Brakes screamed, and the world spun. Metal slammed and roared, and glass exploded. Moira’s shattered and bloodied face expanded before Kyle’s eyes as it flew toward him accusingly. He woke quaking, his heart pounding, and his bed sheets soaked with sour sweat.
Kyle climbed out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face and tried to slow his breathing. In his recurring nightmare, he was the drunk driver who had split Moira’s car in half and stolen her life. Kyle had never seen the wrecked car, had never been able to confront that horror.
The rest of the night, he lay on twisted clammy sheets, staring at the ceiling until blackness gave way to the grey of dawn. He arrived at work with eyes as red and swollen as he was sure the driver’s had been. Glenn Baker looked up at him and frowned. “You look like hell. Another rough night?”
Kyle nodded. “That same nightmare again. I couldn’t go back to sleep.” He sat down at his desk and sighed wearily. “That stupid argument over a stupid check.” Moira had written out a check without recording it, and he had lectured her as if she were an irresponsible child. His heart ached with remorse. “If I hadn’t made such a big thing of it, she wouldn’t have stormed out.”
“Cut the crap!” Glenn spoke softly, but with an edge to his voice. “You’ll just make yourself nuts thinking that way. Cut yourself some slack, and put the blame where it belongs.” Glenn’s phone rang, and he turned to answer it.
Kyle knew in his head that Glenn was right. The driver of the other car had been convicted of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, and operating without a license. It had been his fourth drunk driving arrest, and he was now serving the maximum prison sentence the judge could impose. But Kyle still suffered over the petty squabble that had put her at that intersection at that moment. His day dragged on like so many others in the months since the crash.
Exhausted as he was, sleep gathered him swiftly that night. He found himself at a table in a comfortably dim lounge filled with an easy babble of casual conversations. A jazz quartet was warming up to perform a set, and he realized he was at the Blue Note jazz club. He had only been here once, before he had met Moira. At the bar, he was suddenly aware of a woman with straight dark hair and an elegant deep blue dress. She turned and looked directly at him. He was startled by the intensity of her eyes, the color of sapphires. He blushed and looked away, and shifted his thoughts to Moira’s smiling face framed with auburn waves. All at once, he felt love, sadness, and forgiveness emanating from her. He wept, while the quartet began a rendition of “Fever”. Peace settled over him. He looked up, embarrassed by his emotional display, but no one appeared to have noticed. The woman he had noticed earlier was no longer at the bar.
Then he felt firm hands on his shoulders. A warm breath washed over his ear and he felt a soft kiss on his cheek. Kyle opened his eyes to darkness. He stretched his hand to the empty side of the bed beside him, and thought of Moira until he fell back into a dreamless slumber.
He awoke well rested. Kyle faced the day feeling calmer and more aware of his surroundings than he had for months. Last night’s dream kept returning to his thoughts. He told Glenn about it at lunch.
Glenn focused his gaze on his sandwich, and chose his words carefully. “I gave up telling you that you need to move on. Sometimes I thought you wanted to hit me for saying it.”
Kyle looked at him. “I’m sorry. It just seemed - well, wrong. She’s dead. But I really loved her. Love her.”
“I know. But do you think she wanted you to just stop living? Do you think that would make her happy?”
Saying nothing, Kyle finished his meal, and they returned to the office. He thought about what Glenn had said, and for once, he didn’t feel an argument building in his head. Moira had said the same thing in his dream, silently, with one look.
That night, he found himself in the Blue Note once more. The bar seat was empty, but then the same woman strode to it as it were hers exclusively. She seated herself, and turned toward Kyle. Again he was pierced by those startlingly blue eyes. Then she smiled, the slightest lift at the corners of her lips. Her regard pinned him in place, his soul naked before her. He held her gaze for a long moment, then looked away again, heat rising in his cheeks. Soon after, he felt her behind him once more. She slid her hands down his arms to grasp his hands, as though she had known him forever. “I’m waiting,” she whispered to him. He woke suddenly, pulse racing and blood rushing, and lay awake several minutes. Soon he drifted back into a dreamless sleep.
The next day flew by. Kyle walked briskly to his desk, humming under his breath. He nodded to Glenn, who nodded back and looked at him curiously, but said nothing. That evening, Kyle yielded to impulse and dined at a Korean restaurant he had been meaning to try. As he finally returned home, with the taste of spicy barbequed beef still on his tongue, he wished he had gone there sooner.
As he slept, Kyle again found himself in the intimate club, listening to the smooth smoky sounds of a Miles Davis favorite, followed by a lively Dixieland medley. But the mysterious woman never appeared. In the morning, Kyle opened his eyes, and was surprised to feel a lingering disappointment.
As he drove to work, he thought again of Moira, and the haunting smile she wore in his dream.. He knew he would always love her, but also felt that both of them had finally found some measure of peace. Maybe there would be room for someone else in his heart, someday. Moira had her own place within him, never to be dislodged He locked his car in the parking garage and walked the two blocks to the office building’s lobby.
Kyle boarded the elevator, and the doors began to close. “Hold please!” Kyle reached out and tagged the doors with his hand, and they opened again. As the woman hurried into the elevator with a quick “Thanks,” Kyle found himself looking into a pair of brilliant blue eyes. She turned back toward the doors, but after a moment turned back around and looked back at him curiously. “I know how this sounds, but do I know you? You seem familiar somehow.”
He shook his head.. “No. I’d remember.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Hi. I’m Kyle.”
(I wrote this for the first Short Story competition on the site, in late June 2007, and posted a final revision on 7 July, 2007. The competition theme was "Dreams.")
You need to be logged in to comment