Tapestry for Love [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Rayne Auster
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Aislinn is an immortal dream spinner, tasked with weaving tapestries to define the dreams of mortals--but he has forgotten how to dream for himself. The drudgery of his life changes when he is asked to spin a companion into mortal Keith Wilcox's dreams. But Aislinn makes a critical mistake: he accidentally spins himself into Keith's tapestry, making the dream unobtainable. As his punishment Aislinn is sent to the mortal world, and he's blinded-sided when Keith reminds him of the lover torn from him by betrayal and murder. Now Aislinn's new life is about more than making Keith's dream possible; it's about rediscovering the meaning of dreaming and racing against time and death to recapture a love lost more than a millennium ago.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2010
Spinner of Dreams
3 Reader Ratings:
Silence permeated the air as he worked, weighing heavy in the soft candlelight that illuminated the room Aislinn was seated in. He carefully ran a single finger over the page before him, barely noticing the rough texture of the parchment as he read through the list of names and the dreams associated with each one, trying to determine to whom he could best allocate the care of each mortal's dream. He'd done this many times before, and his mind was focused solely on the task at hand.
Clack clack clack.
The intrusive sound started out soft but soon increased in volume, drawing Aislinn's attention to the fact that someone had intruded upon his domain. Listening carefully to the sound, he quickly identified its source and sighed in defeat. He distinctly recognized that particular clack of heels upon the floor and the pattern with which their owner walked.
"Good evening, Brigid," he greeted softly, just as a slim woman rounded the corner and came into sight. The long locks of bright red hair framing a pixie face were offset by the fire in her violet eyes, the sheer force of her presence alone enough to let Aislinn know he was in trouble.
"Don't you 'good evening, Brigid' me!" She paused in the doorway, tapping a single bright red heel impatiently. The bright red heels were the only noteworthy pieces of clothing she wore, a vivid contrast to the ash gray suit that went along with them. However, despite her small stature and the conservative clothes, Brigid was a force to be reckoned with. "What are you still doing here? Last I checked we all have the evening off and you have a party to attend."
"I said I might attend. Please note my emphasis was on might." Aislinn turned back to the parchment in a bid to let Brigid know he was busy and had no intention to participate in any further debate regarding the matter.
"Just because your name sounds like it has ash in it doesn't mean you need to live a hollow burned-out life, Aislinn," Brigid reprimanded him, completely ignoring the cold shoulder he, her superior, was trying to give her. Being the daughter of the king usually gave her liberty to get away with things most others wouldn't even dare to contemplate, let alone attempt, but Aislinn, being older, distantly related to her, and her dream-spinning teacher, was one of the few who did not bend to her will. He never had and was not about to start now. The fact that he'd helped raise her did not help her position much either. "Why not live up to its actual meaning instead and reach for something more? Dream a little, Aislinn."
"I gave up dreaming a long time ago, Brigid." Aislinn kept his response short. He was not in the mood to go down a path of debate that had long ago gotten old and overused.
Aislinn didn't even flinch when Brigid slammed the palms of her hands down onto his wooden table. She was prone to overt gestures of expression, and he was used to her sudden flashes of temper. "You're a dream spinner. How can you give up on dreams? You, better than most, should know the value of one."
Dream spinner. With that single declaration Brigid found the crux off all Aislinn's problems. She was right. Aislinn was a dream spinner. He wove tapestries that would define the dreams another would receive. The dreams ranged from simple to complex, pleasant to terrifying, and each one was uniquely defined by the soul the dream was meant for. Aislinn had become an apprentice dream spinner when he still believed in dreams, when one of his own dreams had been to become a master so he could enrich others' lives. He'd started by spinning happy dreams, hopeful ones that were meant to guide a soul gently toward their destiny, and he was quickly promoted, becoming a full-fledged dream spinner in only two years. Then the source of his happiness, the reason for the very existence of his own dreams, had been torn away from him, leaving him jaded, hurt, and torn.
Even though he no longer believed in dreams and happy endings, he'd remained a dream spinner because he was good at what he did. He'd moved up the ranks and upon becoming a senior had been introduced to the dark tapestries that were woven as punishment for souls that had strayed from their destined paths, each image a dark nightmare meant to scare a soul into repentance. Those were only entrusted to the most skilled dream spinners. The nightmares suited him more than the happier dreams he no longer held any hope for, and he immersed himself in the art, a piece of his soul dying with each dark tapestry that he wove.
