Previously on The Legacy Files...
Caramel-colored skin, dark almond-shaped eyes, short-cropped dark hair. He was seated alone at a table in the corner, wearing a black leather jacket. The man from her dreams. Five years worth of dreams.
Colleen sucked in her breath. Her veins felt cold, and there were goosebumps all over her body. She stood, frozen on the spot, as people bumped into her and struggled to go around. He looked up, and their eyes connected.
You are real. How are you here?
And now, Dreams and Memories, Part 4...
Suggested soundtrack: Catch Me If You Can by The Cranberries
Once out on the sidewalk, under the neon lights, Colleen felt like she could breathe again, and she gulped in the night air, trying not to seem obvious about it.
“You okay?” Robert asked.
“It’s crowded in there,” she said. “It was getting kind of hard to breathe.”
They both stood in an awkward silence for a moment, Robert looking at her, and Colleen trying not to look at him, for fear he might see straight through and pick up on her insanity. She finally broke the silence.
“Well, I guess I better go.” She hugged him quickly. “Goodnight, Robert.”
A she turned to leave, Robert called out to her. “Colleen, wait! Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Her thoughts were at war with each other. She wanted to know what he had to say, but did he have to do this now?
She slowly turned back again. He quickly closed the short gap between them, until they were standing toe to toe. She could feel the warmth of him, and for just a moment, she forgot about everything else
“There’s something I need to say.”
Colleen looked into his warm, hopeful blue eyes, and felt an ounce of the tension in her shoulders melt away, while a new sensation rose up in her stomach to take its place.
“I...” he laughed nervously. “I don’t know how to say this.” He took a deep breath before beginning again. “You and I have been hanging out a lot together over the last several months.”
“Yes, we have.”
“And I have enjoyed our time together. A lot, really. But the time has never been right for...for anything more than friendship.”
Embarrassed, Colleen suddenly realized that she may have misread where this conversation was going. “Look, Robert, it’s okay. I understand.”
“No, no, wait. I don’t think you do. Let me finish.” He took a deep breath and began again, as if ashamed. “I’ve been so afraid.”
“You too, huh?"
They both laughed nervously. He took another deep breath, then reached for her hands.
“I didn’t want circumstances to get in the way. I’ve been at the police academy. I’ve had so much on my mind. I couldn’t take the risk that I would screw something up somehow by not giving it enough attention. But things are different now. I’m graduating. I’ll be home more again. Well, as much as a police officer can be. I don’t know if this is right, but I have to find out. I can’t bear not knowing...if you and I could be...something more.”
He had said it. Somewhere in the back of her mind, something screamed Katherine was right! But she quieted that voice and studied his face. She watched as the corner of his mouth turn up in a cautious smile, and she found myself smiling back. His warm blue eyes held onto her, drew her near. And then they were kissing.
It was a sort of “testing the waters” kind of kiss. Sweet, but cautious. Robert was the first to pull away, and Colleen could tell that he was worried. This, after all, was momentous. It changed everything.
“Say something, please.”
Put on the spot, she stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what to say that didn’t sound dumb, and was an accurate depiction of how she felt.
“That was nice.”
He laughed heartily. “It was, wasn’t it?” He paused. “I wish you didn’t have to go right now.”
Colleen was suddenly hit with that remaining ounce of shoulder tension. For a moment, he had actually made her forget why she had wanted to leave. “I do too. I just have so much to do tomorrow, and I have to get an early start,” she said, maintaining Katherine’s story.
“I could walk you home.”
“It’s your party, silly,” she said. “You can’t leave.” She touched his face. “I’ll be fine.”
He enveloped her in the warmest hug that lingered just one or two heartbeats beyond what a hug should be and into the territory of embraces. “Call me,” he whispered in her ear, and then he let her go.
Colleen took a deep breath to still the fluttering in her stomach. “I will,” she said meaningfully. “Goodnight, Robert,” and she turned and started her walk home, turning around twice more to wave goofily back at him standing there on the sidewalk.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As she reached the corner of her street, the lights flickered around her and went out. Hmm. Strange. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Someone must have blown a transformer or something. She hugged her arms to her chest, suddenly very aware of the darkness. There were very few people on the street at this hour. There was no nightlife here. She suddenly longed for the busy street outside of Bailey’s, and the inside, where it was crowded and at least had lights.
