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It was always the same, no matter what the circumstance, situation, or location. No matter how tired she had been prior to her falling asleep, her dreams were always exactly the same, and there had never been a way to change that. It did not matter if the bed was lumpy, who she was next to, or even what she had been thinking before she had fallen asleep. It was all completely irrelevant when it came to her dreams.
Each dream was slightly different than the last, but they all held the same substance, the same basis. No matter how hard she tried to force it all away, it always managed to come back to her. Ever since she was a small child she had been teased with these tantalizing dreams, dreams she could never quite reach. When she was younger, she had always been rather upset by this fact. Her classmates would have dreams of dragons and monsters, princesses and their princes, but she dreamt of unrecognizable blurs and whirring motion. When she was older, she realized exactly what she had been trying to formulate, what her younger mind could not conjure correctly.
It always started the same, something she had once been awed by. No matter when she fell asleep, it was always, always the same. It started with the hair. His hair was a caramel color, mussed and impossible, sticking up at all possible ends. He had what she had sometimes referred to as ‘fashionable bed head’. There was no gel in that hair, it simply did what it wanted, a fact that had become all too clear to her.
Over time, she had come to memorize it as if it was her own, possibly better. Every dream it became more vivid, until she was seeing it strand by strand, every little hidden texture revealed to her. He had a very full head of hair. She had always assumed it was smooth and silky to the touch, but she had never touched. It was clean, though, that much she knew – when she was younger, in her early teens, she had often wondered what shampoo he used. She had always wondered what he smelled like, as well. It had always been a fascination of hers, sense of smell… Unfortunately, dreams lacked any sense but sight. She had always felt ridiculous for resenting this simple fact.
Little by little, he was revealed to her, until she knew him just as well as she did herself. His hair always came first, and then it was his forehead. His skin was an olive color, tanned but smooth, not damaged by the sun in the least. It was as if he had adapted to it, learned to resist it. She had always wondered if he lived somewhere sunny where that was possible, but then felt even more foolish for thinking that at all. Obviously, a figment of her imagination did not need to have a background. It was not necessary, when his sole purpose was to fit her fantasy.
His forehead scrunched when he was agitated, nervous, or upset. His cheekbones were high and raised, and when he smiled, he had near child-like dimples. His nose was angled and perhaps a bit crooked, maybe from when it had been previously broken. His lips were full and pink, and when he smiled, they curled deliciously to the side. His ears were well proportioned for his face. His skin was not blotchy, but smooth, though she did notice the smaller imperfections: the birthmark on his neck, the little scar near his forehead. Over time, the little things no one else would notice became the most apparent to her.
However, what she had always liked the most were his eyes. They were the very last detail of his face she discovered, and they were easily the most beautiful. Deep and enchanting green, they easily stuck out the most. They reminded her of small emeralds, like tiny little gems still waiting to be cut. Completed with thick lashes, his eyes were the near epitome of gorgeous, if you asked her.
For a long time, she wondered how she had thought this boy up. She wondered how she had formulated all the small details he seemed to have, from his face, to his clothing, to his toned and muscled body. She wondered how she had ever gotten down the boyish looks and the messy hair and the emerald eyes, and how she had managed to do it consistently, without it ever altering. Unfortunately, she had never been given that answer.
As she had grown up, this boy had almost been a friend to her. Through everything, he had been her constant, as certain as the stars in the sky. Her dreams featured no one but him, even if she liked it to be differently. Constantly, she compared others to him, wondering if one had ended up being his inspiration. There had been nothing, absolutely no similarities. The boy from her dreams took no influence from anyone she knew. He had no name, either. He had no history, no life outside of the context of her dreams. Over time, she had learned to ignore him, to an extent.
Over time, she had grown up, and begun to treat him like a childhood fairytale, nothing more, nothing less.
Felicity found herself gasping, tossing and turning as her eyes flew opened. The single word repeated over and over in her head, and there was no way to deny that she had heard it. Over and over that word – that name – floated around her, beckoning her to remember it, calling her to repeat it. Her dreams were always vivid, but this time, it had been something more. This was near past coherency.
There was a ruffling of sheets beside her, and while she was very much aware, she could not help but ignore them. Her mind had been rocketed into another world, one that she could no longer suppress. It was as if the years she had hidden it had caused it to grow until it simply burst, no longer able to be contained. When it made its return (though it had never really left), Felicity could not help but think it had come back much stronger than before. It had come back more realistic, maybe, more relatable. It was almost touchable, though it was still not quite there.
More beautiful, if that was at all possible. It had grown impossibly in beauty, until she could no longer stand the fact that it would never be something she could truly experience.
“Lissy?” came the male voice from beside her, husky with sleep and rumpled a bit. She was sure it was the middle of the night, and he seemed nothing if not disgruntled. “You okay?”
Felicity was not sure if she had the correct words to answer him. Okay, she was certain, was not the right word to describe this feeling. It was like floating way above the clouds, a thousand feet away from the Earth. It was the deepest form of elation, and the most pure type of desire. There was a smile on her lips as she turned to him, but once she did, everything began to crumble. As soon as she did, she was sure she began to sink, no longer lighter than air.
The face she was now staring at, almost as if surprised to see it, was not the face of the beautiful boy of her dreams. His cheeks were not high and his lips were not full. His hair was not caramel-colored and messy and his eyes were anything but emerald green.