Master of both the dark and the light, he'd then inherited the position of Master Dream Spinner, and with that his job had changed yet again. He was now in charge of handing out tasks to those beneath his command and on rare occasions responsible for spinning the tapestries for the special requests that came from the king himself. He was meant to be a mentor, a teacher for all those beneath him, and even though a part of him still yearned for the man he'd been when he first started his journey, his heart was no longer really in it. It was a job he both loved and hated, and that was a concept Brigid would never understand.
Aislinn sighed and dropped the quill he was using, looking up to face Brigid head-on. He'd known Brigid since she was a little girl and knew that the only way to deal with her when she was in this mood was directly, face to face. "For mortals, Brigid. The dreams we spin are for mortals."
"How exactly does that make a difference?" she demanded, her eyes flashing a challenge. She leaned forward into his space in an attempt to intimidate him with the force of her sheer presence alone, forgetting that Aislinn was one of the few individuals immune to her stature, her temper, and her status.
"The dreams we weave are either encouragements or punishments, there to guide mortals through their fleeting existence. The dreams give them something either to aim for or avoid in an attempt to guide them toward a better future. Dreams give them purpose and meaning. Giving them that is the purpose of my own existence. Mortals do not live long enough to realize just how unobtainable dreams often really are." Aislinn didn't allow Brigid's invasion of his space to unsettle him in the least.
"Not all dreams are unobtainable! What about the dreams that come true?" Brigid demanded, still fighting what Aislinn knew to be a losing battle. Brigid was nothing if not persistent, but nothing she could say or do would ever make him change his mind. "Are those unobtainable too? It is not the dream that is unobtainable; it's the individual who fails to reach for it that makes it unobtainable, Aislinn."
"What would you know about unobtainable dreams?" Aislinn stood, slamming his palms down onto his desk in a move that echoed Brigid's earlier action. Sharp remembered pain and disillusionment coursed through him, dark hidden memories stirring with Brigid's words. "There are some things that cannot be overcome no matter how much one may wish it were otherwise!"
"Like what?" Brigid challenged, unmoved by Aislinn's anger. She'd grown up with him, and it was obvious that it hurt her to see him so lonely and sad, but there was nothing Aislinn could do to change that. He was who he was, and the innate grief Brigid saw within him every time she looked at him was an intricate part of who he had become. The sooner Brigid accepted it and left him alone, the happier he'd be. He wasn't some charity case she could fix with a few pretty words.
"Like death. Know anyone who can bring the dead back to life, your highness?" Aislinn suddenly switched from yelling to dead-cold calm, his response soft yet firm. That single question and the calm way Aislinn voiced it shocked Brigid into silence. "I thought not." Aislinn seated himself once more and picked up the quill he had discarded in favor of the argument.
"What about reincarnation?" Brigid asked just as softly a long moment of silence later. "Does that not give the dead another chance at life?"
"And how exactly does that solve my problem? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a single soul among billions?" Aislinn's response was filled with bitterness, the depth of which could only be achieved through repeated disappointment and loss.
"That doesn't mean we need to stop dreaming."
"Holding onto dreams we have no hope of ever obtaining only leads to pain," Aislinn responded shortly, brushing Brigid off. In his opinion she was far too young and naive to understand just how destructive hoping for that which was truly unobtainable could be.
"This coming from our master dream spinner. How can you believe that and still do what you do?" Brigid leaned back, and the shift in position drew another distinctive clack from the heels she wore.
"Because, my dear apprentice, ignorance is bliss, and mortals don't live long enough to discover the truth. At least this way, I can influence someone's life for the better, even if it is but for a fleeting moment."
"See, you're not as cynical as you like to make yourself out to be," Brigid retorted, leaning back into his space. She dropped a hand onto the parchment he was attempting to read and absently traced the letters that composed some of the names upon it. "You still believe that dreams can influence life for the better."
"For mortals," Aislinn repeated, clearly making the distinction he was trying to make Brigid understand. "Not for us."
