Welcome back, Dear Reader! If you’ve read the first twelve excerpts, feel free to skip this preamble to the meat a few paragraphs down. If you haven’t, well, thanks for joining me!
These are exciting times for your ol’ pal Jerry – after talking about it for most of my life, I finally put the proverbial money and mouth together and started my first novel, Of Dreams & Angels, in the fall of 2019. I recently completed the first draft but in the meantime thought it would be fun to start putting pieces of it (and thereby my entire soul, don’t you know!) out into the universe. Maybe you’ll get caught up in the intrigue and start following along too.
The synopsis – well, before we get to that, Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing, wrote that many of his stories can be expressed as a What-if question, and after reading that, my imagination (as it pertained to story ideas) started framing situations that way. Of Dreams is this question: What if a man started dreaming about a woman he’d never met, but who actually exists; falls in love with her based on what he sees in the dreams and sets out to find her?
Don’t ask me where it came from, and believe me when I say I’m just as shocked as you are that my first idea for a novel – ok maybe not the first idea in the grand scope of my life, but the first one to make it to fruition – was a fantastical love story. But as soon as I thought of it, *I* wanted to know what would happen, which made me think others might want to, too.
At all rates, here you have it, Dear Reader (also a not-so-subtle borrow from Mr. King, who as you may know refers to us as “Constant Reader”) – another excerpt from Of Dreams & Angels. In this excerpt, Joe is once again in the midst of dreaming through Claire’s eyes, still looking for tangible clues of her possible existence—while sensing something is not quite right. She’s hurting, somehow, and imaginary or not, he wants to find out why. Enjoy!
He wasn’t certain what time he finally drifted off—his last glance at the clock told him it was quarter past one—but as with all nights he went from the foggy, incoherent, in-between state of wakefulness and slumber to sudden brightness, sudden alert clarity. She was standing in the bathroom again, a now familiar milieu; adorned in her white housecoat and towel wrapped around wet hair. He knew it instantly: she had been crying.
Somewhere in the past weeks his awareness of her feelings and emotions had somehow transitioned from mere observation to a direct experience. There had been times when she shared a laugh with the children at the dinner table where he felt like he was laughing too, surprised that he hadn’t woken himself up, or that his man’s laughter hadn’t escaped her throat. There were other moments where she had taken lunchtime, rainy walks in the park by her office, where he’d felt the drops on her exposed skin, half-expecting to wake up in rain-soaked sheets. He felt her cortisol and adrenaline as her team raced to meet deadlines. He knew when she was putting on a brave face for Jack, Holly and Ainsley. He felt the knots in her stomach when the overwhelm was too much, as she pushed food she had little appetite for around her plate. Most of all, he felt the urge to reach out somehow, wrap her in his arms and say Whatever this is, we’ll get through it.
His internal committee loved to have a field day with that one.
She had been leaned against the bathroom counter again, tears slowly leaving her eyes, dropping to the porcelain below. It hadn’t been anything close to a sobbing cry—though he had apparently ‘walked into’ the middle of it, Joe knew that immediately. He knew Claire’s demeanor didn’t allow for outright breaks in composure; there was a quiet pain that haunted her deeper thoughts. Whatever those thoughts may be, Joe didn’t have access to. Much as her bathroom was an oasis at times, it was also the place where the myriad distractions of work and play often abandoned her, leaving her open and vulnerable to whatever lingered underneath. I know that feeling, Joe thought.
She looked up, and as it always did Joe’s heart briefly hitched in his chest; a knot of his own forming in his stomach. Her beauty was always arresting, and because he spent so much time seeing from behind her eyes, he’d often forget how striking it was to look into them. She pulled at the towel wrapped around her head and shook out her curls around her shoulders. Joe knew she straightened her hair most days, but when it was freshly washed, her dark strands were naturally curly. He knew she was beautiful, either way.
Whenever his thoughts drifted in this direction, the committee member seemingly in charge of reading the barometer of his sanity was in the habit of goading him. This time, all it said was Well at least if we have to be plagued by a figment of your imagination, you made her easy on the eyes. I won’t go into whatever it means to be attracted to something you made up—
Shut up. She’s hurting. Pay attention.
Claire began applying the various creams and powders of the daytime uniform, while Joe tried again to search for anything resembling a discernible thought, an available clue. I wish you could talk to me, tell about that pain you carry. Is it David? Has he done something to drive the knife deeper? Is it just you, just life? Trying to wear too many hats and juggle too many pins? I wish you could talk to me, Claire. Maybe I couldn’t fix it, but I would sure love to try.
Beauty and grace in everything she ever did, including pain. He loved her quiet dignity; the understated way she handled every scene he’d ever witnessed. Her life was much more spontaneous, eclectic and unstructured than Joe’s—he supposed with three kids, a fast-paced deadline-driven career, a home, and a broken heart, life was bound to its own clock rather than any man-made one—yet she still handled it all with a deftness he admired. The more chaotic it became, the more she seemed to meet it with strength and resolve. He was starting to love that about her.
That’s probably a correct assertion, Joseph, that’s what’s about to happen to all of us if you keep this up.
Just shuddup, would ya?
She put down a brush and raised her hands to her face, gently rubbing at her temples, closing her eyes. Joe felt the touch as acutely as if it were his own; in the infrequent occasions when she’d brush at her arm or run a hand through her hair or reach for an itch, in a fleeting moment he’d feel her direct touch, as though on his own skin. It brought goosebumps—or at least the feeling—to his skin, and butterflies to his stomach, every time.
She opened her eyes and reached toward a tray at the corner of the sink where she put her bracelets at night. Charms from her children or sister (and many moons ago from David, before his infinitesimal attention span had moved to the next conquest), that made gentle rattles as she fastened the clasp around her wrist—her hand feeling for a moment like it was on Joe’s. The gooseflesh returned; he knew from sight not on her skin, but somehow feeling it on his own, sleeping body an ocean away.
Claire raised the hand with the bracelet to her face, dabbed a tear that had lingered along the lower lid of her eye, forcing it into a drop that moved from the lash to the tip of her finger. Joe felt it there too, felt an instinct to kiss it away with his lips, unable to move as always. Instead, she wiped it away in a slow circle with her thumb, and returned the hand to her cheek. While he knew he’d have no more ability to direct her hand than he did to remove the tear, he closed his eyes, directing every swirling ion of whatever energy existed between them into that left hand, hoping she might feel it. I’ve got you. Whatever this is, for some reason I’m here, and I’ve got you.
And before the committee member could shout its way in:
I won’t let you go.
Thanks again for stopping by, Dear Reader! Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more.