Joshua O’Keefe awoke with a start and groped for the switch of his lamp. As he flicked it on, the person who was sleeping in the foldaway bed under the window emitted a deep moan of resentment. ‘For feck sake, man,’ Deco protested. ‘We’ve got an early start tomorrow. Is it necessary to keep me awake half the bleedin’ night?’
Without answering, Josh turned off the lamp, then rolled out of bed and left the room on silent feet. He spotted a strip of light under his sister’s door and tapped on it gently. When he heard her voice calling to him, he pushed it open and peered inside. To his relief, he saw she was propped up in bed, wide awake and working away on her laptop.
‘I had the weirdest dream,’ he told her sheepishly. ‘I’m a bit freaked out.’
‘Well you needn’t think you’re sleeping in here,’ Diane half-smiled at him, her green eyes vivid in her oval face. ‘Drink a glass of water and you’ll be grand. It’s no wonder you feel strange after all the shit you and Deco imbibed over Christmas. The best thing you can do is treat your liver to a week off. What was it about? The dream I mean.’
‘I dreamed that you and I were toddlers,’ her brother rubbed at brown eyes that itched. ‘The four of us were spending Christmas together. It was just you, me, Mum and Dad. It was like something from one of those annoying Christmas movies.’
‘Sounds cosy,’ his twin replied, her voice heavy with irony. ‘Did you happen to notice any divorce papers tucked under the tree?’
‘No,’ he frowned. ‘I opened this massive box with a red bow on the top, and there was a puppy inside. I can’t remember what happened next, but when I woke up my heart was racing like the Formula 1. Do you think it means something?’
His twin perused Josh’s face for a moment, noting the way the fair hair flopped into the big brown eyes, and the hooknose that was too large for his boyish face. She did her best to sound patient when she replied, ‘With a bit of luck, it means Mum is planning to buy us an extra special belated Christmas present. Maybe when she got back to work, there was a year-end bonus waiting for her.’
‘So you think the dream might be about gifts?’ her brother asked hopefully. ‘You don’t think it has anything to do with marriage or puppies?’
‘Christmas is well and truly over, Joshie,’ Diane told him gently. ‘If miracles exist in this world, and I’m not for one minute suggesting they do, you can bet your ass our miracle won’t involve our parents reconciling after fifteen years apart. Why don’t you try to get some sleep? You promised to help me shop for Mum’s present tomorrow. It isn’t every day a woman turns forty. The least we can do is make a bit of an effort.’
The young man sighed heavily and rubbed his hand through his already tousled hair. ‘Sorry to be such a wuss,’ he mumbled. ‘Night, sis.’
He withdrew from the room and made sure the door was closed tightly behind him. In bare feet and wearing only grey boxer shorts, he wandered into the kitchen of their rented apartment. To his profound relief, he discovered an untapped bottle of ice-cold water in the fridge, and helped himself to a tall glass.
Still feeling shaken from an emotion he could not quite identify, he stood at the window and stared down into the courtyard of the apartment block. A couple of late night revellers weaved their way across it, alternatively clutching each other for support and then shouting raucously.
Josh sipped the water and his thoughts turned to his mother. He hoped she was all right and his odd dream was not some sort of weird portent. Diane was a very level headed girl, and if she believed it had something to do with gifts, he was undoubtedly worrying unnecessarily.