Lauren excitedly watched Danielle dance elegantly across the stage. Her shiny, wavy, chestnut-brown hair flowing effortlessly behind her drew vast attention to her picture perfect looks.
“She’s going to nail it!” Lauren squealed as she clapped her hands together bringing them firmly to her lips as if she was praying, and a few seconds later crossing all her fingers.
“She sure is,” Kalvin said as he stood behind her resting his strong hands on her petite shoulders in anticipation.
They watched Danielle grace across the stage, gleaming like a true princess you only read about in fairy tale books. Her infectious smile swooned the audience as she effortlessly did pirouette after pirouette. She was in her element and it showed.
Lauren could feel Kalvin’s fingers gripping her shoulders tighter and tighter as they watched nervously. As the music picked up tempo and Danielle geared up for her finale, Lauren was taken aback by the look on Danielle’s face.
Lauren squinted through the brightness of the stage lights. The look on Danielle’s face was disturbing and not that of someone about ready to bring home the most prestigious award in Ballet. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
With every twirl Danielle locked her eyes with Lauren’s; the terror on her face increasing with every turn. Sheer panic raced through Lauren as the music began to play louder and louder and Danielle began to look more pale and frightened.
Danielle’s typical soft hazel eyes were now an eerie almost sinister dark; almost on the verge of black. Lauren thought she saw tears glistening on Danielle’s face through the stage lights. She tried with all her might to rush onto the stage and dance alongside her best friend, but she couldn’t move. She felt paralyzed. Fearfully paralyzed as she watched everything unfold in slow motion.
“No, no, no,” Lauren began to whisper under her breath, barely able to move her lips. She used every muscle in her face to move her lips as a dreadful feeling began to increase inside her.
Lauren’s eyes locked with Danielle’s one last time before Danielle abruptly collapsed onto the stage with a loud blunt thump, followed by ear piercing wails from the audience. Women began gasping and shouting as men began to stand, some rushing from their seats towards the stage.
“Danielle!” Lauren shouted as she broke free and ran, falling on her knees by Danielle’s side. She quickly turned Danielle over on her back.
Falling backwards in shock, Lauren screamed even louder, “Danielle! Danielle! Someone call 9-1-1! Oh my God, Danielle!”
Danielle’s skin was streaked with blood. Purple and yellow blotches began to quickly appear all over her body as Lauren frantically tried to find a pulse from Danielle’s cold wrist.
“Lauren! Lauren please!” a male voice was shouting. “Lauren!”
Lauren screamed again as someone grabbed hold of her, forcefully trying to pry her away from Danielle. The grasp was so tight she found it impossible to escape. She watched Danielle’s head fall to the side as blood ran from her nose and mouth, forming a pool of blood on the stage. Her eyes stared at nothing; just an empty look.
Lauren tried to escape again, but it was no use. Whoever had a hold of her was not going to let her go easily. With all the strength she had in her, she kicked and thrashed her hands and legs all around her. “Let me go!” she pleaded through her screams and cries. Blood from Danielle had now made its way to Lauren as she screamed for help as loud as she could.
A hand covered her mouth. “Lauren! It’s only a dream! Lauren!” the male voice yelled. “Lauren, I’m here! Please Lauren! It’s okay.”
“No! No! No!” Lauren began crying harder as she opened her eyes. Realizing she just had another nightmare, she
laid her head against her fiancé, Mark’s chest and sobbed. She could find no words to describe her feelings and what she had just dreamt. Each nightmare was not only getting worse, but more vivid each time.
Mark ran his hands through her blonde hair as he held her close. “I’m here. I’m here. It was just another dream.” He kissed the top of her head and gave her a tight squeeze as she frantically dried the tears that streaked her face.
More like a nightmare, Lauren thought as she struggled to bring her crying under control. It was so real. Danielle was so real. The people were so real; everything felt so real. She dried some of the tears that had quickly pooled around the base of her nose, knowing it would do no good since all she seemed to do was cry all night long lately.
“I don’t get it Mark. I keep having the same kind of nightmares,” Lauren began, still sobbing. “They are getting worse and they seem so real. And I don’t understand why in every nightmare Danielle looks like she does, all bloody and bruised. Her eyes, Mark, they were so dark and so scared. She died in her sleep, why would I keep seeing her so …so …”
“Hey,” Mark whispered as he kissed her again. “You are under a lot of stress. You just lost your best friend. Give it time Lauren. One day at a time. Something like this is not going to get better in a few months. I know that.” He held her close, struggling to find the right words. Unfortunately, he never could find the right words to soothe her; at least that’s how he felt. He just wanted to make her nightmares go away. He would do anything to make her nightmares stop. But what? He’s tried everything. Well mostly everything.
Lauren knew Mark was right. She needed to give it time. It had only been three months but the nightmares were in fact getting worse. And not just that, they seemed more real – each time. Well, parts of them felt that way. And right now, she couldn’t bring herself to tell Mark what else she saw in her nightmares. Not now. In fact, she had a hard time accepting what she saw herself.
“Mark, I know what I saw!” Lauren was pacing through the living room as Mark sat on the edge of their leather love seat with his forehead resting in his hands. “This is the third time I have seen her in our room. The third time Mark! I can see her, but it’s like she’s never looking at me. She always seems to be watching you sleep Mark. She’s staring at you! You Mark! I don’t understand this at all.”
“Lauren, please,” Mark pleaded as he looked up at her. “It’s two-fifteen in the morning. And you don’t have to raise your voice. I’m right here. Not … over wherever in some other room,” he pointed as he yawned. He watched her pace across the floor in front of him. He was tired; exhausted. He had not had a full night’s sleep in months, thanks to Lauren’s nightmares.
“She is trying to tell me something. Why else would she keep appearing like she has been? The first time I saw her, I was sure I was dreaming. The second time, I don’t think I was
dreaming, and the third time, tonight, she was standing next to our bed. I know I was not dreaming. Next to our bed Mark, staring down at you. Her face was expressionless.” Lauren brought her hands up to massage her shoulders as she paced the floor, shaking her head, sobbing and confused.
“Lauren, I really don’t know what to tell you. I’m tired. I know that much,” Mark leaned back against the love seat, took a deep breath and folded his hands behind his head. “Did she say anything to you in these…these…visions you insist you keep having? Does she speak? Does she tell you anything that would reaffirm why she is visiting us in this ghost-form like this? I mean c’mon Lauren …”
“Nice Mark,” Lauren said with disgust as she rolled her eyes at him. “Real nice. How supportive of you. I’m trying to be open and honest with you, tell you what I’m feeling, what is bothering me and all you do is …”
“Okay, whatever Lauren,” Mark put his hands over his face and massaged his forehead. “I’m getting such a headache. I would like to believe what you are saying, I really would. But seeing Danielle’s ghost, like actual ghost in our bedroom of all places? That’s a little far-fetched for me. You know I don’t buy into all that ghostly paranormal shit Lauren. Bottom line is, you are stressed. You need to take a break; a serious break to relax, un-wind…something. You are going to end up driving me, well and everyone else crazy with these visions you say you have every damn night. Please Lauren, listen to yourself.”
Lauren flopped down on the black leather couch across from Mark. She burst into tears as she buried her face in her hands crying uncontrollably.
Mark took a deep breath as he watched his fiancé break down again, right in front of him. He loved her, everything about her. She was perfect. The way her light blonde hair fell in soft waves upon her shoulders, even now, in the middle of the night, with no makeup on, she looked sexy. He loved looking into her olive green eyes and kissing her soft pink lips. Her skin was a soft porcelain smooth and her body was the trained, dedicated, toned and fit body of a dancer. At 5’3” she was every bit of sexy heaven, and to see her hurting was hard for him to handle.
He did not like to see her hurting. He hated seeing her in pain, hated seeing her cry. On top of all that, he thoroughly hated himself, for what he had to hold inside, because he knew it would kill her if she ever found out. He knew it would eliminate her nightmares, but he couldn’t tell her. Not yet. He got up off the love seat and knelt down on both knees in front of her, pulling her into his arms. He rested his chin on top of her head for a few seconds, took a deep breath, kissed and then rested his cheek on top of her head.
“I just don’t understand this. I don’t understand any of this,” Lauren cried softly as she tried to dry her eyes long enough to see clearly. She could feel her mascara splotching her face, but she didn’t care tonight. She didn’t care if it ran all over her face. “I miss her Mark. She’s gone, but she’s not gone, if that makes any sense. I miss her like crazy. I can’t take it some days. I just want her back. I want my best friend back. I feel like I have no one to talk to; no one who understands me. She understands me when I have no words to say. And now she’s gone. I can’t even say goodbye to her. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, my best friend is gone. Dead. I just feel so alone. I’ve never felt this alone in my life. It sucks. I hate it. I hate feeling alone like this. I hate not being able to call her and text her and laugh. It’s been months since I’ve been able to laugh. I just miss it all. Everything.” The harder she tried to hold in her tears the more she cried.
“It’s been a long few months, very stressful on everyone,” Mark said as he squeezed his arms tighter around her. “I know you feel alone. She was always there with you, well, ever since we met, she’s always been there. It all feels different now. It’s not the same and it’s going to take some time to get through this. I don’t expect you to be back to your normal self so fast, Lauren. This is one of those moments were you need to heal and take as long as you need. There is no time limit on healing.” He sighed as he kissed her head. “Why don’t we go back to bed? We can talk some more later when we’re not so exhausted. We could both use some sleep.” He placed another kiss on the top of her head as he helped her up from the couch. He looked into her eyes and kissed the stream of tears that ran down her left cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you,” she said as she held her breath. She wanted to stop crying, but it felt so good to just cry and let it all out, even if Mark wasn’t being comforting.
“Shall we?” he asked as he held out his hand for her to hold.
Reluctantly she let Mark guide her back upstairs to their bedroom and climbed back in on her side of the bed. She watched in the moonlight as Mark walked over to the window and stared outside. At thirty-five, standing at just under six-feet-tall, his dark brown hair had a few gray strands starting to appear and the wrinkles around his blue eyes, she felt, made him that much more attractive. His 170–pound muscular body glistened in the moonlight as he reached up to close the blinds before making his way to their bed. She loved him, she really did. From the first moment she laid eyes on him, she loved him. Something about him grabbed hold of her soul and never let go. Even though he was almost ten years older than her, deep down inside, she loved him.
She could stare into his blue eyes all night. Each time she looked in his eyes, she felt those first-time-butterfly feelings all over again. When he held her in his arms, she felt secure and comfortable, wanting to do nothing else but kiss those lips of his. And damn if he wasn’t the best kisser she had ever dated! His kisses drove her insane at times, especially when they only had time for a few kisses and nothing more. It was as if the foreplay taunted her all day long and she couldn’t wait to see his truck pull into their driveway at the end of the day.
She took a deep breath, breathing in his scent. He smelled so good, and it wasn’t just the deodorant he used or body wash, it was his smell. Sexy as hell. He smelled so good, she never wanted to change the bed sheets and always slept on his side of the bed when he was gone, just to breathe in his scent. Like right now, if she wasn’t feeling so depressed, she’d throw herself on top of him. But she decided a good night’s sleep would do her good. Tomorrow she would call her best friend, Amy. Amy always seemed to have the right words to say. Times like this, even a fiancé had a hard time coming up with the right words; words that are always on the tip of a best friends tongue.
“Lauren,” Mark whispered as he slid under the sheets. He wrapped his arms around her petite body and pressed himself up against her, holding her tight. He lightly began kissing behind her ear.
“Yes?” she asked as she leaned back into him.
“I love you Lauren,” he smiled as he playfully bit her earlobe.
“I love you too,” Lauren said as goose bumps traveled all over her body. She shrugged her shoulders and closed her eyes as Mark pulled her in closer to spoon.
Mark kissed her neck one final time as he glanced around the dark bedroom, not sure what he was looking for. He thought about everything Lauren had been telling him over these past few weeks, about seeing Danielle’s ghost in their bedroom. The thought of those words haunted him in the back of his mind. He swallowed the lump in this throat wrapping his arms tighter around Lauren, pulling her closer, if that was possible. In his mind he thought loudly, what are you trying to do Danielle? What are you trying to do?
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