Welcome to flash fiction Friday on Sharon Hughson’s blog.
The story that follows is a rough first draft that I wrote several months ago. When I reread it in May, I kind of liked it. Life is grand when I like something I wrote.
I first met him in my dreams.
A fifty-year-old widow sounds more than a little insane saying something like that. But I can’t help what’s true. The year my husband died, I began to dream vivid dreams that I recalled once I awoke.
Most of the dreams featured students. As a high school civics teacher, I have plenty of interactions with kids in their final year of “childhood” who struggle with the responsibilities of adulthood introduce in my class. Things like voting, understanding health insurance and learning about the American tax system.
If they weren’t convinced that adulthood was going to be a bummer, my class educated them to the fact. Although I made it fun, and I only say this because I’m repeating what some of my best (and worst) students told me when they returned asking me to sign their yearbooks.
After my first summer of widowhood, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to take summers off to read, revise class plans and attend continuing education classes. It wasn’t financially feasible, even in a condo half the size of the house I’d lived in with my husband.
To fill the gap, I taught a four-week class on personal finance management at the local community college. Usually, I taught two sections of the same class, and it meant working on the campus for only three hours two days per week. It was almost as good as having the summer off but with a bonus paycheck.
I dreamed the dream the fifth summer of my widowhood.
It began with one of my high school students and I in an orchard. We plucked ripe peaches off the tree. His glasses kept sliding down his nose, and my ladder kept wobbling. I never liked standing on a ladder.
We heard a gunshot. I spilled the bucket of ripe peaches in my haste to clamber down the ladder and run. My student cried out.
He fell. As I returned to his side, I knelt on the fruit. A cold, wet smoosh and flood of fuzzy nectar scent didn’t match with the patch of red seeping from his side. He groaned and I helped him stand.
“We have to hide,” I said.
A wind rattled the trees. Peaches hailed down on us until the orchard became a forest. We stumbled over a gnarled root and hit the ground, which became a carpet of trimmed grass.
“Mrs. Rogers, I’m going to die,” my student moaned.
Blood soaked through his t-shirt and looked like a blight beneath the tiger mascot on his hooded sweatshirt. I used my knowledge of first aid—a certification I’ve had since I started teaching twenty-five years ago—to blanch the bleeding. His skin was pasty and cool, signs of shock.
“I can’t leave you alone.” I looked at the fields around us. Empty of life with no sign of civilization.
My wish brought help, as is often the case in dreams—although rarely in real life. A man carrying an armload of supplies approached.
“He’s shot,” I said.
Silver threaded through the dark blond of the man’s feathery hair. He knelt down, bringing a scent of pine with him, unrolled some bandages and patched up my student, whose eyes drooped and closed.
We worked together to assemble the blanket and sticks he’d brought into a carrier of sorts. He took the head and I took the feet of the makeshift stretcher, lifting it on his count of three.
His build, slender through shoulders and hips, seemed inadequate for the weight of our burden. We walked across the fields without speaking. A hospital rose up from nowhere and we carried my student into the emergency room.
As white-coated employees teemed around us, the man turned to me and smiled crookedly.
“I’m better with field medicine than budgets.”
I woke up wondering what all of that meant. Reviews about the importance of dreams are mixed, although most people agree they hold some sort of message. Even if it’s a simple as, “don’t eat spicy food before bed.”
When the man walked into my July personal finance class, I blinked and sat down hard on the stool I used while teaching.
In the real world, his build wasn’t as slight, quite masculine actually, and I noticed his eyes were a vibrant shade of green.
His smile wasn’t as crooked when he caught me staring. I woodenly returned his smile and focused my scattered attention on the stack of course syllabi. Students could find a copy on the college website, but I found there were fewer excuses around due dates and scoring methods when I handed a physical copy out at the beginning of our first session.
An even dozen students filled the chairs in the small lecture hall. Most of them were in their 20s, but four of them were older. I called roll so I could connect names and faces.
Adrian Manner. It didn’t sound like a name for the man of my dreams.
As I moved through the day’s lesson, thoughts of Adrian and the strange dream I’d had several weeks before faded. Most of the students tapped out notes on an electronic device of sorts. Many had the required course text open to the chapter I discussed.
Adrian did neither. He stared at me, clearly listening, his eyes going to the prepared slides about creating household budgets as I began explaining their first project for the course.
At the end of class, the students filed out. I packed up my laptop and the remaining copies of the syllabus, since I had an hour until I taught my second section of the class.
Adrian approached. He stood only a few inches taller than my average height.
“I wanted to make sure it was okay for me to record the session.” He held a smartphone toward me. “I recorded you today, but I can delete it if that’s not okay.”
I glanced between his longish nose with a pug upturn on the end and the device.
“Audio or video?” My voice sounded a bit breathless, and I cringed inwardly.
“Audio. I’ll listen to it again and take notes as they apply to the assignments.”
“The slides will be accessible in the online class portal.”
He nodded. The crooked smile I remembered lifted his lips. “As a physician’s assistant, I’m better with first aid than budgets.”
I blinked. I’m better with field medicine than budgets.
“I guess that’s why you’re in this class then.” The unplanned words fell from my lips. My brain replayed his last statement, matching it with what he’d said in my dream. How was that even possible?
He nodded. “I figured it was time to take control of my personal finances. But I might need a bit of tutoring.” A sparkle lit his eyes, like sunlight reflecting off a deep pond.
“I don’t have posted office hours, but I’m sure something could be arranged.”
“How about lunch?”
“Lunch?” My fingers fumbled with the strap on my bag.
“A meal eaten at midday.” He grinned again.
“I usually walk now and eat after my second session.”
He nodded. “I’m due back at work in an hour. Maybe Thursday? I have until next week to get the budget done.”
“Thursday.” I couldn’t believe my ears. My mouth worked in the same disconnect it had in the dream. “Make sure you bring a list of your monthly income and expenses.”
We walked side by side from the classroom. A fresh pine scent wafted over me.
I first met him in my dreams, but that wasn’t our last meeting.
What did you think? Have you ever had a dream that came true later?