I tossed in my cotton sheets, heat radiating from me like a space heater. I groaned as sweat seeped out of my pores, dripping and running off me and onto my sheets— melding them to my body— creating a cocoon of sweltering chaos. It was always the same, or it had been since I went to visit my great grandmother’s grave last month. Ever since I had visited Saint Mary’s decaying and overgrown cemetery, I hadn’t been able to sleep.
My mother, Mariah, had only recently discovered that her grandmother, my great grandma, had been buried in the cemetery at Saint Mary’s. She had only discovered it recently because since doing one of those fancy DNA kits she had become obsessed with researching the background of the women on her side of the family. Why the sudden obsession with our heritage now? Well, that was a question she had yet to answer. It wasn’t like she had cared before… When sleep came to me, dreams plagued me— no, I shouldn’t call them dreams— dreams made them seem trivial, happy, ‘lah-dee-dah’, carefree… These were nightmares, and not even that. This thing in my head was a recurring nightmare, the one and the same over and over and over— it plagued me.
Panting I sat up, groping in the darkness for the lamp on my nightstand— I grasped the knob and light flooded the space around me. The floor fan at the end of my bed rotated letting a blast of icy air hit me. I looked around even though I knew nothing in my room had shifted while I had been sleeping— trapped in my nightmare. Mitzi, my cat, was rolling around on the floor with a ball of yarn I’d rolled into a ball for my newest knitting project, my bookshelves, my desk, my pile of dirty clothes wadded up in a pile behind my bedroom door— everything looked exactly as it should, plain normal and unmoved from its spot— yet when I closed my eyes it all disappeared and I was there again, and there was anything but normal, anything but okay.
I shivered, my fan sending another icy blast at my sweat soaked skin. It hit me as a wall, sending my chocolate brown hair flying— at least the parts of my hair that weren’t glued to my neck with sweat. The heat of my nightmare dissipated. I realized there was no way I should have been that hot, my room was a literal icebox.
“Cassandra, honey? Are you ok?”
I blinked, and turned in the direction of the voice. My mother, was looking into my room through my open doorway. I stared at her— I was her exact copy in every way. People often thought we were twins, and not just because of our hair color. We were the same height, had the same voice, we even looked the same age… At first I didn’t even think anything of it, until I saw a picture of my grandmother when she was young. All three of us have been triplets. Talk about freaky genes.
“Mom.” I paused, yet again another night I was unsure of what to say, what to tell her— this time. “I’m fine.”
Mom stared at me, her hair, the same as mine falling around her face. She frowned and pushed her locks behind her ears with a look etched upon her face telling me she knew I was lying. “Ok. But I want you to know that I am worried about you. I want you to know that I am here for you should you ever want to talk. You know that right?” Each of her words was forced, woolen sounding.
Mom had been there for me the first night the nightmare had come. I had woken screaming, my temperature off the charts. Mom had burst into my room, pulling me into a hug. She’d wiped my tears away, held a cold cloth to my forehead as my temperature slowly returned to normal and I hadn’t even cared that she treated me like a child despite my sixteen years. I wished she would come into my room now and hold me in her arms. I wished that she would comfort me as she had that first night. I hadn’t told her what I’d seen as I wept in terror in her arms that night, and I hadn’t told her still, even though the nightmare persisted.
The screaming and crying had now faded. I was unfazed when I woke night after night— my concentration instead focused on trying to distinguish if the nightmare stayed the same or if it was changing. It took all my emotional energy to notice each detail of the nightmare. I woke each time drained and sweat soaked. Usually the surroundings in my nightmare stayed the same, but some things were always altered— tonight I woke up because I was horrified at something else. I had been the one who had changed in the nightmare.
“Mom?” My voice felt scratchy. I took a deep breath and felt the itching go all the way down my esophagus and into my lungs and back up as I released it.
“Yes babe?” She hadn’t moved from her perch at my door, like she was afraid of me.
I noticed yet again that she was pulling away or pushing away from me. It stung. I wanted her comfort, not her distrust. I wanted her arms around me, I wanted, needed her comfort. Why was she not running to me? Why was she pushing me so far… so far away? “Do you think that it’s possible to see the future in your dreams?”