The man she now stared at was the face of her twenty-five year old husband. His hair was a chestnut brown, clean-cut, short, ordinary. His eyes were a blue, pale in color, nearly bland. She had once thought they resembled the soft color of the sky, but now she considered it, it was not a proper comparison. Not after seeing her dream’s bright emerald irises. His cheekbones were not sharp and his jaw was not jagged. He was baby-faced, but not in the way the boy was. He had no dimples. When he smiled, it was pleasant, beautiful even, but it lacked the radiance of her dream.
However, this man was real. He was touchable. He was relatable. He was right in front of her, and she did not have to wait until sleep claimed her to have him. She did not have to close her eyes and conjure him up, for he was always there, solid and believable. She had met him, talked to him, touched him, smiled at him, held him, kissed him, and experienced him. She had never done that with her dream, and she would not. Such things were impossible, and always had been. If one were able to live in the world of their fantasies, then certainly the world would be a much better place, a fantasy world. This was not the case.
And, consequently, it also did not stop her from having them. Quite possibly, it would never stop her from having them.
One needed to settle, and Felicity was sure she had gained this ability. Perhaps she was simply having an off night.
“I’m fine,” she murmured softly, once she was sure that she had her voice. She hoped her voice was not laced with undertone, but she supposed it could be. She certainly did not feel one thing.
“You sure?” he asked her, turning on his side to glance at her, one thick eyebrow raised. “I mean… You don’t look so good. No offense.” His eyes seemed to narrow, as if he was carefully scrutinizing her, watching her every move, her every expression. He did this often, and she had never objected. It was an artist’s way, he had explained. He had to have a careful eye, to examine every facet of a person’s skin, every hidden thought, tick, and crevice. It had always been something she’d liked about him.
He was her muse. He constantly shared with her that she was his very favorite subject.
Felicity would be lying if she said the same.
“Kind of pale, almost,” he continued, waiting for some kind of response, biting down on his bottom lip in his uncertainty. “Maybe you’re sick. I heard there’s something going around. And it’s allergy season, so…”
She sighed, causing him to stop his assumptions in his track. He always over-analyzed everything, almost to the point of ridiculousness. “I’m fine, Kyle. Really. Nothing wrong with me.” Realizing a second later how annoyed the quip sounded, she offered a quick smile, turning on her side and laying a hand on his large shoulder. “But thanks. I just need some sleep, is all.”
He considered this, offering a tentative smile in return. “You never do get much sleep,” he commented. To this, she simply nodded. There was no use denying a truth so obvious. Most nights, she got five hours of sleep, if not less. “Maybe you should consider seeing someone about that. I mean, it could be a problem.” He paused, gauging her reaction, making sure she was not upset. Felicity hid her feelings well, silent. He continued. “And those dreams…”
She had made the mistake of confessing to her dreams not long before they were married. Not the details, perhaps, but the basics. She told him of the boy she had dreamed of since she was a little kid. She told him of his messy hair and his smile, about his odd silence, and how vivid her dreams were every single night.
He had suggested something might be psychologically wrong with her, teasingly of course, and she had not brought up the subject since. It was obvious by his face that night that he was upset by the fact she had been dreaming of another man, and to be honest, she had expected him to be. Kyle had always been something of the jealous type, something she had once seen nothing wrong with.
It was obvious he thought the same thing everyone she told her secret to: Get over it. It was the same thing, in fact, that she told herself every night before she closed her eyes. Unfortunately, some things were much easier said than done, and Felicity learned this every day of her life.
“Kyle, I told you, drop it,” she insisted, biting down on her lip. Kyle’s response, just like always, was to flip over and roll his eyes. The topic was always a bitter one, and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why he constantly decided to bring it up.
“Have you had them lately?”
“Maybe.” She had never been much of a liar. However, concealing some of the truth was something she was rather notorious for.
“What’s maybe, Felicity?” he ground out, a deep sigh escaping through his lips. “I don’t understand maybe. I just want ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s that simple.”
She considered for a moment, turning back on her side and away from him. From her husband’s irritated grunt, she knew he was listening, but paid him no heed. The room was dark. It was well past midnight, according to the clock on the bedside table. The walls were a mint green. She focused on these details as she waited and listened to the silence, reveling in it. It did not last very long.
“Yes, Kyle. Yes, I’ve dreamt of him recently.” Feeling guilty and quite disgusted with herself, she untangled from the blankets, rising to her feet and turning back to him one last time. “I’m going to go get some water and see if I can sleep. I’ll take the couch tonight, if I’m keeping you awake.” Unable to bear it, she simply did not turn to wait for an answer or any kind of response.
Felicity was sure to slam the door when she walked out, and she was sure she heard her husband’s sigh and the bed creak as she did.
This was nothing out of the ordinary.
However, when she got down the stairs, passing the kitchen in favor of her very favorite room in the house – her study – she knew what was needed. She crossed the room to her easel, uncovered it quickly, and grabbed a brush and the paint.
Before she continued her depiction of the beautiful boy, however, she wrote very neatly, very small, and very carefully at the very bottom of her drawing.
“Landon,” she breathed, the name alone bringing her a sense of completion. “Landon…”
Her lips pulled up despite herself, unable to contain her joy. Her fingers splayed over the canvas as if she had no control. There was not even a little hesitation in her strokes; they were immediate, swift, assured. The painting created itself, as if it was begging to be released, and she was finally doing so.
Slowly but surely, the face of her muse began to form, staring back at her with a smile, dimples included.