- Text Size +
Tell Me That I'm Dreaming

How many years had I gone to sleep dreaming I'd wake up and he'd be there, saying those exact words? How many times did I pass a magazine stand in the early days and think, Maybe he'll remember me someday. How many hours did he consume my thoughts even though he hadn't really been there?

And now, now here he was really saying the words.

"I can't talk about this," I choked. His eyes, those damnable eyes of his, widened.


"I'm not a bean. Not now, not ever." My chest was beginning to heave. I had never had a panic attack in my life, but so help me God --

"Hey," he placed his hand on mine and I was so busy thinking about my imminent death that I didn't pull it away. "It's okay. I'm sorry. It's just I thought this might be my only chance to make things right."

Make things right. Could he make things right? Unless he was a time traveler and rewind almost two decades, I wasn't so sure.

"Would you like to order?"

Our waiter must have gone to the same school as those guards that stand outside Buckingham Palace, because he was doing a damn good job of ignoring the heavy cloud of tension that oppressed the air. His gaze was glued to the spare menu he was holding.

"Please stay," Brian whispered. I blinked slowly, my eyelids feeling like they weighed a ton. Had I thought about getting up and leaving? Should I?

"I'll have the filet trio," I croaked.

"Make mine the same," Brian said. He held up his menu. I feebly mimicked his movement.

Silence stretched between us as the waiter headed back to the kitchens. My thighs felt sticky with sweat and I regretted the itchy lace underwear I had picked out rather than my tried-and-true cotton boyshorts.

"Tell me I'm dreaming," I begged. The words bubbled up so suddenly that I didn't have time to process the meaning. Understandably, Brian's face twisted in confusion.

"What do you mean?" he asked slowly.

I stared down at the table. What did I mean? I lifted my shoulders into a pathetic shrug. From beneath my lowered lids, I saw Brian take another sip of wine. His white linen napkin floated to the table.

"Come on," he said. His hand shot into my peripheral.

"Where?" I asked. I lifted my head and watched his hand wave in the direction of mine.

"Just dance with me," he said. "Please," he added.

Dancing. Dancing was less awkward than talking at the moment. It was the lesser of two evils. Slowly, I put my hand in his and stood up.

It was surreal to be dancing in an empty restaurant, a restaurant that had opened only because one of its wealthiest customers had made a request. More surreal still was to be dancing with the boy who had stolen my heart, among other things, so long ago.

The music piped in over the speakers was a lovely orchestral piece. We made our own time to the music, a normal slow sway that didn't require bodies pressed together. Our eyes locked and I was transported. I could practically smell the lingering smoke of the bonfire that had shot clear to the sky the night before Senior Homecoming. The hands that were placed firmly and stationary on my back suddenly became warm, roaming hands, feeling me up underneath the blanket we shared.

"That was a good night," Brian whispered and I jumped.

"How do you know what I was thinking about?" I demanded.

"The look in your eyes," he said with an innocent shrug. He tugged me slightly and suddenly we were dancing much closer. Much more intimately. He let out a soft breath that smelled inticingly of the delicious wine that still tingled my tastebuds. He brushed a curl from my cheek.

"I've always been a sucker for a beautiful brunette," he said. We moved in a graceful circle, for once my two feet not tripping over each other. Even so, I tensed.

"That's why you've spent almost two decades with blondes on your arm?" I asked, my voice stripping back the curtain to the pain. His blue eyes darkened.

"There's more to the story," he said.

But did I want to know? That was the big question. What would it change?

"Management thought I looked best with blondes. They invented the backstory for Sam and I and then when that didn't work, Leighanne showed up..." he trailed off.

"Oh, well now that you've explained it, that makes everything all better," I said, the bitterness evident. I broke our dance hold, turning my body in the direction of the door. He took hold of my elbow, not forcefully, but with need.

"Please Jil-Jill," he stopped himself from adding the 'ly.'

I didn't know what to say. How could he understand? I had given him my heart, body, and soul, only to get trampled on the day his damn cousin called him. That phone call changed everything.

"The Brian I loved had a backbone," I said. "It was nice to see you, but--"

"I know I fucked up." The sound of the curse coming out of his mouth did things to me that I can't even describe. He hit his thigh. "I can't say or do anything to take what I did back," he said. "But then again you didn't seem to care at the time."

"I couldn't make you stay," I whispered.

"You didn't try."

A large tear dripped down my cheek. I had made a promise that no man would ever make me cry again. Not after...

"You meant the world to me," I whispered.

His eyes grew moist. "I came to see you before I married her," he said. I felt myself pale. "I wanted to see you, but your parents said you were away at school and I didn't have enough time," he let go of my elbow and ran his fingers along his stubble. "Jilly, if you had been there, you've got to believe me, I would have--"

"You don't know that," I argued. He took a step forward and took my hands.

"I know I still love you."

I shook my head. "I'm not the same person I was back then. You don't know me. I've...changed."

"Someone hurt you," he said. "besides me, I mean. I see it in your eyes. I hear it in your voice." He pulled me into an embrace that I didn't, couldn't, fight.

"Let me make things right."

I squeezed my eyes shut. This wasn't how I thought lunch was going to go. Things escalated too quickly.

"Tell me I'm dreaming."

His lips pressed into my hair.

"If you are, then I am too," he said.

"So let's not wake up, okay?"