It’s nothing. Don’t be silly.
It was several more blocks before Colleen reached the shop. When she saw the backdoor, she stopped dead in her tracks. The glass had been smashed and the door was ajar. With no power, there was no alarm.
Without thinking, she rushed in. The back room was torn apart. Everywhere there were signs of struggle. Books and papers were strewn about on the floor, furniture overturned, the room lit only by kerosene lamps that Aunt Hillary must have lit when the power went out. Colleen rounded the corner into the shop area, and skidded to a halt.
Hillary was near the stairs. Two men were trying to approach her, one from above her on the stairs and the other from the ground floor, but she was fending them off by psycho-kinetically hitting them with boxes and items from around the room. There was a storm of objects in the air that kept them from reaching her. She clutched a long stick, like a broom handle no broom, ready to strike.
One of her assailants managed to dodge a rocking chair and was about to reach her.
The men in the room turned their attention to Colleen and away from her aunt, who used the distraction to strike one of them in the head with her stick. But the other grabbed a rocking chair from the air and swung it at her, knocking her down. Hillary crumpled to the floor. All the debris fell to the floor with her.
With a blast of energy from her outstretched hands, Colleen hit the man who had struck Hillary, sending him crashing against a wall, her actions coming so fluidly that she had to push down her own feelings of amazement in order to continue. She turned in time to see the other assailant about to strike her, but suddenly a figure emerged from the shadows and engaged the man in a fistfight. The shadowy figure took two punches to the face before he ducked and placed his hands to his head, causing the other man to fall to his knees in pain, without so much as a touch.
Colleen squinted at the shadowy figure, and in the dim light of the kerosene lamps, she saw it was the guy from her dreams.
Another man came down the stairs, carrying some papers, but before he could join the fight, sirens started in the distance.
The police? How did they know?
The man on the stairs grabbed one of the oil lamps and threw it to the ground. It smashed open, creating an instant inferno. The flash was so bright and hot that Colleen had to throw her arms up to shield her face. When she looked again, she could make out two of the men helping the third escape, masked by the smoke and flames. She let them go and went to Hillary. She tried to lift her, but she was too heavy, or maybe Colleen was just too weak after everything. She instead tried to wake her up.
“Come on, Hillary. Come on, wake up! We have to get out of here!”
The man from her dream came toward them then, his lip split and his face puffy.
Colleen was afraid. She didn’t know what would happen if he touched her. Was he real? Would she wake up suddenly to find that all of this, this whole day, was a dream? “Who are you?” she shouted.
“Don’t you know?” he said, confusion clouding his features. He continued to step towards her, but halted his progress when she lashed out at him.
“No! Leave us alone!”
“I just want to help you!”
And suddenly, a barrier in Colleen’s mind burst, like a dam breaking. Memories came rushing in like flood waters.
The two of them (was his name Evan?) sitting on the roof of some building together, overlooking the city at night. They teenagers. It wasn't that long ago.
A blonde man (Heath?) emerging from a shimmering green wall and collapsing to the floor in pain, with her mother in his arms and Hillary at his side. He shouts to them to stay back, but Evan has to hold her back as she struggle to reach them. Blood trickling from her mother’s mouth as she tries to say something to Hillary, who leans in closer to hear her.
A girl with strawberry blonde hair is standing in the middle of a room, crying. Was this Julia?
Colleen returned to the present and gasped as if someone had been holding her head underwater, and then immediately regretted it as she choked on the smoke that filled her lungs. The sirens were closer now, the fire bigger. Evan glanced toward the shop windows as a police car pulled up, at Colleen and Hillary still on the floor, and then back to the front door. Colleen took her eyes off him for only a second, to glance down at her aunt, and when she looked back to where he had been standing, he was gone.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At Mercy Hospital, Colleen, covered in soot, waited in a chair in the hallway. When Robert and Katherine saw her, they ran to her. Numbly, she stood up and hugged them both.
“Are you okay?” Robert asked her, as he smoothed her hair, her head against his chest.
“I don’t know,” she said. Her mind felt numb. She had spent the last hour trying to think, but there were too many thoughts crowding her mind, all vying for her attention. Overworking her brain. Shutting her down. But one thought, one image, rose to the top, disentangling itself from the rest. Her mother lying on the floor, blood trickling from her mouth. Her mother, whom Hillary had said died in a car accident.