Daniel froze the minute he saw her come out of the University student lounge â€“ a familiar girl he had never met. It was a chance encounter on the way to say goodbye to Professor MacDonald with whom he had formed a good friendship, but this hit him between the eyes! He could have missed her had he been looking in a different direction. Here he was about to
|I Know You're There by R.H. Proenza|
graduate from a long four-year stint in college and leave this place forever and could have missed her. Yet, there in front of him was the girl of his dreamsâ€”LITERALLY! Her angel face was the same one he had already seen in a dream. Many dreams in fact. The girl stopped outside the door to read a sheet of paper she held. He stood there like a mindless marble statue mouth agape to admire her and catch his breath. All sorts of scenarios and explanations stampeded through his brain and bounced about to explain what he had just seen. He was dumbfounded. Yesâ€”she was real! Every part of her face was familiar because of his dreamsâ€”her beautiful green eyes, the perfect eyebrows, her flawless complexion, the way she did her lustrous dark hair, even the way she walked. It WAS the girl, the girl in his dreams, down to the recognizable tiny freckle on her neck under one ear! A girl out of my imagination here in the flesh! But, how could this be? The thoughts ran through his mind like one hundred ping pong balls bouncing on a tile floor. She looked up and caught him staring, giving him a small jolt. She appeared just as surprised and seemed to give an odd shiver. She looked startled at herself, then turned and began walking away. It left Dan still wide-eyed and catatonic. It was a few seconds before he snapped out of it and started following zombie-like. Two other girls caught up with her as she walked. He heard them say that they needed to hurry or they would be late to wherever it was they headed. They all turned and walked off in that direction. He wanted to, no he HAD to, follow her before she got away. He had to find out why he had been dreaming about her these past months. If he caught up with the girl what would he say to her? How would he explain? Would she think he was some kind of stalker or pervert and would never have anything to do with him? But he had to take advantage of this serendipitous encounter. It was a chance he had to take. The girl and her two friends went in a door to an auditorium. As he arrived at the same door and entered a moment later, a confusing sea of students confronted him. Crap! He chastised his bad luck. He had lost her in the crowd. Dan knew it was futile to look for her in this mob. He looked around to make sure others didnâ€™t see how foolish he felt. He sat outside the front doors of the auditorium and waited until she would certainly leave at the end of this session. Still, he knew it was a lost cause because the building had four other side doors. The girl could just leave through any one of those, and he couldn't watch all of them at the same time. Double Crap! But he had to try. At the end of a long boring hour and a half, people began streaming out of doors. He looked hurriedly everywhere across the swarm of students but to no avail. There was too much movement, too many heads turning and moving, too much people traffic. She was gone. He had found the mystery girl in a one-in-a-million chance encounter, and now he lost her! What rotten luck! How could fate do that to me? he thought, shaking his head. Sitting on the outside bench, he composed a mental list of how he could go about looking for her. I could walk around the campus while there was light and try to spot her on the fly, I suppose. His mind raced with more emotion than logic. But what a waste of time that would be. Perhaps I could go to all the girls' dorms and sorority houses. Could I describe the mystery girl to a â€¦what? A skeptical house mother? It would make her think I was fishing for a girlâ€™s ID from the residents. That would crash and burn, or the process would take forever. Or perhaps I could... The sound of crunching leaves behind him made Daniel turn. He jumped up and froze when he saw the object of his searching standing a few feet behind him. It was the girl's turn to stare. She furrowed her forehead as she contemplated him in silence. "I saw you at the Student Union today. And now seeing you again perched here sort of watching that building, I... I started to worry a bit. But â€¦" She hesitated. "You sort of look familiar. Do I . . . Do I know you?" she said in the sweet all-too-familiar voice of his dreams. "Yes, I mean, no. I mean, well, it's complicated." The girl's eyes narrowed in confusion. "You DO look familiar," she said. "Did you go to Huntington High before college then?" "Uh, well, I recognize you, but, no, not THAT way. Um, no, I didn't go to Huntington," he said, not knowing where to begin. "Maybe you went to my middle school, and we knew each other from there as kids?" "No. You might say we kinda have seen each other before, but not like.. You see it was in a ..." He paused to take a breath. Mistake, Daniel! his brain shouted. "It was in aâ€¦ in a dream," he said almost in a mumble. Her confusion worsened as she tried to sort out his words. He took a deep breath. I better start over. "Okay, my name is Dan â€¦ Danny, uh, Daniel Brody. Do you have a few minutes so we can talk? What I have to say is going to sound strange, but I need to talk to you. I still can't believe it myself," he said almost to himself. "Look, I'm not a stalker or a weirdo. I've never, uh, Iâ€™ve never seen you before but I â€¦ I know everything about you," whispering those last words. An idea occurred to him. He fumbled with his wallet and took out his driver's license to show her. â€œYou see? I am who I say I am,â€ sounding more awkward by the minute. The girl looked at it for a moment, then up at his face again. "Can we talk, please?" The girl took in his words for a minute as she stared at Dan and seemed to relax. "Maybe I don't know you but -- you still look familiar." She looked downward like a thought just occurred to her and chuckled showing a cute dimple on one cheek. "Danny? I'm sorry, it's just that back home I have a dog named Danny. He belongs to my dad even though I came up with the name. They adopted him after they saved him from the dog pound." He smiled back. "Ha! That's what my parents call me." "Hmm, well, okay Danny or Dan; tell me why we are familiar with each other. Oh, by the way, my name is Callie Stevens." "Callie?" Dan's eyebrows moved upward for a second. "Okay, this keeps getting ever stranger. My little sister's name is Callie also." The girl seemed to have another slight body shiver as he had seen earlier. A puzzled look came over her face, then disappeared. "Um, okay, well, here goes, Callie Stevens. A couple of months ago I started dreaming about a girl with â€¦green eyes and dark hair." He took a breath. "Callie Stevens, they were YOUR eyes. And she had YOUR exact hair, YOUR height, YOUR exact voice ..." Callie's eyes narrowed again and looked at him askance. "Wait. I know you're thinking this is some kinda come-on like I'm hitting on you. Well, I mean, you ARE beautiful, but that's not it. I'm telling you the truth! I even remember the tiny freckle under your left ear.â€ She reached up to the side of her neck as if to cover the freckle. â€œI remember from the dreams you have a dimple when you smile and the fact that you are left-handed. I remember that you are artistic, and that..." "How could you know I was left-handed, or artistic? I've never written or drawn anything in front of you! Hey, have you been spying on me?" "Oh NO, NO. Please, hear me out. It's just ..." He breathed out trying to put the words together. "Some weeks or so ago I 'watched' you in my dream do something artistic. I saw you draw this intricate design with some of your colored pencils. A beautiful design. You even told me that you enjoyed me watching you draw. But anyway, the design you drew was a detailed cluster of pretty soap bubbles having this teeny-tiny little unicorn in the middle of the cluster. Have you ever drawn anything like tha...?" The color was already draining from Callie's face as she backed away a foot. "Hey, wait a minute. WhatÂ´s going on here -- Nobody, but like, NOBODY knows about that drawing.