Part Two: Our Dream Unfolds
"Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked, I cried to dream again." Mrs. Jackman placed her copy of Shakespeare's Tempest on her desk.
Shifting her eyes, she stared at her classroom filled with students who'd chosen her English Literature class. Not one of them responded immediately, though one student in particular sat at his desk, a troubled expression on his face.
"Said, Caliban to Stephano," she continued, hoping that her class would jump to discussion at her next question. "I find that last part of his statement interesting, "to dream again". Not that it holds much importance to the play, but what do you think of that statement?"
Again, the troubled student's face screwed up, as he tapped his pencil lightly on his binder.
"Steven, do you have anything to say?" She smiled sweetly at him, leaning against her desk.
Startled out of his thoughts, he glanced up at his teacher. Hesitating, he recalled what she'd asked, feeling uneasy as he began his answer, "Well I guess that dreams are amazing, especially the one he described-why wouldn't he want to dream again?"
"I know a few dreams I'd like to dream again." Jasper, who was sitting beside Steven commented with a laugh.
"Are dreams amazing, if they are only dreams? Isn't it frustrating when you awake from a dream, only to realize that none of it ever happened?" Mrs. Jackman smiled again, her tone simply begging for a disagreement.
Caroline, who was fidgeting in her seat, her arm slightly raised, took the bait. "Isn't that with all of life, though? Really, if we all die, then why enjoy any of this? Its purposeless, so in a dream, maybe it does end and holds no purpose, except in and of itself. The experience of it, the feelings it provokes, the places we imagine. And if we could do it again, then why not?"
Another student soon entered the conversation, while Mrs. Jackman let several others take turns putting in their own input. A particular group of students, known to many as those who do not know how to keep quiet, kept the conversation going long after it had become purposeless as well.
During that time, Steven thought back on the fourteen days that had elapsed since his father had been admitted into Concordia Hospital.
Four days after he'd found him on the kitchen floor, his father had woken up in his hospital bed. Instead of seeing just his son, his parents had also come to check in on him. Grandma and Grandpa Walker, along with Grandma Marie and his father's older brother, Timothy had all been there with Steven when his father awoke.
It would be another day and a half before he had the energy to assure them that he was alright, still alive and feeling much better. Grandma Marie, who was usually full of advice, had remained silent, watching her step-son with loving eyes. Stroking his cheek, she told him that he would soon be with his wife and her only daughter-she made him promise to let her know Grandma was thinking of her.
Steven had been quick to quip that he was still alive.
The rest of the room greeted this with unsure silence.
Since they had flown in from British Columbia, Steven's grandparents decided that they would stay with Steven until one of two things happened: His father died, or he got better-they only mentioned the latter option.
Steven only thought of the former one.
Not that he would believe it possible; there was simply no way he could become an orphan. He needed one parent to see him become the man that he would become, to cheer him on at graduation, wish him luck before university, bless his marriage, spoil his children… no, he could not die, not yet.
Parents weren't meant to die in their middle age, he could be content with his death only when he was in his eighties or nineties. Although he'd be sad to see him go, it would be in a happier, more satisfied way, then in a tragic, mournful way. He would pass away slowly in his sleep, not in pain, surrounded by those who loved him.
"Steven," his father had said during one of his numerous visits, "Steven, I love you. Nothing, not even death will change that." Steven, who'd been at his bedside, grabbed his hand, holding it tight. It was so feeble, so cold, that he'd wondered if he was dying.
Then he remembered that they all were.
"I love you too, Dad." It had been many years since such words had been uttered. Too many years.
For a while, they simply sat like that, both of them in pain, neither of them letting the other know of it. There were no trite, empty phrases about how he would be going to a better place, or that he would be alright, or that he would always be watching over him.
Though his father strongly believed in Heaven, he made no mention of it to his son.
Right now, he wanted to comfort his son with his presence, not mere words that would fade in time.
Steven had done the same, holding onto his hand, talking only about old times that they both remembered with fondness. Funny stories were shared, Uncle Timothy joined in with a box of pizza he'd brought with him. Sitting together, in that crowded, yet lonely hospital room, those three souls found it in themselves to laugh.
That, Steven thought, was a bigger miracle then any healing could produce.
Joy in the midst of hell.
A light in a dark, stormy sea.
Mrs. Jackman had picked up her book once more, flipping through the pages as she read to her class The Tempest. Jasper had turned in his seat to one of his friends, both of them laughing loud enough for Steven to hear, but not for the teacher too.
While she was distracted by the words of a long-dead poet, Steven took out his cell. He saw an unread message from Cerise. "That's not true, don't even get me started," it read. He responded, then waited a few minutes for her short, sarcastic reply. "Steven James Walker, you're the most annoying person I've met."
To which he replied along the lines of, 'you must not have met that many people'.
In which she replied. "Fine, you win."
Which he was going to reply to, but felt Jasper kick the back of his seat when Mrs. Jackman peered over her book to glare at Steven. The cell phone went back into his pocket.
What once was a name that elicited old, happy memories, now stirred something else entirely inside his chest. Though he tried not to think about it or give it much thought, his smile would widen and his heart race just a little faster when he thought about her.
Old feelings, he once thought completely banished, would rise up inside him.
