Cathy had the same dream, over and over. She was in a meadow filled with the songs of thrushes and vireos. Suddenly, the bird songs stopped. A pinhole opened in a rock–and then a flash of light and silence.
When she woke, the back of her eyes ached. Something was not right, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
She’d been spending time with new friends and old. Something about Zuri, the new bartender at the local pub, felt so familiar to Cathy. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but they felt like kin.
It wasn’t just that they shared the same mischievous sense of humor or that they both liked cozy indoor spaces and wide open meadows. It was a feeling–like giggles, right before they surface, and everything feels happy, and just a little bit magic.
Old friends called nearly every day, and most nights, if she wasn’t doing a final edit of a chapter, she’d meet up with them someplace where they could laugh and dance.
Sometimes, she caught Wade looking at her a certain way. He was always sure to be there, every time she got together with any of the Boughs. Through hanging together with their common friends, she and Wade had become close enough to be best friends. Sometimes, there was a little happy buzz between them. But they’d never acted on it, except maybe to use that happy energy to make the evening even more fun.
The night after Brennan, her boyfriend, had come over to her place to visit, she called him up to see if he wanted to hang out with them all at the discotheque.
“We both like purple,” he said.
“Matches the interior!’ she replied, surveying the place.
They found a corner away from the dancers, and he rubbed her shoulders.
“You’re tense!” he said.
“Oh, I worked in the garden all afternoon,” she replied. She didn’t say she’d been shoveling compost, knowing how squeamish Brennan was.
They chatted about ice cream. Brennan was describing this new topping he’d invented for a chocolate cone, something with marshmallow sauce and cherries, when Jaclyn appeared behind him.
“This is promising!” Jaclyn whispered. “This is more like it, CT!”
While Brennan began to describe the plot of the cartoon he’d watched that afternoon, which, surprisingly enough, wasn’t boring but actually quite ingenious, Jaclyn looked down and began to whisper, too softly for Brennan to hear. But Cathy could see her lips. She was either saying something about squirrels, or worlds. Kites or light. Tunes or runes.
Then she held up her phone and flashed a bright light in Cathy’s eyes. It was just as in the dream, and Cathy turned before her eyes began to ache.
Jaclyn leaned forward and whispered to Cathy:
You can’t undo what you have done.
Now he’s here, you cannot run.
You must make two into one.
It has to be, two to one.
“Let’s go upstairs,” Brennan said, “where we can be alone.”
“You seem awfully happy,” she said, as she looked down at him grinning at her.
“I am,” he replied. “I’ve got something I’ve been wanting to ask you ever since I saw you in your goofy little animal hat tonight.”
He stood and suddenly became very serious.
“I know we have nothing in common,” he said. “Except we both like the color purple. I’m younger than you. I’m a lazy, squeamish fool who watches cartoons all day and lives on ice cream. But, I like you. You seem to like me.”
Cathy listened. It was true. She liked him very much. In fact, she loved him. She had from the moment she’d seen rise from the wishing well those billowing clouds of rose-water and sulfur smoke. She loved him before she even saw his face. She’d loved him as soon as she’d known he was coming in answer to her wish.
“Marry me,” he said.
Her heart stopped for a moment. She wasn’t the marrying type. And how would they live, having nothing in common? She hadn’t even kissed him yet. She didn’t know if she’d like the way his lips tasted.
But she loved him. And he was here because of her. This was what Jaclyn meant, she realized. She had to. She couldn’t run.
She said yes, and the moment the engagement ring was on her finger, she felt with that circle of responsibility an overwhelming joy. A wish followed-through-with made everything right!
He swept her off her feet, thinking, perhaps, that her t-shirt was the color of passion-fruit topping.
She looked up at the flourecsent light–blinding in its whiteness. The light flickered, crackled, and then in a burst of white, it burnt out, and he held her in the dark.
As her vision sparkled with phosphenes, she thought she saw through the roof, up into the spinning galaxy to the chaotic seat of creation itself. What was life made of, after all, but the union of opposing forces?