"That's a load of bull, and you know it, Ashes." Brigid paused, her violet eyes meeting the hard steel of his silver ones without flinching. Brigid always had been fearless.
"Don't you have someone else to direct your insubordination toward?" Aislinn gave Brigid a pointed stare, his patience with their conversation long since gone. He wasn't in the mood to go into the hows and whys of his disillusionment and knew if he let this carry on for much longer, those would be exactly the answers Brigid would demand.
"It just so happens that I'm here in an official capacity. I'm delivering a request for my father, so technically, for now, I am not your apprentice, so this doesn't qualify as insubordination. Besides, even if I wasn't here to deliver a message from my father, I would be here as a friend and not as one of your dream spinners. We have the evening off, remember?" The last was said pointedly, each word clearly meant to give him a message, which Aislinn chose to ignore.
"You have a message from your father?" Aislinn pounced on the only part of her speech that bore any importance to him. "What would his highness have me do?"
Brigid rolled her eyes at him. "It's always work with you, isn't it? My father wants you to spin this person's dream." She slid a small piece of parchment across the table.
Aislinn pushed the large piece of parchment he was working on to the side and reached for the small piece Brigid had slid his way. It was folded and sealed using blue wax. It was rare that such a request came his way, a single name upon a single sealed piece of parchment. The seal bore a sparrow, symbolizing creativity, joy, simplicity, and hope. It was the symbol associated with dream spinners and was used by the king to mark special requests meant for the master dream spinner himself.
Sliding his finger beneath the seal, Aislinn carefully opened it. Scanning the contents, he raised an eyebrow and glanced up to meet Brigid's stare. "His dream is fairly simple. Why is it a special request?"
Brigid shrugged and turned her attention to her bright red nails, painted that color in honor of her heels. "I have no idea. You know my father. He can be fickle sometimes."
"Why do I get the feeling you know more than you're telling me?" Something in Brigid's demeanor niggled at Aislinn's senses, but he could not pinpoint what it was. He had the sneaking suspicion she knew more than she was letting on but also knew she would deny it point-blank should he call her on it. The parchment was legitimate, and the seal had been unbroken. If Brigid knew more about this matter than she should, he knew it certainly wasn't because she read the parchment before delivering it to him.
"Because, dear, distant cousin of mine, I do know more than I'm telling you. I may be young yet when compared to you, but I know how to live, I know how to have fun, I know how to look good, and most of all I know how to dream. Telling you all about that could take us well into the next century." Brigid's response was cocky and her tone gave her away.
Aislinn was well aware of the fact that Brigid was deliberately pretending to misunderstand him. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."
"I know," Brigid shamelessly admitted, glancing back up at him. "But that's all you're getting from me."
Suspicion confirmed, Aislinn dropped the subject, knowing he would get nothing further from her. He carefully refolded the small piece of parchment and placed it on his desk. Shuffling through similar small pieces of parchment on his desk, he pulled out three sheets and held them out to her, his silent message clear.
"As you command, oh master dream spinner." Brigid plucked the sheets from his hands and turned to leave, pausing at the door to wink back at him. "Though I'll only start on these tomorrow. It still is, after all, our evening off." And with that, she was gone, leaving Aislinn to his solitude. Aislinn stared at the document before him and watched the candlelight reflect off the bright blue seal as he contemplated the relatively simple request it contained.
* * * *
Silken thread ran through his fingers, the coarse texture created by the friction of spinning thread sliding over familiar calluses. The soft whirr of a spinning wheel was the only sound in the room, and it was so familiar it might as well have been silence itself embracing him in his solitude. His task at hand was a simple one, and so it was that Aislinn lost himself in thought as he prepared the thread he would use for the dream tapestry.
He wondered why such a simple task had been allocated to him, his thoughts racing as they sought to identify what it was that made this particular mortal special enough to warrant the king's attention. Unfortunately for him, he came up completely blank. Aislinn didn't have enough information even to hazard a guess, let alone one that made sense. The only information he had was the dream tapestry he was requested to weave and the request that it contain a companion for one Keith Wilcox. Male, female--it mattered not, as long as it gave Keith hope that someday he might have someone at his side.
