The story continues with chapter 17. Links to the previous chapters and the link to purchase the novel on amazon follow the excerpt.
The whole medical testing thing had been extremely annoying. But I already knew that I was going to approach it with impatience and surliness. By the time I got to work I was in a foul mood. I was almost a half an hour late for my shift. It was almost painful to be pleasant to my customers. I felt that my smile was plastered in place and that it would crack off at any moment. My main goal for the evening was to prevent myself from snapping at anyone. I was certain that the medical tests would come back showing cause for concern. This would be the tip of the iceberg and it would be all downhill from there. And I didn’t want to participate. Inside I was having a tantrum. I didn’t want to go there. I wanted things to stay the same. It was also more than a little disconcerting that I felt that I was losing my grip on reality. On one hand, I would be relieved to know that these dreams could be explained as hallucinations brought on by whatever disease was infesting my brain. But then what? What was the comfort in that? Okay. So I would know why, but my brain would still continue to be eaten. I had no faith that it could be fixed medically. It would be a slow, painful process to the same end. I was destined to travel the same path as my mother. But I recoiled from this idea. I was more of a fighter than she was. She would always just let things happen to her. I refused. But how do you refuse death? It was much easier to be grumpy about it than afraid.
I was beyond exhausted at the end of my shift. All evening I had been ignoring the fact that I felt alternately chilled and flushed. I felt uncharacteristically weak to the core. As I was driving to Leigh’s house, I toyed with the idea of picking Anna up in the morning. She would be asleep and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to carry her. No. I wanted to see my girl. I found tears stinging my eyes at the thought of my bright, spunky baby. I willed them away and promised myself that I would take her to the park tomorrow before work.
At first Anna was whiny when I pulled her out of bed and told her that she had to walk. When I whispered to her that Mama didn’t feel good it seemed to register and she accepted my hand without further protest. I strapped on her Mary Jane shoes over her footy pajamas and put on her fuzzy white coat. At first we had a bit of trouble finding her dolly, but eventually located it lodged under Franny’s hip. On the way home Anna stretched out in the back seat and continued sleeping.
When we shuffled into our apartment lobby we found Sara Kislin retrieving her mail from the rows of identical metal slot boxes. Anna was clinging to my long coat sleepily complaining that she was cold and wanted to be carried. When she saw Sara she tottered over and raised her arms to her expectantly. Sara hastily deposited her mail and keys into her purse and looked to me for permission. I nodded slightly, wearily. Sara lifted Anna easily. Anna nestled her head into Sara’s shoulder. She clutched her doll with one hand and stroked Sara’s deep, brown fur coat with the other. I leaned on the doorjamb trying to catch my breath from the cold walk. Someone had taken my designated parking spot so I had been forced to park in one of the far off guest spaces. Sara and I held each other’s gaze silently. I knew that there was so much that I wanted to ask her, but my thoughts moved around my head like feet slogging through mud. Her expression mostly spoke restrained compassion. A part of me stomped its feet in aggravation that anyone would need to look at me in such a way, but most of me accepted this kind look from this unusual stranger. I hardly knew her, yet oddly enough, I felt that she knew me better than anyone.
“I will bring her up for you,” Sara said simply. I nodded again. She smiled and turned to ascend the stairs. I looked at the stairs and sighed. The elevator still had yet to be repaired. How annoying that a simple flight of stairs should appear so daunting. I desperately hoped that sleep would help my extreme fatigue, but knew it probably would not. And what would I dream next? Would there be any answers or only just endless questions? I leaned my arms on both railings and called softly.
She had reached the first landing and turned, looking down on me.
“The dreams will show you the answer that you are seeking. I don’t have all of the answers either. We all get pieces of the truths if we are paying attention. With you there is a connection that has been lost more than once. It is a very necessary connection that needs to be bridged.” She paused. “I would offer my hand to help you with the stairs, but I know you will not take it. Be sure to step carefully.”
I did. It seemed an eternity to climb those stairs. Sara waited patiently by my apartment door. Anna looked quite comfortable in her embrace. I pulled my keys out of my coat pocket and fumbled with the lock. I almost dropped them, but managed to open the door. Sara whispered “Good night” into Anna’s ear and then set her feet gently on the floor. Anna trotted down our apartment hallway a few paces before stopping to release her feet from her shoes. She dropped one directly to the floor and flung the other one into the bathroom as she scuffed by. She wiggled out of her coat and left it in the doorway of her bedroom as she entered.
“Thank you,” I murmured to Sara. “Maybe we could have coffee…or tea sometime?”
“Of course, my dear,” Sara answered with a lilt in her voice. “Good night to you. And sweet dreams,” she added with a barely perceptible wink. She disappeared into the darkness and I entered my apartment and closed the door. I almost tripped on Anna’s shoe as I made a beeline for my bed. I considered brushing my teeth, but abandoned the idea as too much trouble. I almost went to bed wearing my work uniform, but decided that I didn’t want to risk smelling old ketchup and fryer grease while I was sleeping. Instead, I slipped my clothes off and to the floor. I slid between the cool sheets and shivered. I didn’t feel like looking for pajamas. Besides, then I would have to turn the light on and risk giving my neighbors another show. Still no curtains. I grabbed the knit throw that resided at the foot of my bed and arranged it on top of my comforter to provide more warmth. I turned on my side and snuggled in. As I was drifting off to sleep, I realized that I had forgotten to tuck Anna in. I was sure that she made it into her bed by herself, but I always liked to be sure she was settled. I mentally blew her a kiss as I drifted further down. I became vaguely aware of a comforting presence next to me spooning in sleep with one arm resting gently on top of mine. And I spiraled even further down.