The clock ticks over to midnight. 00:01. Thirty. I'm thirty! How did I end up here? The thing next to me, my husband grunts in his sleep. The baby monitor let me know my two year old is sleeping soundly, but my mind is elsewhere. For weeks it's felt like I haven't slept. Every night I'm somewhere else. Somewhere other than Tasmania. The Apple Isle. The butt to all the touring sport groups jokes. Is God that sick that he designs an island state around the female anatomy? Every young hot blooded male wants to see the map of Tassie and I'm not talking about the state. My parents moved to Victoria, Australia from Forks Washington when I was four. I even have an Australian accent. They said it was for a change of scenery but everything here looks the same. It's all too green! I moved to Tasmania a couple of years ago and have been stuck here ever since. But where am I?
I close my eyes and the green dim of the alarm clock is washed into bright sunlight, palm trees, baking sun and crashing waves. Where? Brisbane? Hawaii? Greece? Mexico? LA? People move around me on roller blades, bikes, running, walking, drinking coffee and enjoying the sun. It shouldn't be sunny, not in Tassie anyway. It's the middle of winter. Snow caps frame Mt Wellington and heavy clouds cover the rest of the southern state.
I can feel his eyes on me. I can always feel him in these dreams. I don't know him, I've never seen him but his gaze penetrates me to my core. Why is he watching me? What am I to him? What am I? I feel different from those around me; abstract. Has my craving to escape my mundane life led my mind here? I can hear music but no one else seems to notice it. I've fallen asleep with my MP3 player on again. What is it tonight? Rise Against. American angst punk and totally unsuitable for a married house wife but the music calls to me. 'I don't hate you boy, I just what to save you while there's still something left to save.' I laugh at my own dry humour as I wonder who is saving me. Him? Who is he? Where is he?
I feel something brush against my ankle. Adelaide, my cat. Queen Adelaide actually, named so because she whines; Queen Adelaide Wine, not a bad drink. She has never been in these dreams before. She looks at me with her beautiful golden eyes like she knows something I don't and walks off into the shadows of the near by shops. How could I not follow my guide? So white and fluffy and pure. She couldn't lead me to danger... could she? The music in my mind calls again. 'I don't hate you.'
My bare feet move slowly across the warm concrete. Looking at what I'm wearing and I thank God I sleep in day clothes. It's a running joke with my mothers group. Sleep in track pants and a tank top and there is no rush to get dressed in the morning. Your darling munchkin can leave you sleep deprived and chaotic but if someone calls at your door, well you'll look like crap but at least your not in your pyjamas. Tank tops and track pants seem to fit in here so I don't seem to stick out. I can't see anything except Adelaide's tail as I follow her under an arch into a dark empty building.
"Good Kitty," a voice like velvet murmurs as a pale hand strokes her back. I wait for my eyes to adjust and listen to Adelaide purr, slowly weaving around what I assume are legs.
"You're not ready," the voice tells me.
"Ready for what?" I ask searching the shadows. I want to put a face to that voice and the feeling pulsing through my body just from his proximity.
His hand reaches from behind me and strokes my face. "The truth." The voice is so close. How did he there so fast? Blood rushes to my cheek to greet his touch and my bones turn to jelly. The truth? My mind is scrambled. What truth? What is he talking about?
"I... don't... understand" I stammer.
His cool breath brushes my face as he murmurs again, "You're not ready. You will know in time."
A breeze flows across my body and I hear a distant chuckle as I realise I'm alone in the dark.
My eyes flash open as Renesmee calls for me through the monitor. 5:23 am. I stumble to her room to settle her as my body tries to catch up with my mind. A gentle touch and soothing voice is all it takes to get my little princess back into her land of dreams. Something Mike would never think of. He is always just pissed to be woken up. I don't think he ever wanted kids and in all honesty, neither did I. Well, not with him anyway. This is what happens when you have a little too much to drink and let your guard down. One time in God knows how long and nine months later, baby. Re' is the one good thing to come out of this marriage, the one thing I wouldn't change in this messed up life of mine. I hope her dreams tonight are better than mine.
Adelaide meows at me as I close the bedroom door. Again she has that all knowing look. I pick her up to give her a soothing cuddle. She is a bit of a runt but she has the most beautiful face. I notice there are slight tired lines around her eyes. I didn't think cats could get bags under their eyes. As I stroke her soft fur his voice whispers in my ear, "You're not ready." Adelaide scratches my arm when I drop her and spin around. I'm alone. But it was like he was right there; right beside me in the hallway. I'm loosing my mind.
I try to get back to sleep but I'm too jittery. Things are changing and I can sense it. My mind is working overtime filled with questions. So many questions but no answers. But it's all just dreams right? Dreams about beaches and sunny skies and him. This perfect man in my mind that I can't quite see. I touch my cheek remembering his caress and it feels so real. My skin still feels warm.
