It's not like her to wake up hot and sweaty. The air conditioner has kept her room at a cool sixty nine degrees all summer. The number held some irony, given the dream that she'd just awoken from.
Her heart really needed to calm down. Pulses shouldn't go that fast. Especially when the boy wasn't even there.
She wiped the sweat off her forehead.
"Get ahold of yourself, Thorley," she said, positioning herself in front of the unit. It blew in her face.
It's not like her to have a dream like that. She was raised a good Christian girl, one who is saving herself for marriage. It was hard to focus on dream her, her body curled into the body of another. Couldn't tell if there was a ring, or heck, even see what his face looked like. All she knew was that he had a small white patch on his otherwise brown mop of hair. Which, honestly, did help narrow it down a bit, to an unfortunate zero people she knew.
Great, she was dreaming about sexing up a stranger.
She spent the day on high alert, watching for any customer that might come in. Some wore hats, which made her quest more difficult. It'd be weird to ask them to take their hats off.
"Oh, excuse me, I just need to make sure you're not the mystery guy from the sex dream I don't want to admit to having."
She wasn't sure why she even needed to find out who he was. Say she did, then what? It wasn't like she would admit to the guy that she had already undressed him in her dreams. She wouldn't admit that she loved his butt dimple, or that she wanted to know if he was as good as her dreams promised.
Good Christian girl. Good Christian girl. Repeat it like a mantra until the room reaches that sixty nine degrees.
She's going to turn the temperature to sixty eight.
A few nights passed without the dream boy. It's entirely possible that it's because she has hardly let herself sleep. She blamed it on a good book. A murder mystery, because maybe she could alter her subconcious to have non-romantic dreams about her not real boyfriend. Stranger. Whatever he was.
Did dream her have a one night stand?
Sleep overtook her, and she found herself drowning in the river. It made sense. It matched up with her book, and despite the fact that dream her was floundering, gasping for air, she was content.
Was that a hand reaching for her?
She took it, tumbling into a guy. The guy. She could tell, because he had fallen over, with that spot sticking right in her face as she sucked in air. His ears were gauged, just big enough for her to stick her pinky through.
Not that she did that. She could have, given that this was a dream. Really, she could do anything she wanted.
Then why was she still gasping for air instead of resuming normalcy?
"Are you alright?" he asked. His brown eyes were scanning her body for injury. She was drenched in water, but otherwise unharmed. "Come on, we need to get you some dry clothes. You can borrow mine."
He led her to a cabin. She followed him inside, taking the Yale hoodie and sweatpants from him.
Opening the bathroom door, she woke up.
More clues, less answers. Great.
The next night, she went to bed early. Her theory was if she slept longer, she would learn more about this mystery boy. Which, she would admit, was a stupid notion, given that he didn't exist, and on the off chance he did, would never fall for her. He was a smart guy, charming and handsome. And he wanted something that her mother told her to never do without the ring.
Unless the dreams weren't in order?
Unless there was some sort of anti-penetration loophole?
Dissecting it wasn't going to change the fact that dream her wasn't going to release dream him out into the real world. Why should she, when she's getting rescued and getting off on a boy that didn't even have a name?
That night she learned his name was Bertie. That's the name he offered anyhow. This time they were at a coffee shop, not the one she worked at, and that's the name he had given.
She'd called herself Lee. It was half the truth, just like his. You weren't going to convince her that someone had voluntarily named their kid that.
The fire alarm went off. She didn't see any fire. But then she felt someone shaking her, the real her.
Some idiot in her building had ruined her dream date by microwaving a cup of ramen noodles without water. Bertie hadn't returned that night. No dreams had, as she stayed up all night, scouring the internet for anyone in town with that name and face and stupid patch of white hair.
Bleary eyed, she fumbled through work the next morning. Breakfast and lunch consisted of caffeine, which was not doing her much good by quitting time. She yawned, a rather large and noticeable yawn, catching the attention of a guy busking with his guitar.
"My act isn't that boring!" he yelled to her.
That voice. Those eyes.
"Sorry, didn't sleep." She dug around in her purse for cash, but all she could find was a packet of tissues and granola bar. She doubted he wanted her work apron.
He teasingly switched tempo to a lullaby. "Take a load off."
She noticed the holes in his ears, lined in neon green.
Dream boy wore neon green.
"If I sit down, I don't think I'll be able to get back up again." That, and she didn't think she'd be able to stop staring. He was wearing a hat, and she couldn't tell if he had hair, or that stupid white patch.
"I'm okay with that. I enjoy the company."
Was this another dream? Was she going to wake up, drool on her keyboard, to find that she wasn't any closer to finding this guy?
She took note of the street name to be safe.
"Another time. Right now I have a hot date with my mattress." She tossed her granola bar into his guitar case and hurried off.
She slept for hours, Bertie nowhere to be found. Had the busker erased all existence of him? Or rather, had dream boy stepped out into the real world?
Nah, that was impossible.
That next afternoon, she found him on the corner again.
"Welcome back, Lee." He said her name so definitively that she nearly jumped out of her skin. She hadn't told him her name.
"Ay, yo Rob, you rock!" A friend of his walked by, pumping a hand into the air.
Rob. His name was Rob.
Had her memory just made the ideal guy out of a stranger on the street?
"Are you on break, or are you done for the day?" He motioned to her apron, which she had forgotten to take off. It was then that she saw her name tag. That explained how he knew her name.
Except her tag said Thorley.
"I'm done for the day."
"You want to grab a bite? I've got twenty four dollars and a granola bar."
They went to a small diner across town. She'd been there a few times, but he must've been a regular, because the second he sat down, the waitress greeted him by name. Sort of.
"I thought you said your name was Rob," she said once the waitress had left.
"No, you heard someone call me Rob. Round here, I'm Bertie. Been coming since I was in a booster seat. Nobody calls a toddler Robert." He took off his hat, finger combing his hair. At the sound of returning footsteps, he turned his head.
The white spot.
His hat went back on. She couldn't shake it from her mind.
This was the part where she was supposed to wake up.
This was the part where she wasn't waking up.
"Did you just pinch yourself?"
She's already awake.