Courtney is inspired by imagination. From a young age, stories surrounded her; there's nothing quite like creating a story.
Jessica sighs. “You know what I think," Dr. Sayers. "I think I’m exhausted from him accusing me of adultery! I thought that if he really loved me, he would stop by now. I’ve never felt more vulnerable, (shrugs tensely) having to defend myself. Even now. We’re getting professional help for goodness sake!”
Barry struggles to keep composure. “Jessica, I’m not accusing you of adultery. I just want to know what is going on.”
Dr. Sayers speaks before she has a chance. “Jessica, what does he mean by this?” The doctor holds his finger up, signaling him to pay attention, quietly.
“Well, I considered a couple of nights ago to be exact, maybe this is all happening because of what happened around the holidays – to his parents.”
The doctor appears perplexed. Barry is somber in appearance. Jessica glances in Barry’s direction, avoiding eye contact.
She straightens her shirt and continues to speak. “It was a crazy... accident? I can’t be sure.” Barry’s eyes burn into her side. She shifts positions.
“Please continue, Jessica,” Dr. Sayers encourages.
“Yes, doctor. It’s been long ago, maybe ten years. Both of his parents were killed in a house fire. It was an accident, the fire marshal told us, because the turkey in the oven somehow started a grease fire. His dad started acting strange before it happened. He became paranoid and maybe went into a depression. I remember there being issues between Barry’s mom and dad over the paranoia.”
“I see,” Dr. Sayers says without a hint of emotion, jotting words down onto his secret notebook. “Would you tell me about your dream, Barry?”
Barry’s eyes appear watery in texture, diluting the strength that once pierced others. “It’s Jessica. She keeps standing by that window, and I tell her to step away from it. The bass is getting louder and louder. The way she stands there, ignoring me; I can’t help but wonder if she is meeting someone out there.” Barry watches the doctor nod and jot down more words for his secret notebook. “But, I don’t remember accusing her of anything. Jessica, I don’t remember, baby.”
Her fingers begin to tremble from emotions entering in with her thoughts, and swooning against the fear. “I’m scared you will say this is psychosis.” Her arm extends toward Barry though she shortens it again suddenly. “Dr. Sayers,” Jessica explains, “I am afraid. If what happened to his parents could happen to us. . .I don’t know what I can do or say to prevent something from happening. I’m not saying I knew his parents all that well-“
“Stop it, Jessica. My parents aren’t relative in this, okay? I know dad experienced things – maybe like me, but I won’t ever hurt you, baby. Please don’t be afraid of me. I’m going to do my best to stop what is scaring you. Just, please don’t give up on us. I’m more afraid of losing you than anything at all. When I have that dream, I have this fear that-" Barry clinches his hands and stammer’s out the words, "I feel like I’ve lost you.”
The doctor checks his watch and closes his notebook. “Our time is up Barry and Jessica. I am looking forward to another session in a couple of days. Will that work for you two? We will jump right back in where we left off.”
The couple slowly rise from their seats, meeting together after leaving the office doorway. Jessica leans to hold his hand, unsure of what she’s doing. He takes notice and holds his arm out for her to grasp and they stride along as they’d done so many times before.
Jessica answers the house phone, carrying it on her shoulder around the kitchen and chopping vegetables. “I’m doing okay. It’s good to know that we aren’t alone, you know? Oh? That sounds like fun. I always forget when it comes to town. Really? That sounds – great. I’m about to get dinner on the stove, so – tomorrow, give me a call if you can. Love you, too.”
Barry brings in milk and a bag of groceries, setting the bag on the counter. Jessica bubbles, asking, “Did you know the circus is in town? Every year, we miss it.” She sighs. “We could both really use some fun.”
Barry leans over her shoulder as she chops. “Let’s not miss it again. I love you, baby.”
Jessica picks up on his humbled words. Barry wraps his arms around her waist and holds her. “I know you do. I love you, too.” She twists her body around in his arms, speaking nose to nose, “Tomorrow. Sandy and her son are going too.”
“Whatever you’d like to do, babe. Would it be okay if I, uh, slept in the garage for a little while? I’m just, very tired. It would be easiest not to bother you with my crazy dreams. I would like you to lock me in.”
“Um, I – of course, I will. After dinner? Let me find the extra blankets, for the trundle.”
Hours pass. Jessica sleepily engages the stairs, down to a kitchen light and glass of sweet tea. “Ah, that hits the spot,” she self-indulges while finding her backside to a barstool. Her mind drifts into passing thought, as the whole house feels resonated of silence. Then, she nearly topples off her stool when she hears, “Jessica! Who is it outside? Why are you not answering me? Answer me!”