Though simple, the request seemed to tug at something deep within Aislinn. A long-forgotten memory stirred in his mind, and his heart ached for what it had lost. Aislinn ignored it and continued to work, the magic at his fingertips changing the color of the thread every now and then in order to create the picture already in his mind.
It was late by the time he finished spinning the colored thread he would require, but Aislinn didn't even notice as he set up his loom. Long fingers linked the thread he'd just spun to an ivory shuttle and then began the steady process of weaving the dream tapestry he'd colored into the thread he'd spun.
The soft swish of the shuttle traveling through the loom was as familiar to him as the soft whirr of the spinning wheel, and he soon fell into a comfortable rhythm, his thoughts lost somewhere between the present and the past, no longer attempting to solve the mystery of the tapestry he wove. The image was already decided and dyed into the thread. All that remained was to piece it together so it could be hung in the hall of dreams.
The shuttle made its last journey across the loom just before sunrise, and long fingers reached for the thread, tying it off to seal the image in. The soft material was caressed, trained fingertips brushing over the textile in search of flaws and glitches. Finding none, Aislinn then proceeded gently to turn the material, folding the newly born dream tapestry so he could carry it. He lifted it without a sound and slipped from the room, heading for the hallway of dreams.
His boots echoed dully through the empty hallway, seeming to taunt him with the knowledge that he was alone, but he ignored it, the familiarity of the sound oddly comforting. It had been a long time since he'd allowed anyone close enough to be a companion, and solitude was as intimate as a lover's embrace.
He turned round the last corner and then paused in the doorway, eyes running over the huge circular chamber he was just about to enter. It was one of many rooms especially created to contain the active dream tapestries that had been spun. This particular one was decorated using rich burgundy and white, the combination of colors both warm and cool to the mind.
The warm burgundy carpet was soft beneath his feet, muffling the sound of Aislinn's footsteps as he approached one of the multitude of windows within the room. Each window was just wide enough to contain a single tapestry; wooden rails placed just so, waiting for the rich fabric of a dream tapestry to hang upon them. Early-morning light spilled into the room through the still-bare windows and merely trickled in around the tapestries already hung in those that were no longer bare, thus illuminating the intricate images upon the tapestries. The pale light seemed to shift and dance to a rhythm all its own, the magic of its touch giving ethereal life to the still images before him.
Aislinn couldn't help but smile at the sight of it. The beauty of the rooms hopeful dreams were hung in never ceased to amaze him, especially when he considered their contrast to the darkness and chill of the rooms the deepest and most complex nightmares he was usually requested to weave were hung in. Those rooms brought the very demons in one's soul to life, never seeing warmth or light of day.
Shaking off the cold fingers reaching for his soul at the mere thought of the rooms he normally dealt with, Aislinn flicked the tapestry in his arms, allowing the pattern and weave free rein as warm, rich color spilling smoothly over his arms. He stepped forward, up into the air, and climbed invisible stairs to reach the wooden rail. He reached for the braided ties and carefully tied the tapestry to the rail, running his hands over the rough material to smooth out the ripples and folds that would shift the material before the window. Satisfied, he carefully stepped down and backed away from the window to admire the image he'd just created.
The shadows shifted around the newly hung tapestry, and it took the faint morning light a moment to find the gaps it was meant to slip through in order to illuminate the image, drawing out rich reds, golden browns, and bright warm yellows to reveal a couple curled up upon a chair before a hearth. Both figures were male, seated side by side, leaning into each other with the intimacy of two playful lovers. The younger of the two was completely curled up on the rich red sofa, his bare feet tucked beneath his body peeking out from beneath the loose pajama pants he wore. His bare chest brushed the cloth of the shirt the second man wore as he playfully leaned in to the other man's space, short golden brown hair falling into his eyes. The second man was older, dressed in denims and a loose-fitting white top. He was cradling a glass of wine in one hand, long midnight locks of hair resting against his shoulder.
Something in the image niggled at Aislinn's senses, a faint memory stirring once more in the back of his mind as he tried to puzzle out why the image seemed so familiar yet not quite right. He carefully began to study the image before him, focusing on the features of the two lovers. It was as he came to the facial features of the older, dark-haired man that a gasp of horror mixed with recognition escaped his lips. Staring at him through steely silver eyes was the face of his biggest transgression.
