Dreams Ch. 05

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Babes

Early light filters through my window this morning. I open and close my eyes slowly as I think. It feels a little strange to have no feelings from a dream to shake off these past few weeks. I feel lighter somehow and push back the covers, stretching luxuriously for several minutes.

I turn my head to the clock – 6:00. I slide out of bed and wander into the bathroom. My braids are a mess since I forgot to pull on my sleep cap the night before. Other than that, I look well rested. No redness or puffiness to my eyes at all. I jump in the shower and wash myself and my braids deciding to run conditioner and mousse through them with my fingers and let my hair air dry on the way to work. I don’t feel like cooking and I have almost an hour before I have to leave. Good… enough time to stop by the Café for breakfast. It’s Friday, but for some reason, I want to look nice today and forgo jeans and a t-shirt. I throw on a black and emerald green wrap dress with a black camisole and black sandals then grab my purse and keys and head for the door.

I walk slow taking my time. The streets are close to empty this early in the morning. Tourists are hunkering down nursing their hangovers and most of the residents don’t start heading out to work for another hour or so.

Everything is damp with the morning dew. As I pass a park, I fill my lungs with a deep breath that smells of wet grass and concrete. The sky is turning light blue and the street lights are starting to dim. Let another 30 minutes pass and the streets will be steaming as the sun evaporates the last of the moisture.

A few minutes later, I walk into Café du Jour to find myself picked up from behind and swung around as soon as I walk in the door. I land on my feet and turn to see Sara and Joe’s youngest son, Stephen, grinning down at me.

“Hey, Chucky Cheeks!” I turn and pinch both cheeks then hug him. He groans at the silly childhood nickname. Stephen is two years older than me but at least a head taller. He has his father’s height and good looks along with his mother’s curly wild red hair – which he keeps short – and her blue eyes.

I spot Sara and Joe working behind the counter. I wave and smile as Stephen and I find a quiet table. The café traffic is light this morning with the few customers that are up so early preferring a quick grab and go on the way to work. We sit at a table in the corner by the window. Stephen is first to speak.

“I came in early hoping to catch you on your way to work but you turned out to be the early one. I saw you walking down the sidewalk just in time.”

I roll my eyes. “Am I that predictable?”

“Yes and no.” he shrugs then get straight to the point. “Mom says something’s up with you but she can’t figure it out.” Trust Stephen to level with me and get down to business. I fidget in my seat and play with the strap on my purse.

I’m not ready for this yet so I try to make light of it. “She’s just being protective. You know how your mother is.”

Stephen doesn’t fall for it. He stares at me for a full minute before speaking. Stephen’s job as a lawyer in Dallas has taught him all about patience. He’s a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office.

I feel like his eyes are looking right through my flesh and straight into my heart. He is really good at reading people and I admire him for that. It just a skill I don’t particularly like him practicing on me.

“Hmmm… Something is up. I can tell.” He leans back and stares at me another minute. I stare at the floor. When I look up at his face again, he has a look that I know too well and I know what’s going to come out of his mouth next. “I am going to guess it has to do with a guy because you don’t want to talk to me about it and you talk to me about everything.”

I remain silent but my eyes give it away. Stephen raises an eyebrow and nods his head in affirmation. “Bulls eye on the first try? Damn, I’m good.”

I panic and finally speak, pleading for his silence. “Okay, I’ll talk. Just promise you’ll keep whatever I tell you to yourself for now. I’m not even sure what this is yet, but I know I’m not ready to go through the parental approval torture yet.”

He doesn’t like this, but he agrees. “Fine. Your secret is safe as soon as you share it with me – for now. Wait, let me grab you a coffee. Have you had breakfast?” I shake my head and he gets up.

Watching him head to the counter, I weigh my options. I could lie, tell him everything, or stall. Stalling was out. Stephen has patience like his mother and just like her he would be perfectly content to bring it up at every opportunity for months until he wiggled the truth out of me. Lying was ludicrous. I was surprised I even considered it as an option. I didn’t lie to Stephen and he didn’t lie to me. We weren’t like that. şirinevler escort We told each other everything. Besides, even if I tried to lie, he would see right through it in about 5 seconds flat.

