“You took everything from me.”
She’s bleeding all over the floor. She clutches the letter in her hands.
“You took everything from me.”
His words are swimming before her eyes, echoing in her brain.
She will have to fight.
I start awake. NO! NO NO NO! Go back to sleep! I need more information! I look at the clock and see that it’s 2:37. I need to get back to sleep. I need to know.
I lay back in bed. Please please please please, give me more. I’m not religious by any stretch of the imagination but I send a prayer up to the Big Man, begging him to let me fall back asleep and find out what this letter says and what this all means.
I close my eyes, stroke Bennett’s soft fur and wait.
“You took everything from me.”
She’s running as fast as her legs can carry her. She needs to get home.
“Now I’m going to take everything from you.”
She see’s her house a block away. Get home. Get home. Get home.
His hand grabs her shoulder and she screams.
She falls to the pavement, scraping her knees and hands. He’s on top of her, crushing her.
“You’re mine now, bitch,” he whispers in her ear.
While I’m happy my prayer was somewhat answered, I’m still ticked I don’t know anything that can help me figure out who this guy is. Obviously he wants to harm the woman. I got the distinct feeling that if I hadn’t woken up he would have raped and killed her. This sends a chill through my body. So. Creepy.
I wrote down everything I remember from the dream, right down to what the house looked like. It was tedious but I feel like I’m getting close to figuring something out. If only my brain wasn’t so damaged! I hate feeling like an idiot.
I’m rereading my description and something pops out at me.
It had rose bushes planted in the front yard.
Something hits me and my whole body starts and then goes completely numb.
When I bought this place I planted those damn things.
“Oh fuck,” I breathe.
I’ve had this completely backwards since the beginning. I can’t have dreams about a woman who once lived in my house if the house looks like what I’m living in right now.
Ice runs through my veins.
“She’s me,” I whisper to the empty room.
Bennett jumps off the couch and comes to sit beside me at the dining table. He’s panting nervously and eyeing me with worry.
“She’s me,” I repeat, panic making my voice climb, “I’m dreaming of myself.”
My mind flashes to the one night I did research on brain injury survivors and how some claimed to see the future.
I scramble through my notes and find the first dream I ever had. The woman was coming in out of the rain and kicking her shoes off, groceries loading her down…she sees the man standing under the trees, watching her…
I did this just the other goddamn day…right before I painted my beautiful Monet-like picture.
“Son of a bitch!” I jump out of my chair and start pacing around the room. Bennett follows me.
“She’s me! Me, Bennett! I’ve been dreaming of myself this whole fucking time! How could I have been so stupid?” I throw my head back and scream like a banshee, “She’s me and this motherfucker is coming for me! He’s going to start sending me letters! He’s going to chase me down, rape me and then fucking kill me!”
“FU! Hey, are you okay in there?” Keith’s voice calls through my front door.
I stomp over and throw it open, angry tears in my eyes. I’m not even surprised that Kim is standing next to him, a concerned look on her face.
“It’s me! You were right Kim…this whole time! It’s me, and this bastard is going to get me!”
I keep stomping around the living room. Keith closes the door as Kim comes up to me and stops me with both hands on my shoulders.
“Babe, breathe! Calm down and tell us what you figured out.”
I try to comply, but it’s not easy. I’m terrified, I’m in shock but most of all I’m pissed. I swallow hard and try to breathe.
“My stupid brain wouldn’t let me see it until now,” I say a little more calmly, “The woman in my dreams is me. I’ve been dreaming of the fucking future ever since I moved into this house, not the past.”
Keith comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist, gives my shoulder a gentle kiss and says, “Start from the beginning, cutie.”
And so I do. I tell them how the rosebushes tipped me off, how I relived one of the dreams and how the man from my dreams never enters the property, just like my stalker. I tell them about my last dream and what he said to me. It all seems so fantastical but I know it’s true. The unbelievable is happening.
“You said before that the woman didn’t feel like you…” Kim’s voice trails off.
“No, she didn’t. Not then. But now…” I glance over at Keith, reliving that eye-opening evening with Sal and all my new friends, “But now I’m different. I’ve changed.” I run a hand through my hair, “God, what am I going to do? If the dreams hold true, he’s going to start sending me notes. He’s going to chase me down and…” My throat closes with panic.
“Hey,” Keith grabs my chin and looks into my eyes, “Nothing is going to happen to you. Not on my watch, not on Kim’s watch and not on anyone else’s.”
“Were you at least able to get a look at his face?” Kim’s eyes are pleading, making me wish I had better news for her.
The fight has left my body and I slump onto the couch, Bennett snuggling in next to me. “No,” I shake my head, “When he took me to the pavement he was on my back.” A muscle in Keith’s jaw twitches. Fury is written all over his face.
“That’s never going to fucking happen,” he growls.
“At least we know that as long as you stay in the house you’re safe,” Kim is pacing around the room now, her long legs eating up the small space, “And as it is, you don’t have to go out very often,” she pauses, thinking, “So as long as you have someone with you when you leave the house he can’t get you.”
“You can’t freaking babysit me forever,” I whine.
