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Dream of Love
Enter with me into a dream. A place where life has no hold. A place where a man’s imagination is his only boundary. A place where anything can happen. I am Apaxor, the keeper of dreams. I see every dream.
No dream has ever brought me more joy, pain, cheer, or sorrow than this; the dream of love.
The characters of this story are the dreamer and a woman. I have searched long and hard for this woman, but she cannot be found. For the sake of the dreamer and for the lack of the woman, I shall make up the names.
The story begins one hot summer day. Ray Knox was on a train returning from a summer camp. This only added to his sour mode. Originally, Ray’s mother was driving the five hours to pick him up. As usually, plans changed. Ray waited an hour while everyone else left. He was finally forced to call his mother. Mrs. Chris told Ray to ride the train back. So that is where he was; crammed into the back of a train car, with no money for food.
To be honest, the train wasn’t that bad. Ray was riding with four very interesting men who were teaching him the complexities of poker. He was not upset about the lack of lunch either. The men he was with were kind enough to make a meal for him from some of their food. He was not even mad at having to ride the train. Mrs. Chris had done this kind of thing so often that Ray had become indifferent to it.
What caused Ray’s annoyance was what he would find at home. His mother would be on the phone, either crying or screaming at Ray’s father, Ray Knox Sr. Ray’s stepfather, Mr. Chris, would be working on his latest ‘project’. Ray’s brother, Jake, would be pretending to find a job but really be blowing his summer break before college restarted.
“No.” Ray thought to himself, “Just enjoy the ride home. You can worry about that everything else later.” Ray did just that, jumping into the poker game with renewed vigor. In two hours he won back every chip he lost. By the end of the trip, he was up 150 ‘monopoly bucks’ as the men called the money they were playing with.
Ray was laughing when they pulled into the town. The man next to the door, Derrick, handed Ray a card as he left. “If you ever in Chicago, or ever need a toy made, just call Uncle Derrick.”
“Same here” said Chuck.
“Hey,” said Mark by the window “ditto.”
By the time Ray got off, he had business cards for a toy maker/wood carver, a florist, a candle maker, and a CEO of a snack food company.
Ray’s good mood evaporated when he saw no black SUV in the parking lot. His mother had not come.
The conductor, who lived in the town and was a friend of Ray’s, was waiting by the train. He was holding up a key. Ray sadly nodded. The conductor threw the key at Ray, who deftly caught it. Three years ago, when he first had to borrow the bike, he missed the key. Now he could catch it blind.
The key went to a chain lock that kept the conductor’s bike attached to the train station’s bike rack. The bike was a beauty in Ray’s mind. A nice 18 speed racing bicycle, that was only put to full use when Ray had it. He was soon speeding away as a bullet out of a gun.
Even outside, Jake’s music could be heard perfectly. That meant Mrs. Chris was screaming. “No use going in,” Ray thought, “So let’s leave.”
Just outside of town, there is a seldom used bike track. As far as he knew, Ray was the only one who knew about it. This was the perfect place to blow off some stream. He rode in a trance; not caring or noticing the sun begin to go down.
What pulled him out of this state of unconsciousness was another rider trying to pass him. The rider was wearing a full face mask, blocking Ray’s view of the culprit’s face. Normally, this would not have bothered him. But today was different. Today he wanted something to go his way. His bad attitude soon turned into a fight mood. The race was on.
Let it not be said that the race was easy, far from it. However, nobody could beat Ray. He was out of breath and exhausted when he finished the race. His last bit of energy was used to put the kickstand down. He collapsed to the ground, worn out and in desperate need of a shower. It may have been hours or just moments later, but when he opened his eyes again his opponent was over him. She was a girl!
“You know, you may be the first person to bet me.”
“You may be the first person to give me a challenge.”
She smiled. Oh, what a smile! Her green eyes shined brightly from her milk chocolate skin. Her light brown ponytail was reaching toward him over her shoulder. Her face was luminous with what could only be a pure spirit.
“My name is Kim.”
And so it was that Kim and Ray spent the better part of an hour together. They talked about everything; from bikes to zebra (an interesting debate on whether zebras were black with white stripes or white with black stripes). Ray soon found out that Kim was only in town for the summer to stay with her great-aunt, and that she had no friends.
“I found this place” Kim explained as they walked around the trail, “while trying to clear my head. With no one to talk to my thoughts build up in my head until I’m ready to explode!” She said this so loud a nearby squirrel shot up a tree in fear. Kim did not seem to notice. “Biking helps my mind stay straight.”
Ray had never had a better day. Kim blew all his worries away like a fan would blow away steam. He had missed the time until Kim said she needed to go home. Ray gallantly offered to walk her home; an offer that was refused until Kim found out it was Ray’s way home. They walked together, each pulling their bikes along.
As they neared the end of the stroll, Kim asked a random question. “Ray, what are doing this summer?”
Ray was taken aback by this question; partly by the unpredictability of it, but mainly because he had no answer. His only response was a weak “Riding my bike. Catching a movie, maybe.”
