Short stories are at the heart of why Phyllis loves to write. Her father left her a legacy of the art of storytelling.
The House sat Above a Gently Flowing River
Summer Memories of a Past Life Dream
Those summer memories of a past life are with me still. Since I was a young child dreams of a peaceful scene and an old house recurred once in a while. The house sat above a gently flowing river that wound its way through a village.
In the dream I could hear the water as it flowed over large rocks. The fragrant smell of lilacs drifted around the yard as light breezes kissed my face. I lifted my chin and relished the feel of cool air coming up from the river. I had picked a bouquet of lilacs and hugged them close. The scent was heavenly and I loved to have it clinging to my dress.
Willie loved the scent and always asked if he could take some lilacs home to his mother. They lived across the river in the village.
"Then I will think of you when I smell them," he blushed and gave me his beautiful smile. "When we grow up, Sarah, our yard will be filled with lilacs and I will bring a bouquet into our house every day."
I began wondering where Willy was, for he usually came over to sit with me by this time and I had not seen him yet. We were best friends and both about ten years old. He was so dear in my heart. We both just knew we would be together forever.
"It is just a given, Sarah. We belong together," he often said.
Those words kept flowing through my head as I held the lilacs. "It is just a given. We belong together."
Someone was calling for help. It sounded like Willy and I got up to run out in the lane and look for him. "Help! Sarah, get help!"
I looked down and saw him struggling in the river. Instead of finding help I slid down the bank and jumped in the water. My only thought was to save him. My full skirt and petticoats were dragging me down but I struggled to reach him. The current took me closer to Willy and he reached out for me. I finally got close enough and grabbed his hand. "I fell in and my foot is caught on a snag," Willy gasped out the words. "Sarah, go back and get help!"
But my clothes were tangled around my legs and I could not swim. We clung to each other in panic. In just a few minutes we both drowned.
I awoke and gasped for air. I had not had that dream for a long time. The sheet was tangled around my legs and I struggled to get free. It frightened me. It had been a hot night and my air conditioner was not working. Perspiration covered me. I got free from the sheet then got up. Through the open window a cool breeze rushed in, bringing the scent of lilacs.
After a long shower I dressed and went downstairs to start a pot of coffee. As it was brewing I called the air conditioner service. A man came out a few hours later. When I opened the door he stood there staring at me for several seconds. "Uh ... I'm sorry it took so long to get here for your air conditioner," he said. "I'm Brandon. I am the only one to work on the weekends and I had an earlier call on the other side of town."
"That's okay. Come on in. I'm Janet." I showed him where the AC unit was. "I'll be in the kitchen so come on back when you're done here." I went back to the kitchen to finish fixing lunch.
The day promised to be hot again. Just as I finished mixing egg salad cool air rushed out from the vent then Brandon walked in.
"Hi. I had to replace the evaporator coil and your AC will be fine now. Here's my business card and the worksheet." When he put those on the counter he stared at me again.
I got my checkbook out and wrote a check. When I handed it to him I noticed he was still watching me closely. I felt a little nervous and he must have noticed.
"Uh ... I'm sorry for staring. You just look so familiar, but I can't place you," he said. "Have you called us before?"
"No. This is the first time. My regular maintenance man retired so I called you. The AC unit is old and he suggested I get it replaced. This house is old and I have updated almost everything except the AC. I earn a great income by buying and flipping hourses. I do all the restoration myself, except the electrical and plumbing, then I sell the houses at a great profit. This one I am going to keep for myself. I love it!" I was babbling on and felt a little embarrassed.
"It's a beautiful Victorian. You might want to have all the vents, filters, and the whole duct system checked. I can get that done for you. We have a sale on units next month, so give me a call when you are ready to do that," he pulled a paper out of his brief case and handed it to me.
"Wow! These look like great prices," I relaxed a little and put the paper on the table. "I am starving because I skipped breakfast. Would you like an egg salad sandwich and coffee while I look this sale over? Then we can set up a time to for you to check out the AC system."
He said he had also skipped breakfast, was hungry, and loved egg salad. We sat down and ate while he asked questions about the house so he could advise me on which unit to buy. I showed him the vents in all the rooms, both downstairs and up as he noted on a new worksheet any vents that should be replaced. We made an appointment for the first of next month.
When Brandon was ready to leave he opened the door then stopped and looked back at me. "A river!" He snapped his fingers. "I can see the river from up here. And smell your lilacs out here. Your Victorian house, lilacs and the river! They all seem to belong together, as if it is a given."
"What?" I was startled when he said that. I recalled the dream like a flash and the words rushed around inside my head. "It is just a given. We belong together."
"Oh! It's a dream I have once in a while," he said quietly as he stared at the river.
"Brandon." He turned back to me quickly and looked puzzled, like I had called him from a long distance.
We looked deep into each other's eyes. "Brandon," I could barely speak and whispered. "If you have time, would you like to come in for more coffee ... and talk about dreams and summer memories?"