The sound of running footsteps registered upon his mind just as he instinctively reached for the tapestry in an effort to deny what he'd done. That was when he knew it was over. Any attempt he made to rectify his grave mistake was futile because they already knew and were coming for him. He dropped his arms, hung his head, and waited in silence for the king's soldiers to arrest him.
* * * *
Shadow of Memory
Keith hummed softly beneath his breath. The soft resonance of a teaspoon against ceramic heightened his awareness and the excitement that threatened to bubble over. He was happy. He knew he was anticipating the moment he finished mixing his cup of tea and knew that something good was waiting for him. If he'd taken the time to question the implicit knowledge in his mind, he would've quickly realized that he had absolutely no idea what it was he was approaching nor why it should make him happy, but he didn't question the feeling as he shook the excess liquid off the teaspoon, lifted his cup, and danced out of his kitchen, still humming under his breath.
His footsteps made no sound as he moved, the thick lush red carpet in his home soft and plush beneath his bare feet. He really loved the color red, the vibrant and passionate undertones and the sheer inhibition it implied. It was his one little guilty pleasure, and he reveled in it. Grinning in mischief, he turned the last corner and stepped into his living room, the orange flicker of flames warming the happy sparkle in his eyes as he took in the sight before him. He recognized the dark red sofa facing the hearth but did not recognize the figure lounging within it, long ebony hair catching the dancing light.
Unhesitating, he approached the chair and the stranger, a happy jump in his step seeming to contradict the very fact that he did not know whom he was approaching. It didn't seem to matter. All that mattered was the fact that he was happy. Slipping gracefully onto the red sofa, he curled his feet beneath himself and leaned forward to drop a kiss onto the strange man's lips, mind only half registering the fact that he was about to kiss someone he didn't recognize, the motion more familiar than anything he'd ever done in his life.
His lips encountered velvet and then warmth as he plunged his tongue deep into the other's mouth. Rich flavor burst across his tongue, the tart-sweet flavor of wine a clear indication of what the other had drunk just before the kiss. It was the sweetest and most intoxicating kiss he could remember and the wine had nothing to do with it. It simply felt right. The firm touch of this stranger's lips seemed to be a mere extension of his own, their every breath mingling to create a new rhythm uniquely theirs, and then it was over. He drew back to drink his tea, a wide smile upon his lips, only to gasp in shocked recognition as he met the stormiest silver eyes he'd ever seen.
His world shifted and changed, the color of those eyes tugging at memories that could not be his own. He could hear a rich chuckle trickling into his ear, the warmth of it sending a sharp spike of grief through his heart.
They had been so happy then.
Barely registering the stray thought, he drowned in a myriad of images flowing through his mind with the speed of a film reel spinning out of control. He was with the stranger in each and every one of them, each snippet resembling a photograph taken to map out a pair of lovers' lives. Most flashed by too fast to register their content and the possible meaning behind the scenes therein, but a few stood out, burning a message into his mind. In those, he and the stranger were holding hands, curled up together, or sharing soft kisses.
The images raced past in a bid to spill all the secrets of his life to him in but a moment, and just as he thought he would surely die, he woke with a start.
His sheets were tangled around his tense, sweat-soaked body, and a stray siren blared in the distance. Keith stared blankly up at the ceiling in his room, barely able to see its shadow in the dark as he fought to recover from the panic that had taken hold of him with the realization that the visions in his mind were possibly leading him to his death.
It felt as if he'd lived each moment at some point in his life, but he knew it was impossible. He'd never seen the man in his dreams before and was certain if he had, he would have remembered that piercing shade of silver. The very realization disconcerted him, driving him into motion.
He slipped out of bed and headed toward his kitchen, snapping the light on before he could think better of it. The moment the light illuminated the room, the reality of his dream hit him like a ton of bricks, remembered excitement and contentment dancing across his nerves as he recalled the scene that had started it all. He'd been making himself a cup of tea, much like he was about to do now, and had been eagerly anticipating the moment when he would return to his lover. Despite the fact that he was obviously single, it was an innocent enough scene if taken on its own, but he couldn't seem to escape the feeling that he knew the stranger in his dreams, and it was that knowledge that shook him to the core.