Mom bit her lip, in the dim light I could see her posture change— she looked frightened but I hadn’t given her any reason to be— I hadn’t asked anything that would warrant that response. I hadn’t even told her any aspect of my nightmare. Did she already know what I saw? Had I said anything that first night in my feverish delirium? I swallowed the lump in my throat. Gosh. I really hope I didn’t. That would be sure to end me up in a counselor’s chair or worse— the looney bin and neither sounded all that appealing.
“Hun,” Mom paused, her fingers curling into fists around her loose t-shirt nightie. She trembled, then began to pick loose paint off my door frame, looking for all the world as if she couldn’t be bothered by the fact that yet again, I had woken with this nightmare. Her hair fell forward again and hid her face. “You have to be brave— and remember that a dream is a dream. We-”
“We make our own futures.” I interrupted. “I know, I know.” I rolled my eyes. It was a common saying in the Pirot home. So much for a helpful answer. I stifled my urge to lash out at my mother, and instead took a deep chilling breath as my fan rotated past my face again.
“Yes.” My mother’s fingers again played with the bottom of the hem on her nightie anxiously. “Well, I better get back to Ray.” And that was it, it was as if I had been dismissed, pacified, checked on and now— now I was ‘fine’ I wasn’t important anymore.
I sighed, letting go of all the frustration pent up in my chest. Ray was my stepfather. I liked him well enough, and I wanted to like him more for my mother’s sake— but I couldn’t make myself, and I had tried. My biological father, Eli, had passed away from lung cancer ten years ago when I had only been six years old. My mom had been my rock, she had raised me to be strong and independent like her... That was until last year when she had met Ray. Their relationship had been a ‘rocketship romance’. They had met at a legal conference in Washington and had hit it off— both of them working in law, both interested in seeing that the unjust paid for their ‘crimes.’ Ray was a lawyer that had been working in Vancouver at a different law firm than my mother who was a legal secretary, and a damn good one. He’d somehow managed to secure my mother a position at his firm and she had taken it. After that it was history. She started ‘working’ late hours, which had turned into drinks after work with Ray, and even later nights spent at his place— leaving me on my own at our house at fifteen years old— for sometimes a whole week at a time. Eventually he had moved into our place, my mother realizing how missing she’d been from my life and how illegal that was… He’d proposed six months after meeting her, and they’d gotten married two months after that.
Mother claimed she had been ‘swept off her feet.’ I called BULL. CRAP. I didn’t believe it for one minute. There was no way my mother, my confident rock of an independant mother had been replaced by this sniveling, weak, shy, subservient woman who was at a man’s beck and call. This wasn’t love. This was— I didn’t care how nice Ray seemed. No one could be that nice if the person they claimed to care about acted like this, turned into a shadow of themselves. I wanted to throw up. My mother was still hovering in my doorway like a trapped bird. I nodded and she fled from me, slamming my door shut as she left. A ghost.
Ray hadn’t seemed like a bad guy. But how could he be good? I felt the irritation I’d just pushed out of me rise up again. When Ray had married my mom he had kept our last name— mom was clear that had been a deciding factor when she had said yes to his proposal. The other thing he had done was to put in legal forms to adopt me. I was surprised. I hadn’t been expecting him to care about me— the teenage daughter of his new wife. Yes. He had been anything but above suspicion of being a bad guy. He had been kind, gracious, and generous. It was my changed mother I hated, and I blamed him for it. I mean why else would she be acting this way towards me? Had he turned her against me, knowing that I would leave for university in two years? Perhaps he was hoping I would never come back if my mother and I weren’t on good terms?
I twisted in my cocoon of tangled sheets, yanking them off my body. I slid out of bed— numb now to the chill in my room. There was no point now in trying to go back to sleep. I glanced at the clock on my wall above my desk. Three in the morning on the dot. I turned on my desk lamp, letting more dim light flood my room. I needed to talk to someone. I needed to hear a friendly voice. A voice who would remind me I was sane. I pulled my wooden desk chair out and collapsed into it. I reached for the top desk drawer and pulled it open, throwing the contents onto my desk I pressed down on the panel at the bottom of the drawer releasing a hidden space. A space I had only found in the last year, which hadn’t been useful until recently.