He returns with coffee and beignets for the both of us. We chat and goof – I blow powered sugar on him and he is nice enough not to return the favor since I am headed to work. After we ate, I get serious and tell him everything. Well, almost everything. I do not tell him about the dreams, but I tell him everything else. Even the make out session outside my door that almost had me dragging Lucas into my apartment. He listens without interrupting and when I finish, Stephen does not say anything at first. He finishes his coffee, sits the mug down, and leans toward me.

“Sounds like you’ve got a lot to think about and don’t need my two cents, but I’m going to toss them in anyway.” He waits a few seconds then speaks. “You know how I felt about David.”

Of course I knew. He had made no bones about how he felt about David. He was against our relationship from the start. While Stephen did not know David personally, he knew him by reputation. It was the first time Stephen and I fought – really fought. It got so bad that we stopped speaking to each other for a few months. After the relationship ended, Stephen came to see me. Sara and Joe had called him. He flew out immediately and visited me in the hospital. Sara and Joe brought me to their home when the doctors discharged me. They took care of me when I couldn’t (and didn’t) want to take care of myself. Stephen visited every other weekend for a while after that. Of course, he wanted to kill David, but he never expressed any version of “I told you so” to me. He was one of the many rocks I clung to for over a year in order to get through one of the toughest times of my life.

Stephen continued. “This sounds different. You are thinking this one through and you need to learn to trust your own judgment again. I know that’s hard after what happened, but you took a lot of time. You learned some things about yourself that you hadn’t realized before.” He paused. “Does this guy know anything about what happened?”

I shook my head. “He knows there is something I’m not telling him, but he is not pushing for it. I will tell him when I’m ready.”

“He sounds like a good guy to me but what do I know. Bring him by this weekend. I’m pretty good at spotting bastards.” His small smile matched mine. “All joking aside, I would like to see the man before I leave.”

My smile faded. “When are you leaving?” I didn’t bother keeping the disappointment out of my voice. He just got here and I hated to think about when he would have to go back.

“I have to fly back to Dallas on Monday. I’ll be back in about a month.”

I tell him we would all be having dinner at Angelo’s and he was welcome to join us. I also mention that Lucas would probably be there as well.

Stephen and I spent another 15 minutes or so catching up before I reluctantly left him to head for work.

Sitting at my computer in my office later that day, I am in a fog. It’s after two o’clock and I am still thinking of last night instead of working. I also think about the conversation Lucas and I had at the restaurant about his lecture. We talked about the pictures and my interest in one of the girl’s biographies. He told me part of her story. Her true name was Alsoomse but when she arrived at the school, she was called Sarah. She lived there for 4 years until she completed her “new” education then was sent to live with a family in Boston as a live-in servant but ran away less than a year later. She ended up out west and was able to start a new life, but it wasn’t easy. The only reason anyone knows so much about her is that she kept a series of journals and letters for over 50 years. Her family kept them as an heirloom until they donated the journals and photos to the University.

*****

“I can’t get that photo out of my head.” I had confessed to Lucas last night. “I want to know her life and her story. I think others should know it too. To survive what she went through and still be able to make a life takes so much strength.”

He sat back in his chair and smiled at me. “So write it.”

I stumbled over my reply. “S-Say again?” I was certain I heard him wrong.

“Write her story.” He said again and looked at me seriously. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you are wasting your time in that library. You have an amazing mind and a passion for history and life. You said you want to write, so do it.”

“You’re not kidding. You’re serious? You think I can just write her story?”

He leveled his eyes to mine. “Well, you would have to contact the Nation to get help with your research. You will also şirinevler elit escort need to find out if you need permission from any remaining family members.”

As we continued to discuss it, I had a hard time denying that I was scared to death, but excited beyond feeling at the same time by this prospect. If I was forced to admit the truth, excitement was the stronger emotion of the two.

