The Color Of Forever(8)

By: Julianne MacLean


At least I had never cheated on my husband.

As for my prognosis, the doctor informed me that I’d suffered a serious concussion from the accident, having lost consciousness for such a lengthy duration. On the upside, my cuts and bruises were minor. I required no stitches, just a few bandages. The doctor warned me that I would be stiff and sore for a few days. He recommended I take some time off work to recover.

When I was given the option to be discharged, it came with a condition that someone would be available to escort me home and remain with me for the next twenty-four hours. I was to be awakened every two hours throughout the night to ensure my speech wasn’t slurred or I wasn’t suffering any pounding headaches, in which case we were to return to the hospital immediately. Naturally, my mother volunteered for the task.

o0o

I fell asleep that night working hard to convince myself that the images of Chris and Logan on the sandy beaches of Maine were simply aspirations. It was the life I wished I’d lived, with the family I’d always longed for.

As far as the cheating was concerned, I decided that I’d dreamed about that as a reminder to never, ever do such a thing to someone I loved.

But this caused an uncomfortable turmoil in me—for I felt suddenly lost and displaced, as if I were spinning around in an unfamiliar world—searching for something, like an astronaut, hurtling through space without a tether. I longed for home, which seemed hopelessly distant. I longed for my loved ones. Where were they? Was I really this lost? This far from true happiness?

o0o

I woke to the jarring sensation of my mother’s hands on my shoulders, shaking me hard. She shouted at me from the edge of the bed.

“Wake up, Katelyn! Wake up!”

My eyes fluttered open and I stared up at the overhead light. Heart racing, I leaned up on my elbows. “What’s going on?”

“It’s five in the morning,” Mom said. “I was supposed to wake you every two hours, but I fell asleep. Are you okay? Does your head hurt?”

I rubbed my eyes. “Yes, but only because you were shouting at me and shaking me like a martini mixer.” I flopped back down on my pillows.

“Do you know what day it is?” she asked, bending forward to gape at me, as if I were a peculiar alien from another planet.

“It’s Saturday morning.”

“Do you know who I am?”

Wanting to fall back to sleep, I groaned. “Of course. You’re my mother.”

She rose to her feet and blew out a breath. “Thank God. I was worried when you wouldn’t open your eyes.”

“I was sound asleep, Mom,” I replied. Flinging my arm across my forehead, I lay in silence for a moment or two while my mother stood over my bed. Finally, unable to go back to sleep, I tossed the covers aside and sat up.

“You were talking in your sleep,” Mom said apprehensively. “Were you dreaming?”

I tried to remember, but couldn’t. The past few hours of sleep felt like a black hole. “I don’t know. What was I saying?”

I hadn’t told her about the alternate life that had flashed before my eyes on the mountainside. I’d only told Bailey, because I knew I could trust her to keep a secret. My mother, however…not so much.

“You kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ Over and over.”

Though I remembered nothing from any dream just now, I suspected I was apologizing for my imaginary affair.

I began to wonder if I should return to the hospital and tell someone about all of this. A head injury wasn’t something to mess around with.

“I don’t remember,” I replied, wishing Bailey were here instead, because I knew she would listen with understanding. She wouldn’t panic like my mother would if she thought I was delusional.

Rising to my feet, I reached for my bathrobe. “I just realized I didn’t eat any supper. I think I’ll make some toast.”

Mom followed me into the kitchen, insisting that I sit down and wait at the table while she took care of it.

o0o

Five days later, after my mother returned home to Port Orchard and I returned to work, I found myself feeling increasingly stressed and anxious. I wondered if I should see a psychiatrist or something, because I still couldn’t purge, from my mind, the life I had relived on the mountain, as I flew like a human projectile over the handlebars of my bike.

Thoughts of that other life began to consume me like some sort of teenage obsession, and I couldn’t let go of the desire to reach it somehow. I felt a frustration like nothing I’d ever known. Night after night, I went to sleep praying that I would escape back to that world again, if only in my dreams, to be with the son who needed me.

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