When Cynthia opened the door, Timothy Chase was on the other side. He stepped through the entryway and took her in his strong arms, saying, “You’re the one I’ve been waiting for. You are my muse, the love of my life, the greatest inspiration any man could ever want.”
“Oh, Tim,” she fluttered, relishing the manliness of him, the rugged American soul he embodied. She locked her lips on his and caressed his muscled back.
“Whoa,” he said, pushing her away.
“What? Wait a second…”
“Wow. My voice is really deep. Hello? Hello? Testing 1-2-3-4…”
Cynthia shook her head. “What’s going on here?”
“I might ask the same thing. Why are you kissing me?”
“Because I’m your muse, your one true love, and…and this isn’t my dream anymore, is it?”
“Not exactly. Why is my voice so deep?”
“It’s not as if I know what your real voice sounded like, is it? Are we really having a conversation here?”
“Yes. We are.”
“Is this what you’ve been doing in Nick’s head?”
“No. In his dreams, I’m more like an invisible director. I wasn’t expecting to have a starring role in yours.”
She blushed. “I’m kind of angry at Nick right now. I guess I just…conjured you up.”
“Yeah. Not bad, by the way. You realize, of course, that I was a writer, not a bodybuilder. I never had muscles like this.”
“Sorry. Can’t really tell that from the headshot on your book.”
“I did a couple radio interviews. Look me up. At least you could get the voice right.”
She sighed. “Why are you here? You need to be giving Nick the dreams again.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” He cleared his throat. “This is really hard to get used to.”
She cocked an eyebrow and rolled her hands at him, indicating he should speed the conversation along. “While I’m sleeping, please.”
“Sorry. I can’t give Nick any more dreams.”
“It’s bad for him.”
“Have you read the stuff he wrote without the dreams? Trust me, your dreams are not bad.”
“I didn’t say the dreams were bad. I said they were bad for him. As in, potentially dangerous.”
“Don’t be silly. Dreams can’t hurt anyone.”
“No, but…it’s just a bad idea. Hey, I’m sorry I even started it. I shouldn’t have.”
“Why didn’t you write the book yourself? I mean, you had the whole outline…” A couch appeared a few feet away. She walked over and sat down on it. “Look, I know you think you’re doing the right thing here, but your book – the one Nick was writing – was amazing. The best thing you’ve ever written…sort of. Please, you’ve got to go back to it.”
He followed her to the couch, sitting down comfortably for the first time in months. “Nice sofa.”
“Thanks. It’s just like the one I wanted to buy. Nick didn’t like it. He said it was too fluffy.”
“No such thing.” He leaned back against the pillows and sighed.
“So you’ll do it, right?”
“Focus, please,” she said impatiently.
“Oh. That. No, I won’t. You just have to take my word on this, Cynthia. It’s not a good idea.”
She crossed her arms and stared straight ahead, thinking.
While Tim waited, he studied the room. The house she had constructed in her dream was slightly bigger than their real one, and the furniture was definitely more her style: the fluffy couch, overstuffed chairs, and the heavy wooden dining room set in the next room had a modern, big-house feel to them that their real furniture didn’t.
“I want you to read what he’s written before you make a final decision.”
“I can’t do that. I can’t turn the pages. I can only touch things that I touched before my unfortunate leap.” He held an imaginary noose over his head and crooked his neck.
She blinked silently, processing the information. “There are rules for being dead?”
“Yes. A lot of them. Which is why I can’t keep influencing Nick’s dreams.”
“I can turn the pages for you!”
“Yes, I can. Starting tomorrow. Meet me in the dining room. The table and chairs were yours, so you can touch them, right?”
“I’ll put the manuscript on the table in front of an empty chair. You sit in that chair and read. Knock three times on the table when you are ready for me to turn the page.”
“No. You have to read it before you decide. Please.”
The life went out of Tim’s eyes and she realized she was sitting next to a corpse. Startled, she screamed and woke herself up.
“What’s wrong? Are you alright?”
Feeling Nick’s hand on her shoulder and his breath against her neck, she relaxed. “Yeah. Sorry, just a bad dream. Go back to sleep, baby.”
He pulled her in close to him and spooned her.
Tim sat back against the wall and watched them fall into their dreams again.