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January 1, 2006, 1:31 a.m.
Janie sprints through the snowy yards from two streets away and slips quietly through the front door of her house.
Everything goes black.
She grips her head, cursing her mother under her breath as the whirling kaleidoscope of colors builds and throws her off balance. She bumps against the wall and holds on, and then slowly lowers herself blindly to the floor as her fingers go numb. The last thing she needs is to crack her head open. Again.
She's too tired to fight it right now. Too tired to pull herself out of it. Plants her cheek on the cold tile floor. Gathers her strength so she can try later, in case the dream doesn't end quickly.
It's the same old dream Janie's mother always has. The one where a much younger, much happier mother flies through a psychedelic tunnel of flashing, spinning, colored lights, holding hands with the hippie who looks like Jesus Christ. Their sunglasses reflect the dizzying stripes, making it even harder for Janie to stop the vertigo.
This dream always makes Janie sick to her stomach.
What's her stupid mother doing sleeping in the living room, anyway?
But Janie is curious. She tries to focus. She peers at the man in the dream as she floats alongside the oblivious pair. Janie's mother could see Janie, if only she looked. But she never does.
The man can't see her, of course. It's not his dream. Janie wishes she could get him to take off his sunglasses. She wants to see his face. Wonders if his eyes are brown like hers. She can never focus her attention in one place for long, though, with all the spinning colors.
Abruptly the dream changes.
The hippie man fades, and Janie's mother stands in a line of people that stretches on for what seems like miles. Her shoulders curl over, worn, like thin pages in a well-read book.
Her face is grim, set. Angry.
She's holding --
a screaming, red-faced baby.
Not this again. Janie doesn't want to watch anymore -- she hates this part. Hates it. She gathers all her strength and concentrates. Hard. Groans inwardly. And pulls herself out of her mother's dream.
Janie's vision slowly returns. She shivers in a cold sweat and flexes her aching fingers, grateful that she never seems to get sucked back into a dream once she's successfully pulled out of it. So far, anyway.
She pushes herself to her feet as her mother snores on the couch, and walks shakily to the bathroom, stomach churning. She gags and retches, then makes a halfhearted attempt at brushing her teeth. Once in her bedroom, Janie closes the door tightly behind her.
Falls to the bed, like a lump of dough.
After last month's ordeal with the drug bust, Janie knows she's got to get her strength back or the dreams will take over her life again.
That night, Janie's own dreams are blasted with churning oceans and hurricanes and life jackets that sink like stones.
Janie wakes to sunlight streaming in. She's ravenous and dreaming about food now. Smelling it.
"Cabe?" she mumbles, eyes closed.
"Hey. I let myself in." He sits on the bed next to her, his fingers drawing her tangled hair away from her face. "Rough night, Hannagan? Or are you still catching up?"
"Mrrff." She rolls over. Sees the plate of eggs and toast, steam rising. Grins wide as the ocean and lunges for it. "You -- best secret boyfriend ever."
Copyright © 2009 by Lisa McMann