I leave my bedroom and Mike, the grunting monster and curl myself into a ball on the couch with my MP3 player. I want to see him again; I want to know my mystery man. I want to feel his touch. I feel like an addict who has just had the first hit and I crave more. The birds begin twittering outside as I close my eyes and Rise Against fills my right ear. '1000 miles away with nothing left to say.'
Goose bumps spread across my body as a sharp wind blows ice at me like knives. I struggle to see through the snow, searching for shelter and some recognition of where I am. I notice the left side of my body is soaked as I uncurl from the snow mound I'm laying on. Now I wish I wasn't wearing a tank top! I stumble blindly to the only building I can see. It's not until I'm almost at the double doors that I realise I'm heading for the observatory on the top of Mt Wellington. Mt Wellington, 30km from my house. The rising sun peaks through clouds above the storm as I yank the doors open and rush into my shelter. There he is.
He is standing on the platform in the middle of the large circular room looking out towards Hobart. Huge glass walls frame every view of the surrounding suburbs letting the morning sun light the room through the falling snow. Along each panel there are descriptions of Hobart's history, animals, flora and fauna, and intriguing tales through time. I remember the story of the unofficial first woman to climb Mt Wellington; she was mourning the death of her lover and the pain of her loss drove her to scale the great height of the mountain alone to look over the beauty of the land and weep. As I stare at the figure in front of me his beauty almost brings a tear to my eye. Perfect in every way. A ray of sunlight frames his exquisite body with a rainbow through the falling snow, yet it leaves his face in the shadows as he turns away from the windows towards me. He wears dark jeans slung low on his hips with a silver belt buckle of a symbol I don't recognise. His navy blue knitted V-neck sweater clings to his body in a way that is distracting, barley hiding the soft lines of his muscles. His hair is glistening caramel and a little too long to be neat but it has that carefree style that normal people spend hours trying to achieve. I want to see his face.
"Who are you?" I blurt out. My body is shaking and my teeth are chattering but I don't care. He is here, so close to me, maybe five meters and all I have to do is keep walking forward.
"Impressive." I can tell by his tone that he is smirking. I wrap my arms defensively around my body trying to hide all the things the cold accentuates.
As he moves forward down the steps towards me his velvet voice fills the room.
"I may have been wrong. Maybe you are ready." I can see the glint of his teeth in the sun as he smiles.
"I don't understand," I whisper. I want to move towards him but my feet feel frozen to the ground. Actually they could be.
"There seems to be a lot you don't understand," he says taking another step down towards me. His very presence seems to be warming the air around me.
"How did you get here?" he asks tilting his head to the side like he is asking a child a very simple question.
"How did you get here?!" I demand. I will not be treated like a child.
"The same way you did" he shrugs innocently.
"I don't understand," I whisper again. He is so close now I can almost touch him. I feel a pull like gravity towards him.
"Bella," my name sounds so exquisite as he says it, "There is so much you need to know." His face is lit by sunlight as he takes the final step to me. His skin is so pale yet I can see the imperfections that make it even more beautiful. He has a small x shaped scar above his left eye and a much larger line running just above his jaw to the right corner of his mouth and it accentuates the pink flush of his perfectly formed lips. I feel the urge to run my finger tips along this soft pink line. He has the appearance of youth, but his features carry the signs of age. The line of his jaw and cheeks remind me of the rugged men you see in commercials for razor blades, though they are not so square to appear aggressive and his eyes are such a dark green they're almost black. Looking into them feels like staring into a bottomless well of knowledge. I can't look away.
"Bella? Where are you?" Mike's harsh voice breaks through the warmth of the observatory.
"Bella!" Mike shouts again.
My MP3 player falls to the ground with a crash as I sit up on the couch. A dream?
"What do you want Mike?" I shout a little too loud. Opps, now I've done it.
"Where were you?" he demands stomping into the lounge room.
"I was right here," I sigh shaking my head. It was such a good dream.
"No you weren't!" He's shouting again. "I was just in here and I couldn't find you."
"Well, maybe you were doing a mans look." I answer pulling myself off the couch. I know it's wrong to antagonise Mike, but right now I don't really care.
"What have you been doing? You're all wet," he notes as his eyes flow over my soaking clothes.
"I, er, must have knocked my drink over when I fell asleep." That sounds believable doesn't it? Why am I wet?
"Humph! Where is my suit? I've got a job today." he says turning out of the room.
I follow along behind him and into the bedroom, pulling his suit out from its normal spot in the wardrobe. How can he not know where it is? It's always in the same place. I guess I do too much for him. I almost feel like I have two children instead of one.
"Can you make something to eat?" he calls over his shoulder as I leave him to get dressed. Yep, definitely two children.
Mike is a bit part actor. He gets enough work to pay most of the bills but not enough to make him really recognisable. He seems to think much more of himself and he could have been so much more, but that was a long time ago. I know he is unfaithful and I don't care. I'm sure the young things he picks up only go with him because he was that guy in that thing they saw and I don't think it happens that often. I'm not one of them anymore, a dumb nineteen year old in love with a rising star. I'm simply biding my time until I can get enough money in my secret stash to escape with Renesmee.
I leave Mikes food on the kitchen counter and sneak off into the bathroom. The less time I have to spend with him the better. I put my wet clothes in the laundry basket and climb into the shower. Steam fills the room and my body begins to relax. I hadn't realised how cold I was. As the calming water flows over me my mind refuses to slow. Now I have even more questions. If I am dreaming why is my clothing wet? Did I have a drink I knocked over? I can't remember having one but this night has been so strange maybe I just forgot. But what about him? He said I wasn't ready but didn't tell me what I'm supposed to be ready for. Why was Adelaide there, where ever there was. And his voice with its deep romantic tone, his touch cooler than normal but somehow it warms me, and the pull I feel towards him. Could I make up those things on my own?
I try to remember the other dreams over the past month and nothing seems to fit together. It's always sun and beaches and everyday life somewhere else in the world. Well, except for that last one. It could be the same place, but its nowhere I've ever been and I know I'm never in exactly the same spot. I remember seeing shops like last night once or twice before and there was a huge pier as well. Another time I remember sitting for what felt like hours watching game after game of basketball. The way they played, joking but serious at the same time and their moves made me want to cheer. I think I was on a Ferris Wheel one time. I can see the beach and people go by my again and again as I go around. It feels like a carnival of some kind. Other random images flash through my mind. There is a lady walking seven dogs wearing a bright orange bum bag, a man pushing a coffee cart along the foreshore, a father teaching his son to ride a bike, a homeless man with his shopping trolley and a young couple giggling and making a real mess of their ice-creams. As I search harder and harder I notice the lady with the dogs in the background over and over again, always with the orange bum bag but in different places at different times. I think I'll call her Bernice, Bernice with the bum bag. It must be the same place if I see her all the time. How do I find this place because I have just described half the beaches in the world? As the water begins to run cold I realise I'm not going to get any answers on my own.
Mike is gone when I emerge from the bathroom and I sit on the edge of the bed still lost in my thoughts. I notice my reflection in the mirror and realise how much this life has gotten to me. My shoulders are hunched and my body curves into itself. My balled up frame makes me look like a child half my age yet the brown eyes that stare back at me are timeless with pain and regret. The dark shadows under my eyes bare witness to my weeks of restless nights and my skin seems to hang from my form. I stand up to look at myself properly. I am not a beautiful woman, far from it I believe but I know that I once had something, once I was attractive to others. I used to be thin, tiny even but motherhood and this life have changed all that. I'm not fat, I am a real woman, with a real woman's' shape. I take comfort in the knowledge that I read somewhere that all men's most desirable woman, Marylyn Monroe was a size sixteen. I am an oddly shaped size fourteen. I have a butt and thighs that have to be coaxed into tight jeans and real breasts that would make Posh Spice jealous, but I seem to have lost my lustre. My light brown hair hangs limply down my back to my shoulder blades where it once used to have body and a soft curl. Even my skin appears pale and lifeless. How have I become this being?
Renesmee and I spend the day with my mums group. It feels strange to do something so normal after last night. The cloud cover is light and the sun actually makes an appearance from time to time so we head to the local park. The kids play as we sit around and prattle on about everyday things. Two of the mums are expecting their second kids and I force enthusiasm into my voice as we discuss the pros and cons of labour. Caesarean – too posh to push verses natural and a hell of a lot of pain. Doctors don't seem to have discovered a middle ground there. It's either dope you up with a lot of drugs and cut the thing out or leave you on your own and hope for the best.
My labour with Re was horrible. I was all alone, Mike was on a job at the other end of the state and dad couldn't get down in time. I don't think I've ever felt so alone in my life. I remember thinking 'I can't do this', not that there was anything I could really do about it at that point in time. I had made up my mind that I didn't want an epidural and I stuck firm to that decision. I guess I just closed my eyes and waited for it to be over. I know it sounds horrible and uncaring but it's the truth and the result of those long excruciating hours is the beautiful girl I watch now chasing the boys around the monkey bars. There was a kid's play area on the beach too, with a green and yellow slide. The father is sitting on a park bench with the bikes watching his son go down the slide. Maybe they have given up riding for now. I can't seem to keep my thoughts in the present with my body. My voice sounds so fake whenever I speak but there are enough distractions from the kids that the other mums don't really seem to notice.
Well, occasionally Angela notices but she is polite enough not to say anything. I'm closest to her and she knows about Mike and my plans there. She jokes with me that I can't leave because who would be the easy going one of the group if I'm gone. And Re is the only girl out of the four babies. We have her paired off with Angela's boy already. The easy going one; that's how I'm seen and I guess who I am. I don't usually get too worked up about things. Just take it as it comes and see where it leads you. I'm always willing to help out, but never comfortable enough to ask for help. I've had to do things almost on my own for a long time now, so it's just what I'm used to.
"You okay hon?" Angela asks as we get the kids into the cars to leave.
"Yeah, I'm fine" I lie. "It was just a long night." I hope my weary smile is convincing.
"We all know how that is," she says, but I know she see though me. "Call me if you need anything," she adds with a smile as she gets into her car.
I wave them all off and wonder what any of them would say if I told them what was on my mind. Straight jacket please! I'm still giggling at myself as I climb into the car.
"What's so funny mummy?" Renesmee asks through a yawn.
"Just that you're awake still," I answer looking at her tired eyes in the rear view mirror.
"I not sleepy!" she states but her eyes begin to flutter as I pull out of the parking lot. It's less than a ten minute drive home, but she is sleeping soundly as I carry her from the car.
I amble around doing bits and pieces of housework as Renesmee sleeps trying to decipher everything that has happened. I know that these dreams must be something more, but what I don't know. I keep going to the phone to call Angela but I don't know what I would say to her. I wish my mum was still around. Finally I settle myself by sneaking another look into Re's room. Her bronze curls frame her cherub face and there is a tiny smile on her full pink lips as she sleeps.
You truly can not know love until you are a parent. I know this is said so many times but the feeling is all consuming and, at times overwhelming. As I hear the front door slam it reminds me of the polar opposites of my emotions. Mike is home and the love I was feeling for my child is suddenly washed away by the repulsion I feel towards her farther. I close her door quietly and head back to the kitchen. He will be wanting his dinner.
I smell the alcohol before I feel his hands wrap around my waist and he starts kissing my neck.
"Common Mike. Let me finish dinner." I say shrugging him off my shoulder. How can he want this?
"You never play nice anymore," he murmurs as his hand slides under my T-shirt.
"Mike. Please. Don't." I don't want this. I turn to face him, gently pushing him away. He keeps coming at me like this is some kind of game. I pull my arms up over my chest as a barrier as he pushes me against the kitchen counter. I can feel his hands all over me and I smell the bourbon on his breath as he tries to kiss me. I feel like I'm pushing against a brick wall. Mike is twice my size and I know it's a useless battle so I give in a little and kiss him half heartedly. Maybe, hopefully this will be enough tonight. He pulls me into his firm embrace and kisses me again and again. He hasn't noticed my arms still between us. I feel the way his body is moving against mine and I know that he wants more.
"You'll wake Re," I say trying to distract him; he hates it when I shorten her name. His hands find the belt on my jeans and he begins to undo it. I try to stop him. He's smiling! His lips press onto mine with too much force and he tries to push my pants down. I turn my face away from him, gasping for air. He unbuttons his trousers and comes at me again, lifting me onto the counter. I begin really fighting, locking my legs together, leaning as far away from him as I can and pushing with all my strength against his chest. Maybe he's so drunk that he doesn't notice, but he keeps grinning his stupid grin, trying to find a way through my defences. He has never pushed this far before and I'm beginning to feel genuinely afraid. I struggle harder, trying to kick at him with my legs and he fights back just as hard. His arms are locked around my ribs pinning my arms to my side and a dark chuckle escapes from his lips as he bites my chest. His aggression begins to bubble to the surface as he releases me only to pull at my T-shirt, ripping at along the seam and grabbing my legs and yanking me towards him.
"Mike no!" I shout pushing him away.
All I see is the anger flash in his eyes, but I feel his fist hit my face. So quickly I don't realise I've done it, I am standing in front of him, and the carving knife is in my hand held at his groin.
"If you ever do that to me again," I snarl, "you will be auditioning for female roles!" and I push the knife a little harder to emphasise my point.
The shock on his face is something I've never seen before but I really like the fact that I've caused it. I try to hide the smile breaking across my lips as he backs away from me doing his pants up moving to the fridge to retrieve a beer. The knife in my hand shakes as the adrenalin pulses through my veins. What have I done?
Mike retreats to the lounge room with a wary look over his shoulder as I finish making dinner. I grip the kitchen counter for support as the shock of the situation suddenly overcomes me. What the hell just happened? How did I get the knife so fast? What did I just do? Questions. It seems to be the day for them. This is one hell of a way to spend your thirtieth birthday.