Jessica freezes, waiting for the next words. She remains solitary and motionless for her personal, lingering minute. Her ear caresses the door to the garage, but there was only silence again. There was only an empty room at her disposal. Suddenly, shifting her body at the stairway, she mutters, “Did he hear me in here, or is he really dreaming?” She stands there, at the base of the stairs, listening. The air felt fabricated with secrets, streaming amongst the breath’s she would take, though her heart kept her balanced in emotion and lead her back to bed and to an uninterrupted sleep.
The smell of coffee wakes Barry. He sees the garage door slightly opened. He sees Jessica slumped over her laptop. Her hair laying across it and the bar. “Jessica!” She jumps up, the sound of her trying to catch her breath is loud and troubling. Barry runs to her, holding her head to his chest. “I just thought the worst.”
He starts to express his relief, “What were you doing, sweetie?”
“Look.” Jessica points at the outlet beneath the bar. “My laptop was dying. Not me”, she remarks, clearly annoyed.
Barry wipes his forehead, and gazes ahead. “Hey, sweetie. I didn’t mean to scare you when I yelled. After everything, (he lets out a laugh) just scared the crap out of me.”
Jessica taps her finger against a coffee mug. “It sounded like it does when you yell, when you’re having that dream.”
“I hope you slept better without the night terror.”
“I did.” She stares lovingly into his eyes until he speaks.
“But? I know there’s something. I can see it in your face, baby.”
“Okay. Last night, did you hear me come into the kitchen to pour a drink?”
Barry shakes his head, his lips contorting a nervous curiosity. “Why? What happened?”
She shuffles her feet around the barstool, then quickly throws her feet to the side and stands. She walks toward the garage door. Then, guides his eyes around the room with her pointing finger. “I was in here, just getting a glass of tea. Then, there to sit and drink it. It was peaceful, but then you screamed my name – like you did earlier. And, there were the questions as usual except it ended quicker. I honestly worried you heard me and were, uh - hearing it out loud sounds dumb. I’m sorry. Obviously, you wouldn’t mess around with me like that.” She sighs, staggering back to the bar stool.
Barry nods back and forth while speaking, his eyes targeting a piece of tile, “I did have that dream again. That same bass and you at the window. It’s never been a game.”
“I’m so glad we’re here, this year. How about caramel corn? It’s only about twenty bucks a bag!" Barry's expression exuberant in a child-like way.
Jessica grins and searches her bag. “I’ll grab us a drink to share as well. Will you find Sandy and Brian, please Bear?”
Barry scans the area. “We’ll get your attention when you come inside. Love you.” He kisses her forehead before searching the rows for their seats inside the giant, colorful tent.
Several minutes later, Jessica does a balancing act of her own, carrying too many items from the various stands at work.
Barry sees her walk in, her light brown curls against her neck still taking his attention.
Brian bellows, “Ova’ here, Jess!” She smiles and waves back.
Jessica yells, “Hey there kiddo. Hey Sandy!"
Any bystander would surely suspect a happy, loving, and very normal life belonged to them, Barry’s thoughts assure him as he goes, pulling items from her arms.
The show is beginning, and all attention goes to the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen!" The Ringmaster announces over the sound of a chatty crowd. "Let the show begin!”
The lion tamer excites the audience. The beautiful woman nearly falling into a net from the high wire, only moments later to hear, “It’s all part of the show,” kept everyone a little on edge.
“I don’t think I’ve clapped so much, ever!” Sandy cheers. Jessica nods, grinning at Barry, who seems to be lost in thought.
Lastly, the Lady of Life approached her center stage position, finding herself to a seat only a few feet away from the spotlight. She sits comfortably, engaged of everyone’s attention in silence; their curiosity abounding. Her entrance wasn’t like the others’ and the difference was building an energizing intensity.
“Hello all,” she spoke with a raspy, calm speech. “I am the Lady of Life and my specialty is discerning secrets in my visitor’s lives. Just yesterday, I helped a young man find his long, lost friend. The poor gentlemen had no idea what was being told to him for years, was an absolute lie. Terrible for him, until he learned the truth. Give a hand for that young man. There, in the audience. Please stand, sir.”
The audience looks amongst themselves and watch as the spotlight travels in circles, until a young man is standing.
The ringmaster announces, “She’s done it again, ladies and gentlemen!”
The young man, astonished, yells, “How did she know I was here?!”
