She had a dream that they were standing with their backs together, against a wall. Everything was painted in the same precise shade of lightly tinted cream, like a peach yoghurt. Even so, somehow a bright sun shone down on them.
The first time it was her birthday after they had started to date, he bought her a dress that surpassed her wildest expectations. That is to say, it was the worst garment she had ever seen in her life. The wrong colour for her skin, far too revealing and sexy. Something she would never wear.
“Oh,” she said, when she had finished unwrapping the paper and held it up to the light. “Thanks.”
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he enthused.
“Yes,” she replied, with only the barest hesitation, because he had left the price tag attached and she could see exactly how much beautiful it was. She didn’t want to disappoint him.
“Why don’t you wear it tonight?” he asked.
This was a problem, except that it wasn’t because she managed to give him an excuse about an already prepared outfit sitting pressed and ready upstairs, and how she had matched her nail colours to it and everything, and he relented.
That she liked it was the first lie she ever told him.
She had a dream that they were standing back to back in an ocean. The soft, sinking sand sucked at her feet and threatened to drag her under, shifting with the waves. Their hands were clasped together at their sides, almost too far towards him to be secure. Another massive wave swept sideways at chest height and smashed across them. Cr-r-r-a-ashhh. Spray hit her face and salt soaked into her eyes. She woke up gasping for air that, as it turned out, was readily available.
He found the dress hanging in their wardrobe after they moved in together, and exclaimed and pulled it out. “You should wear this,” he said. “The next time we go out on a date night.”
He talked about date night like it was a sacred commitment. She felt a flicker of doubt within herself. This, she thought, was a gift he had chosen himself. He had gone into the shop, searched for her size, held it up, and bought it, at some considerable price. It was something he liked.
How, she wondered, had she fallen for someone with such bad taste?
No; but it was just one thing. In everything else, there was no fault to be found. Their apartment was showroom beautiful. He had such charming friends. He had chosen her, hadn’t he?
She hid it away, feigned shock and sorrow at having forgotten to wear it when they met at the bar straight after work, and then waited. He forgot about it again, too.
That was the second lie she told him.
She had a dream that they were standing by the clear panes of a penthouse apartment, looking out as the sun liquified into pink and purple over a picturesque city. He wouldn’t put his phone away. He poked and prodded the screen, as she attempted without victory to encourage him to peek. The pink streaks across the atmosphere plummeted down into the canal. She turned away.
Lies three through fifty-two were hazy and indistinct. Once the door was open, all kinds of things slipped through. Things that were harmless, most of the time. That meant nothing at all. Things he would never even find out about.
Gremlins and goblins and ghasts. They slipped through along with the rest. Little pinches that came to snatch at her hair and catch at her skin, and force her to bump into the hard corner of the coffee table right at the intersection of the soft flesh at her knee. The bruise never quite fully healed before she would do it again. Years living in the same home, and you would think that she would learn to avoid the bumps.
He tutted at her and told her to be more careful. Not like a mother tuts and rubs her child’s knee and kisses their forehead and tells them to stay safe so she won’t have to worry about them getting hurt again. Like a headmaster tuts at a child who may be breaking the rules or may just be getting bullied, and he doesn’t know or have enough time to care because he’s running late for yet another meeting with the board about budget cuts and he doesn’t know whether to sacrifice one of the MFL teachers or the librarian, and he just wants the child out of his way.
She had a dream that they stood facing one another with their eyes closed. How did she even know he was standing across from her? She did not. She opened her eyes and woke at the same time.
They had started sleeping in different shifts. It wasn’t deliberate. It just happened, like phases of the moon and the shifting of tides. She would stay awake, tracing shadows on the walls and talking to friends she had made in different countries who were also awake at this hour, sending hours of messages. She didn’t dare to write anything about him, even when he was snoring loudly, because he was behind her and he might be able to look over her shoulder and see.
He had already been awake for long enough to shower, dress, check his emails, eat breakfast, and head for the door when she awoke. Her only glimpse was him leaving, a wave carelessly thrown behind him for her to catch as he went to work. And so, she began to see him more asleep than awake.
She hated him when he was asleep. He snored and elbowed her when he rolled over and took up almost all of the bed and sometimes all of the quilt. But at least she did not have to lie to him when he was asleep, and he was honest, too.
She had a dream that they were standing with their backs together, against a wall. Everything was painted in the same precise shade of lightly tinted cream, like a peach yoghurt. An inexplicable ray of bright sunshine fell down across him, and she, smaller and positioned behind him, was cold in the shade.
She had a dream that a wave cr-r-r-a-ashhhed over them and swept him away.
She had a dream that he fell from a penthouse apartment and splashed into the canal.
She had a dream that she opened her eyes, and he had not been standing opposite her for all of that time after all. Instead, hanging in his place, was that hideous, awful dress.
She took it down from the hanger and threw it away, rejecting even the guilt of not having given it to charity. No one deserved twenty years of the same.
She had a dream, and when she woke up, she had no memory of what it had been about.