Chapter Five: Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Tedd turned toward her voice, somewhere off in the distance, in the bright, endless white that he seemed to be standing in. He squinted through the glare, trying to see her, glimpse her, find her…
"Grace?.! Grace where are you?.!"
"Over here, silly!" she giggled.
Tedd whirled toward it, and suddenly there she was, standing near him in empty white space, smiling her soft smile, slowly shrinking as the distance between them seemed to grow.
"Grace!" Tedd called to her, reaching out to her, but he could hardly move. His legs didn't seem to want to work properly, like he was moving in slow motion. She was floating slowly but surely away from him, and behind her, the open arms of another figure were waiting, a tall, faceless figure, shirtless and muscular, his strong arms closing firmly around Grace's body.
Tedd's heart froze. "Grace…?"
She giggled, as though his pain meant nothing to her. "Bye Tedd!"
But she was floating away further still, turning her back on him, wrapped up in the figure's arms as they slowly faded away together.
"NOOOO! GRAAACE!" Tedd shouted, but it did no good. He fell to his knees, shivering as the bright white suddenly faded, and any warmth he had with it. Now there was just pitch black, a dark endless abyss surrounding him, eating at him until he was trembling and miserable.
"She's gone…Grace is gone…just like her…just like mom…they left me…they all left me…"
And then suddenly he was falling, falling into the blackness, blind and terrified, and there was nothing, nothing that could save him from being swallowed up…
"NO!" Tedd cried out, jerking out from under the blanket, sweating and shaking and breathing in fast, harsh gasps as he looked wildly around. The blackness was gone, the figures were gone,
and in their place was bookcases, hallways, a television and a coffee table, and the couch underneath his body…his living room.
A dream…just a dream…
His breaths calmed and slowed at that realization, squinting his eyes through the dark at the VCR clock and saw it was getting close to eleven o'clock at night. He yawned briefly as his brain woke up and tried to remember why he'd fallen asleep on the couch, and froze mid-yawn as he realized the answer.
For the first time he could remember since she'd started doing it, Grace hadn't been home to lovingly tackle him to the ground and greet his return. Even once she'd started school, somehow she always managed to beat him home and be there to welcome him. Not that he'd been immensely worried, at first; perhaps Ellen had simply been running late getting them on the road, or perhaps Grace had missed the ride and had to take the bus. He'd been sure it was nothing, that she'd be home very soon. He'd even had the amusing idea to turn the tables and wait by the door to pounce on her upon her return.
But hours passed, and she did not come home. He tried to distract himself in his lab, but by six that evening he'd begun to be too worried even for that. Finally he'd made himself call Ellen to see if she knew anything, but that call had only made him worry more. She said in no uncertain terms that Grace had gone out to a movie after school with the very same guy, this… 'Alex' person that she'd accidentally flirted with, and the small, fearful voice he'd pushed down a mere twenty-four hours ago was rising up again and he was no longer sure that it had really been an accident. Which was of course crazy, the stronger, confident voice countered, Grace would never intentionally go flirting like that, they loved each other, she just didn't DO that kind of thing, he was sure of it.
But here he was, at almost eleven at night, falling asleep waiting for her to come home, and if the silence in the house and the fact that he was alone on the couch was any indication, she hadn't yet returned. At this hour she was usually…well…usually she was snuggling with him until his dad insisted they went to separate rooms and they obliged until he went to bed and one of them would sneak over to the other's room and they'd snuggle some more until they fell asleep. Since that clearly wasn't happening, though, she couldn't have been home…
But then where was she?
As if in answer to his question, he suddenly saw headlights shining through the window and a car pulling into his driveway. The lights went off once the car stopped, and distant voices could be heard chattering as they approached the front door. The moment he heard a key in the lock he knew it HAD to have been Grace, but nevertheless he suddenly dropped back down to the couch, pretending to be asleep, but listening hard.
"Thank you SO much for today, Alex," he heard her voice. "I had the BEST time!"
"Same here," an unfamiliar male voice responded. "Glad you enjoyed the movies. I had a feeling you'd like Harry Potter."
"Oh, I LOVED them! My friend Ellen showed me the books and they're great! I really didn't mean to impose but after seeing the movie of the third one I just HAD to come over and watch the first two!"
The male voice, Alex, chuckled. "Hey, I didn't mind at all, it was great having you over. Usually it's just a bunch of my big sweaty football buddies playing sports games all day. Nice to have a change of pace."
"Hehehe…" Grace giggled. "Well I'm glad you had fun too. Hey, you know what? We should hang out again sometime! I've got some great video games I can bring over!"
"Definitely. Same time tomorrow?"
"Yeah, sure, that sounds great!"
Tedd felt an unpleasant jolt in the pit of his stomach at that, and opened one eye a sliver to peek over at the door. Grace was standing just inside the doorway, leaning in to give a tight hug to the boy standing beside her, who Tedd assumed was Alex. Tedd couldn't see him terribly well – all he could see was the top of his head as he looked down at Grace, and his arms as they wrapped around her to return the hug – but he definitely looked tall, fit, and handsome, and that was all Tedd's mind needed to recall his dream with an unsettling level of clarity.
"See you tomorrow, then," the boy said as he released her.
"Okay! Bye, Alex!" Grace said, waving goodbye cheerfully as he returned to his car and she shut the door behind him. Quickly Tedd closed his eyes again as Grace turned toward the living room, and stopped short at the sight of him.
Tedd battled with himself mentally for a moment, then made a small show of 'waking up,' yawning as he blinked up tiredly at her. "Oh, Grace, you're home…I was getting worried…"
A realization seemed to wash over Grace, and her eyes widened in surprise. "Oh my gosh, I totally forgot to call and tell you where I was! Oh Tedd, you must've been worried sick!" In an instant she'd swopped down on him and hugged him tightly, kissing his cheeks apologetically.
Tedd reddened a bit at her close proximity, her body feeling a bit warmer against his than usual as he returned the hug. "H-hey, hey, it's okay, Grace, don't worry about it. As long as you're okay, I don't mind…"
"Are you sure…? I meant to call, I really did, but we got to talking about the movie and then you're s'posed ta have your phones off in the theaters and I just got really into it and then we went over to his house to watch more movies and I totally forgot…"
"Really, it's fine, Grace. I know you didn't mean to forget, and the important thing is that I know you're okay." Tedd paused for a moment as he touched her cheek. "You ARE okay, right? You feel really flushed."
"I'm fine, I promise," she assured him, pecking his cheek as she stood back up. "I better get ready for bed…"
Grace smiled her sweet little smile and scurried off to her room, leaving Tedd only slightly reassured as he headed for his own room. Okay, so he'd been blowing it a bit out of proportion in his head; she hadn't ditched him, she was just hanging out with her new friend and the circumstances had led her to forget to call him. It was an accident, it happened. No harm done. But still…this new friend of hers had been so interesting, he'd made her forget all about Tedd or how it might make him worry if she didn't tell him anything. Calling home had been the last thing on her mind. TEDD had been the last thing on her mind. And that did not make him feel terribly confident in himself.
Tedd sighed heavily as he laid down in his own bed, wondering why he was letting this get to him so much. He knew she loved him, he knew it. That couldn't have changed. Was he just jealous? Was he jealous that she was spending time with other, better-looking guys? Maybe, he admitted, but he never had any problem with her hanging out with Justin and Elliot. Then again Justin was gay, and Elliot had Sarah, and they were good friends besides. They just weren't going to go eloping or something silly like that. This Alex guy, though, was someone Tedd didn't know, had never met…and that worried him. Grace was learning a lot, but she was still so naïve…she wouldn't be able to read Alex's intentions, good or bad…and either way, if he was interested in her, there was no outcome that would bode well for Tedd. There was no way he could compete with a guy like that…
A small flutter of feet told him someone else was in the room, and second later he felt Grace crawling into bed next to him, arms drawing tenderly around him. He turned toward her, though he couldn't see her in the dark, and returned the embrace, relaxing a bit as he felt her body heat against his, still feeling a little warmer than usual.
"I'm really sorry, Tedd…" he heard her whisper.
Tedd squeezed his arms tighter around her, his dream hovering through his mind again, haunting him. Losing Grace was something he couldn't imagine surviving…he couldn't let that happen…
"I love you, Grace…you know that, right…?"
"Of course I do, Tedd…I love you too…"
"And you…..you're not gonna go away, right…?"
"What…? No, of course I won't go away, Tedd…why would you think that…?"
Tedd didn't answer, just holding her tighter in response.
"…Tedd…? What's wrong…?"
"It's nothing. Just bad dreams…"
Grace was silent for a moment, and Tedd almost thought she'd fallen asleep until he felt her lips press to his for a brief, tender moment.
"Dreams are just dreams…they're not real," she whispered almost solemnly. "I'm not going anywhere, Tedd. I promise…"
It was all Tedd could do to simply nod, kiss her back, and drift to sleep in her arms.
They stumbled through the front door, backpacks dropping to the ground haphazardly in their haste to throw them off. At her own insistence they found their way to her room, lips locked in a intense, feverish kiss, the very idea of pulling away from each other impossible. She felt him pressing her against the wall as he kissed her, and somehow even that simple motion was driving her absolutely wild. Then she felt his lips against her neck and his hands slipping under her shirt to caress her back, and any resistance she might have wanted to hold onto was gone.
She flung him down to the bed and pounced on top of him, his glasses flying from his face as she landed and kissed him furiously all over his face while he kissed at her neck again and she felt his chest underneath his shirt. They rolled around over and over again, neither seeming to stay on top for more than a handful of breaths as their hands got more daring and brushed against each other's butts, lightly at first until they realized they both enjoyed it and then let them feel around much more shamelessly.
Shirts vanished; she was touching and kissing his bare chest and even daring to finger his belt, and he was kissing the soft skin of her stomach up to the curves of her chest that hid behind a lacey bra that she was sure wouldn't be there much longer. Pants vanished, and his hands brushing against her rear suddenly felt incredibly intimate, and she knew she was ready to burst with desire.
She darted up to kiss him again, fingers running luxuriously through his long, violet-toned hair…except it was suddenly longer than usual, she realized, and when she pulled back from the kiss and looked at it, it was no longer purple but blond and wavy. She felt his chest and it had filled out, grown more muscular and firm. Then she glanced at his face and it wasn't Tedd's face anymore. It was Alex's.
And she didn't care.
The kiss resumed with all the fervent intensity as before, her body almost white hot as they pressed together and the last barrier of clothing between them began to vanish…
With a massive jolt of shock Grace jerked upright in bad, sweating and shaking and gasping for breath, and the instant she noticed Tedd beside her she nearly screamed and tumbled out of bed, the floor like ice against her skin, which felt insanely hot to the touch. She hugged herself tightly and tried desperately to catch her breath, eyes huge and frightened.
Again…I dreamed it again…
But no. That wasn't accurate. She'd dreamed something far worse this time. She'd dreamed about…about…
She squeezed her eyes shut tight, shaking her head furiously. She didn't want to think about it, told herself not to, but each time it kept creeping right back into her mind almost instantaneously, unsettling and even outright tormenting her, made far worse by knowing that her own brain had created them…the first dream had merely shaken her, had been only a mildly dirty fantasy somewhere in her head…but this one was downright horrifying…this couldn't have been what she really wanted…could it…?
And even if she hadn't been terrified out of the idea of sleeping any more that night because of the dream, the mere hesitation she felt when answering that question would keep her wide awake for hours to come.
Comments and critiques are welcomed and appreciated, as always.