Kim pulled up sharp in front of him, forcing a sudden stop. She was scowling at him. “Ray, that’s plans for a day, not three months! Don’t you have friends?”
Ray nervously looked down as he spoke. “No, actually. I was born with a form of autism, and I spent most of my childhood in therapy and specialty schools. My family only moved here three years ago, when my mom got remarried.”
A smile slowly overtook Kim’s scowl. “You and I will be friends.”
This comment pulled Ray out of his nervous staring contest with the ground. “What?”
Throwing down her kickstand, Kim walked over to him. “You have no friends, and I don’t know anyone. So you’ll be my friend, and I’ll be your’s.”
And so it was said. And so it was.
Summer was passing pleasantly for Ray. He and Kim spent almost every day together. Most summer, Ray would spend every waking hour trying to escape. Biking was his favorite method. He used to write poetry, but even there his life would find him. The words would appear, telling the tale he left behind.
It was Kim that brought writing back to Ray’s pen. He had made the mistake of quoting a verse from his musings on summer to her and she loved it. No sooner had Ray explained it was written by him then Kim asked him to continue.
“You have to keep writing!”
“I don’t know.” Ray was not too keen on telling Kim why.
“Please?” Kim earnestly pleaded. She batted her eyes as she whimpered “For me?”
He sighed and smiled as he told his answer. “It is written in the genetic code of man that we can’t say no to that face.”
Kim’s giddy jump was her mark of approval. “I know,” she said as she hugged him, “That’s why we do it.”
That is where Ray was at the opening of this dream; writing on his porch. The same problem had presented itself at first; his life would enter his rhymes. Kim solved that problem. Whenever Ray would write, he need only think of her and his negative thoughts would disappear.
Today, he was finishing ‘The Cries of a Knight’. This sonnet was of a knight on his way to free a damsel in distressed. He knew it was a cliché, but he was going to do it anyway. Stuck on a part in the middle, Ray looked up at the horizon. It was there he saw a bike coming up the road. It was Kim.
Ray stood and walked to the road. Kim did not slow down; she seemed not to even notice him. Ray knew better; she saw him and was testing him. He smiled and counted down from 10.
Just before Ray reached 3; Kim leaned left, shifted her weight to the right foot, and pulled hard on the break. This series of movements spun her into a quick circle before she stopped suddenly in front of him.
She tore off her helmet and they said together “Zero”
“What’s up Kim? Weren’t you supposed to go outta town today?”
“Plans change.” She was mad. He could hear it in her voice and see it in her face. That told him why she was here. She needed to cool off, and who better than to help her knight in shining armor to help the poor maiden.
‘Where did that come from?’ It was against his nature to think of himself as the hero. That would be something his dad or brother would do; not him. Sure, he was the poet, but this was just weird.
‘Don’t think about that now. Now you are trying to help a friend.’
She shook her hair out of her face, and then looked up. “How long has it been since you’ve seen Aladdin?”
“The Disney movie?” He chuckled, “Awhile, I guess. Why?”
“After my library card application was finally approved, I got the movie! Do you want to come watch it?”
Somewhere in the part of Ray’s mind that was still logical this far into the summer, an argument ensued. One side voted to not go, the other voted to go. Had Ray listened to the whole debate, he might have chosen differently. As it is, he only heard the last line; “Go, Don’t Go’. Go won.
“Sure I’ll go.”
She smiled, “Sweet.” She lifted her helmet, “Want to race?”
It was Ray’s turn to smile. “Of course.” the race was on.
He chose not to ride his bike; mainly because it was broken. Even if the chain had not snapped (A bad accident that he walked away from, but the cat did not), Ray would have still chosen to run against Kim in this particular challenge. Her house was one mile by the roads. Running and jumping fences, Ray figured he could shorten the trip to a third of a mile.
‘So’ he thought, ‘I just have to make sure she’s not biking three times faster than I can run.’
As it turns out, Kim can bike exactly three times faster than Ray can run. They pulled up to the door at the same moment. Ray was quick to point out that since he came to full stop first, and that he would have no helmet to take off, he really won. Kim disagreed. Ray tried to prove the point by locking the door. He forgot the back door.
After a small popcorn fight, the movie is finally played. Ray was sitting on the couch when Kim came into the room with popcorn. “This time,” she said, “we eat the popcorn. Not throw it.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
Ray took the popcorn from her as she sat down. She chose the seat right next to him. On instinct, he put his arm around her. Nervousness jolted through him until she snuggled closer to him.
It was then that Ray realized thought of himself as her knight. Why they had become such great friends so quickly. And why he threw out every rule he normally went by when he was with her.
It was because he loved her.
More than that; she loved him
Kim was asleep when the movie ended. ‘She is so beautiful’ was his only thought. Not wanting to wake her, Ray tried to slip carefully away. He was unsuccessful.
“Wha-” Kim groaned, “What’s happening? Ray?”
“You feel asleep.” He whispered.
Kim looked around. “Is the movie over?”
