This story is by Lorraine Hurley and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I could stay in this moment forever, Elisa thought as James moved his fingers through her own. They were sitting on beach chairs, feet in the sand and looking out to a majestic sunset of pinks and purple, cradling a flute of bubbles each with one hand and reaching for one another with the other. Elisa could feel his hand in hers. The warmth and familiarity of his touch. The electricity that it elicited throughout her whole body. She closed her eyes and exhaled blissfully. This was couple goals right here, she thought. Just then, a beeping interrupted her rapturous thoughts. Instinctively she knew what it was and begged it to go away. `No! Just a little longer,’ Elisa begged. True to form though, she awoke. Eyes wide open, alone in her bed as always with the bedside alarm pounding.
The coming down after these dreams was becoming more difficult to manage, though she knew she would never trade it. When James was in her dream, it was wonderful, and she felt euphoric. Yet, she hadn’t been able to tell anyone about them. They felt so real that she was beginning to feel like she was emotionally cheating on David. David, her husband of nearly twelve years, had been called up the night before to help with border control as part of his Army Reserve commitment and had left early. It’s always something, she had thought as she had gone to bed.
Elisa had been in a car accident a few months ago. Once the packet of prescribed painkillers was empty, she had started to occasionally take a cocktail of rum on the rocks with pineapple soda, to bed with her. She would sip it while she read a book and it soothed the slight aches and dull pain she still endured in her lower back. Strangely, she noted, it was around that time she first started dreaming about James. Elisa had blamed the drink of course. Not just because of the alcohol but because it was her and James’ favourite drink when they holidayed in Bali their senior year. To be fair, anyone would think Elisa was replaying actual memories of James, as her dreams were mainly the kinds of activities and places they would have gone while they dated. However, these were just dreaming in spite of being so vivid in terms of feelings, smells and sights.
Elisa rolled her energy depleted body out of bed, careful to stand up without hurting her back. She liked that while in the dream, she was free of any pain or aches in her body. She always felt fantastic and it was annoying to her when she awoke, that her body was still in recovery mode in this waking life. Today, Elisa thought, she might finally share these experiences with her best friend and psychic medium, Bridget. She had been hesitant to share, not for the strangeness of the topic, as this fit perfectly in Bridget’s wheelhouse, but for a reading her friend had once given her. Shortly after the birth of Elisa’s second child and once her love life had started to simmer rather than boil with David, Bridget told her that David was one of two great loves. When Elisa was honest with herself, she had always felt some guilt that her love for David, though honest and singular, was not at the same level of love that she had had for James. James was the big magical kind of love, the `I can’t breathe when we’re apart’ and the `when I have to leave, I forget where I parked the car’ kind of love. Her falling in love with David was more mature and sensible. Still love, but a different kind. A straight whisky instead of a pineapple and rum cocktail, she thought wryly.
Later, in the warm yet more suburban sunshine, Elisa sat down at a local coffee shop and looked up to see Bridget walking towards her. Elisa smiled broadly as they hugged each other hello, eager to chat and unpack their lives. Bridget seemed to hang onto Elisa a little longer, giving her friend a long overdue embrace. `You first Bridge, what’s been happening? How are the kids doing?’ asked Elisa politely. Bridget kept it pleasant and short, knowing all too well, why she was really here. `So, tell me about your dreams kiddo,’ encouraged Bridget. She called Elisa ‘kiddo’ to mock the four months gap in age they had between them, with Bridget always keen to remind Elisa of her self-imposed seniority. The two friends shared a back and forth of smiles and laughs when suddenly Bridget interjected ‘These aren’t dreams you know Elly. Well not in the pure sense.’
Elisa was a little thrown for a few seconds but then her whole face fell, shoulders slumped over and her hand started shaking. `Oh god, he’s dead, isn’t he?’ she mumbled through her tightened jaw. Elisa had wondered, when her friend seemed to know all about the dreams, that poor James must have died and was “checking in” on her. This was something she had heard Bridget speak about with her clients and now Bridget’s face seemed to have a seriousness about it.
Elisa would come to know that Bridget had been aware for some time that James was her twin flame. When they had broken up all those years ago, it had not been for a lack of love. They were crazy about each other, but Elisa was forced to leave James when her family moved to the other side of the country. They tried to keep in touch, but it was Elisa who had asked for space as it had become too difficult to have a relationship with anyone else while she was in contact with James. Bridget then told her something extraordinary. Elisa and James were visiting each other in their dreams but the dreams were real. When Elisa met James while sleeping, he was also sleeping, and they were really exchanging time together but with the freedoms that dreams allow. Amazed at the revelation, she couldn’t help but think of the opportunity. As she sat, charged now with adrenaline, she couldn’t help but wish for the relief of sundown.
Just as the sun bobbed down behind rows of townhouses on the horizon, David broke Elisa’s train of thought with a text to say he was stuck on the border. Elisa should have been upset but she quickly realised that this might be the perfect scenario to see James again and see if there was any interest in meeting up in real time. Her heart fluttered as it had not escaped her that to follow up on that thought would mean betraying David. Her curiosity could not be quashed though, so at around 9pm, she hopped into bed with a pineapple rum drink and started the process of trying to drift off to blissful paradise.
James could see Elisa sitting on a towel over rough Balinese sand, staring into the cyan coloured water off the coast of Nusa Dua. He was really enjoying this time dreaming of his old flame but, like Elisa, was feeling guilty about how much he enjoyed it since his partner was lying next to him in real time. He slowly pulled Elisa towards him as he sat down next to her and kissed her forehead tenderly. Elisa smiled with her whole face as she saw James and held onto his arms, feeding them around her waist. She wanted to ask him about meeting up for real tonight so after a time of gazing out to sea, she started to awkwardly explain how they were really visiting in dreams. James listened to her every word, taking in all the adorable details of her face as she spoke and prepared himself for what was coming.
Unbeknown to Elisa, James had reached out to Bridget himself recently and had asked her about these dreams. Unlike Elisa, he was unaware of what the trigger might be, and he wanted answers. What he learned though filled him with a mixture of regret, gratitude and deep sadness. He didn’t want to be the one to let Elisa down, but he knew what had to be done. `Elly, this has been such a wonderful gift, being able to steal this time with you,’ he replied, keeping her body close and tilting her face towards him. He then went on to explain what Bridget had conveyed. Elisa had died in that car accident a few months ago but she had not moved on. Elisa looked amused, then horrified before slowly settling on enlightened. She had once asked James to be set free so she could move on with David and she needed him to do it again. He held her face and kissed her goodbye. One day they would be together but for now, only in Bali dreaming.