The sound of the radio alarm clock was blaring. I didn’t want to move. The bed shifted as an arm swung across my chest, turning the alarm clock off.
My eyes flickered open. The smell of Lydia’s perfume circled the air above me. I sat up in bed, startled. What the fuck? I looked down, and Lydia was curled up next to me. The house was still quiet. I slumped back against my pillow.
Had it all been a nightmare? Lydia let out a moan while stretching. The sheet pulled back, revealing her bare chest. Without warning, all my blood went rushing to my lower head. I looked around the room and pulled the sheet over her breasts.
Lydia hadn’t slept naked in years, since before Charlie was born. What was going on?
I crawled out of bed, leaving Lydia sleeping. It was Saturday morning. The twins had to be awake and quietly watching their iPads.
I checked the living room, but it was empty. Maybe they were still sleeping. It had been well past midnight when I fell asleep, and they hadn’t been home. Lydia must have gotten halfway to her mom’s and turned around. But that didn’t explain why she was naked in our bed. I went to the kids’ bedroom to find Charlie, but as I walked there, I noticed things about the house seemed different.
I opened the door, expecting to see the bunk beds and Charlie’s toddler bed, but was surprised to see an office in its place. What the fuck!? I looked over my shoulder, back to our bedroom, where Lydia snored softly, before turning back to the office. Rubbing my face, I tugged at my hair. I must be dreaming. That was the only explanation. I shuffled some papers on the desk as I glanced over them. I spied my name on some letterhead. Grabbing the paper, I began scanning. None of it made any sense. It looked like some financial report for an electric company I owned.
A yawn came from the doorway, startling me.
I looked up. Lydia was smiling at me, her bare breasts now covered by a thin silk robe that barely covered her ass. She looked amazing, refreshed, like the last four years of being exhausted hadn’t taken a toll on her.
“What is this?” I said, confused.
She walked over and looked at the papers in my hand. “This is that prospectus you asked me to do.”
I stared at her blankly. “Is this a joke?”
Lydia fluttered her eyes at me.
“Where’s Charlie?” I demanded.
“And Miles? Where are the kids?” I dropped the papers from my hand, grabbing Lydia by the shoulders. She seemed puzzled by my outburst and didn’t say anything.
“Listen, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing here.” I pushed past her and started calling for Charlie. Her favourite game was hide and seek. Maybe she was hiding. I searched desperately through the small house. The office wasn’t the only thing that was different. The baby’s bassinet was missing from our bedroom, the laundry baskets of dirty clothes had all been put away, and the room was spotless. Billy’s room was more of a guest room. It certainly didn’t look like a room that belonged to a twelve-year-old boy.
Lydia followed me around, looking concerned. “What are you going on about? Whose children are you looking for?”
I stopped in the middle of the kitchen. Nothing was the way it was supposed to be. It was the most vivid dream I had ever had. I paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. I was still dreaming. There was no other explanation.
“Babe, are you alright?” Lydia reached up with her hands, gently massaging my chest.
She hadn’t called me babe in forever, and it had been months since she last touched me. She reached up, stroking my cheek. “Come back to bed.”
I reluctantly agreed, but I knew if I wanted to see Charlie again, I needed to wake up. Lydia held my hand, leading me back to our bedroom. It felt odd following my wife to our room after months of fighting. She was the Lydia I had fallen in love with years ago. I lay down, closing my eyes. I didn’t know what was worse, not having the children there or the reality I would face when I woke up to an empty home.
Lydia cuddled next to me, stroking my hair. I felt myself drifting off. “Lydia?”
“If I don’t say it often, I love you.”
When I woke, I didn’t have to open my eyes to know the bed was empty beside me. I couldn’t help but put my hand out. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air, or like she had never been there to begin with.
That had been one crazy dream. I lay there, thinking of how things had gone south with our marriage so fast. The stress of life and being parents had consumed our lives as we lost our identities. We’d forgotten how to be with one another. I thought about the things we took advantage of when we had them every day. We forgot to appreciate the small things.
I needed to let Lydia know I would do better. Don’t get me wrong, she had her faults. But the first step in fixing our marriage would be to communicate. Work exhausted me, but I would make time for her, for us. It might be hard at first, but I’d hang onto that feeling. I hated being alone.
The phone on the nightstand rang, startling me. I hoped it was Lydia saying she had made a mistake and was returning home.
“Hello?” I cleared my throat.
“Hi, Derrick? It’s Lydia.”
I bit back the sarcastic remark. Like I didn’t know her voice. “Lydia.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner.”
