|Aura Castillo ∴ Hel (calaveritas) wrote in paxletalelogs,
@ 2010-06-15 10:10:00
Who: Aura and Billy
What: Completed log
When: The night it started. A year in the past.
Warnings: Not a one.
The baby shower had been long, and Aura was thrilled to finally be in her room at home. The fiesta had started early, but it had lasted late into the night. Her sister, Cierra, was expecting (again) and Aura had spent the entire baby shower trying to slip the balloon out from under her shirt (a tradition) and getting pinched repeatedly for crossing her arms or legs (another tradition). Cierra’s mother-in-law (a gabacha) had spent at least a half hour asking Aura why she slathered her corn-on-the-cob with chili powder and mayonnaise, and Aura started counting the minutes until the entire procreative celebration was over.
Her side of the room she shared with her sisters was a mess of fabrics and things she’d started to collect for when she moved out, for when Pax Letale opened its doors. Her father had bought a small condo on the tenth floor for her, but the building was being renovated, and it might be a year still until she could move. No matter, she was collecting things already. She longed for a room she didn’t share with her hermanas, and she fell back on her black bedsheets with a dramatic oomph.
Her eyes closed, and she was too tired to bother changing out of the terrible pink cardigan her mother had made her wear. She rolled onto her side, and the equally-terrible mauve skirt moved with her. If the garments were terribly wrinkled, she might not have to wear them again, she logic-ed, even as sleep overtook her.
And with it came the sound of screeching car wheels.
Impact. The night exploded into white light and soundless pressure. As the calm, soothing white of his dreams assembled around him, a mild sensation of humid warm weather accompanied it. Standing in the dreamscape was like standing in a pleasant, invisible sauna. It smelled of wet pavement and orange peels. The light subsided from an angry fluorescent to a gentle sunny aura, and the sudden spike of fear and the sound of crumpling metal seemed far away.
Billy didn’t dream about his accident as much as you might think, and when he did it was all odd sensation and familiar faces drifting over him. This was new. He was standing in the center of all that white, and then he frowned, and there was a sidewalk. It led up ahead into the distance. He wasn’t a big man, or a tall one, but his back and height had energy and the muscle to support it. The thin white shirt had a dark patch of sweat between his shoulder blades, and the back of his neck gleamed. Sensing another presence, he turned on old sneakers and stared at her.
She had stood on the edge of the whiteness, and she had watched the impact and the explosion of white light. She had done so without averting her face, without shying away from it. It was almost as if she was glued to the spot, the warm, white heat swirling around her and making her long, black hair cling in damp curls to her cheek and neck. She was dressed all in white in the dream, a perfect match for her surroundings, only her dark hair standing out as foreign in the space. She wasn’t as solid as he was, but she was there just the same, and her presence was one of belonging.
When he turned, she held her breath, as if his face was something she’d been waiting a very long time to see. The accident, this accident had been in her dreams for years, you see. But he had never been there - there had never been a him. There had only been the energy of something, of someone - faceless and nameless and formless.
"Hi." He greeted her as a friend would; abstract since he didn't know he was dreaming, utterly accepting. He turned his eyes away from her almost immediately, clearly unaware of the specialness of the moment as she was. He lifted strong, tan hands, and stared at the backs of his knuckles, watching his fingers move. Then, satisfied, he dropped his arms and turned toward her, easy rotating on light feet.
His face lit up in a boyish grin of delight. "Hey. I'll beat you to the end of this road." He pointed at the abruptly visible curve of the sidewalk, and vague impressions of a suburb cul-de-sac were now on the edges of perception.
“You want to race?” she asked, the thought clearly foreign. There had been an accident, hadn’t there? She looked around for crushed and twisted metal, for blood or bodies, and she encountered the nearer edge of the sidewalk that had just unexpectedly appeared instead.
Aura, who was accustomed to the dream in a purely rote way, felt that racing wasn’t supposed to be on the agenda, but she was also young (22), and she gave him a smile that was more boy than girl; something that didn’t understand coquettish things and never would. “You think you can win because you have longer legs?” she asked him, taking a step toward the end of the road, then another and another. Slow progress to the finish line.
"I know I can win." Teasing, all sixteen years at twenty-nine. "Because I'm faster." All the while he had been matching her steps, edging, edging, until all at once he took off in a long-limbed sprint toward the end of the road.
Aura, who was accustomed to being very calm and collected, the lone, serious wolf in a loud and boisterous family, screamed like a girl and took off after him. She ran as hard as she could, not caring if she started sweating or if she looked un-pretty. She wanted to win, and her own intended cheating didn’t matter, not in the face of imminent loss. “I’ll have you know I can report you for cheating,” she said. “Jedi Knights don’t cheat!” What? It was her dream, after all, wasn’t it?
No, this one was at least partly his, and they were running and he was shouting and she was screaming and it would never end, it was too good to end. He put his arms up like the runners in the Olympics and felt the wind cool the sweat on his chest under his shirt. "I WIN!" he exalted.
