This is a piece I wrote for a short story contest last Valentine’s Day. It’s call “A Dream of Lilies”
Before I died, I dreamt of a girl. For five straight nights she held me captive. The dream often changed but the girl was always the same. She never told me her name and I’m not certain why it matters to me now other than to know the name of the girl that I fell in love with.
Because it’s a dream, does that make our love any less real? I felt her touch upon my skin. Her hair: thick and black as night. Her ice blue eyes pierced my heart, and her soft red lips became pillows for my own. We were like most couples – in the mornings we would have breakfast on a marble terrace. Afternoons were filled with strolling along the river, or to the local bookseller for a cup of coffee; where I would read aloud to her from Dumas: wooing her romantic soul.
Back at home we made love to the sound of church bells; as if it was the end of mankind. It was at that moment that I would be forced to leave her and walk through my waking world. I was envious of those beside me; those whose love was not bound by sleeping hours. Still; was our love any different from theirs?
I spent my conscious hours working as an investment banker. It wasn’t fulfilling work but it paid the bills. I made the wise decision a year ago to sell the car and use public transportation. After merely a week I chose to walk instead. Four blocks of nothing but banks, investment firms, and coffee shops. There was also the obligatory greeting card shop; announcing to all that Valentine’s Day was right around the corner.
Of course I had had relationships in the past, some of them had even had potential, but I always blew it on Valentine’s Day. The card wasn’t thoughtful enough, or I got the wrong flowers, or it was dark chocolate when it should have been white. These obvious mistakes resulted in the inevitable: “you don’t love me.” And they were right; so I gave up on love. The very notion of love became an apparition to me; always just out of sight.
Walking – this activity is allegedly good for you. All it did was piss me off. On this particular day, the warm temperature did nothing to brighten my mood. As I entered my building, the doorman greeted me while holding the door open. I retrieved my mail and grumped my way to the elevator without a word. I tossed the mail on the sideboard and fell into my overstuffed leather chair. There was whiskey on the end table from the night before. I was relaxed, content, and totally unaware that within five days I’d be dead.
I flipped through the mail and noticed a bright red envelope with my name on it. No address, just my name. After finding nothing to slake my curiosity, I opened it. To my amazement: it was a card. On the front was an image of a cottage, on the banks of an empty beach. Again, there were no words, but it was obvious what this was. Some fool sent me a Valentine’s Day card. The inside was slightly more telling. On the left was a simple red heart on a pink background. The right: blank but for the words written in ink:
“Be Mine.” Underneath was the cryptic signature: “Lily.” I knew no Lily. I put the mail down, finished my drink and went straight to bed.
That was the night I met my dream girl; standing in a garden of pink and white flowers, and wearing a dress of the same. I picked one and nervously handed it to her. She smiled and placed it behind her ear. I fell in love with her right then and there. For five nights she appeared to me in my dreams. Every morning I struggled with being awake; having become addicted to her love.
The morning of my death found me in bed longer than usual. I wanted to stay but she said goodbye with a kiss and I woke with a start. There was a smile on my face that my face didn’t recall as I dressed and walked across the street to Mina’s: The only authentic Russian Jewish deli in town. I ordered lunch and sat at one of the booths.
From the window I could see up to my apartment and I saw someone standing on my terrace. I ran outside for a closer look. It was her. She was looking down at me, her hair covering part of her face. I could see the smile.
Somewhere behind me tires squealed, but I paid no attention. All I could see was her and her smile.
Ironically, the bus that ran me over was the bus that I chose not to ride any longer. When I arrived at the hospital, I heard words such as thready, and shock, and then internal bleeding, and something about permanent damage. There were doctors and nurses all around me; attempting to save my life. Despite all their efforts, they were unsuccessful. I watched as they removed their gloves and exited the room.
I swear that I heard Procol Harem’s Whiter Shade of Pale playing over the intercom as she appeared in the doorway; smiling like a child. She came to me and took my hand. My pain dissipated and I sat up to look in her eyes. There were so many things I wanted to ask her; things I needed to know. But at that moment there was only one thing I needed to know.
“What is your name?” She didn’t answer, but took my face in her hands and kissed me.
Then I remembered the card. “Lily?” She smiled and led me into our favorite café for Espresso and biscotti. We laughed and reveled in the prospect of our new lives together. Every day was Valentine’s Day.