The Lady of Life speaks into the microphone tucked neatly in her shirt, “There is a presence of courage here this evening. May I ask whom is to be my hero, tonight?” Several male teens stand abruptly, antagonizing their female friends. “I will be your hero, ma’am!” “Choose me, Lady!”, two of them shout. The Lady of Life holds a finger to her slightly protruding lip, “I’ll choose the young man, two rows behind you. He is wearing a tan vest.” The boys jolt their heads slightly, then turn to look.
A very tall and thin boy slowly lifts his legs, balancing his way through the steps and viewers. When he reaches the front, the Lady of Life asks his name. He quickly bows his head, enunciating, “Alexander.”
She rears her head back to share the clever assumption, “Ah, you must be our very own Alexander the Great, young man. A hand for the young Alexander the Great? Is it alright if I share your story with our audience, Alexander?”
He shrugs, “No worries, miss.”
“Just as I suspected, she jokes with the crowd.” The audience chuckles along with her. “Now, Alexander the Great – don’t be fooled by the judgment set upon you from those who wish to shame you. You are interested in photography, is that correct?”
Alexander, appearing amused, gives an appreciative, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Within your family tree, there are three whom have wanted to pursue such a career and have not. You will certainly be the first. Have you any questions for me, then?”
Alexander grins, revealing a great relief and step toward his dreams. “Ma’am, I don’t have the funds for a camera. How can I go about getting one and how can I go about getting started?”
The Lady of Life looks at the audience, revealing a secret entrepreneur. “You sir, will you please walk to the front?”
A man gasps, “How could she know?” The man, well-dressed and prudent, makes his way to the stage. The Lady of Life speaks softly to him, “Welcome, what is your name, sir?”
“Stanley O’ Donald, ma’am. Nice to make the acquaintance of such a talented young woman.”
She looks back into the rows of people, all staring back. Then she states, “This is Mr. O ‘Donald. He has been looking for someone, and I believe this is him; our very own, Alexander the Great. Do you agree, Mr. O ‘Donald?”
He shakes Alexander’s hand while earnestly assuring him, “What a story this will be!”
The Lady of Life continues, centering herself and likely waiting to catch a floating idea. The room fills with quiet contemplation, until she opens her eyes to speak.
“There is a man here with the gift of premonition, though it seems he may be in denial. I sense he is a loving man and his adoration belongs to his wife. No, no. This isn’t a set up to make someone look good.” The women respond with comical retorts.
“I won’t ask you to come forth for this is a touchy subject for you; at the moment, anyway. You must focus on understanding exactly what your premonition is telling you. Perhaps letting go of your fear will reveal what it is that has been so daunting. Your emotions aren’t playing well for you or your wife.”
Jessica gets behind the wheel. Her eyes follow the groups and couples leaving, all of them with a renewed sense of wonder. “I know -I know she was talking about us. Right?”
Barry concurs with facial expressions and a crooked smile. “Let’s fire that psychiatrist," he says.
“Warm milk? “Jessica asks, grabbing the gallon from the refrigerator. “Anything that could be helpful for you to be, you know, relaxed.”
“Oh, baby," Barry boasts, “That’s the best idea you’ve had all day.” He grabs Jessica and puts his hand behind her head, pulling hair from her face. “Let’s both relax,” he whispers before carrying her to their room.
Barry wakes up, the clock reads 3:33. The air is noticeably moving about his limbs as he walks around the bed to kiss his wife’s forehead. He watches the window for no reason, though looking through its pane rapidly changes his state of mind. Something supernatural wraps around his legs, giving him new strength.
Jessica rolls over, lays her hand across his chest. He looks at her, realizing he was in bed the whole time. “What is going on?” He whispers into the changing atmosphere. He closes his eyes, smiles easily until he falls back into a deep sleep.
“Hey, wake up. Wake up, Barry. There’s an earthquake. I just felt the house shaking.”
Barry sits up, rubbing his head while scanning the bedroom. “Nothing is broken in the house? It must have been light, because I slept through it.”
Jessica takes her phone, scrolling and searching. “Well, it may be too soon to find news about it. I wonder if I just imagined it.”
“Stay in bed with me. I’ll protect you. Let’s go back to sleep together.” Jessica turns a full circle and then crawls under the heavy comforter and finds her husbands warm body. “I miss this,” she says, a tear forming against cheek.”
Barry is awakened by sounds of distant sirens. His feet search for house shoes, feeling the bass through the floor. His instinct is to become angry at the lack of respect for those sleeping. Suddenly remembering the Lady of Life’s words, he turns to the window in a stocking motion, and walks over, tapping gently against its panes. Outside, he sees how the road has been broken and assumes it was caused from the earthquake Jessica felt. He quietly makes his way into the living room and dials the Sheriff’s office. The sheriff answers. “I think there was an earthquake. I know there’s no news of it. Listen, the street I live on is clearly broken up. I can see if from my doorstep. Get someone here quickly to block it off; it’s nearly commuting hours for this neighborhood.” After telling the sheriff his address, he hangs up.