Throat thick with unexplained fear, he forced himself to step onto the cool kitchen tiles, his pajama pants hanging low on his hips. He fought the urge to let a figment of his imagination drive him away from his home and reached for a cup. He ignored the fact that the thick fear within him was coupled with a strange sense of premonition, every nerve in his body telling him he would have to face the implications of his vision sooner rather than later.
The sound of the kettle beginning to boil broke the eerie silence that had settled over Keith and his surroundings, and the normalcy of the sound slowly drained the tension from Keith's muscles. The moment the kettle clicked, signaling the end of its boiling cycle, Keith reached for it and poured the boiling water into the porcelain cup that stood beside it, mixing the liquid to brew his tea. Leaning forward, he tossed the teaspoon into the sink before picking up the warm cup. Cradling it, he savored the heat it emitted, for a moment lost in comfortable silence.
He headed for the comfort of his living room and sank down into his sofa. He didn't even bother to turn on the lights. The pale moonlight filtering in through the large window was more than enough to illuminate any obstacles in his way. He was still shaken, but most of the initial shock that had coursed through him upon waking was now gone, the sweet scent of chamomile tea a heady mixture of comfort and familiarity, gentle enough to drive away the darkest shadows in his mind.
Sighing, Keith once more broke the silence that surrounded him and on impulse reached for the phone, dialing a number before he could think better of it. The phone rang once... twice... three times.... "Hello?" A feminine voice answered sleepily.
The moment Keith heard Sarah's, voice he was awash with relief, the intensity of the emotion driving all thought from his mind. He clung to the handset and completely forgot to respond as his world shifted back onto its axis with the knowledge that his sister was on the other side. If he'd considered himself any less of a man than he was, he would have given in to the urge to weep.
"Keith?" Sarah questioned, an undertone of conviction in her voice. She seemed to know it was him and grasped on to that knowledge. "Did you have another bad dream?"
"Yes.... No...." He stumbled over his words, the images in his dream once more flashing through his mind, taunting him with secrets and hidden knowledge just beyond his grasp. "I...." He swallowed, forcing himself to regain his composure before continuing to speak. "I guess it depends on how you look at it. They weren't nightmares this time, but they felt every bit as real as the other dreams. I keep getting this feeling that they're memories and not dreams, and no matter what I do, I can't seem to shake their feeling of familiarity. It's like I've lived them but can't really remember doing so. Maybe this is what regaining your memory after amnesia feels like. But, amnesia aside, tonight I saw a man in my dreams, and I knew he was my lover. It felt so natural, so real, and it feels like I've spent a lifetime with him. Yet I know for a fact I've never even seen let alone met someone who looks like him." The words simply came pouring out, and there was nothing he could do to stop them.
Sarah was his twin sister and the only person he could truly speak to. She was the first person he'd spoken to when he'd found out he was gay. She hadn't even blinked. He was fifteen at the time, and they'd been talking about potential boyfriends for her and girlfriends for him when he'd crumbled, desperately needing someone to confide in. A single moment of silence had followed his confession, and then she'd filled the air with chatter once more, casually throwing potential boyfriends at him instead of girlfriends. His love life hadn't worked out quite the way he'd hoped back then, but he'd gained a whole new aspect to his relationship with his sister and hadn't looked back since.
"Maybe it's a premonition or...." Sarah paused for a moment, and Keith could hear her shuffle around on her bed. He pictured her in her pajamas, sitting cross-legged on the bed as she had done so many times since his dreams started four years ago. "Maybe they are memories. I did some research on reincarnation and regression and found out it's possible to encounter your soul's repressed memories when dreaming. That would explain the strange clothes, swords, and shields you always see in them. Maybe you are dreaming what happened to you in another life." Her voice raised an octave, her excitement clearly audible, even through the handset.
Keith rolled his eyes, seeing the image of her bouncing on her bed in glee so clearly she might as well have been sitting beside him. It was not a difficult sight to imagine, for he knew Sarah better than anyone else. She loved anything that even hinted it might not be quite normal and loved to jump on and accept theories that were not commonly known or accepted by the majority of so-called civilized society. "Don't you think that's a far stretch? Most people need to be under hypnosis to regress to a past life. What makes me so special that I get the honor of a free nightly experience back to the past?" Bitterness colored his tone, and a thread of dread curled thick in his stomach. Something in Sarah's words rang true, and he feared that he would be driven into the depths of insanity should he even contemplate the possibility as fact.