“Yeah. Hey, I’m gonna go and let you sleep.”
“No” She was trying to wake up. “Don’t go. Let’s take a walk.”
Once again, ‘Go’ and ‘Don’t Go’ fought. And once again, ‘Go’ won.
“Ok” Ray said.
They walked in silence for a few minutes. Then Kim asked a question that made him stop.
“Ray, what do you know about love?”
The poet in Ray stepped in; to the great thanks of his stunned, speechless buddies. “Well, I know love is patient, and kind. I know love can tame the raging fire of a man’s heart. I know love can calm the sea of fear that is man’s mind. I know love can take the pride from the lion that is man’s soul.”
The two were standing under the trees that mark the entrance to the bike trail. The next words were a surprise to Ray. “Love is what causes me to do this.”
Ray kissed her.
It was then that Ray became absolutely sure he loved her, and absolutely sure she loved him. She was kissing him back.
The last few weeks of summer went by amazingly. Though Ray and Kim never spoke of it, they both remembered the kiss. Every once in a while, Ray would find Kim looking at him. He knew what she was thinking. She was thinking about the kiss.
Finally, the day Ray had dreaded came. Kim announced that in five days, at 11:30 pm Friday evening, her train would pull out of the station to take her home.
“What I want” Kim precede to tell him, “is one great last day. Can you do that for me?”
Ray smiled. “To do any less would be an insult to our friendship.”
Kim hugged him, “That’s my knight.”
He hugged her back; already planning the night,
His plan was set into action that evening. When he returned home he found just what he wanted: the cards from the four gentlemen on the train. He picked up the top cards and dialed his phone.
“Hello, I’m looking for Derrick Tanner. Derrick? Hi, it’s Ray. Yeah the poker kid. Hey, I have a question. Are you going to see the guys soon? I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”
As Ray explained his plan, Derrick listened with rapt attention. He chuckled when Ray ended. “This Kim must be one special girl for you to go through all of this. I’ll send you the package tomorrow.”
“Thanks Derrick.” Ray set down the phone slowly, thinking of Friday. “Yes” he said aloud, “Friday will be a good day.”
**** **** **** ****
Kim’s first surprise was the note on her door. She was heading out to meet Ray for their last day together. The note was from Ray, asking her to stay and meet him at the bike trail at eleven that evening. ‘How sweet’ Kim thought, ‘we’ll say goodbye where we said hello.’ This was the kind of thing she scoffed at in movies, but found extremely romantic in real life.
The wait was crazy. With nothing else to do, Kim packed and repacked her bags over and over again. She was so tempted to go to the trail and ruin the surprise. She even texted Ray to see what was happening. His only reply was a simple ‘Just wait’. The last hour was spent watching her watch. Finally the moment came. She hopped onto her bike, pulled on her helmet, and sped down the road.
Kim could not believe her eyes when she saw the surprise. A gazebo had been place in the middle of the trail; lite candles shown from inside. Ray was waiting; lying down from exhausting like when she first met him. She walked up, still stunned by what she saw. There was a bowl full of her favorite chips; flowers had been laid next to bowl, with a small toy sitting on the other side. The toy was a wood carving of a man and women on a flying carpet, surrounded by a field of clouds.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Ray spoke from the ground, eyes now open. “The man who made that is the best at what he does.”
Kim was still in shock. “What-how-Wha?”
Ray stood as he spoke. “Try using full sentences.”
Kim closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she spoke clearly. “What did you do? How did you do this?”
“The chips, flowers, candles, and toy were favors. The gazebo was a favor being paid back.”
“Well, Mr. Peterson needed help painting his house…”
“No, not why the gazebo. Why did you do this?”
“You said you wanted one great last night, so I made you one.” He gestured around. “Do you like it?”
It took Kim a moment to realize she was crying. “I love it.” She threw her arms around Ray and kissed him. “And I love you.”
He was smiling. Oh! What a smile. A perfect mixture of boyish fun and adult wisdom. His blue eyes illuminating from under his cherry red hair and sun tanned skin. She truly did love him.
Ray looked at his watch. “We have exactly 23 minutes left, so let’s enjoy it.” And so it was said, and so it was. They ate the chips as Ray explained how he got all of his and how he met the men. “Derrick,” he said “carved that just for you.”
“Why? Couldn’t he just order one similar?”
“Look at the bottom.”
She did, only to be struck dumb once again. Inscribed there was her name, the day they met, and a line from Ray’s poem. It read ‘The knight did this feat, not for his pride or for his head; but for his heart. For his love’
Her reading was interrupted by the sound of a train whistle. Kim’s ride was here.
Ray sighed. “I’ve only regretted two things in this relationship. One, that I did not meet you a week sooner. And two, this moment. The moment where I watch you walk away.”
Kim did not even try to stop the tears from flowing. She had an idea. “Ray, close your eyes.” He did and she kissed him for the last time. With Ray’s eyes still closed, Kim slipped away.
She cried the whole way home.
**** **** **** ****
It is a said twist of fate, my friends.
That this is where the story ends.