Just yesterday they'd gone out for smoothies after school. She'd been wearing incredibly tight jean shorts and a low-cut blouse that had been the final act in completely erasing what he remembered her looking like. No more did she wear colored sweat pants and loose-fitting shirts, no, it seemed that Michael Bay was now dictating her wardrobe.
Not that he would complain of course-he'd seen much more revealing clothes, it was just the first time he'd seen them on her. They'd grown up together as children, it was still a shock to see what time had done to change her.
It wasn't just her appearance that had changed either.
When they were drinking smoothies, talking about their lives at school, Cerise began to look into his eyes. Her stare became less and less friendly as their conversation continued, while her smile held in it desire.
Or so he thought.
When her flip-flop adorned feet began stretching out and bumping into his, she went red with embarrassment and apologized with a laugh. He smiled as well when he realized that neither of them had moved their feet.
Her toes ran along the top of his foot, while she took a sip from her smoothie.
Again, she smiled in that certain way.
His head began to spin.
Her hands, which were dangling at her side, came up on the table, gently reaching for his.
For a second, he thought they were Julia's.
When her fingers intertwined with his, he allowed them to stay that way for only a heartbeat. Yet, in that small amount of time, he felt the same desire on her smile, transfer to his. If not for his little secret, he would've held on.
Letting go, he chuckled nervously, tilting his head at the beautiful, amazing girl at the other end of the table. Neither spoke about it, though both had many questions on why it had happened. Steven, for one, wondered how she had moved on from Desmond so easily.
It had only been the previous weekend, when they'd bumped into one another at the theatre, that she'd broken down. He'd run after her, only to be reminded of his own failings with her when they used to be together. How he'd ruthlessly broken her heart.
Now she was texting him frequently, staying up late with him as they sent each other messages. Sneaking into his balcony, he was surprised to see that Cerise was also on her roof, phone in hand. For hours on end they texted back and forth, both of them staring at one another, but too far away to hear one another without shouting.
Leanne had approached Steven the last time he'd gone to church, her hands on her hips. With a scolding smile, she asked about Cerise. "I don't get you Steven, she's obviously falling for you-why don't you just ask her out?"
"I can't-won't." Shaking his head, he let out a sigh and wished he could just tell Leanne the truth. "It just won't work out between us, I like being her friend, and she feels the same way."
"Sometimes, you have to take risks. Fear will just hold you back."
But it was not fear that was holding Steven back, at least, not fear in the way Leanne had meant it. No, it was the beautiful, amazing girl that he was already in love with.
He'd dreamt with her over half a dozen times in the past two weeks.
Every second or third night, he would wake up in a place he'd never seen or imagined before. She'd be nearby, shouting his name in delight before smothering him with kisses. Her thin, frail body would wrap around his.
Some nights she wept, saying that loneliness was all she felt now. Every time he woke up from the dreams, she'd be left utterly alone, kept continuously dreaming. Her dreams sometimes grew frightening, as if she was no longer welcome in them. People she'd once known would enter her dreams, unable to see or talk to her. They'd stumble around, muttering meaningless words before disappearing.
"I don't think I can keep doing this, Steven." She'd said once, her head lying on his chest. "I'm so tired, but I can't sleep. I feel like a husk, old, dead and gone. Even when I see you, it takes everything I have to love you properly."
She put her head to his ear, whispering, "You have to find me, Steven. Find a way to wake me up. Let my family know what's happening."
"I'm not your Prince Charming, Julia." He'd whispered back mournfully. "My kiss won't bring you back, there's nothing I can do."
"You're wrong, Steven."
Then he'd disappeared abruptly from the dream, left to ponder Julia's mysterious words. Could he truly wake her up? And if he could, would he really go all the way out to Alberta?
She said she'd been in a car crash, what if she wasn't… whole anymore? If it had been bad enough of a car crash to put her into a coma, what else could it have done to her?
Those questions kept Steven up for most nights, while he continued to text Cerise.
He wondered if he would ever have to choose between the two. If he did, would he even know which was right? Cerise was a good friend, loyal, amazing, gorgeous and someone that he could certainly fall in love with if he wasn't careful. Julia, however, was so different from Cerise. She was kinder, more loving, selfless and completely in love with him-yet now it seemed that she existed only in his dreams.
Yet, he had made a promise.
And, as Shakespeare had written, he did want 'to dream again'.
"Hey," Jasper was standing beside Steven's desk, a bemused expression on his pudgy face. "Class is over, are you coming?" He nudged his friend, chuckling.
Steven said he was, grabbing his books and binders before following Jasper out of the door. Amidst hundreds of other teenagers, the two kids put away their school supplies in their locker, walked down the hall and went out into the parking lot.
Steven, walking beside Jasper, was just about to reach his car, when he felt himself become weightless.
His head spun.
For one dreadful second he felt as if he were about to wink out of existence. Then, without warning, he began to float up into the sky. Like a balloon carried away by the wind, he drifted away from Jasper, higher and higher into the air.
He let out a scream, flailing his arms wildly.
"Come here, Steven, its okay." A woman's voice came from above.
Also drifting into the air, a warm smile on her face, Julia winked at him.
"Are you ready to dream again?"