He sits at the bar, remembering the conversation with Jessica. He remembers how concerned she appeared ,and suddenly, he is completely unable to conceal his feeling. “I’m coming, sweetheart.” His feet feel lighter going upstairs, desiring a night’s rest beside her.
He notices the sound of car doors and the soft glare, reflecting colors of red and blue against the window. “Was that the urgency of my daunting dream?” He spoke out loud, compelling himself to accept all is right again. Barry peels Jessica’s falling hair away from her face. Off to sleep, Barry can’t keep his eyes open any longer. The sounds of a road crew fade, and then silence, quietly to sleep.
“Jessica. Are you alright? Are they still out there?” She is quiet, and her body seems frozen. “Okay,” Barry murmurs, “I’m in control. I am.” He walks with a slow stride, readying himself for the truth, whatever that is. He touches her shoulder. She doesn’t react. Her eyes are glazed over and she seems to be staring at the construction zone he’d requested. He carries her to the bed, laying her down. Franticly, he looks her over for any injury’s. There are none, minding a small bruise on her shoulder blade. “Oh, God. Am I dreaming?” Barry stands firmly as he is able onto his feet.
He hears glass break downstairs and pulls a golf club from his closet before making his way down there. He moves stealthily into the rooms, searching each one for hiding intruders. Checking the doors, he finds everything secured. “Huh.” He walks around the kitchen's island and finds a shattered wine glass. “Okay Lady of Life, what’s going on? You can probably read my thoughts right now.” Barry carries a bottle of merlot to bed, feeling embarrassed that he was talking to himself, as well as thankful Jessica didn’t catch him doing it.
“I want things to be normal,“ he speaks over Jessica’s sleeping body. Once again, Barry finds his comfortable place beneath the cotton sheets. He lays his hand on Jessica’s back. The fabric bunches beneath his caressing fingers. The cool touch the pillow gave his cheek delivers the mood he needs. “Come on, believe in yourself.” He whisperes encouragement, hoping it would process into his subconscious while sleeping.
A rattling sound wakes Jessica. She touches Barry’s face, mouthing the words, “I love you.” She nudges his sleeping body but he doesn’t wake. She realizes there are people outside, working to keep the drivers safe and aware of danger. Nodding and smiling, she is relieved that’s all that woke her. “God, please don’t let another earthquake happen.”
Jessica watches the construction crew while sipping the wine her husband left on her dresser. Her expression changes, evidently curious of what happened to make the workers rush to their work trucks all at once. A loud speaker was being used and delivering an awful message.
“Vacate the premises. Everyone needs to leave at once! This is a warning of possible death. Leave at once! Move people. Now! Now! Now!” Sirens were filling the streets morning air. Panic was caught on the face of her neighbors, rushing out their front doors with children in their arms and wrapped in blankets.
But it was too later. So quickly, it was all over. Barry was running to her but could only watch. He heard the bass, louder than ever. His feet became useless as the floor shook, until it tore apart. He looked up to see her mouth screaming his name. Pieces of glass lay into her neck and back. That window fell as suddenly as the house collapsed. Looking upon one another, there was a blood-soaked nightgown and gasps for air. Her fingers reach for his. His body, even while yearning to take her into his arms, had been crushed beneath the weight of their broken home. Before he took his last breath, the thought screamed through his mind, “Bombs. Testing bombs underground. We are now just more news for someone else to not take seriously.” Surprised, Barry hears Jessica talking to him. “Hey.”
Barry opens his eyes. The momentum from the dream was still running through his veins as he took her up into his arms and fled down the stairs. All the while he heard her startled questions, never slowing his pace. Out the door and into the truck, he peels out, screaming, “There's a bomb. Run. Run!"
Jessica’s eyes are wide and her breaths are short. Her hands grip the edge of her seat when she asks, “What is happening?”
Barry says, “I’m saving us, baby.” He continues to lay his hand on the horn, steady and loud.
Jessica looks behind to still barely see their house crumbling to the ground. She looks shocked, then says, "I saw it happen before, in our room," then faints.
Barry looks up at the fading moonlight. “Thank you God, for my gift.” As he says that, he looks at his wife, waiting to wake her until they're somewhere else. Together, maybe to finally get the rest they both have needed. Barry looks on ahead, still bewildered by what he had just been through and wild-eyed and relieved that he had actually saved her.
© 2018 Courtney Grant