Everything I've Dreamed OfBy: Norah Bennett
Kate Willowbrook attempted to control her quivering body and racing heart as she balanced her small frame on top of the toilet seat. She curled her body into a tight ball as tears slid down her face. Kate prayed he wouldn’t hear her, prayed he wouldn’t see her, prayed she could wake up from this hellish nightmare. But God wasn’t listening.
“Take it, bitch. You’ve been asking for this all year. Now you’re gonna get it. Now you’re gonna do what I tell you!”
The woman whimpered.
“P-please, please, st-stop,” she begged.
Her pleading and crying seemed to fuel the man’s rage. He slammed his fist into her with such force Kate heard the air whoosh out of the woman. Her body crashed to the floor with a sickening thud.
Kate squeezed her eyes shut and slapped a palm over her mouth, swallowing the screams that threatened to rise to the surface. She wished she could block out the sounds that followed—clothes tearing, the woman’s pitiful moans, and the litany of curses coming from the man. When she heard the woman’s piercing shriek, Kate’s eyes flew open. Through the slit of the bathroom stall door, Kate’s eyes connected with agonized, sky-blue eyes—eyes she recognized.
Kate watched the shock and recognition flood the woman’s features followed by the minuscule shake of her head. Kate heard the man’s heavy breathing and the revolting grunts he made with his every thrust. She dropped her eyes as her stomach heaved. She was going to be sick. She folded even deeper into herself—knees up and tucked into her chest, head down, eyes shut, hands covering her ears. She held still, never making a sound, never moving an inch—that is, until the gun went off.
Kate jumped, and her hand holding the Styrofoam cup filled with hot Dunkin Donuts coffee jolted, spraying the steaming contents all over Kate’s shirt, jeans, and the cream-colored interior of her Volkswagen Bug. Kate gasped as the hot liquid came in contact with her skin. Two more quick bangs filled her ears. Ignoring her burning skin, Kate’s head popped up and her gaze darted about, assessing her surroundings as her heart leaped out of her chest and galloped away. Her chest heaved as her breathing became choppy.
Kate jumped again. This time, it was a car horn. She peeked in her rearview mirror and noticed the annoyed driver behind her giving her the finger. She took a deep breath. With her whole body trembling, she slowly maneuvered her car to the side of the road and turned it off. Her gaze landed on an old car in a nearby strip mall with white smoke coming out of its tailpipe. It was backfiring.
Kate dropped her head to the steering wheel. What the hell just happened? How had she drifted off in the middle of traffic? The fucking nightmares had returned with a vengeance and kept her up last night, but she’d never had a daymare before. Is that what people called nightmares that came in the middle of the day? These certainly weren’t daydreams.
Kate had gone almost three years without a nightmare, her longest stretch yet. She thought she was in the clear, through with the past for good. The past, however, was never far away. No matter how far she ran, she was easy prey in her dreams. If she let the past creep into the present, it would take her down as easily as a mountain lion took down a rabbit. No way was she letting that happen. She’d fought too hard for the life she created in Lakes Crossing, and she wasn’t giving it up. Relinquishing control to cowardice, fear, and self-recrimination once again was not an option.
Wiping her face with the back of her hand, Kate closed her eyes and took slow, even breaths, recalling some of the imagery and meditation techniques she’d learned in yoga class. She visualized herself staring out into the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on a warm, sunny day. She felt the rays of the sun warm her skin and the soft, silky sand slide between her toes. The sounds of crashing waves and seagulls soaring and calling to one another started as a whisper and grew louder and clearer, filling the car with their soothing duet. Kate concentrated on her breathing—slow and steady—as she guided her galloping heart to a canter, then a trot, and finally to a walk.
After a few minutes, the deafening sound of the gunshot and the memory of terrified sky-blue eyes that pleaded with her to stay quiet and stay in place, retreated to the recesses of her mind. It was over. She opened her eyes and scanned the vicinity. She was safe. She was in control. She was in the small town of Lakes Crossing, New Jersey, living a life she’d always dreamed of having, a life filled with peace and purpose.