"What makes anyone special enough to experience something extraordinary?" Sarah shot back without pause. "Live a little, Keith. Believe a little, and maybe you'll come to peace with the life you seem to have led before this one. You're fighting it, and it's tearing you apart. You need to accept that this is as much a part of you as the color of your hair or your eyes. It's been four years since it all began. Maybe instead of fighting it, you should try to embrace it. You might be surprised to find where it will lead you. If tonight's dream is to be believed, it isn't all bad...." She paused for a moment, letting her words settle before adding, mischief clear in her tone, "Besides, it's not like you'd be cheating on a current lover by dreaming about a past one. You're a little bit romantically challenged, and I have to say it is comforting to hear that you're getting some, even if it's only in your dreams and not in reality."
"Sarah!" Keith exclaimed, the sheer audacity of her statement momentarily distracting him from the fear and dread that seemed to have taken up permanent residence within him. "Not that it's any of your business, but I get some, now and then." The heat of embarrassment burned his cheeks as he fought to prove some undefined point.
"A dildo doesn't count, Bro." Sarah retorted, giggling into the phone. "Even if it is ridged with extra vibrate functionality."
"It doesn't vibrate!" The moment the words slipped past his lips, he realized exactly what it was he'd just admitted to. He coughed, choking down the denial that rushed to his lips. His sister knew very well she'd just caught him out, and any attempt at a lie now would only serve to prove her point further.
"My point exactly, dear brother of mine. I think you've forgotten how to live. Your choice of career doesn't help much either. You never go out. You're always stuck in the past, looking back and never forward. How do you expect to find someone to love when you refuse to see what's right in front of you?"
Keith cleared his throat in a futile attempt to stall a confrontation that was already staring him down. "I happen to like my job, and for your information, it does get me out. I'm going out on Friday for the whole day."
"A bunch of ninth graders in a museum ought to be a riot." He could hear the disdain in her voice even before she made it blatantly clear. "Seriously, Keith, it's not what I mean, and you know it. How do you expect to find a lover in a museum with a bunch of crazy adolescents hanging around?"
"I'm not looking for a lover, Sarah. Those dreams you're enjoying so much scared the last one off, remember? I barely escaped being institutionalized. He went and reported me as a danger to myself and society, and I spent three months trying to prove my sanity to a bunch of shrinks! I had to look for a new job afterward. Did you forget that oh-so-joyous episode in the series that is my life?"
"That was nearly two years ago, Keith. Not everyone is as narrow-minded as Jordan. He's a mathematics teacher, for crying out loud. If ever there is a profession that is narrow-minded, that is it. Besides, dating someone who works with you is never a good idea, and you just managed to prove why. Why not take it as a life lesson and move on with your life? Find someone more open-minded, someone who doesn't need every moment in life to be defined by an equation that explains all the magic in life away."
"That's a little prejudiced, don't you think? Just because someone happens to like it when things make sense doesn't make them narrow-minded." Keith's knuckles turned white, the hard contour of the handset digging into his palm. This was a sensitive topic that touched nerves he didn't want disturbed.
"It does when they try to have you certified simply because they can't make sense of who you are. Come on, Keith. Why are you taking Jordan's side in this? He called you crazy and nearly ruined your life because of it."
Sarah's words hung in the air between them, echoing in the silence that followed her statement. Jordan had done a lot more damage than even Sarah could imagine, and just the mention of the possibility that he might be losing his mind brought all of Keith's insecurities to the fore. "Because...." Keith tentatively broke the silence. "He may be right. I feel like I'm going crazy, Sarah. Everywhere I turn, something reminds me of things I've never seen, never heard, and certainly never lived, yet they're always there, dogging my every step, and I no longer know how to stop running from the nightmares in my mind."
"Oh Keith." Those were the only words she had left to say, and the pain in them was similar to the pain hidden in Keith's heart.
"'Night, Sarah." Keith whispered, and with that said, he hung up, returning to his now lukewarm cup of tea.