I opened my eyes and sat up, propping the pillows behind me. “I’m glad you called.” I changed my tone. If I was going to make those changes, I needed to start then.
“I had fun the other night,” she said quietly.
Not at all what I expected her to say. The other night? I racked my brain. I hadn’t been home with her and the kids at night time in several weeks. Was she being sarcastic? I thought she would’ve been yelling or even furious.
“Very funny, Lydia.” I was about to ask her to explain why she’d left, but she interrupted.
“I’m so happy Jack set us up.”
Jack? We hadn’t talked about Jack since the accident. Jack had been a mutual friend. Setting us up had been his last act as our friend before he died from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was all very tragic.
He had been begging us to meet for weeks. The night of our first date had been the night he died. That had been a little over four years. It was an amazing first date, as far as they go. We’d talked all night about our hopes and dreams. She was divorced with three children.
She had married her high school boyfriend, and through no fault of her own, the marriage failed. Her husband had cheated on her with her best friend. Could you imagine being married to someone you knew since grade school, and all the while, he had been messing around on you with your best friend? My heart went out to her right away. She was so sweet and positive, in light of it all. She hadn’t given up on life.
“Yeah, Jack was great.” I smiled at the memory of my friend from college.
“So, I thought maybe we could get together again. I know I’m supposed to, like, wait before asking, but I don’t want to, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either,” she rambled on.
I laid in the bed quietly, confused. I remembered the conversation. It came the morning after our date. Neither of us had known about Jack yet. I blinked, looking around the room. It was then I realized I was no longer in the three-bedroom bungalow I shared with my family. I was back in my bachelor pad. No, no, no. Something wasn’t right.
“Lydia, where are the kids?” I was scared of what she would say. But I needed to know.
She gave a nervous laugh. “Derrick?”
“Why are you talking about Jack? Are you okay, Lydia? Where are you?”
All this time, I thought it was me having dreams, escaping from reality. But maybe she had lost it. Yes, it was possible she was having a breakdown. With the stress of the kids, the house, and bills, she’d finally snapped. She’d taken the kids, but where was she? I had never worried about postpartum, but maybe I should have.
“Derrick, if I was wrong about the other night…I mean, if you’re not interested…,” she hesitated.
I sat, staring at the walls of my apartment. But if she was going crazy, how had I gotten there?
“No-no. You weren’t wrong.” I didn’t want to upset her, just in case she had the kids.
We sat in awkward silence. My head began to throb, a sweet nectar taste filling the back of my mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut. I could hear the neighbor’s music. It was some weird chanting.
“I’m sorry, Lydia. I’m not myself. Can I call you later?”
“Sure. Take care, Derrick.”
I sat in bed, staring at the walls. The late afternoon sun made the shadows from trees outside dance on my wall. The branches swayed back and forth in the wind. I watched as the shadows moved across the wall, taking on shapes of all different sizes. I knew it was odd to think, but there was something familiar about them, almost comforting.
I couldn’t make sense of what was going on. Every dream was worse than the one before, and none of them brought me home. How long would I be without my family? My head began to pound. I scooted down under the covers and closed my eyes, hoping to relieve the migraine that had come over me.
I drifted off to sleep. This time I didn’t dream of Lydia or Charlie. Instead, I found myself in another world, with women wearing long gowns and men in tuxedos. It looked like a ball. Lavish food and wine were set out, and columns rose high above my head, decorated with drapes of silk. Beside me was a woman in an extravagant dress. She laughed and carried on with the other guests.
The dream unfolded like a movie. I watched as I stepped away from her, looking out amongst the crowd. It was there I saw the most breathtaking woman across the ballroom. She had jet black hair and the warmest brown eyes. She looked troubled, sad even. I instantly felt a pang in my chest. I wanted to go to her, console her, but my feet wouldn’t move. Just like the others, I had no control over that dream.
My chest was heavy, as was my heart. A silver-haired man approached her. I suspected he was the source of her anguish. I disliked him instantly. They began to have a heated argument, and suddenly everyone was frozen in place. He grabbed her by the shoulders, lifting her like a rag doll. Her screams were drowned out as tears ran down her face. I desperately wanted to stop him, but I was helpless. I watched in horror as he dragged her to a balcony, then casually tossed her over.
My screams had woken me from the hellish nightmare. I was back in the bungalow, my clothes drenched in sweat. My heart raced like it was a car at the Indie 500. Awakened by yet another nightmare, I found myself alone, surrounded by empty beer bottles and cheese stains from the bag of Cheetos that now lay crumpled at my feet. My heart ached for the love I had so casually dismissed with my wife and a new strange emptiness for a woman I had never met.