“Not forever, you ding-dong, just until we catch this prick.” I can’t help but laugh at her choice of words. The tension in my body leaves as I look at Kim and Keith, knowing in my heart that they will always have my back.
I look Bennett in the eyes. His blue face is pressed up against my chest and I give his nose a little boop with mine as I whisper, “And I have you, my brave little boy.”
I wish more then anything I could muster the energy to actually go out and do something fun on a Saturday night, but I just can’t. The days events have left me completely drained. So I’m tucked away in my studio, sporting my pink camouflage onesie and getting some much-needed painting done. I have a glass of wine at my side and Bennett sleeping on the daybed. Despite my frayed nerves I find the whole atmosphere relaxing.
I’m working furiously and the pile of finished canvases is growing exponentially. I’ve finished three smaller paintings and am now working with a large 24x30 monster. What’s even more amazing is that I’m using a pointillism technique. It’s monotonous work but the effect is going to be absolutely spectacular.
Kim and Keith stayed by my side the whole day. I don’t like the idea of having watchdogs looking out for me, but I’ll admit that having their presence here was the calming balm I needed.
We strategized and talked for hours. I was mortified to show Keith my list of “suspects,” fully expecting him to turn tail and head for the hills. He didn’t though. In fact, he answered me with, “I’m not surprised. A cutie like you is bound to bring in some numbers.” One more point in the ever-growing column for “Reasons to Marry Keith.”
My phone pings at me. It’s a text from Keith.
- What are u up to?
- Painting. It’s helping me relax
- Good, glad to hear it :)
- What are you doing?
- Thinking of you
My heart flutters and a “teeheehee” escapes before I can stop it. Did I really just do that? I’m so gone for this guy it’s ridiculous.
- You just made me “teeheehee” ;)
- Goddamn ur cute.
Just as I’m about to text him back there’s a knock at my door. I put down my brush, marginally attempt to clean off my hands and head to the door. Bennett is already standing there, his beautiful tail swishing.
I open the door and Keith is standing there with a grin on his face. He lights up even brighter when he see’s what I’m wearing. My face burns with the fire of a thousand suns. Nice going, dip-shit.
“Like I said…too goddamn cute.” He steps into the house and his mouth is instantly on mine. It’s not like the gentle kisses we’ve had before. It’s hot and urgent and despite my risible attire I feel like the sexiest girl in the world.
He spends all night reinforcing that feeling.
It takes me a few moments to realize I have a man on my right and a dog on my left. I look over at Keith’s sleeping form. His hair is adorably tousled, his broad chest rising and falling with soft breaths. His chiseled features are relaxed and it makes him look like an innocent boy.
Innocent, however, he is not. Last night replays in my head and I can’t keep the smile off my face. We can add Sex God to his other godly qualities.
Somewhere between my second and fourth orgasm he asked me to be his girlfriend, something that no one has asked me in years. All the others just assumed. I like the proper way much better. I didn’t even hesitate in saying yes.
You agreed with him a lot last night. This thought almost makes me laugh out loud. I did indeed.
My camo onesie is laying across the chair in the corner and seeing it does cause me to chuckle. Who knew a saggy piece of cloth would be the catalyst?
“What’re you laughing about?” His throaty voice vibrates the bed.
“I’m sorry…did I wake you?” I roll over onto my side so I can look at him.
His sleepy eyes find mine and a lazy smile creeps onto his face, “Woman, you can wake me up every day for all I care.” He rolls over as well and drapes a large leg over mine. “How is it possible that you can still be beautiful even with a serious case of Sex Head?”
I laugh, “Sex Head? That’s a new one.”
“And I plan on giving you it every morning,” he scoots closer to me and wraps his arms around my waist, giving my butt a nice squeeze.
We hear a low rumble and a very long huff. We both look over and see Bennett giving us the stink eye, his droopy face looking almost like a scowl. We can’t help but burst out laughing.
“I guess we did keep you up last night,” I say playfully and turn back to Keith, “Let’s give the poor guy a break and make breakfast instead.”
“Fine,” Keith mock pouts, “But I’m getting mine in the shower.”
It’s been a gloriously lazy morning. Keith made me a breakfast of eggs, toast and coffee. Bennett even sat at the table. I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to feed him breakfast at the table with us and I think that gesture alone allowed him to forgive me for keeping him up all night. He was one happy puppy. I thought Keith was going to die laughing watching the scene go down.
Now we are all sitting on the couch, Bennett between us, reading the Sunday paper. The sky is grey, the clouds promising rain in the near future.
I’m not much of a paper-reader, so I just shuffle through each section, reading snippets of this and that. Unless it’s the cartoon section I find the news to be too depressing to read. Keith is absorbed in the sports section, of course. I watch him read more then anything else. He’s just so damn nice to look at. And it helps that he’s actually a good guy too, with morals and manners. He’s so much better then the garbage I’m used to.
Suddenly he drops the paper in his lap and looks at me, “What are you’re plans for the day?”
“I’m not sure,” I think about it a moment. “I really should get some more painting done.”
He smiles, “Care for some company?”