I stared at my hidden journal. This desk was the only thing my mother had kept when my father passed away, it had been his. The cherry wood shone in the dim light. I loved this desk. I pulled out the journal and flipped it open to a new page, scribbling the date at the top with a red pen. I kept records of the nightmare in this journal. It was the only thing in this particular journal. I had found it in my bookshelf, but it wasn’t mine. The cover was scarlet leather, it had blank pages but looked ancient, and yet new. Mom probably had bought it from Indigo and put it in my room forgetting to tell me. She had started showering me with gifts at about the same time Ray had waltzed into her life. I guess it made her feel less guilty for how little time or attention she now gave me. I stared at the blank page— I should probably write down what happened this time, to my change… I bit my lip hard. Not yet.
Picking up the corded desk phone I begged my mother to keep even if it was old and out of date, I dialed on auto pilot. There was only one person who I could talk to right now, only one person who might understand my need for a friendly voice. Melanie. The phone was ringing. I crossed my fingers, hoping Melanie was still awake and that she had her phone on her.
“Hello?” Melanie’s reassuring friendly voice came bounding across the line.
“Melanie! It’s Cass.” I picked up my pens and started doodling on the empty dated page. I let go of the breath I’d been holding and felt some of the stress leave me.
“Cass! What’s up?” She paused. “You do know what time it is right now… Right?”
I looked down at my journal— I’d begun to draw a face. I scowled. I should put the pen down. “Yeah, sorry.”
There was a beat where neither of us spoke. I dropped the pen I was holding and picked up a new one. Probably not a good idea.
I nodded even though she couldn’t see that over the phone, my hand now moving over the paper of its own accord.
“I’m so sorry Cass. Have you told your mom about it yet?”
“No. Mel— I can’t.”
“Well you should.”
This was a lot coming from Mel. I hadn’t even told her about the nightmare. I mean I might have mentioned a thing or two but not everything. I couldn’t.
“You should have seen her face though!” I gripped the phone with my hand tighter. “It’s like she already knows what I saw, and I swear I haven’t said anything.”
In the background I heard a bell ring. A silver bell?... Ridiculous! I had no way to tell what type of bell was ringing. Mel sighed.
“Well that sucks.”
The bell was still ringing.
“I hate to do this— to cut conversation short, but I have to. I have to go, call of duty. Please insert my massive eye roll here-”
I giggled. Oh Mels.
“BUT I’m home this weekend! We can talk then, ok? Also before I go, I sent your mom that application I was telling you about. The one for Acroft High! Fill it out and when I come home we can drop it by the school together!”
The bell in the background was ringing like crazy.
“Right.” I whispered.
“Okay really really gotta run unless I want to be in trouble or worse— fired! Much luv!”
The dial tone told me she was gone, but I clutched the phone for a tad longer, wishing so much that Melanie was home right now, not out in the middle of nowhere at that big fancy house she worked at. What a life! Serving the rich and powerful, while being treated like crap. Mel was so much better than that! She should have gone to university this year… I felt guilty— I think the only reason she was sticking around was because of me and the situation with my mom… I rolled my eyes as I slowly put the phone down, my eyes dropping to the journal page I had been— doodling on. I gasped as I saw what I had drawn— A face. His face—Red eyes. His red eyes— And wings. A set of terrifyingly huge black feathered wings. I slammed the journal shut, throwing it back into its hidden hole, cramming everything back into the drawer as fast as I could.
My eyes stung. Tears begging to be released. “Oh Mels!” I muttered to the empty room. “What am I going to do now?”
I pushed myself off the chair and stared at myself in the mirror on my dresser. I looked like my mother, her exact look before she’d fled my room. Cursing, I threw my pencil case at the mirror, and the girl there copied my movements. Taking a moment to calm down I found myself thinking about the application Mel had been talking about. I’d seen it on an island in the kitchen. I padded out of my room down the dark hallway into our way too modern kitchen. Light from the early dawn filtered into the room from the windowed wall. The application sat exactly where I had seen it earlier and yet the brown envelope stared at me like a viper.
“Acroft High huh?” I sniffed. “Well bad boy, let’s get acquainted over a cup of coffee. No point sleeping now.” I snatched the envelope, a buzz of electric charge zinging through me. “What the?” I dropped the package for a moment. Weird. I picked it up again, but nothing happened. Well, I suppose I should find a pen and get this thing filled out. “Hello bright future.”