*****

I shake myself out of my daze to stare at an email from Dr. Russell Miller. I read the email earlier only to learn that Dr. Miller is Lucas’ department head.

Dr. Miller is a published author of non-fiction and, according to his email, eager to help a “fledgling” writer. His email left his number along with an invitation to call me as soon as I could. I check the clock and call. I fully expect to leave a message so I am surprised when he answers. His deep voice reminded me of his age, but that voice has all the excitement of a kid as we speak.

“I have to admit that this all a little daunting. I haven’t done any writing of my own a few years, just research.” I am almost apologetic in my lack of experience.

He laughed off my trepidation. “Nonsense, we need new and fresh young writers. You have such a way of looking at the world that you only get once in this life. Sometimes, I forget what that feels like.”

It will take a few days and maybe weeks, but he insists on helping me with Sarah’s family tree to discover if she has surviving relatives. Sara had lived in California with her husband and five children, so it will take a little more digging to see if any family remains. We make an appointment for next week (I’ll have to take the day off – which I never do – but I don’t care) and sign off.

When I hang up, I sit for a minute in shock thinking about what I have just committed myself to. A research project – one that might result in a manuscript that I would then have to try to convince someone to publish. I put the break on my though process before it careens out of control. Grand-mere used to say don’t put the cart before the horse and that is exactly what I am doing. One thing at a time is the only way to handle this situation.

I spend the rest of the afternoon reading accounts from books we already have cataloged. Most are a second hand accounts but a few are first hand. I wonder as I read why so many are second hand accounts and make a mental note to ask either Lucas or Dr. Miller. I make hand written notes then use the computer to re-type them, partly as a review and partly to clean them up – I tend to write quickly when I am excited. I honestly cannot remember the last time research excited me like this.

*****

I do not notice Matt come into my office so I jump when I hear his voice. “Hey, you gonna stay here all night?” He teases and comes in to drop himself in a chair by my desk. I stare at him confused then look at the clock. It’s almost 5:00.

“No, I was just wrapping up.” I save my work on my network drive and log off the computer. I reach in the desk drawer, drop my notes in and fish my purse out.

Matt and I walk downstairs together. I can’t get over his hair. He walked in this morning and nearly gave everyone a heart attack. He cut all his hair off! Em was the first to tease. “I hope you gave all that beautiful hair to Locks of Love!” Matt handled the teasing so well, that it died down by lunch. Truth be told, he looks good with the buzz cut. At the bottom of the stairs outside, I rub Matt’s head before we collect Emily.

Our Friday night tradition was going to be a little larger than usual. Lucas said he would try to make it and Emily’s husband Jasper swore he would be there this time. I tell Matt and Em that Stephen was in town and would try to make it.

“Good, I haven’t seen him in a while. It will be good to catch up.” Em walks faster than the rest of us. Matt told me she skipped lunch so her stomach is leading the way to dinner.

As a result she is the first to spot Lucas as we round the corner. He is leaning on his Jeep outside the restaurant.

“Damn! I forgot how beautiful that man is.” Em whispers loud enough for Matt and I to hear.

“How could you forget? You only saw him two days ago.” I remind her, rolling my eyes but smiling.

“Sweetie you’re going to have to wipe the drool off your chin and try to behave yourself in front of your husband.” Matt teases.

We all laugh. Em might speak her mind about Lucas but she is head over heels in love with Jasper and has been for nearly a decade. She still considers the fact that they still like each other and go at it like rabbits (her words, not mine) as soon as they are alone a huge bonus in their marriage.

Matt opens the door for us and we make our way inside. şirinevler escort I walk in last before Lucas. He reaches for my hand as we enter. The place is really crowded but there are booths near the back. We navigate through and manage to claim the largest one. Emily’s eyes go straight to our locked hands as she sits down. It felt so natural that I didn’t give it another thought. I smile at her and give her a look that says I will answer her questions later. I know there will be a lot of questions.

