Chapter Twenty

Tuesday morning, 6:10 a.m. Chris turned into the Monopoly neighborhood, the last neighborhood of his night, the one in which he had seen Kimberly jogging yesterday. The night was just giving way to a late dawn, revealing the dark clouds in an overcast sky above, a light rain coming down in a steady soft rhythm, but the threat of a serious thunder storm looked promising.

Chris felt on edge. He was tensed and watching for Kimberly, paying more attention to the deserted street in front of him than to the addresses for the tubes he was absently stuffing newspapers into. He had all the stops memorized and didn’t need to use his route list for anything other than checking it briefly before beginning each night for new stops and starts, so despite his lack of attention to what he was doing, he was still managing to get all the papers in their proper tubes.

He wanted to see Kimberly jog by, to see that she was fine, even though he knew it was too soon for anything to have happened to her. He hoped that the potential stormy weather hadn’t deterred her from her morning run. He also didn’t know how regular she was--every morning, every other morning, two or three times a week. He decided to try to find out from her deeper consciousness when he met her after work in his dream. That way, at least until Carly had made the call to her and they had all met, he would be able to confirm that she was okay each morning, or at least each morning that she regularly went for a run.

After their planned meeting, providing they were able to convince her of its necessity, not to mention the task of making her believe the threat to her life was very real, things would probably change. Chris had already thought one of the things he would suggest to Kimberly at this meeting would be to stop jogging for a while. This would eliminate the threat of a car losing control and running her over, or a vicious dog getting loose and attacking her, or maybe just twisting an ankle and falling, cracking her skull on the hard concrete curb. There were probably a lot of ways one could die while out for a morning jog. Jogging would definitely have to stop once her fading began, Chris had figured. Of course, his strongest suggestion to her once the fading started was going to be to lock herself up inside her home and not come out until she was no longer hosting his dream, assuming she was still alive at that point. But then even that wouldn’t have been enough to save Benjamin, he reminded himself.

Chris was running a little later than usual due to the rain and the extra time he had to spend bagging all the newspapers he delivered to keep them dry instead of just the requested few. It was 6:40 when he finally rounded the curve off Baltic Ave. onto Boardwalk Ave., his last street to be delivered. He guessed that he and Kimberly simply hadn’t crossed paths due to his being later, or perhaps the rain had indeed kept her inside this morning. No telling if she was consistent with the time she ran either, as he usually was with his deliveries. Something else to try to remember to ask her later in his dream.

The rain picked up, soft and steady becoming an all-out downpour. Chris had to increase the windshield wipers to full speed just to catch glimpses of the street in front of him as the rain pounded and splashed against the glass. He was three doors down from the place where he would have to sprint up the ramp to hang the paper on the door when he caught a blurry glimpse of the orange figure sitting on the curb across the street from the stop.

He knew instantly it was Kimberly. And though it didn’t make any sense to him as to why, he also knew she was waiting for him. In the rain. And he was late. How long had she been sitting out here in the rain waiting for him? He was a good half hour behind his usual schedule. Maybe this was it, he suddenly thought. Maybe she was going to catch pneumonia from sitting out in the chilly rain waiting for him, because he was late. Maybe instead of saving her like he so wanted to do, he had just killed her. But why was she here?

He was about to find out. As he pulled up in front of the house and parked, she stood and approached his van. This wasn’t supposed to be how it worked. He wasn’t ready to tell her anything. She wasn’t ready to hear it. He leaned across the van anyway and pushed the passenger door open as she crossed the street so she could get out of the rain.

"Thank you," Kimberly said as she jumped in pulling the door shut. "It just now started to pour. I’m glad you came along when you did."

Her orange sweat suit was soaked through. Her hair was drenched and water dripped from her slender nose and smooth, pointy chin. In his dream, she was in a coffin, in a hole in the ground, while he stands at the grave’s edge looking down at her. Yesterday she had been across the street jogging by. This was the closest Chris had been to her, sitting right next to him in his van, just two feet away, close enough to touch. It struck him anew how utterly gorgeous she was. A pain inside somewhere suddenly doubled at the thought that she might not be alive in two weeks.