She slowed when he put his arms up, and she reached the end of the street with complete aplomb. “Who said getting here first meant winning? Maybe second place is winning,” she said, dropping down to sit on the sidewalk she’d just walked over. “It’s my dream, and the dreamer makes the rules.”
Billy flopped onto a grass lawn that slid down some invisible bank and stopped at the curb. The sprinklers went off with a sudden hiss, spraying them both with a cool mist. He laughed at her disclaimer and leaned back with his arms behind his head.
He gave her a funny look as she spoke, looking down over nose and chin. "I guess it must be your dream."
Elsewhere, he shifted in his sleep--or tried to. A frown suddenly interrupted the contented expression and the easy atmosphere.
When the sprinklers turned on, Aura laid back on the grass comfortably. She had no makeup to speak of, no concern for the state of her hair or the grass stains on her clothes, and she was about to ask him about that funny look he’d just given her - but then he frowned. It was a familiar frown, somehow. The sort she was accustomed to seeing, and she rolled onto her side in the grass and looked at him. “What hurts?”
"Nothing," he said. Then: "Everything." He licked the mist off his lips and closed his eyes against the sun, savoring.
She instinctively looked for signs of pain, but she saw none in the way he held his body, and Aura was good at reading signs of pain. They radiated off a person, but he had none. In this misty place. He was handsome, pretty even. Not the sort of man her sisters would like, no, he was too pretty for that. And she wondered if she’d seen him on the street somewhere. Still, it made little sense for him to be here, in her dream. “I do not think you meet my criteria,” she told him seriously, sounding more than a little confused.
That seemed to amuse him, and he showed it with a little smirk that told her what he thought of measurements and standards of any kind. "Criteria for what?" he asked, not unkindly.
“For being in my dreams,” she said. “You’re not wearing a Star Trek uniform, you aren’t making me hit a pinata, you aren’t chasing me around so I’ll wear makeup, you’re not Alfred Hitchcock or Rod Sterling, and I don’t think you’ve ever wanted to go exploring abandoned places, and you aren’t dying.” She looked very disappointed; intentionally, exaggeratedly so.
He sat up, grass sticking to the back of his shirt. There was solid muscle definition there, and the wet material was generous about showing it. "Maybe I just haven't asked you to hit a pinata yet," he began, but then he stopped. "Why do you think I'm dying? Am I dead?"
“I refuse to hit a pinata for you,” she said with much seriousness, and then she sat up when he asked if he was dying. “No. I would know if you were dead or dying; you aren’t either,” she said, and then she flopped back on the grass. “My mamá would say this is why I’m single, because I mention death to obscenely pretty men in my dreams.”
"Oh." He did not seem relieved when she said he wasn't dying. It just sounded as if he thought it might be interesting. He did like being called obscenely pretty, however: his face acquired a small, male smile that hovered like cupid at the corner of his mouth.
The only people Aura knew who weren’t relieved to not be dying were the ones who were so tired that they wanted it to end. There came a point where the fight was about ending and not continuing, but she didn’t think this man was one of those people. “Do you want to die?” she asked. If she’d known what he was thinking about being obscenely pretty, she would have reassured him that not everyone found that a desirable trait in a mate.
Billy tipped his chin up to look at the sky, which was suddenly very blue and very clear. "I thought about it. I guess not, if I'm not done here. Sometimes I'm not sure, though. I'm fuck--" he glanced at her like a guilty older brother, "uh. Really tired."
She quirked a very unimpressed brow. “Fucking?” she smiled. “Are you fucking tired?” she asked, emphasis on the swear word.
His expression soured as she ruined the attempt at polite conversation for her sensitive little ears. "Yes," he agreed, making a show of being prim about it.
She smiled when his expression soured, not at all bothered by it. “Is it because I’m a girl, or because I’m young? I’m not much younger than you, you know, dream boy.” She wasn’t sure about that, of course, but he didn’t look like he was in his thirties, and that made him a peer, as far as Aura was concerned.
“I don’t know,” he said, not because he didn’t really know but because he didn’t want to analyze the protective impulse and discuss it with her. He wanted to relax back into the grass and pretend to be normal and able-bodied again, which he did a moment later.
She rolled onto her stomach, and she used her elbows for support as she looked at him. She was obviously sizing him up, now that the mist had cleared and the fog had lifted. She didn’t think she’d seen him on the street; he had a memorable face, and she would remember. “I might have made you up,” she said thoughtfully. “Like an imaginary friend or a make believe place.” She paused considering whether or not that was alarming, and deciding it wasn’t a moment later.
“I’m not made up,” he said, as if vaguely insulted by the idea, at least enough to open one eye and give her a withering look. “I’m Billy, and I exist.” He seemed stuck on that.
The withering look, which was very intentionally a withering look, made her grin. “Oh, I like that look. Maybe you can stay in my dream after all,” she told him, and then she looked around, as if she’d just realized she didn’t know where they are. “Where are we, Billy?” She didn’t know any Billys. Abilios, yes. Billys? Nope.
“Third and Fairview,” Billy said, relaxing again after his existence was affirmed. “Some housing back behind there. Never been here before?” The vague outlines of some two-story white concrete affairs faded into view, but almost immediately faded out again.
“No.” When the buildings faded in and out, she rolled up onto her knees and looked at him curiously. She was standing a moment later, and she was walking toward them. She looked over her shoulder at him. “If you won’t swear around me, you aren’t going to let me go chasing disappearing buildings on my own, are you?” she asked, sounding wryly entertained by the idea of the buildings damaging her in any way.
Billy sat up (not without marvelling, a moment) and then squinted out past the sidewalk. “Nothing here’s gonna hurt you,” he said, with total assurance. He shrugged, however, and she was right to think he wasn’t going to let her wander off on her own. Billy was an only child but that didn’t mean he was born without the gut instinct. His long strides quickly caught him up to her side. Eyes cast down, he watched his feet move on the pavement.
There were things she noticed - that he seemed to revel in sitting up and in the way his feet moved on the ground beneath them, and it made her look over at him with questioning eyes that were perceptive beyond her years. She reached out a hand, and she pushed at his shoulder a little, checking to ensure he was solid. “You’re pretty solid for a dream guy, unlike the buildings, which act just like dream buildings should.”
He reached out a hand, nearly twice the size of hers on the conservative side, and gave her shoulder a good solid shove too. “Yep. You’re pretty solid too.” He brought his eyes up, still grinning like a fool, and shoved his hands in his pockets. Then he started humming to himself.
“It hums,” she said, tone sarcastic despite the smile playing around the corners of her mouth. The buildings were close now, so close, but as soon as she reached out to touch the brick edifice of one, it dissolved into nothing. Strange. She turned to look at him. “Billy the dream guy, are you messing with my dream buildings?”
Billy stopped humming. He had not been paying very much attention to the buildings, or his surroundings, preoccupied with moving and talking and humming and sucking in sunshine like he hadn’t been outside in months. He looked down at her. “Hey, look,” he said, shifting a little with nervous energy on his feet. “This is going to sound totally weird but I promise it’s not. Can I just... like,” lame pause, reassuring smile, “...give you a hug?”
“Are you Mexican?” she asked skeptically. “Very white and Mexican?” Only her family hugged people they didn’t know. Maybe they’d sneaked someone into her dream. “This isn’t a marriage proposal? My mamá is behind this, isn’t she?”
Billy just laughed, picked her up in a very strong, very big hug that was totally harmless in every way. He whirled her around once, supporting her weight without effort, and then he set her down again. “That was awesome,” he beamed, not at her, but at himself.
“Hugging me was awesome?” she asked as he set her down. “When my mamá asks why I’m not married yet, I’m going to tell her that even the men in my dreams only want to hug me. I’ll blame the universe and genetics and my unknown, gabacho parents. She’ll cry and make enchilladas. We’ll declare it a holiday. Like Easter. But without the bunnies.”
He rolled back on his heels and laughed again. He had an even, resonating laugh; it spoke of rhythm and movement. “Does that mean you want a kiss? I didn’t know this was that kind of dream.” He definitely wasn’t adverse to the idea.
She shoved at him when he asked. “You’re too pretty to kiss,” she said, turning up her nose at the idea, though her mouth was smiling yet again. “It’s disconcerting. Even the buildings are disappearing because of it.”
“Too pretty!” Thoroughly disconcerted by this observation, he stared at her outright. “Nobody’s too pretty!” Again, he did not seem to notice the buildings, which had not returned even after the last ripple of reality through the dream. A strange, medicinal smell cut through the surface of the warm orange air, something cool and false and conditioned, soaked in antiseptic.
She noticed it immediately. Sickness, not death. “Are you from the hospice?” she asked, coming to a standstill, the world around them going white and misty again when she asked the question, the air colder, the scent of oranges fading.
“The hospital,” he said, mishearing. “Yes. Are you here?” He was getting distant without moving. Someone said his name, and he flinched.
“Hospital?” she asked, and she reached for him fruitlessly in the dream. The scents were coming through more clearly now, no, not death - sickbed. But not decay, no. Different.
He couldn’t answer. He couldn’t reach back, either. He just looked at her, and the expression in his eyes was one of devastating resignation. “Goodbye,” he said, regardless of that painless, immobile agony that returned, however slowly. He tried a smile, but it wasn’t good enough, so he gave her a quick, solitary wink--and then he was gone.
She didn’t wake quickly or in a panic. The dream, though different in outcome, was still like an old, familiar blanket. In fact, finding someone after the screech of the tires and the crunch of metal was slightly reassuring. She climbed out of bed and went through the motions of getting ready for sleep: She changed into pajama pants and a WoW shirt, and she pulled out the journal she kept on her nightstand. In it, she wrote Billy and hospital and Third and Fairview, and then she closed the journal and climbed into bed.
She had the covers pulled over her head by the time her sisters came chattering in from their post-baby shower dates, and she was decidedly not thinking about odd men that were too pretty with a million freckles.
She fell asleep to the sound of her sisters chattering, and she didn’t dream again that night.