Jasper arrives a few minutes later. I see his head clearly over all the other patrons in the place. Jasper is hard to miss at 6’5″ and solidly built with wavy shoulder length red hair. His muscled tattooed arms are partially covered by a white t-shirt. He is wearing blue jeans still has on his steel toe work boots. His handsome face spots Em right away and he starts toward us. I notice more than one female head give Jasper a once over and a smile as he passes by. He is oblivious to them and I manage to stifle a laugh. He never pays attention to the looks he gets from other ladies.

Jasper slides in the booth next to Em and kisses her before saying hello to everyone. He shakes Lucas’ hand in greeting and pretends that he is politely greeting a total stranger. I know full well Em has told him everything she knows but Jasper is a good actor.

Stephen shows up a few minutes later. To my surprise, he brought his parents in tow. I sneak a glare at Stephen to let him know I see through the ruse. He gives me his best wide-eyed face of innocence but in truth, I’d be lying if I said was mad. It was easier this way. Besides, Sara and Joe had not seen Matt, Emily or Jasper in months and it was nice having everyone there. Conversation is light, friendly and reminds me of all the happier nights spent with these same people, who seem to absolutely love Lucas. I can’t help thinking of my grandmother tonight. She would have been so happy to see us assembled here and having such a good time. I begin to feel a mixture of warmth along with a painful ache for her.

The evening air is sticky and warm as we leave the restaurant. Sara, Joe and Stephen exchange hugs and handshakes with everyone. Sara hugged me for longer than usual so she could whisper “Nice.” in my ear before she kissed my cheek. Jasper and Emily head home in Jasper’s truck. Matt leaves us to catch up with some friends at a nearby bar.

Lucas and I are the last to leave, climbing into his car. The sky is a dark fiery orange as the sun sinks from the sky. As he pulls away from the curb, I am overcome by a feeling and I have to see something tonight. I usually go there alone, but tonight I don’t mind Lucas coming with me. Actually the thought has me really excited.

“Do you mind taking me somewhere else before you take me to my apartment?”

Eyes still on the road he agrees. “Sure, no problem. Where to?”

I direct him to another part of town that’s about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. The houses are spaced fairly far apart on 1 and 2 acre lots. I point to the house and he pulls up to the gate. I retrieve the fob that is attached to my keys and open the gate. As he drives up to the house, I take it in the way I used to when I was a little kid. The Spanish Moss hanging from the trees hides the house for a few yards. The house red brick with white trim. It’s two stories with dual wrap around balconies beckons to me as the car comes to the stop.

A minute later we are standing in a stone courtyard, having parked the car in the carport. I take him around the side to a pair of French doors. I unlock the doors and step inside. A rapid beeping starts as soon as the door is opened. I turn on the lights by the keypad on the wall. The beeping stops after I enter the code.

It’s still pretty dark. “Stay here.” I whisper and head around the corner. I find the main light switch panel and light up the kitchen. From there you can see the breakfast nook and into the formal dining room. I take off my shoes and place them on the shoe rack by the alarm and Lucas does the same.

Lucas is standing where I left him. “Nice.” He says looking around. His eyes take in the architecture: the marble counter tops, arched doorways, hardwood floors and the view into the garden. I walk to the formal living room toward the front of the house. Lucas follows. The room is centered with a brick fireplace. Two chairs sit on either side of it, a settee sits over by the window, a glass coffee table covered with a sheet sits in front of it. A large Turkish rug sits on top of the hardwood floor in the middle of the room. “Very nice. Um, where are we?”

I place my hands on top of a tall damask wing back chair to the right of the fireplace. I feel a familiar warmth run through me and close my eyes for a moment. If I concentrate, I can still smell her perfume and if I really concentrate, I can still hear her voice. I open my eyes and find Lucas starting at me intently. He almost looks worried. I don’t have to wonder why. My eyes brim with tears as they usually do when I come here and my voice catches a little when I speak. “My home.”

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