Chapter Twenty-Two

Chris pulled into the Applebee’s parking lot ten minutes early. Kimberly was already standing in the entryway under a canopy keeping out of the rain, watching for him. The day had grown warm and humid despite the lack of sunshine. She had changed into a pink sleeveless pull-over blouse with small ruffles around the collar and a strap tied to a bow in the back, and blue denim jeans. Her hair, now dry, looked soft and shiny covering her shoulders. Chris couldn’t help but smile as he realized this pretty vision was waiting for him to arrive. He felt a slight fluttering in his belly. It had been a long time since he had had a case of nervousness when meeting a woman. She certainly had an effect on him, that he could not deny.

Which made him think about the effect he was going to have on her. He hated the idea that he was going to have to be the bearer of such unwanted, not to mention unbelievable, speculation, that he was probably going to turn her world upside down. Maybe not today, but before too long, he would have to tell her. He doubted she’d look quite so radiant seeing him approach after he passed along all that he felt and knew.

"Hi, Christopher," she said as he approached.

"Hi, Kimberly," he said trying to sound less depressed than he suddenly felt. "Just Chris is fine," he suggested again as he opened the door for her.

"Ah, but you said your friends call you Chris," she said, smile unwavering. "I don’t even know you. Are you telling me you want me to be your friend?"

A hostess greeted them inside the door before he had a chance to answer her. "Two?"

"Yes. Thank you," Chris said to the hostess.

"Right this way, then."

The hostess turned, Kimberly and Chris followed. She started to seat them at a table with tall chairs in the center of the dining room when Kimberly asked the hostess, "Can we take a booth by the window? I love the sound of the rain beating against the glass."

"Certainly," replied the hostess, smiling as she led them to a table next to a window and handed them each a menu.

No sooner had they sat down when a waitress replaced the hostess and asked if they wanted to order a drink.

Chris nodded to Kimberly. "I’ll just take a Coke," she told the waitress.

"Make that two," Chris added.

The waitress said she’d be back in a few minutes to take their orders and turned to go retrieve their drinks.

"Well?" Kimberly asked, elbows on the table, head resting in her hands. Her eyes sparkled. So full of life.

"Well what?" Chris asked back.

"Is this the beginning of a friendship?"

What a question. If only he knew the answer, but he didn’t know if she was going to even live long enough to become friends. Well, if he had anything at all to do with it, he silently vowed, she would. And then he would have hoped for nothing more than to be her friend. Before he had met Carly, he wasn’t sure he was even capable of having friends anymore. He had lost touch with all his old friends, and to be honest, he didn’t think they would have wanted to be burdened with his new problems. But then Carly was special. Carly would always hold a special place in his heart, married or not. Looking at Kimberly, he wondered if she might be special, too.

"Time will tell, I suppose," he answered, trying to sound nonchalant, not quite pulling it off. He was glad he hadn’t been holding a tea cup and saucer. He knew they would have clinked, giving his nervousness away. "So," he said opening up his menu, "what would you like for lunch? My treat, as I said."

"You married?" she asked casually, head still cradled in her hands.

Chris looked over the top of the menu at her smiling face. Damn, if only circumstances were different, he thought. "No. You?"

"Nope." She finally picked up her menu. "I think I’m going to have the baby back ribs. It’s what they do best here."

The waitress stepped up with their Cokes. "Are you ready to order?" she asked.

"I think so," Chris said. "I guess we’ll have two orders of baby back ribs."

"Fries or baked potato?" the waitress asked looking at Chris.

Without hesitation he said, "Fries with both, please."

"Will that be all, then?"

"That should do it, along with plenty of napkins," Chris said, taking Kimberly’s menu and handing both to the waitress.

After the waitress turned away, Kimberly said, "Oooh. Such the gentleman. You even got the fries part right!"

"Lucky guess," Chris said chuckling.