I’m slightly surprised. “You want to watch me paint all day?”
“I’ve never seen an artist in action,” he says, “And plus…I’m really enjoying just being here, with you.” He looks around my house. “I like it here. It’s a hell of a lot nicer then the in-law I’m renting right now.”
Keith told me that when Sally left him he couldn’t live in their house anymore…too many memories. So he sold it and has been saving his pennies by living small, hoping to one day build his dream house, which apparently even his sizable salary can’t cover. It’s just one more reason why I admire him.
“Of course you can stay. I’d be honored.”
Bennett huffs loudly.
“Oh buddy, don’t you worry,” I say as I lean over and plant a kiss on the top of his head. I’m rewarded with a slobbery kiss right up in my nose. “I promise we won’t make as much noice.” I throw Keith a devilish smile.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, cutie,” he throws back, “I really hope he doesn’t think I’m trying to monopolize you or take you away from him.” He starts giving Bennett long, slow rubs down his side.
“I’m sure he doesn’t. Bennett knows how much I love him, don’t you sweetie?” I make kissy noises at him and his blue face breaks into a smile. He “woofs” at me.
“I swear he understands everything you say to him.”
“He does. It’s not every day that a puppy shows up on your doorstep in a storm and suddenly becomes your best friend.”
“I mean,” he looks out the window, thinking, “A lot has happened that I never thought possible, you know? The stalker, your dreams, all this crazy shit about your house having a spell on it…who’s to say that something out there put Bennett on your doorstep, like as extra protection.”
“Huh…I never really thought of it that way.” I look back at Bennett who is watching me intently. “You could be right,” I say. “Where you sent to protect me, sweetie?” I ask him playfully.
Bennett “woofs” at me again and sits up, a delighted smile I’ve never seen him wear brightening his face. He looks out the window, the one that oversees the clump of trees no less, looks back at me and “woofs” again. Then he smiles at Keith, gives him a wet kiss right across his face and jumps off the couch to amble over to his water bowl. Both Keith and I look after him wonder.
“That just happened, didn’t it?” I ask, awe lacing my voice.
“Yes it did,” Keith exclaims softly.
We watch Bennett slurp up a generous amount of water. When he’s done that smile is back on his face and he walks over to sit next to Keith.
“I think by you cluing me in on him, Bennett has just upgraded you, Keith.”
A loud “woof” answers me.
Keith and Bennett are sitting on the daybed, Bennett’s head in Keith’s lap. I’ve been painting for a good five hours already and Keith is so enthralled you’d think I was dancing up and down a poll for him, not splattered in paint with my hair in a messy knot on top of my head.
It’s the most enjoyable painting session I think I’ve ever had. The sky opened up a few hours ago, so I lit some candles and set some soft music playing. We’ve been talking non-stop about anything and everything. He’s absolutely fascinated with how I go about my painting process. He asks questions about color, texture, technique…I’m having a blast being the educator.
My large pointillism painting is almost done. I have a small section in the lower corner that needs a little more work, but once that is complete this beauty will be the highlight of my show. I made Keith close his eyes when he entered the room so he wouldn’t see it. I want to surprise him.
I have twenty pieces to show. I texted Betsy earlier to make sure this was enough and she was tickled pink. This final piece will make it lucky number twenty-one.
“I’m almost done,” I say, frowning as I concentrate.
“Take your time, Fu. I love just watching you,” his tone is throaty and makes my insides quiver. We may be falling into bed soon.
A few more touches to the canvas and…done. I step back, scrutinizing every detail. I fracking love it. This piece and my Monet are sure to be a success. I can feel it.
“Want to see?” I ask. I don’t know why but now I’m nervous. What if he doesn’t like it? What if he doesn’t get it? What if, what if, what if…suck it up buttercup. I mentally shake myself.
“Hell yeah I want to see it!” Keith gently nudges Bennett’s head off his lap and practically leaps across the room.
He turns to face the painting and his whole body stills. I can’t see his face since he’s standing between me and the canvas. What he’s looking at is an abstract rendition of Bennett. It’s clearly a huge black dog, but the pointillism effect makes it obscure. Behind Bennett is a rainstorm of sunflowers and daisies. The contrast between dark dog and bright flowers is mesmerizing.
I wait impatiently, wringing my hands together. Dear God, please let him like it. After three minutes and forty-two seconds I can’t take it any longer.
“What do you think?” I say quietly.
I see Keith’s body start slightly and he turns to me, eyes as wide as saucers.
He puts his arms around my waist and pulls me to him. “That is one of the best paintings I’ve ever seen, Fu.” He’s not lying, I can tell. His face is a mask of admiration. “It’s absolutely beautiful.” He places a kiss on my mouth. “I have a new respect for you, cutie. What you did here is…mesmerizing,” he swallows, “And I’m damn honored.” Are those tears in his eyes?
I grin up at him, “It seems only fair I honor my dog as well as my boyfriend.” Boyfriend…it’s the first time I’ve used that word and I really like the sound of it.
I think Keith does too because he sweeps me up into his arms and carries me to the bedroom, where he proceeds to like me in many, many ways.