"Here," he said, handing her a towel. He always brought a couple with him on rainy nights to wipe dry the inside of the door since he delivered with his window down even when it rained. He stuffed a newspaper in a plastic bag and said, "Dry yourself off some. I’ll be right back."

It wasn’t exactly cold outside, but the rain still had a chill in it. Chris turned on the heater before opening the door and racing up the ramp to the porch with the morning paper. What the hell is she doing in my van? he thought as he ran up the ramp getting soaked himself even in his short sprint. This was too weird.

"Thanks again," she said, handing the towel back to Chris as he climbed back into the van and shut the door.

Chris took the towel and patted his own face dry. As he put down the towel, he noticed she was staring at him, studying his face.

"I don’t always jump into the van of a stranger whenever it gets a little wet out, I hope you know. In fact, this would be a first," she said with a shy smile. She could easily see the confusion and surprise on his face, though he looked friendly enough. She knew she hadn’t jumped into the van of a psycho killer or rapist, but she still felt like she had taken a risk being so outwardly bold and direct in her approach. She hadn’t planned on jumping into his van when he came to deliver the paper to the Billows’ this morning, but the sudden rain had limited her options. He had opened the door, and here she was.

"I saw you yesterday here," she continued. "I was waiting for you. You looked almost familiar, like I should know you, but I don’t think I do. Should I? You looked like you knew me, or were at least surprised to see me. Actually, to be honest, you looked more like shocked to see me. Kinda the way you look right now. Why?"

He was shocked. He was shocked that he had stumbled onto someone from his dream, live and in person. He was shocked that she was sitting next to him. He was shocked at her beauty. And he must have been in shock as well because he just sat there staring at her, unable to speak, unable to respond to her questions, not that he had any idea how to answer her.

"Are you okay?" Kimberly asked.

"Oh…um…yes. Sorry," Chris finally responded, forcing the words out of his mouth. "I just don’t know how to answer you," he admitted.

"Well, do you know me or not?" she asked again.

"Yes…I mean, sort of…I mean, no, not really," Chris stuttered. Then finally collecting himself, "I have seen you before."


Damn, Chris thought, no way around it. "You wouldn’t believe me if I told you," he tried.

"Hmmm," she said, trying to decide if her first assessment of him had been accurate or not. Maybe he had been stalking her, she thought. That’d be why he knew her but didn’t. That’d be why he would have seen her before but was unwilling to divulge from where. That might also explain why he was so tongue-tied, to all of a sudden be confronted by his subject. But he really didn’t strike her as the stalker type, not that she knew what the stalker type looked like, but she was pretty sure he wasn’t it. "Try me," she said.

Well, here we go. Chris thought. He was never good at lying. Sure, he had been lying to his parents about his job and his well-being for better than half a year, but that was through notes and emails and a rare phone call from sixteen hundred miles away. If he had had to lie to them face to face, well, he would have been unable to. He would have simply told them the truth. And that’s what he did now. "I met you in a dream two days ago. And then again yesterday," he told her.

"Oh, right," Kimberly laughed. "Is that the best you can do?"

"I told you that you wouldn’t believe me," he shrugged.

"No really," she said. "Where have you seen me before?"

"It’s true. You told me your name is Kimberly. You didn’t give me a last name."

Oh God! Kimberly thought. Maybe he has been stalking me! "How do you know my name?" she demanded.

Chris smiled. "I told you that you wouldn’t believe me," he repeated.

Kimberly stared ahead out the windshield. The rain continued to pour. She glanced at the door handle, just to make sure she knew exactly where it was in case she decided she needed a hasty escape. Chris followed her eyes and guessed what she was probably thinking. He didn’t want to tell her everything, not yet. He needed her trust first. But he didn’t want her leaving now, thinking he was some kind of kook. It was obvious she was nowhere close to believing him yet.

"Okay," he said slowly, thinking. "I told you my name in the dream, too. Think real hard about it. Can you guess my name?"

"I’m not the one that had the dream," she snapped back. "It’s your dream. How would I know your name?"

Chris could see she was getting agitated with this. She thought he was lying to her. He thought she might leave at any second if he didn’t score a point quickly.

