She was dying. Glowing skulls encircled her. A strong, callused hand holding on to her own small, slender hand…
She didn't want to go. The New York lights blocked out the stars' light. Sorrowful, protective, and caring dark eyes stared into her light blue, questioning…
It'll be okay, she had told him. She had lied. She was scared. But he couldn't know that. He had to let go; it was the only way…
"Rose wake up!"
The young woman's eyes flashed opened to reveal her own blue eyes staring back at her. Blinking a few time, she felt a trail of liquid falling from her eyes. As it fell on her mouth, she idly ran her tongue over her lips to taste the salt of tears.
This had been the fifth time Rose had been awaken from her same nightmare, crying. Looking back at her concerned twin sister, she managed a weak smile.
"I'm fine, just a stupid dream."
"Yes," Marie Newman said, resisting back an eye roll as she offered her a tissue. "It was just a stupid dream that had you moaning and crying in your sleep. This by the way has happened four times before this past week. Was it the same one?"
Somehow this broke into Rose's defense, her face falling and tears threatened to fall once more.
"I – I was s – surrounded by skulls… glowing! And someone was holding on to me…" Rose closed her eyes, trying to see the eyes that had held her gaze in the dream. But the more she tried to remember, the more the details slide out of her memory. Marie frowned, recognizing both the details and emotions that her sister had described and displayed the past nights now.
"So the same dream," she murmured, crawling into her sister's bed and bringing her into a firm embrace. "Rose, it's a dream. You're here safe…"
"I was going to die," Rose interrupted eyes wide. "I – I don't know why but I was. A – And someone was trying to hand on… I don't remember-!"
"It. Was. A. Dream." Her twin said firmly, feeling a sense of déjà vu now. How long was this going to last? She didn't know what these dreams meant, but a part of her was starting to think that perhaps Rose needed some professional help. People just didn't have the same dreams like this for nights and nights in a row, did they? Marie unconsciously rubbed the sleep still in her droopy eyes. The alarm clock between their beds glowed 3:42 AM. She could hear their father's deep snores down the hall. She wanted to go back to sleep… but she wanted Rose to be comforted and reassured even more. No more glowing skulls or dying or some stranger clinging on to her…
"Do you want to work on your drawing? I don't mind sleeping with the light on," Marie offered, suddenly thinking of the solution. When the first nightmare had come, she had woken up a crying Rose, moaning about someone by the name of Jake. But when she had asked who Jake was, her sister had only given her a blank stare, clearly having no idea who she was talking about. Without really another word, Rose had gotten up, went over to their desk, and pulled out her sketchbook. When she had lain back down under the covers, she began to draw. A routine similar to this had repeated the second night and then the third and then the fourth. So Marie figured she could just let Rose stay in bed while she got her things. After all she was already out of bed. Heck, she even knew which picture her sister was working on.
So she got up, took the sketchbook, flipped it the right page, and studied her sister's progress for a moment. A magnificent dragon in midair flight stared back at her; deep eyes seemed to speak of a brave and caring soul. Rose had started to color in its scales an intense red, with bright neon green spikes running along its back with a messy black mane.
"This is amazing sis," Marie grinned as she handed Rose the book and colored pencils. Her grin spread even wider as she added, "I think you should name him Jake."
Carefully picking out her pencils and adjusting her position, Rose started to work. "For the last time Marie, I don't know someone named Jake… though, he does look like a Jake."
"How on earth does a dragon look like a Jake?" Marie asked as she slid off Rose's bed and rolled onto her own.
Rose shrugged, pushing her golden hair behind her ear. "He just does." Marie watched as Rose put the end of the pencil near the corner of her mouth, her eyes studying the art in front of her. She was obviously playing around with an idea for the piece.
"What?" Marie asked, curious.
"He needs hair gel." Rose said, not really looking at her, but instead placing the red pencil down and taking out neon green and black.
Her twin raised her eyebrows, not entirely sure if she was serious. "Hair gel? Since when do dragons wear hair gel?"
Ignoring her, Rose made a thin line of neon green in the mane, lightly mixing in the black, trying to make it look natural. She wasn't quite sure if she succeeded, but the concept felt right. "Yeah, a dragon named Jake with hair gel."
"Next thing you're going to tell me is that he's an American skateboarder," chuckled Marie. And she watched as Rose smiled at her words.
"Yeah, that sounds like him. Brave and cocky in battle…"
Marie cocked her head, pushing herself up on her forearms and peering across to her sister's bed to study the picture. "Since he's a dragon, wouldn't he be Chinese?"
"Marie, dragons aren't only a Chinese creature…"
Shrugging, Marie studied the picture. "About both then? Chinese American?"
Rose stared at the picture and the weirdest thing about. Her eyes widened as if a memory suddenly became clear. "Yeah, that sounds right… Chinese American." Chuckling, Rose finished off the mane and started back on the scales. "A Chinese American skateboarder dragon named Jake…"
"… With hair gel," finished her twin. "And devilishly handsome, if I do say so myself..."
"Oh my gosh those eyes!" Rose exclaimed, startling Marie.
"Ummm you colored his eyes the first day you started drawing him remember?" she asked. "This really shouldn't be surprising…"
"They're the same ones from my dream though!" Rose exclaimed in an excited whisper. She suddenly felt certain of this, the one detail of the dream now coming back in full view. She heard Marie sigh and felt as her bed creaked and shifted as the other girl returned to her side, studying the picture again at a closer angle.
Deep dark eyes peered at her once more, protective and caring. "Well maybe you're dream isn't as scary as I thought it was," Marie attempted to smile. "I mean, I would kill to have anybody look at me like that… "
"That's part of the nightmare though; I'm leaving him and neither of us want that." Rose closed her eyes this time fighting back the sudden flood of emotions from the dream that were coming back. "And besides I think the hand that was holding on to me was human."
Without thinking, Marie took her sister's hand. "Rose, it was a dream. Nothing more. You're not going to leave me or Mom or Dad. We wouldn't let you. And even in the dream it sounds like Jake, or whoever it was, didn't want to let you go either… did he let you go?"
Looking a little surprised at the question, Rose shook her head. "I don't know, you woke me up before it ended… but I think his decision would have been whatever would be the best for me."
Marie nodded, "Yeah, with eyes like that I agree with you…"
Rose closed her sketchbook and closed up her colored pencils. Placing them beside her bed on the floor, she gave Marie and light shove to tell her to get off. Taking the hint, Marie did and once again crawled into her own bed.
"Rose?" Marie spoke once more. "You didn't leave anybody okay? Remember, it's just a dream."
"Just a dream." Rose repeated. "Got that."
"And if you dream of him again, if his name is Jake or Bob or if he's human or dragon… dream of you two hanging out in Paris or on the beach or something fun like that."
"Right, I'm in an air balloon ride with a dragon named Jake who likes to skateboard…wait, if he's a dragon then why are we in an air balloon? I wouldn't mind riding dragonback!"
"Good night, Rose." Marie laughed softly. "And have good dreams… even if they're just dreams."
Smiling, Rose reached for the lamp and turned off the light. She buried herself under her covers and closed her eyes, imaging those protective, caring, dark eyes. As her breathing calmed with her heart and her mind wondered deeper and deeper into sleep, she swore she could have heard a young male's voice exclaiming, "Dragon up!" Laughter and worry; fear and excitement all weaved into her dreams as the young, magnificent dragon soared in her unconscious world.
She wasn't conscious of the tears streaming down her face or of the smile that had yet to leave her face from her waking moments. After all, it was all just a dream.