"So," Kimberly said, very businesslike, clasping her hands together on the table in front of her. "Did you want to talk weather first and various other forms of chit-chat to feel each other out, or are you ready to dive right into the meat of the matter?"

Chris smiled. He couldn’t help but like her.

"I not sure where I would begin," he said. "Or how," he added honestly.

"Okay, how about starting with this dream you say we met each other in," she said. "I could think of a lot of ways you might have known my name, but my guessing yours kinda blew me away. That’s the only reason why I am here, you know. I’m curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat," he said, trying to be humorous…then immediately wished to hell he hadn’t. Bad choice of words, he thought. Very bad.

"You’re stalling," she said, but she still seemed to be enjoying herself.

Chris knew this was going to be hard. It seemed to be getting harder by the minute and he wasn’t even planning on getting to "the meat of the matter" today. He wasn’t ready. Nor did he think Kimberly was ready. That talk he wanted to put off until he had Carly’s support present.

"The dream," he said sighing, stalling, "and I’m not even all that sure a dream is what it actually is, began for me last August after I was involved in an accident. I was at the State Fair, did the bungee cord jump, and it broke. My girlfriend at the time was with me. We had jumped together. She died in the accident. I was out cold for a while with a concussion, but otherwise came away unscathed. That was when this dream, for lack of a better word, began."

"Oh, wow," Kimberly said sympathetically. "I’m so sorry."

"Anyway," Chris said, trying to get away from the ‘death’ part of his story, there’d be plenty of that to come later, he thought. "I seemed to have opened up a channel to a deeper subconscious in us than we are normally unaware of. I have a friend who thinks maybe I have made contact with my soul, or something like that."

"And this is why you remember our meeting and I don’t?" she asked.

"I think so," Chris said. "Because of the accident, for some reason. But I need to ask you a few things to maybe better understand."

"Okay," Kimberly said, taking a draw of her Coke through a straw.

"You see, I deliver papers all night," Chris explained. "My dream comes to me every day when I sleep. I meet people in these dreams. But I sleep usually between seven a.m. and noon, when most people are awake." Chris wet his lips with his Coke before continuing, watching Kimberly’s eyes to make sure she was following him. She appeared to be fascinated, giving him her full attention.

"I’ve met you twice in the dream, as I told you this morning," he recapped for her. "The last time was after seeing you jog by yesterday. So my main question for you is, did you get some sleep later in the morning? Or were you awake all day?"

"I was awake," Kimberly told him. "So what does that mean?"

"Well," Chris said, "it means we are not sharing a dream. But our minds are definitely connecting at some level."

"This is really weird," Kimberly said. "So what am I thinking right now?"

Chris smiled. "It doesn’t work like that. I think when my consciousness shuts down, when I am asleep, that’s when this other level surfaces. It is possible that maybe people are constantly connecting like this without being aware of it. You’ve heard that thing about how we only use a tenth of our brain, or something like that. Maybe this is actually a part we usually don’t use or aren’t aware of, but because of my head injury from my accident, I have some partial awareness of it."

"So why me?" Kimberly asked.

The waitress appeared at that moment with their food. They each leaned back away from the table to make room for the plates of ribs. Chris was thankful for the extra minute to formulate in his mind his answer to her last question.

When the waitress walked away, Chris noticed Kimberly still looking at him instead of her food, still waiting for his answer.

"I don’t know why you," he said honestly enough. "I don’t know why I have connected with any of the people I have met in this dream."

True, they were all dying, a fact he wasn’t ready to reveal yet, but many people died every day and why he had met the ones he had met, he honestly had no idea.

"But," he continued, "you are the first one that I have then met in person."

"So now what?" Kimberly asked as she started in on her ribs.

"Well," Chris said, "there’s more to it than I have told you."

"It gets weirder?"

"Yeah." Much weirder, Chris thought.

"Well? Are you going to tell me?" she asked.

"No. Not right now," Chris said between bites.