"Maybe dream is the wrong word," he said. "But it is something we have shared. That’s why I know your name. It is Kimberly, isn’t it?"

"Yes," she answered, but the concern in her face remained.

"I have a friend," Chris continued, "who knows about this ‘dream’, for lack of a better word. She suggested that maybe it was our souls communicating."

"Ahhh," she said, smiling wryly. "So now you’re saying we’re soul mates or something. Is that it?"

"No," Chris said, a bit reluctantly. He certainly wouldn’t have minded if that were true. "To be honest, I don’t understand it all myself, but for the sake of argument, let’s say this is all true. Humor me. Look at me," he said, pointing directly into his own eyes. "Concentrate. Try to guess my name."

She directed her bluer than blue eyes directly into his. He thought, given the chance, he could get very used to looking into those eyes. But then, he figured, trying to let himself down easy, he probably wasn’t her type. He was just a paperboy after all. Then he saw the tense line in her forehead smooth out, as if she saw something in his eyes that allowed her to relax a bit. Recognition, maybe?

A long thirty seconds later, Kimberly broke her stare into his eyes. "I don’t know," she said, sounding frustrated. "Nothing comes to mind, but if I had to guess, I’d say you look like a Christopher or something."

Yes! He exclaimed excitedly in his mind, but outwardly, he tried to remain cool. "Well," he said with a smile, "my friends just call me Chris."

"No way! You mean I was right?"

"On the money."

"That’s too weird," Kimberly said, leaning back in her seat and staring out into the rain. Now she not only didn’t believe him, she was having trouble believing herself. "Then show me your driver’s license," she said looking back at Chris.

Chris pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and flipped it open, handing it to her.

"Christopher P. Battles," she read. "What’s the ‘P’ stand for?"


"But how did I know your name?" Kimberly asked, handing his wallet back to him.

"Like I said," Chris said, stuffing his wallet back into his jeans, "I told you in our dream…or whatever it is."

"Well I don’t know what to say," Kimberly said, shaking her head. "Why don’t I remember the dream like you do?"

"That’s a good question," Chris said. "And I don’t really have a good answer."

The rain started to lighten up a bit. Chris slowed the wipers.

"I have just a few more deliveries to make here," he started.

"Oh! I’m sorry. I should let you get back to work," Kimberly said, reaching for the door handle.

"No. It’s okay. This is my last street. I have only five more here," he said, pointing down the street. "I was going to ask if you wanted to go get some coffee or something. We could sit down and talk about this."

"I’m all wet," she said, looking down at herself. "How about if we make it lunch. Are you available later today? We could meet somewhere."

"That would work. I need to go home and clean up anyway." He raised his hands showing her his inky dark palms. "Rain and newsprint don’t exactly mix well. And it’ll give me a chance to rest a bit."

"Okay. Does one o’clock give you enough time?"

"Yes," Chris replied. "That’ll be more than enough time. I am usually up before then. Where would you like to have lunch? My treat."

"Oh you don’t have to do that," she smiled.

He liked her smile. "I insist. For not walking out on me here thinking I was a kook."

"Well, I’m not totally convinced you’re not yet," she said with a chuckle. "But I think this name guessing thing earns you a least the benefit of the doubt, for now. You know Applebee’s over on Town Center Drive?"

"Yes," Chris said, trying to contain his own smile within the boundaries of his face. "I know where it is. One o’clock. I’ll meet you there. Do you need a ride home?"

"No, thanks though. I need to finish my run. The rain seems to be letting up, too. Just in time."

"Well don’t catch a cold," Chris said as she opened the door and stepped back into the rain. "Take a hot shower when you get done."

"Thanks, Mom," she giggled. "I’ll see you at one."


Chris waved and watched as she trotted off into the rain. Well that didn’t go too badly, he thought. He didn’t start with his last five deliveries until she had jogged out of sight. He was still smiling broadly when he put the van into gear and inched towards the next mailbox.

Suddenly his smile faded. He had just remembered what had brought them together to begin with. He remembered that she might very well have only a couple of weeks left to live…unless he could manage to do something he didn’t think he could do. And he didn’t even know what that something was. Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-One


Front Desk

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As Fate Would Have It

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven