Oh good Lord, what is happening to me?”
“That’s a lot of questions all at once, Kat. So, um…yes, you are crazy. Duh. Yes, it’s extremely weird. But it’s also extremely cool. I have no idea if you’re making it up, but who cares? I mean, they’re just dreams, right?” Taylor responded calmly.
“Yeah. But weird as hell dreams. And I mean, what about him always finding me? It was like we were having a conversation. He apologized for the last dream I had with him in it, but I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about at the time. Man, I’m so dumb when I’m dreaming!”
“What? What do you mean…apologized? Like for going and getting himself shot, or what?” Taylor asked.
“I have no idea. But he said he was sorry for our last encounter…or my first encounter with him or something. He made me feel like he knows me, but I swear to you I’ve never seen anyone as hauntingly perfect as him. He almost looks NOT real.”
“That is weird, Kat. I mean, do you think this guy was talking to you...like…he could come back every night if you wanted him too and stuff?” Taylor asked; her voice intrigued. “I’ve never heard of anything like this before.”
“I swear, Taylor, I’m just as confused as you are.”
“What about Cooper?” Taylor’s question crashed Katherine back into reality.
“Oh, God. I don’t know. It’s like when I dream about this guy, there is nothing and no one else.” Katherine’s heart felt like it was ripping in half. She knew the guy from the dream meant more to her than anyone she’d ever known. But she also knew Cooper made her feel ways she’d never experienced either. “Do I have to choose? I mean, really? At this point...do I have to choose between them?” She knew the question sounded a little absurd.
“I’m sorry, what are we choosing again? Between a real life super hottie and a guy that only appears in your dreams? I think the choice is obvious.”
“Easy for you to say...you’re not the one having the dreams.”
Katherine didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t sure how she felt, or what the rules were for something like this. Did she have an obligation to let Cooper know that she was seeing someone else? But that it was only while she was asleep? This was crazy and she knew it. Just because Dream Guy said he could come back, maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe it was all some crazy made up fantasy.
“Maybe he’ll go away,” Taylor suggested.
“I don’t want him to go away, Taylor. Do I tell Cooper?”
“Tell him what? You’re dreaming about some guy you’ve never met and you want to have ten thousand of his babies? I mean, really Kat...even if you did tell Cooper, you think he’d just walk away from you? Not a chance.”
“No, you’re right. I’m just being crazy. You should probably keep a mental ward on speed dial though. Just to be safe.”
“Already done,” Taylor smiled at her. “Are you excited for the game tonight?”
Katherine was grateful for the subject change. “Yes! I can’t wait! But Taylor, I’m not kidding when I tell you that I know NOTHING about hockey, so you’re going to have to help me out.”
“You’ll be a pro in no time,” Taylor winked.
As they walked across campus Katherine noticed Taylor giving other girls dirty looks. “What are you doing?” Katherine chuckled.
“I am about to lose my mind on these stupid females.”
“Huh?” Katherine looked around and noticed all the sour looks aimed in her direction.
“It would be one thing if you were a total bitch or something, but you’re not. You’re normal and nice and they’re just mad that he didn’t pick them,” Taylor snapped.
“Maybe they’ll like me once they get to know me?” Katherine genuinely believed that people were good at heart. She had been around celebrities in LA enough to know how other girls behaved when they were jealous.
“God, you are so naïve! East coast girls can be really mean, Kat. They don’t care how nice you are. All they care about is that some California girl just rode into town and took their property.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Kat started saying “hi” to all the girls who looked at her cruelly.
“Oh my gosh, STOP doing that. What is wrong with you? These girls are not your friends. Stop being so nice to everyone.”
“I’m not kidding. Saying ‘hi’ isn’t going to make them like you. It’s only going to make them hate you more.”
“Well that’s stupid. And I’m not going to stop being nice so they can feel better.”
Cooper sauntered up and took Katherine by the hand as he pulled her tightly against his chest. “Morning,” he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She immediately felt the heat rise inside of her.
“Geez, Cooper, are you trying to start a riot?” Taylor glared at him.
“It has to happen sooner or later,” he said before he looked at Katherine. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
“Oh it’s okay, I have my bodyguard Taylor over here.” Katherine caught herself thinking about the boy from her dream. She looked at Cooper and knew she should focus on what was right in front of her, but her heart wouldn’t let her.
“That’s right,” Taylor said with attitude.
Cooper laughed, “Coming to the game tonight?”
Taylor looked at Katherine, “No, I think there’s a new show on we wanted to watch. You don’t mind, right?”
“Oh yeah, that show looks amazing. Can’t miss it, sorry,” Katherine smiled at him.
“Ladies, you’re breaking my heart here.”
“Well, that was a stupid question. Of course we’ll be there. You think I want to see my boyfriend cry?” Taylor teased.
“True, true. It’s not pretty, I’ve seen it,” Cooper remarked.
“Come on Katherine. Hurry up! I want to get to the rink early,” Taylor whined.
“I’m coming. What’s the rush?”
“I want to watch Danny warm up. And I also want to get a good seat. People on this coast actually like hockey, you know.”
Katherine appeared out of the bathroom, “Okay, I’m ready.”
At the rink, Katherine followed Taylor into what she considered perfect seats and sat. She breathed in the cold air and smiled.