He figured he could tell her everything right now and she would never believe him. He still clung to the idea that Carly should be present. And even if she did believe, here and now, he didn’t know how she would react to the news that he thought she might only have a couple weeks before some unforeseen accident was going to take her life. He also still thought it best if she not find out too soon. He didn’t want her dropping her guard in a week when nothing unusual had happened yet.

Suddenly she put down her ribs and, wiping her mouth with a napkin, revealed a coy smile and said, "What exactly are we doing in this dream of yours?"

"Oh, no, no," Chris said, blushing, following her thought. "It’s nothing. We just talk."

"So what do we talk about?"

"I told you all about my accident and about a lot of the other people I have seen in my dream," he said.

"I wish I could remember it the way you do," she said.

"Look," Chris said pushing his plate away. "The friend I told you about, the one who thought our souls were connecting, her name is Carly."

"Is Carly like, um, your girlfriend?"

"No, no. I wish," he let slip. Then added quickly, "She’s just a good friend. She’s married, has two kids. But she’s the only other person I have told about this dream. The weirder stuff." Chris paused, washed down his lunch with his Coke, and swallowed, stalling. "She has some ideas, too. I kinda wanted to have the three of us together when we get into that."

"Wow. Now you really have me curious," Kimberly said smiling.

"Do you jog every day?" Chris asked.

"Every day," Kimberly said. "Usually from six to six-thirty."

"And when do you work?"

"I work at home," she told him. "I’m a writer."

"Really? Anything I would know?" Chris asked.

"Not unless you just recently graduated from kindergarten," she said with a chuckle. "But anyway, my schedule is pretty much my own. If you want to set something up with Carly, I’m usually available. I’m dying to hear the rest of this story."

Ouch. Another bad choice of words, Chris thought. But he said, "I was thinking maybe next Monday we might meet at this coffee shop in north Minneapolis. It’s close to where she lives. I can pick you up and drive if you like."

"You’re gonna make me wait a whole week?!"

"Timing is important, I think," he confessed to her. "You’ll understand better then."

"Okay, okay," she conceded. "But it’s going to be a long week, I tell you that much."

Chris figured it was going to be a long week for him, too. He would still have to see her every time he went to sleep.

"What?" Kimberly asked, sensing something else on his mind.

"Nothing," he said. "I’m sure I will be seeing you again before next week."

"Yeah but you’ll remember it. Apparently I won’t," she said dejectedly.

"No. I mean I’ll look for you in the mornings, when you’re jogging. We can talk some more, I mean, if you want." Chris could feel his cheeks redden.

"But not about the weird stuff."

"Yeah. I really want to wait on that. I promise you’ll understand," he said.

They each declined the waitress’ offer for desserts as she cleared away their plates.

"Well then," Kimberly said, "if you’re not going to tell me any more for now, I should probably go try to get some work done. Though it’s not going to be easy with this mystery hanging over me, thank you very much."

"Sorry about that," he said. "I wish I could tell you more now, and I can promise you I will tell you everything when I do, but really, we’d better wait."

"And you look like you could use some sleep," she told him. She pushed back from the table and stood. "So I guess I’ll see you in a little while?"

Chris stood and smiled. "Yeah. I’ll tell you you said hi."

"Very funny," she said sarcastically, but with a smile.

They walked to the register and Chris paid for the lunch as promised. She gave one more polite "you don’t have to," and then offered to at least leave the tip. He agreed to that and they made their way together back to the front door, looking out at the pouring rain.

"Thanks for meeting me, Kimberly. I’ll let you know if Monday works for Carly," he said.

"But what if we don’t run into each other on the run? I won’t remember if you let me know in your dream," she pointed out.

"I have your phone number," he confessed. "You gave it to me yesterday when we met on the other level."

"Oh really!" she said, eyes wide. "I’m gonna have to have a talk to that girl about handing my number out to strangers," she snickered.

Chris laughed. "Drive carefully in this rain, Kimberly," he cautioned.

"You, too. And you can call me Kim," she said as she rain out into the rain towards her car.

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Three


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