â€ Her voice shook with emotion. â€œI never showed it to anyone. I have it hidden at home inside a book which is inside a drawer. Hidden!" Her eyes were like saucers. "I told you this was getting weird. There's more, Callie. But let me just tell you something that I couldn't know otherwiseâ€”you have a cute little, uh..." he stopped talking, furrowing his brows, now sorry he had started. He rubbed his face and then the back of his neck. He wondered if he should even go on. "Little what?" she asked, now with hands on her hips. "Well ...?" He looked at her with raised eyebrows then looked away before continuing. "You, uh, have a cute, um, teeny-tiny mark, uh, you know, freckle in the shape of a heart on your ... your . . ." Dan was visibly uncomfortable. "On your right buttocks," he ended in a rush of his breath and clenched teeth. Her face paled again. "WHAT? But how . . . How could you know about that? It's even too tiny to see from across the room. You have to get up close to â€¦ nobody canâ€¦â€ Raising her voice, â€œONLY MY MOTHER KNOWS ABOUâ€¦â€ She stood up and walked a few paces away. She turned around, started to speak with her hands on her hips, then changed her mind and spun away. "Well good going, Daniel, now she thinks I'm a lunatic AND a pervert for sure," he said out loud. "I'm glad I didn't tell her how I found out about that tiny heart freckle. And about all the intimacy we shared in my dreams and all the rest of it. Craaaap!" He put his hand to his forehead in dismay. CHAPTER 2 The next day Dan wandered around campus looking for the girl named Callie Stevens. At least now he had a name to go on. After hours of fruitless searching, he ended up at the Office of Student Affairs. I shoulda come here in the first place! he thought in frustration. "I'm sorry, sir," said the young coed at the desk. "That's protected information so we can't give out the address or phone number to anyone, other than family. I'm guessing you can't prove you're actually related to her?" The girl gave him a sympathetic smile knowing what his answer was going to be. "Rats!" he muttered deciding to be truthful. "Nope, not related. Okay, that's what I figured you'd say. I understand. Thanks anyway." He turned to leave when a striking red-headed girl with bright red lipstick who had stopped behind him stood to stare. He recognized her as one of Callie's friends that walked off with her the day before. "Hi. Um, I heard what you said to that clerk. I know Callie. Weren't you talking with her yesterday near the Student Lounge, though?" "Yes, I was," he said with eyes wide. "Do you know how to get in touch with her?" "Um, have you known her long?" she asked. "Yes, no â€¦ Well, it's complicated. Look, here. Please give her my cell phone number." She looked at the note he handed her. "Tell her itâ€™s important I talk to her, and tell her Iâ€™m not dangerous or a wacko. Please." She looked at his number again then up at him. "Hmmm. You donâ€™t look wacko to me, and Iâ€™m a psychology major. Well, if she doesn't want to return your call, maybe, um, I will be the one to call you?" She beamed a smile, batted her eyelashes at him, and walked off. Dan just looked at her wide-eyed and shrugged his shoulders. The girl had just flirted with him, but right now his interest was not with this one but with a beautiful green-eyed dream-girl. At his small studio apartment, he finished boxing up most of his belongings. He was going to move to a bigger place and into a new job, but he wasn't in any hurry. He was not going anywhere until he talked to Callie. He had to solve this mystery! Now that he met the girl from his dreams---From Your Dreams, Daniel! Did you just hear yourself? his mind shouted at him lest he forget---he couldn't stop thinking about her. How could I have dreamed in such detail about a girl I have never met before? He wondered again. He didn't have ESP, so he had not 'seen into the future.' But the dreams were so vivid and detailed; in the dreams, they were even engaged to be married. They even had gotten intimate with each other. THAT'S how he knew about that little freckle on her butt. Good grief, he thought. I'm not particularly looking for a bride, and yet ... He realized he was seriously drawn to herâ€”someone he had never seen before, someone from a recurring dream! This is insane! His cell phone rang. It was an unknown number, but he hoped. "Hello, this is Dan Brody." There was a long, disappointing silence at the other end. "Hi, Dan Brody, it's Callie Stevens. Remember?" she said in the same sweet voice he had grown to love. Did she just now say 'remember me'? "Of course, Callie. How could I forget?" "I almost wasn't going to call you. You sort of frightened me with what you said earlier." "Oh, no. I'm so sorry about that. I'm still amazed at having found out you existed, and about all this, please believe me. I should have gone a little slower, maybe ... to let you get to know me better, so you'd know I wasn't a psycho. But, instead, I just rambled on like a delusional dummy and â€¦" "No, that was fine. I'll admit I would have walked away from ANY other guy immediately, but..." She breathed into the phone as if collecting her thoughts. "There was something about you that put me at ease, even from the start. I didn't know what it was." She paused again. "Well, anyway, Dan, having said that, now I know why you are familiar to me." "You do? How?" "I'll have to show you, in person. Can we meet in the morning at that bench in front of the Student Lounge again?" "Sure. Now that I'm through with college I'm free anytime, so any time works for me." "I also just finished. I'm graduating but have decided not to 'walk' for my diploma, and, you know, just let the school mail it to me." "How about that? Same here -- all the above!" After a pause, "Can we meet at 9 AM then?" she said. "Yes. See you tomorrow." CHAPTER 3 Next morning Dan was on the bench ten minutes early, anxious to see this girl Callie again. His head was still spinning about how all this had come about when he saw her turn a corner toward him. Again the sight of her dazzled him. What an awesome beauty, he thought. She almost glides when she walks. Good grief, I'm smitten by her! But how could I be, this early on? Okay, yes, Iâ€™m smitten with her. He let out the breath he had been holding. "H â€¦ hey, Callie. You made it!" "Hi, Dan. You're not going to believe what I'm about to show you." She sounded excited. "I'll believe anything you tell me," he grinned at her. She gave him a crooked smirk of a smile and a sideways glance, yet another thing that was cute about her. "I had a restless night trying to process all that impossible stuff you told me about your dreams. You say that in your dream you saw me drawing, and you learned all these other things about me, too, right?" "Yes. No cameras, no microphones, no private eye following you around. Please believe me!" "Well, you were dead right about that little soap bubble drawing. That blew me away! I had to get over the shock about that one. So, although it's not logical, I guess I'm starting to â€¦ to believe you, I think. Especially after what I'm about to show you." she said with hesitation. "I remember how good you are at art, you know, in my dreams. You sketched a lot in a notebook with tiny apples drawn on the cover, like doodles." He saw her take out something from her portfolio. "A notebook that looked â€¦ just â€¦ like â€“ THAT ONE!" he gasped as he raised his eyebrows in recognition. She looked at the notebook, then at him with furrowed brows. "This is one of my many sketchbooks. I like to draw random things in it to unwind or to practice assignments. Some I do in black graphite pencil, others with pastels or colored pencils. But I guess, of course, you already knew my college curriculum was in art, right?" "Um, yes I did already know that. You told me so in dreamland." She gave that cute little smirk of a smile again. "Yes, of course. Okay. Well, I date all my sketchbooks. This one is two months old. See?" She held it up to his face as he nodded. She started turning pages, stopping at one as she shook her head back and forth. "I swear I had never seen you before we met here on campus, but look at this." She turned the sketchbook to face him. Dan's eyes became wide. There, looking back at him was a perfect drawing of himself in colored pencils, down to his hazel eyes and day-old shadow on his face. "Did you see a picture of me somewhere?" "No! Honestly. I drew that out of my ownâ€¦ imagination." Her face showed she was questioning her own words even as she spoke them. "Wow," was all he could say, shaking his head. "Callie, didn't you just tell me you drew this TWO months ago?" "Yes, look, here's the date underneath this particular one." He noticed a little heart with a tiny star in its middle next to the date. "Wow again. Wait! That date! That's when I started dreaming about you. I remember because that's the day I got hired for my job even before I graduated." They both looked at each other with furrowed brows. "I don't understand all this," Callie said almost to herself. "There's something bigger going on here that we're not seeing." "The only thing that comes to mindâ€”and this going to sound sooo like a clichÃ©â€”is that we're, well â€¦ soul-mates?" It ended up as a question. Her eyes widened as she absorbed this. "Any other time I would have laughed in your face and walked off." They were quiet for several minutes, trying to take it all in. "Any â€“ other - time ..." she said in a whisper, searching deeply into his eyes. "What does this little heart with a star in the middle mean?" "I sometimes draw that next to a drawing that has some, like, significance, but I'm not sure why I drew it under yours." She knitted her eyebrows while pondering this. Long quiet moments passed before he spoke again. "Callie, would you, um, like to go out with me, like, maybe for dinner tonight so that we can talk this through?" Again she looked into his eyes before responding. He noticed her having a tiny shiver, like before. They seemed to be coming on more often. â€œYou know, very unromantic. Like, just talk and stuff.â€ "Um, you know, yes. I think that would be a good idea. Yes, under the circumstances, I would like that a lot. After all, I have already drawn a picture â€¦ of ..." She took a breath, "... of you, never having seen you before," she said while scratching her head. "I should mention that the dreams didn't tell me everything about you. Only certain things. For example, I don't know where you live to pick you up from." She smiled at that. "I think we can fix that," she said with a side glance, and wrote down her address on a sticky note and handed it to him. He noticed how sparkling her eyes were looking since they began talking. â€œIâ€™ll pick you up at seven. Would that be alright with you?â€ â€œSure. That will be just right.â€ She dazzled him with her smile and walked away. CHAPTER 4 An idea occurred to Dan. He needed to see Mac -- Professor MacDonald, an expert in physics, an award-winning published author, and a friend since the sophomore year. â€œHey, Mac.â€ â€œHey, Danny. Take a load off and have a seat.â€ The professorâ€™s office was somewhat plush, a bit messy, with full bookshelves on the wall, and looking professorial. Placing a coffee mug on his desk, he momentarily stared at Dan. â€œNow, what is this significant metaphysical issue you texted me about that you asked for my take on?â€ â€œWell, I met a girl of my dreams andâ€¦â€ â€œWait. Stop right there! Iâ€™m not a psychologist or relational counselor, you know. Are you sure you have the right person for this conversation?â€ â€œMacâ€¦Listen. A couple of months ago I started dreaming about a girl out of my imagination, and this week I found out she exists. THE very girl. Sheâ€™s real! I swear I have NEVER seen her before in my life and yet I know practically everything about her. Down to her hidden freckles.â€ â€œHidden freckles, you say?â€ he queried. â€œHidden! In places I, um, have never seen with my own eyes. And she confirmed this.â€ The professor saw that Danny was serious and tried to absorb what he was saying. After a few minutes, he said, â€œOk Daniel. Why donâ€™t you start from the very beginning.â€ Dan recounted all he could for fifty minutes while the Professor listened intently and took notes. â€œLet me assimilate this for a few minutes.â€ After a few minutes of contemplation, he got up and went exploring around in his library. On a top shelf in what appeared to be a seldom-used section, he found what he was searching for. He leafed through the pages while he mumbled an occasional â€œHmmm,â€ then at once there was a loud â€œYes!â€ Dan was startled by the sudden outburst but waited for more. The Prof had found something important, no doubt. â€œOkay, Daniel. You asked me to think outside the box, well this box is sitting on a table that is way the hell out on the next planet! I myself shot down several theories. The only one that remains is---way out there. And, it cannot be scientifically proven.â€ â€œWell, Mac. I have nothing if not an open mind so give me your theory.â€ â€œThe literature contains the work of an eccentric astrophysicist that played around with the probability of different dimensions or planes of existence. We live on one plane â€“ this one here that we can see. He said there must be others out there. They have been called Parallel Universes. He said there is a possibility of a ripple occurring, like an accidental tear, between any two of these planes, where some connection occurs. He says that when an event occurs, that cannot be exhaustively explained by our accepted Laws of Physics, then it must have been a ripple between two adjoining planes.â€ â€œMac, youâ€™re bending my brain and giving me a headache. But, I can follow the logic of that theory.â€ â€œPerhaps these little shivers youâ€™ve noticed the girl doing means something just occurred that got real close to one of those tears. But, this is all theoretical, Daniel. There might be another explanation that we humans, with our present level of knowledge, canâ€™t fathom.â€ â€œOkay then, let me summarize: We have a theory that we canâ€™t prove, or disprove, and thatâ€™s giving me a headache. Does that about sum it up?â€ â€œIndeed it does. So, my advice is to push all that aside and just live and let life play out as it is going to anyway. In other words, just go date this beautiful girl and get to know her better and see where it all lands.â€ â€œThat will be an assignment from you to me, I guess.â€ â€œDaniel, I already KNOW youâ€™ll get an â€˜Aâ€™ on this one!â€ They parted in the midst of laughter. CHAPTER 5 That night Dan took her to one of the nicest restaurants in town. They were able to get a table in a corner that felt secluded from the rest. It was perfect for quiet conversation. "â€¦ and when I was eleven," she was explaining, "I fell out of an apple tree trying to reach this beautiful humongous apple. I was such a tom-boy. But I didn't â€¦" "... and the fish hook went just barely into my finger, but I squealed in a, you know, high pitch girly-way. How embarrassing was that! Boy, was I was glad the other guys didn't hear me sound like ..." The conversations were personal and full of warmth and laughter, with many deep questions. They included lots of meaningful looking into each other's eyes. Afterward, they went to a popular club and danced to exhaustion. During the slow songs, they came up against each other. Dan loved the scent of Callieâ€™s skin, her hair, and everything about her. It drove him crazy. Again he noticed she had that little shiver every so often. On the drive back to the small house she shared with two girlfriends they chatted. "Callie, I would like to ask you something?" "Yes?" "Well, every so often I see you have this little 'shiver-thing.' Do you get cold easily, or is it, like a medical condition, unless it's personal?" She went a deep crimson. "Oops. I guess it is personal. Iâ€™m so sorry. Nevermind. No, donâ€™t answer." "No, it's okay,â€ she chuckled. â€œIt's not that I get chilly or any other 'condition.' Itâ€™s--- Well, it's weird. I started doing that when I saw you the first time. I don't know why. I never did it before. It's like something comes over me. Like when you're a child, and you first wake up and realize it's Christmas morning. It's an intense but fleeting feeling of joy, but more than that. It's like,â€ she sighed in frustration. You know, like, the anticipation of joy. And even more than that. Iâ€™m not making any sense, but it's the only way I can explain it. And it's so intense that it gives me a little body shake." She looked at him then looked away as if embarrassed. "Hmm. I didn't see that in my dreams of you." "Well, like I said there's even more to it." She blushed again. "More? Like what?" "I, um â€¦" She started fanning her face with her hand. "I â€¦ can't tell you all right now. It's sort of intimate since, you know, we just met and all." She mumbled the last part. "Maybe, um, one day I will." He shrugged his shoulders. He would wait for her to get more comfortable with him. "Dan. Now I have a question for you! But before I say anymore let's agree, to be honest â€“I mean absolutely honest â€“with each other, okay?" "With you, I can't help but be honest. Okay. Agreed. I promise. Shoot." "How in the world did you know about that little freckle on my . . . my behind?" It was his turn to squirm and then giggle. "Well, as you know we have no control over what we dream about -- right?" "Ye-e-e-s," she said waiting for the rest of it. "Okay, uh, in my dream we were . . . we were . . ." "Ye-e-e-e-e-s?" she said with exaggerated emphasis. "We were, you know, intimate," he said letting his breath out. "Intimate?" She raised her eyebrows, gave a shiver again, and caught her breath. She looked into his eyes for a long moment before turning crimson and looking down. "You see, we were engaged, and very much in love -- in my dreams, over which I had no controlâ€¦ ah hem. And you, it was YOU, who pointed out your tiny heart freckle on your butt when you had no, um, noâ€¦ clothes on!" He whispered the last two words. â€œNo clothes?â€ She let that sink in for long awkward minutes. "Um, I won't ask you what we were doing at the time . . . Your dreams seemed to have come with plenty of details, I see." She was trying to be serious but couldn't stop the smile breaking across her face. At once, she started to giggle the more she thought about it, and could not stop. Oh my gosh. Callie is gorgeous when she laughs and smiles, and... Wellâ€¦ She's gorgeous all the time! Looking at her could occupy all his attention at any given moment. She rested her head on his shoulder. "Dan, I've had the best time tonight. I'm so comfortable being with you especially now that I know so much more about you." "Comfortable? You mean like an old pair of slippers?" he teased. "No, silly," she giggled. "It's like we've known each other for a long time as if we had grown up together. Like I don't have to put on a fake face for you, and I can be myself. You know, emotionally comfortable. That's why I thought we had gone to the same school. And, you know, maybe just ran in different circles." "Even so, I still KNEW almost everything about you before we even met. Somehow. I don't know how. That's why I wondered about the 'soul mate' thing." She moved up against him, and they both got quiet. "Daniel, earlier tonight, when you took my hand â€¦ That first touch was â€¦electric; kind of weird. Then like my whole body got warm, and, and â€¦" She paused to take a breath and seem to collect her thoughts. "It's as if we're supposed to â€¦" She paused. "Suppose to what?" "As if we're SUPPOSED to be together" she finished with a little shiver. They got quiet and looked into each other's eyes. "Callie, you said you would tell me more about why you have that little shiver-thing. Are you comfortable enough now to tell me?" "Well, we DID promise to be truthful with each other, didn't we? Okay then, um..." She took a deep breath. "You know when two people are in love and they are, you know, um, making love ...?" "As two people in love are supposed to do. Yes." "Yes, well there comes a time when they, um â€¦ well, there is a, you know, a, um, an emotional peak, a climax," she said softly while turning pink. "Uh, yes-s-s. Iâ€™m acquainted with that," Dan said with a smirk. "Well, right before I get that little shiver, I get that â€¦ um â€¦ like the anticipation of that same feeling. And I get goose pimples all over â€¦ and my body reacts like that, and I have to force myself to get control again as I get that weird shiver." "Oh ... Ohh--OHH. I see. Wow, no wonder you have that little shiver." he said not realizing he had been holding his breath. He let that sink in for a few minutes. At once she broke the long awkward silence. "Okay, so, you said that in your dreams we were in love, huh?" she said with a coquettish little smile. "Yes, um, fiercely in loveâ€¦big-time. Fiercely! Smoldering!" he added. "'Fiercely?' And even 'smoldering,' huh?" she echoed with eyebrows raised. "Interesting â€¦ smoldering," she whispered to herself. â€œNever heard that one.â€ "And in my dreams we did, you know, things." "Things?" She paused to consider this, her voice going higher in pitch. "Yes, I guess we would have done â€¦`THINGS'?" she said with a lilt to her voice; her cheeks colored. "Yes, you know, things, like some of this ..." he ran his hand up the side of her neck and face through her hair and caressed her ear. After a slight shiver, she found herself leaning her head into the warmth of his hand. â€œAnd other things like some of this ...," he continued as he placed his hands on either side of her face caressing her temples. She got chills feeling her body respond, and went wide-eyed while looking into his eyes. Her breathing came a little faster now. "Weâ€¦ we did these things, did we?" she said in a breathless whisper. Her eyes once again sparkled. In a soft voice, he continued, "And we did lots ... and lots ... of this ..." He placed his lips tentatively on hers expecting some alarming reaction but instead felt the now-familiar little shiver again. What started to be a sweet little kiss turned into something else. She melted into him parting her lips in a deep kiss and pressing herself into him. Small sounds came from her throat as the kiss became much more heated. Then without warning, she pulled away. She was breathing hard now. "OH!â€ she blurted out. â€œOh, my... I don't... I mean, I donÂ´t know what just... what came over me. I don't usually do that on a first date. Never! No, NOT EVER! I JUST DONâ€™T DO THATâ€¦" "Was it so bad? I kinda thought it was wonderful. And oh, so ... familiar," as he narrowed his eyes and mumbled to himself. "Yes, it was so wonderf â€¦ No, I mean smolderi ... NOOO ...not that, Iâ€¦, "she said as if thinking out loud." All this is just happening so fast. I need time to digest it all." She was looking down with eyes closed and hand on her stomach. A quiet moment passed. "Speaking of digesting -- can I pick you up in the morning, for breakfast, say 8 o'clock?" "What? Breakfast? Um, I don't know, yes, no, maybe..." "Good. Then that's settled. Breakfast it is." After several more awkward minutes passed, she took a breath and looked into his eyes as if looking for an answer to an unspoken question. "Wait. Okay. I need to be certain of â€¦ of ..." She lunged up and put her mouth on his. Again a little shiver occurred, feeling her body automatically mold up against his again against her will. "Oh, my â€¦ like two Science 101 lab magnetsâ€¦" she whispered. He noticed her eyes dilated, as she pushed a folded note she had written earlier in his hand, and moved away. "Yes!" she said almost breathless. â€œHuh?â€ he said still dizzy from the kiss. "I'll be ready at 8 â€“ And â€¦ no, it was NO mistake!" She spun around and went inside. "What â€¦?" What did she mean? He stood there staring at her door and realized he was already in love with this girl. He had been for a couple of months. The girl of his dreams! Go figure! In the car he unfolded the note she had written earlier: I hope tonight is not a MISTAKE, I mean, Do I really KNOW you?? But, Thank You for asking me out. Looking ahead to having a pleasant time at dinner! --Callie. At the bottom was a small artistic heart with a tiny star in its middle. CHAPTER 6 The next morning he was there at her house before 8 AM to pick her. To his surprise, she was standing inside looking through the front window glass waiting for him. Coming through the door, she gave him her brilliant smile. Callieâ€™s smiles always made his heart skip a beat. "Hey, sweet girl. You must be hungry; I didn't have to wait for you like for other girls. Ha!" "Not all girls are the same, you know." She tried to cover up her little shiver again. "No, you're right." He spoke in a more serious tone, "Callie, you're like no one else. You're one of the EXTRA special ones that are so hard to find." She beamed a smile at him. "Naw. I'm not that special. A dime-a-dozen type of girl." "WHAT? No way! Not in a million years!" he said pausing to be drawn into the beauty of her eyes. He noticed how they sparkled today. They always did when there was an eye connection between the two of them. She got a quizzical look on her face and stared at him. "Why do I feel so at ease with you? Are you sure we weren't dating before and I just woke up from a coma and found you again?" "Nope. No previous dating, no coma, no UFO abduction, just a crazy dream of mine." Professor MacDonaldâ€™s discussion briefly appeared at the edges of his mind. Her giggle made her face glow. The following day their breakfast was quiet and warm and relaxed, sharing things about themselves like at the restaurant the night before. They talked more about growing up, their home life, and learning more and more about each other. â€œGosh, Dan. It feels good now knowing so much about each other.â€ â€œWell, I didnâ€™t tell you everything about myself.â€ â€œOh.â€ Her face dawned a worried look for a moment. â€œI, uh, forgot to tell you one more thing about myselfâ€¦what kind of toothpaste I use.â€ Her mouth flew open in protest as she poked a playful finger into his belly. He smothered her laughter in a warm hug. Afterward, they walked to a park across the street from the coffee shop. It was picturesque with well-tended flower gardens. A large stately fountain stood in the middle overflowing with crystalline water. She seemed to be more comfortable with him with every passing minute. She had started looking at him differently than she had the night before, and now clung to his hand every time he was near. Indeed, it felt like they had been together for a long time. They stopped at one end under a large oak tree in a more secluded area, and he turned to her. She got right up to him. "Callie, last night when you said something about 'having to be certain' about something, you know? Then you kissed me and ran inside. What did you mean?" Her eyes softened as she took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. "It meant that I don't know what to make of all this that's happened. It meant that you have my head and my heart spinning." Then in a softer voice, "and now that we know so much more about each other, it means that â€¦" She looked down and seemed to shake her head. "It means, God help me, I'veâ€¦ I've fallen in love with you!" She looked like she didn't mean to say that out loud. His eyebrows shot up as his breath caught in his throat. "Oh no," she blurted out. Her face was crestfallen as she dropped his hand and stepped back. "Dan, did I just scare you away?" "FINALLY!" he exclaimed with a huge grin. "What?" "I've been in love with you for a couple of months and realized it just yesterday! Yes, I was in love with you even before we met! Remember, I dreamed you up? Go figure THAT one out!" He put his hands on her waist. "I've been waiting for you to come around. And waiting. And waiting ..." She put her arms around his neck and purred, "Well wait no more 'cause here I am." She gave a little giggle just before their lips met. She molded herself into him with a deep searing kiss. This time, she was not alarmed at the passion that burned between them. Long minutes passed as their bodies seemed to fuse together before they remembered they were in a public park. Sparks were practically jumping between the two. "Um, what now 'girl of my dreams'? Answer quickly, before I need to jump into that fountain to cool off!" he said somewhat breathless. Her eyes sparkled brighter than ever as she caught her breath and pondered the question. "What now?â€ They were still pressed up against each other. â€œWell, Mr. Dreamer, we, uh, we could ... umâ€¦" She paused. "Or we could ... or maybe â€¦" she stumbled on. "How about this," he interrupted her cute ranting. "We could go to my place â€¦ or ... we could just go to, uh, my place? " She gave him her cute little smirk of a smile. "â€¦ And we can celebrate our discovering each other, over a little wine and pretzels perhaps?" "Let's see. I pick ...," Callie paused and looked upward for effect. "I pick YOUR place." "Good choice," he mumbled against her lips. After another hot deep kiss that seemed to cross over yet another line, they raced to his car. CHAPTER 7 Hours later they clung to each other in bed with the sweet sensation of skin-on-skin against each other. He stroked her back while she tickled his hair at the back of his neck. He had grown to love her fingers tickling at the hairline. His hands wandered everywhere, caressing as he went along. He was exploring her exquisite beauty---beauty beyond belief. She too had explored all of him. Soon they reignited each other with their caresses and once again made love, slowly, deliberately, sweetly. Afterward, they basked at length in the sweet afterglow. She raised herself up on one elbow and looked at him like she was getting ready to make an announcement. "Hey, my Dreamer" she purred into his smile. His hand floated to her soft behind. "Hay is for horses." "Yes, well, can I start calling you Danny? I happen to like that name." "You can call me whatever you want, just so you call me when you want a kiss!" She giggled at his corniness. "Okay, Danny. I just wanted to let you know that, for starters, no guy has ever seen me completely naked, and made me feel comfortable like you have. And I want to say you have made me the happiest I have EVER been. I'm about to explode with it! I never knew it could be like this." She radiated with it. "Well, then we will explode together. Callie â€¦ my dreams about you were ... were incredible, yes. But, compared to the real you, the dreams were like nothing â€¦ like a vapor; they had no substance. You, my darling, are the REAL thing. You take my breath away. You have pulled the rug out from under me. I have never been so in love with anybody. You are, in fact, my dream-come-true." Her eyes moistened. She squeezed herself against Dannyâ€™s chest and rested there for a while. "My dreamerâ€¦I don't want this to end. Ever." "Not ever," he echoed. After a long pause: "Imagine the news commentator on TV saying: ' Lovers found clinging to each other in bed, starved to death. It took several pathologists hours to untangle them. Film at 11'. " "Silly boy." She giggled and gave her funny little smile. She batted her eyelashes with exaggeration at him. "You know, um; I guess we haven't committed to anything permanent here. But when you decide that you, um, want to find the right girl actually to marry, I might still be available. Well, perhaps I might be. Not sure. Maybe." "Well, if I were looking for a girl to settle down with and actually marry, what kind of girl would I pick. Let's see. Hmmm. You know, recently I saw an attractive redhead at school who approached me and batted her eyelashes at me and..." "That would be my flirty friend Rhonda!" "Um, well, she didn't ring my chimes. But then I met this other girl. An extraordinary brunette. One with gorgeous green eyes that I could get lost in, and a dazzling smile. She had gorgeous skin and a figure that would stop traffic. And she's smart as a whip, and she's an exceptional artist. Did I mention she was gorgeous? Yes, now that one might do as a choice for me. OH, WAIT ... HERE SHE IS!" "Yes, naked and in bed with you!" she giggled. "Callie, you had me â€˜at hello' as they say, and even while you were dressed!" She just stared at him with sleepy bedroom eyes, smiling brilliantly. Then in a whisper, he told her, "Yes, I pick you, baby â€¦ my honey, my dream girl. I'll pick you EVERY time!" They hugged and played and caressed each other until they reignited their passion yet again. CHAPTER 8 He flipped the phone closed after talking with his boss at work. "Baby, he says I can start tomorrow if I want to. I guess I better. Our cash wedding gifts and my college savings are dwindling." "Then I guess you better. I was getting ready to mail out my rÃ©sumÃ©s fishing for a job. But, darling, these two weeks have been incredible; like we've been playing house together." "I never knew married life could be like this. I'm so-o-o-o in love with you," he said grabbing her around the waist and pulling her to his chest. "I love being married to you; do you know that darling?" she cooed. "I hope you never tire of me." "Never! Never-never-never ... You have stolen my heart, and I'm here for keeps! I will love you until the day after Forever!" She put her mouth on his in a deep long burning kiss while she caressed the back of his neck. "Whoa â€¦ it looks like 'somebody' woke up down there." She gave her cute giggle. "Your fault! I can't help it if you have that effect on me. Hey, by the way, I notice you don't get that little shiver with me anymore. No more of that 'anticipation-of-Danny' thingy, huh?" "WRONG! Even now you are giving me those 'oh-boy-here-he-is' goose pimples. I've just gotten better at hiding it." He looked down at the front of her thin t-shirt and grinned. "Hmmmm?" "Well, okay, smarty, I can hide it most of the time when I have a bra on!" she said with a big grin as they kissed again. "Hey, you know what I found this morning in the bathroom?" "My panties?" "Um, that would have been nice, but, noâ€¦ somebody with lipstick on left a kiss on the mirror right where I shave. What do you make of that?" "A kiss on your mirror? Maybe the cleaning lady has the hots for you?" "We have no cleaning lady!" "Or maybe Rhonda came by for a quickie, I mean, a quick visit?" She frowned at her poor choice of words. "I - don't - think - so!" he retorted with a chuckle. "Okay okay. It was meeeeee! Just to remind you how much I love you." "I love your reminders," he said against her lips as she pressed herself against him. Callie liked to tease and play with Dannyâ€™s mind. On one occasion, she wrote out a mailing label that said, TO: Mr. Daniel Brody, FROM: Guess Who? She removed all her clothes, wrapped herself completely in clear plastic wrap up to her neck, except for one arm, put on some dark glasses, and propped herself just inside the door like a package. The label she stuck to her forehead just above the glasses. She was not going to miss his expression when he came in from work. As she expected, Dan gasped at first seeing her, almost going bug-eyed and dropping everything he had been carrying. Her beauty always took me by surprise, but now this? ran through his head. He was speechless as he circled the clear wrapped beautiful â€˜mummyâ€™ admiring how exquisite she was through her total transparency. After a few minutes, he recovered and began talking as if thinking aloud to himself. â€œOh, look. Some thoughtful person has sent me a blow-up love doll.â€ Callie stifled an inaudible giggle. â€œAnd,â€ he continued, â€œthe doll is a replica of the love of my life. I wonder if it feels rubbery, or is it life-like?â€ Callie clenched her teeth at realizing what he could do during her immobile state. Instead of using his hands, he placed his mouth on certain areas of the plastic. He heard a long tiny strangled noise from her throat. â€œYep, these two peaks feel pretty life-like to me.â€ He roamed his fingers over the rest of her arriving at what she comically called her â€˜happy place.â€ After a few minutes of caressing, she started to quiver. At once she broke character squirming and squealing with peals of sweet uncontrollable laughter. Dan lifted her dark glasses and imitated a startled look. â€œWhy, Callie! I didnâ€™t know you were here!â€ He placed his mouth on hers, and she devoured his. â€œCan I unwrap the package now?â€ he whispered. â€œOh yes, yes, pleaseâ€¦yes, pleaseâ€¦ unwrapâ€¦unwrap!â€ A long time later he got up on one elbow and shook his head side to side. â€œGirl, do you know how much I love you?â€ â€œMmmffffffâ€¦â€ His mouth covered her answer. It was another Saturday afternoon when he came home from running some errands. He found her moving around in the kitchen. She stopped and turned to look at him. Her eyes sparkled like when she was thinking of him. He noticed. "Darling," she purred, "do you know what day it is today?" she said walking toward him. "Uh, today, no, what? Give me a hint." "Guess!" "Um ... is it 'National Celebrate Your Beautiful Wife Day?' " "No-o-o! But close. It is our Second Wedding Anniversary! Two incredible years with the greatest man I have ever known." â€œOh, was that today?â€ he smirked a grin. "Make that two breathtaking years with a dream-come-true gorgeous, intelligent, sweet, creative girl. You have made me the happiest luckiest man alive! And I'll have you know, I have NOT forgotten what day it is. I just happen to have reservations to a great restaurant to wine and dine you, and then..." "And THEN," she piped in, "we will come home and luxuriate in a nice aromatic bubble bath---to include candles and more wine---and sensuously bathe each other making sure not one inch of skin is left untouched." "Girl, you already have me breathing hard â€¦ stop it!" "Good. My plan exactly!" He grinned down at her, the love showing on his face, and enveloped her in his arms in a warm tight hug. It was then that the NIGHTMARE beganâ€¦ CHAPTER 9 Outside their house, car engines roared past, and some tires squealed. There were firecracker sounds followed by a sequence of events all happening as if in slow motion: A pop sound of glass breaking, Callie giving a jerk in his arms and breathing in a gasp, a sudden hard thud in his shoulder followed by a terrible, excruciating burning pain. Then there was blackness. CHAPTER 10 Daniel Brody stared into the empty glass after having drained the rest of the Jim Beam a moment before. The alcohol stupor he was hoping for had not yet arrived. He touched the bandage covering the healing wound at his shoulder. It was the constant reminder of the event. The memory was still there along with the heartache that was never going to go away. Not EVER. The police had told him at the hospital what happened in vivid detail. Now his mind tormented him once again replaying the sceneâ€”a carjacking had occurred a few blocks away. Police happened to be nearby and started the chase. The bad guys fired gunshots haphazardly at the cops as they raced away. One stray bullet came through the window of Daniel and Callie's little honeymoon house. The two were embracing in front of the window in a long warm hug as they often did during their two years of marriage. The bullet went through the window, through Callie's shoulder, severing the subclavian artery, a large blood vessel near her collarbone, according to the hospital doc. The bullet exited her and lodged in Dan's shoulder. He lost consciousness long enough for Callie to bleed to death in his arms. The weight of her body on him helped slow his bleeding, saving him from bleeding out. When he came to, Callie was already gone. The bullet left her body and entered his, bringing with it some of her blood. Later, a thought occurred to him. It may not have been scientifically provable but â€”he rubbed his foreheadâ€”but, he wanted to think he was carrying inside him a tiny bit of Callieâ€”a little bit of her DNA. Piercing rays of sun came in through the kitchen window, waking up Daniel from a two-hour alcohol nap. Wakefulness came with a booze headache. At least the headache replaced the other pain, the pain in his heart. No. No, it didn't. That NEVER went away nor was it EVER going to go away. He poured two fingers worth into the glass for the third time. He downed it in one swift movement hoping for oblivion. His head was in a centrifuge as he thumped it down on the table. Before his spinning brain drove him to pass out, Daniel felt something like a light touch on the back of his neck like a butterfly landed there. Was that a slight breeze just now that moved the hair on the back of his neck? No, that wasn't it. It was different. The small part of his brain that could still put coherent thoughts together pondered this. Lucidity was escaping like blood dripping from a wound. There was no time to decide why that was wrong before shutting down and falling into a dark pit of unconsciousness. Another morning found his head lying on the table. He held his head still for fear it would fall off his neck and tried to focus. He picked up the frame of the honeymoon photo that was sitting next to the empty whiskey bottle. He stared with sunken eyes at Callie's dazzling smile and cute dimple. Her gorgeous face was aglow with happiness. His throat tightened with the choke-hold of bear claws as tears ran down his cheeks. It was already three weeks ago that he buried his beloved wife, but it seemed like yesterday. How could fate be so cruel? He thought, wiping his face and rubbing the back of his neck at the sensation he just felt. What, a breeze again? He looked up and wondered if there was a window cracked open that was letting in air. But he knew there were none; his house was closed shut. He pushed the thought aside trying to let his mind go blank and stumbled toward the bathroom. His stubbled face and vacant eyes glared back at him in the mirror. He looked a mess and needed a bath and shave. The booze was turning his brain to mush. He had to stop this pity party, and he needed a hot shower to clear his head. He also needed to get back to work before his leave of absence ran out, and they fired him. He had to snap out it. But no; a chunk of my heart is missing, rattled inside his head. How does a human being cope with a horrific loss like this? She was the love of my life! She WAS my life, and she was GONE, died in my arms! CHAPTER 11 The hot water from the shower ran over him in cascades. It was unsuccessful at soothing away the darkness that surrounded his heart and mind. The bathroom became foggy with steam and looked more like a sauna. He didn't care. Nothing mattered anymore. Preparing to shave he couldn't see himself in the mirror for the haze. The steam covered it completely except for an odd small oval smudge in the middle at eye-level. He grabbed a towel to wipe it clean when he stopped halfway through the swipe. He leaned in to take a closer look at the strange spot. Only a little corner of it was now gone, but what remained was ... looked like â€¦ he blinked his eyes rapidly. Dan got immediately light-headed. "Oh, no, wait. It can't be! That looks just like--- But it can't be!" he whispered in a raspy voice. "The booze ... the whiskeyâ€¦ it has pickled my brain," he said out loud. He came even closer to the glass and saw tiny vertical grooves, like those you see on a ... a LIP print -- like the one he had seen only days before! Like a KISS! A RECOGNIZABLE KISS! Dan jumped away from the mirror. "NO-O-O-O â€¦ WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME? I'M GOING CRAZY!" he screamed to the empty bathroom and pounded his fist on the top of the vanity. He swept his arm across the surface sending bottles crashing to the floor. On impulse he swiped his hand across the print on the mirror, erasing the smudge. "I CAN'T ... I CAN"T TAKE THIS. THE PAIN