Gabrielle Connor felt a strange sense of disorientation as she found herself going for her usual weekend job at the theatre in the small town centre. It was a job she quit six years ago, but it seemed so normal walking down that familiar path she didn't think much about it. And suddenly, the way it happens in dreams sometimes, the scene fast-forwarded and she found herself leaving her workplace. Usually she'd walk home, but it was getting late, and she was just in time to catch the last bus, so she made her way amidst the heavy rain to the bus stop. When she got there, however, there was no bus, only a hastily handwritten sign stuck to the lamp post.
"Accident at Grayton Pass, bus service temporarily suspended."
That's when she froze. She'd seen that sign before, on a rainy night much like this one six years ago.
Again the scene changed, and suddenly Gabrielle was looking at her fifteen-year-old self struggling home against the strong winds blowing rain into her face.
She knew what was going to come...
Six years ago
Young Gabrielle stumbled through the doorway, almost tripping on the carpet as she threw her now useless umbrella on the floor. Her light brown hair was in a soggy tangled mess, and her clothes and hair dripped water as she hurried into the kitchen where she knew her mother would be.
The kitchen was warm and welcoming, a sharp contrast to the bitter cold and stinging rain outside. Her mother stood by the stove stirring a pot of soup, and looked up surprised as Gabrielle burst in.
"Mum, did you hear..."
"What happened to you, darling? You're all wet!" Her mother was shocked at her daughter's expression as Gabrielle clung to her arm.
"The bus...the river..."
"What are you talking about?" Her mother frowned and felt her forehead. "You've probably caught a cold walking through the rain like that. I'll go get you a towel..."
"No, Mum, its not about me!" Gabrielle took a breath to calm herself down. "Its the bus...there was too much rain and the river flooded. It swept the bus away with all the people in it!"
Her mother covered her mouth. "That's...horrible! It was the last bus to town too, so there'd be a lot of people on it...oh no." She took Gabrielle into her arms and hugged her tightly. "It's alright, darling, Mr Jones would be down there with his men and they'd be able to help..."
Gabrielle sensed a sudden tension in her mother's arms, and she looked up at her mother's face. "What is it, Mum?"
"Danny...he could be on that bus!"
"What?" Gabrielle jerked out of her mother's embrace at the mention of Danny Walker's name. "How...why would he..."
"He came over earlier looking for you, saying the two of you had an argument yesterday and he wanted to set things right before he left for Tennessee. He said something urgent had happened so he had to go back with his mother immediately, so I told him you were at work. He did say they were going to catch the last bus to town..."
Before her mother could stop her, Gabrielle bolted from the warm living room and ran out into the rain.
No, please, Danny can't be on that bus...
Since his parents' divorce when he was ten, his mother moved to this town and Danny came over every summer holiday to visit. That was when she first met him, and being of the same age, it was easy for them to become friends. They had been best friends ever since, and spent every day of the holidays together.
She can't imagine that suddenly, all that would be gone. Forever.
Please, not Danny...
Gasping for breath, Gabrielle caught sight of the roaring river not far ahead and put in one last burst of strength...only to be held back by a very crossed man in police uniform.
"Get back, little girl! Its dangerous down there!" It took a while for Gabrielle's numb mind to register the face before her as the village constable, Mr Jones. She grabbed onto his arm like a drowning man grabbing a lifesaving piece of wood. "Please, Mr Jones, my friend could be down there, I just want to see..."
The anger in his eyes died as he recognised her and he heaved a long sigh. "Sorry, Gabby, I can't let anyone down there right now, it would be madness."
"Haven't you found anyone? Anyone at all?"
He patted her hand, offering what little comfort he could give. "Not yet, but I'll let you know when we do. Now go on home, there's nothing you can do here."
Indeed, there was nothing she could do.
When the report came out the next day, it was dubbed the worst disaster their town had seen in decades. There were deaths, injuries, and some people were never found.
Danny was never found. Gabrielle clung on to that last hope that perhaps Danny was not on the bus, that he was alive, but when the village police finally managed to haul the wreckage from the river, some personal belongings of the passengers were retrieved, and amongst them, a small silver chain with a nametag which had been stuck between the seats. The tag read "Danny Walker."
It was the dogtag she had gotten for Danny for his birthday last year. She clutched the small chain in her hands so tightly that her fingernails dug into her palm. Her knees buckled and she sank to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably...
With a start, Gabrielle's eyes bolted open and she sprung up from her bed, still gasping from that vivid dream. Looking around wildly, it took her a moment to recognise her foreign surroundings.
Right, she was in a room in an inn, not in a soggy grass field with rain battering her body and a gaping hole in her heart. That was all over, six years ago.
Tenderly, she reached up and stroked the chain she now wore around her neck. The same chain she had given to Danny, which was returned to her in such a cruel fashion. The first hints of sunlight peeked through the curtains, and she sighed. Its not like she could go back to sleep anyway.
An hour later, Gabrielle stood at the bank of the river in Grayton Pass, the river which had cost Danny his life, and stared sadly at the flowing water. She still found it hard to believe that such a small, harmless stream could cause so much damage, but it did.
Placing a small bunch of wild flowers into the water, she watched as they slowly floated away downstream. The familiar scene brought back more memories of that terrible night, and renewed feelings of grief gripped her heart.
"It's me, Danny. I'm back." She whispered softly as tears glimmered in her eyes. "I'm sorry we argued that day, and I'm sorry I didn't come back earlier...
I've missed you so much, Danny.
I wish I was brave enough to tell you earlier...I had a serious crush on you back then, did you know? I loved you. I still do. I'll never forget you, Danny Walker, never."
Reaching up, she fingered the light brown locks which tumbled softly down her shoulders, and the sadness in her dark eyes lifted slightly as she smiled through her tears. "You made me a promise, remember? You promised to take me up flying on my twenty-first birthday. Its a pity...that we will not get to do that.
I know I said I never wanted to see your face again the day before you...the day before IT happened. I'm sorry that the last words I said to you were so hurtful. I've always wanted to do something for you to make up for it, and now I've got an idea. I know you'll probably say I'm crazy, but becoming a pilot was your dream, so I'm going to live that dream for you, even if its only for a short while. "
A confident smile flashed across her face. "My cousin Amy happens to be working in the army's medical department, I'm sure she can help me get in without being discovered. Then, soon, I'll fly a real plane, become a real pilot." Gazing into the distance, she added softly, "You would be there with me, wouldn't you?"
That afternoon, Gabrielle Connor walked into a barber shop in the town centre and had her hair cut, almost military style, and got on the next train on her way towards New York City.
The next day, the army had a new pilot recruit. A bright-eyed, eager young man, by the name of Gabriel Connor.