IS TOO MUCH. IT'S MAKING ME LOSE MY MIND!" He ran to the bedroom which he had been avoiding for some time while sleeping on the sofa. He reached into a drawer and grasped the gun he had bought for home protection. The black metal of the .40 mm Glock was cool and heavy, somehow adding to his resolve. There was one way to stop the torment. He knew just how to end the pain in his heart. A tear ran down his eye. "Maybe I'll ... get to see Callie one more time. On my way to Hell." He raised the gun and placed it to his temple. "Maybe I'll see you again, my darling Callie â€¦ my angel." His voice was gravelly now with tears running down his face. " My sweet angel," he repeated and pressed the trigger. The loud click of the pin hitting an empty barrel seemed to echo in the room and made him jump. He had forgotten to pull the slide and chamber a round. In the same instant a photo frame tipped over on the dresser, and a strong rush of wind blew impossibly across his head. There was a definite firm pressure at the back of his neck. "What? Who's there ...?" He whirled around now pointing the gun outward but saw no one. He felt it again, a definite pressure. This time on his cheek followed by a light breeze that again blew across his face. He looked around the room and knew it was as he had left it the week before. On the bed, that held so many loving memories with Callie; he noticed something. On the side where she used to sleep was an object lying there. He approached it and picked up a photo of Callie, one that he KNEW had been inside his nightstand drawer. Tears blurred his vision. Dan whirled around again to the empty room. "Wha ...? How...? WHAT'S HAPPENING?" He screamed again and landed on the bed. He could not wrap his mind around the idea that was now forming there. He could not; he would not accept what he was starting to think. He reached over and grasped the photo of Callie. The sobs were uncontrollable, and tears were blurring his vision as he fell asleep from exhaustion. CHAPTER 12 Dan woke up to daylight with a start. He had been dreaming of Callie. Of course, he had. He fell asleep holding onto her picture. He hadn't dreamed of her since before they got married. Now it was starting up again! In the dream, she had been talking to him, but he remembered her voice was so faint he couldn't hear nor understand her. Last night she was the last thing he was thinking of. NO, it wasn't! Something else had occurred to him. Something that in the light of day was impossible, ludicrous. He didn't believe in ghosts, and that's what his toasted brain was coming up with. And the photo of Callie on the bed â€“ of course, he just forgot he must have taken it out of the drawer given his state of mind. He kissed the photograph and placed it back in the drawer of the nightstand again. The mark on the steamed up bathroom mirror was just a finger smudge of his. Yes, the tiny lines were just his fingerprint. He had wiped it off anyway, now forgotten. The booze had messed him up. But today everything could be easily explained. He went into the bathroom to look at the mirror to prove there was nothing to it. The blood drained from his face. There was a small heart with a tiny star in its middle drawn with soap by a fingertip. He knew the mirror had been clean from when he swiped the towel over it the night before. This was new! He whipped around looking for someone, anyone that could explain this. He was alone. He approached the little heart now shaking his head in disbelief. "Cal..." He almost couldn't say the word. "Callie?" It came out as a hoarse whisper. He felt a sensation on his lips. It was the unmistakable and familiar contact of HER lips on his! His knees buckled as he crumbled to the floor. Tears flooded from his eyes. He touched his fingers to his lips. "Callie? How â€¦ how is this possible ...?" He felt a definite feather light brush against his cheek. There it is again! Confirmation? Is it YOU? Then, nothing. Something in the room had just changed. Just now. There was emptiness around him, a space that wasn't present minutes before. Somehow, she had just been here---SHE WAS HERE! -- But now she was gone, and he could feel the difference. He stayed sitting on the bathroom floor trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened. He lingered for the better part of an hour on the floor, afraid to move, to see if it would happen again. He replayed it all in his head. He was not drunk, nor insane. At least he didn't think so. He knew what he felt and what he saw -- the little heart was still on the surface of the mirror! Just like the one he remembered seeing in her sketchbook. He put his fingers to his lips again -- and he KNEW. CALLIE HAD BEEN HERE! Which meant that she was a â€¦ what? A ghost? He held his head in both hands lest it explode. He had to accept this â€“ that when she died, she had not, for whatever the reason, 'crossed over' as they say. He roamed the house looking for some evidence of her like some fool until he realized he was not going to find her. Would she come back? Please come back, my sweet angel. That night he fell into dreaming of her again. This time, it was different â€“ it was bright and vivid like Dorothy in Munchkin Land. He was standing next to a sparkling running brook at the edge of a lush green pristine forest. "Danny." Her voice was sweet and clear. He turned around to her voice. "Callieeee?" This all felt too surreal. This dream was not fuzzy or out of focus like in previous dreams. She was standing there smiling at him as if they had just been hiking through the woods. She was wearing the same T-shirt he last saw her wearing. "Hi, Danny. I need to talk to you. You're not okay, I see." Her smile turned to sadness. All he could utter was "Callie ..." This IS a dream, right? was his first thought. She was as beautiful as ever. "Yes, it's a dream, but more than that." She heard his thoughts! "And look, we can talk this way, without even speaking, darling." "How ..." he was still stunned. "I know you're wondering what is going on. Me too! Danny, I'm caught between our two worlds, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with my spirit passing through your body at the moment when I died." "Baby ..." he couldn't continue. "I ... I have questions, too. Yesterday... Did you visit me? Yesterday, and the day before?" "Yes, it was me! But, it seems to take all my energy to 'do' things. Like stroking the back of your neck, and doing those things on our mirror. It was difficult at first; I felt exhausted after every attempt and kept blacking out, so to speak. I think as you started 'believing,' I got stronger and was able to do more." "This is incredible. I don't want to wake up!" "Danny, even now I'm getting weaker." He noticed she was growing more transparent. "I'm still new at this myself. I will come back. Rest darling. We will figure all this out, but PLEASE ... PLEASE, you must NOT, MUST NOT, do what you tried to do yester...!" Then she was gone. He was no longer in the forest but awake and surrounded by the darkness of the bedroom before sleep overtook him again. CHAPTER 13 He heard birds chirping. Was he in the forest with her? He opened his eyes and realized the birds were outside his window. He was awake and at home. The dream came flooding back to him. He shot up in bed as the memory soaked into his mind. Had he talked to his beloved Callie? Had his mind made up the dream as if wishful thinking? No, he did, in fact, talk to her, but she disappeared before she finished talking. He ran to the bathroom mirror and there it was -- the little heart with a star in its middle drawn by her fingertip---it was real! Yes, It was real, it had all happened. Dan believed now, he really believed, and he would push logic aside. He would have to! An epiphany jumped at him even though I had long forgotten the theory from his friend Mac: Some things in the universe existed that could not be explained, and they existed whether or not you believed them. He had new motivation to live. How foolish that episode with the gun had been. All that booze did turn his brain into guacamole! That small bitter-sweet contact with his beloved seemed to change everything. Even as brief and flimsy as it was, it happened! Yet the ache and loss in his heart remained. He collected himself and got busy cleaning the house that had gotten in such disarray since the funeral. He remembered to run to the store and renew his grocery supply, although he was reluctant to leave the house. After a while, he ran out of things to do and realized he had been staying busy waiting to see if Callie would reappear. He stood at the window and pondered all that had happened since her death. Her reappearance had turned his world upside down. As he stood, he felt something strange --- a pressure at his back. He froze because he immediately knew it was her. He perceived the familiar contact of her breasts on his back through the filmy shirt he had given her. He felt her hips and full body up against him, and her arms surrounding his torso. He closed his eyes and let his breath out to relish this feather-light sensation. He imagined the warmth he would have felt had her living body been there and felt his own body respond. "Callie â€¦ Callie â€¦ how I miss you, baby." His whisper came out ragged. After long wonderful minutes passed the sensation was gone. She had visited him again, making herself be felt until she tired out. He understood. He decided if they could only communicate while dreaming then he was headed to bed as soon as the time came. Now in bed, he felt himself drifting off to sleep but not before he felt light pressure on his lips. Did she just kiss me, or did I imagine it? She just kissed me! BABY, I KNOW YOU'RE THERE! was his last thought. He eased into a restful sleep. Then sounds of the running brook surrounded him. Daniel Brody was again outside of his body. He saw an impossibly blue sky, and he could hear the bubbling of flowing water. An active crystalline brook was nearby and explained the sound. "Hi, honey," came her sweet voice from behind. "Yes, that was me," she said with a little girl giggle and came toward him. They rushed into each other's arms. He devoured her lips in a burning kiss. "Oh, how I've missed you, baby," his voice almost gruff, hungry for her. They pressed against each other in a tight embrace. At once he realized their clothing had dissolved away. "O-o-o-h ..." he gasped as he felt the sensation of her soft naked skin on his. "Things happen, uh, quickly in this dream-world." "Darling, I did that," she whispered into his ear. "Make love to me, one more time." She put her mouth on his for a long moment and then lay down on a soft blanket that had appeared on top of the grass. He paused looking down and took in her incredible beautiful nakedness. Their lovemaking on the grass was exquisite; it seemed lasting for hours. The intensity was dizzying. Afterward, they rested tangled in each other. They enjoyed the pleasant sound of the brook and the warmth of the day. She turned, looked into his eyes and donned a sad face. "What is it, Callie?" "Darling ..." she creased her forehead. "I have to leave." "But I'll see you later, or tomorrow, right?" "Danny, this was a gift we were given. A parting gift; a special gift of love. My reason for being here between our two worlds was to prevent a terrible tragedy. YOURS! Also, if you had taken your own life I might have been stuck in limbo, I think, but Iâ€™m not sure; all this is still new to me." A big tear ran down his cheek, then another. "You must never even think of taking your own life. NOT EVER!" "But ... you're my LIFE ... you're my Soul-mate, remember? You're my EVERYTHING! I can't live without!" "NO! Listen to me! Now you must live for BOTH of us! You MUST!" She paused and held his face. "Right now the future is a little fuzzy to me, and I know I won't be visiting you again like this. And yet, I DON'T think this is the end. There's something else there that I can't see. I'm just not sure what it is. Honey, I know that what I'm about to say now is awkward, but listen to me carefully: DON'T BE ALONE! Please-Please, find someone else. Don't be alone. Do it for ME, yes, for ME, find someone else, and with MY blessing!" She stopped and looked around to where the sun had gotten at once brighter, then smiled. "Danny, I am in a wonderful place. Don't worry about me, honey. And, you'll see that YOUR pain is going to be much less when you wake. I will take your sadness away, and I thinkâ€¦" she hesitated, "â€¦ your loneliness, too. You're going to be all right, darling." She started to fade gradually but glowed brilliantly. "Danny, thank you for the gift of your heart. Goodbye, my love, goodbye." "Callie, wait! DON'T LEAVE ME!" He reached out to grasp her to keep her with him as everything turned a blinding white around them. The forest and brook dissolved into the brilliance, along with Callie. The brilliance of the sun was waking him again through the window as on other mornings. He stretched and yawned like a grizzly bear after hibernation. Scratching the back of his head, he had a vague notion of having been dreaming about Callie. Did he remember hearing her saying, "Don't be alone?" What did she mean? The words kept echoing in his head, but he couldn't remember what it was about. His eyes were wet; no doubt the dream had been sad. He missed her, but somehow now the pain wasn't as debilitating as before. He realized he had to get on with his life. He knew that's what she'd want him to do. CHAPTER 14 It had taken many months, but he thought he had finished with his home projects. He had properly floored the attic with plywood. Now he could store boxes up there, and the garage was all set with shelves. All his tools hung on pegboards for easy access. He did it in his spare time away from work, and he was proud of it all. He rarely dreamed of Callie anymore. When he did, they weren't as vivid as before, and he never remembered what happened in the dreams except for the recurring words: "Don't be alone." He always thought that was odd. It had already been six months since the tragedy happened. Maybe that's why she was in his thoughts. He needed to get out of the house. Grocery shopping would be a good distraction. The filled grocery bags were set up in the trunk of his car. As he closed the lid and stepped out of the way, another car slowly rolled into the side of his back bumper with a dull thud. He heard a girl's squeal as the driver came out running from her car. "Oh no, oh no. Oh nooo! I am so-o-o sorry. I can't believe I just did that, oh no!" He looked at where the cars had made contact and looked up at the girl. "Hey, no problem. Look, you just hit the thick rubber part of the bumper. Just a nudge. Absolutely no damage." "Oh, but that was so stupid of me. My phone slid off my seat and me, I just, you know, reached for it and let the car roll." She made brief eye contact with him, and he flinched. Those beautiful green eyes, and her face and hair, and voice â€“ how could they be so much like â€“ no, there goes my imagination again. "Uhâ€¦ Hi. My name is Daâ€¦â€ â€œIâ€™m such a klutzâ€ she interrupted. â€œIâ€™ll pay for any damage,â€ she continued and held out her hand. â€œLook, Iâ€™m Charlise, uh, Charlieâ€¦â€ As their hands touched, they both felt an unexplainable jolt of energy pass through them. He gasped, and she squealed. He saw her have the worst body shiver. She shook her head as if trying to shake off a long sleep. At once they stood frozen in time as he stared into familiar green eyes. It was for seconds, but it seemed for many minutes where they couldnâ€™t let go of each otherâ€™s grasp. His breath caught as his eyes widened when she whispered the words she couldnâ€™t possibly have known, â€œDâ€¦Danny?â€ His lungs refused to work; she was now trembling. â€œMyâ€¦MY DREAMER?â€ came her raspy whisper once againâ€¦ ***** Passersby see two cars are in a store parking lot oddly, one apparently having backed into the other. A young man and young woman are shaking hands yet appear momentarily frozen, appearing as if statues. Perhaps the couple has come to a friendly agreement as to the outcome of the minor incident. Suddenly they are into each othersâ€™ arms kissing with such intensity that a passing older lady has to stifle herself from blurting out, â€œHey, you two. Get a room, will yaâ€™!â€ EPILOGUE Months earlier Daniel Brody conceived the notion that some things in the universe existed that could not be explained, and they existed whether or not you believed them. Danny and Callie were together again. Somehow! They spent the following months clinging to each other like conjoined twins and trying to understand what had happened. Callie had no memory of a Charlise or anything before their shaking hands in the parking lot, nor having died from a bullet wound. All she remembered was that they had been hugging in the kitchen, and then the feeling of a long passage of time. She felt the sense of having been away and missing him. And now she was there, in front of him! Later after seeing the proof of her passing, that he presented her, she reluctantly accepted the facts. The only explanation they could both agree on was that, somehow, they had been given a gift. A very special once-in-a-lifetime gift. They would not waste it. They would make it count. They would enjoy and cherish each other as much as they couldâ€¦.for the rest of their lives.