Steve awoke the next morning in a cold sweat. The sheets were tangled all around his massive frame, and his pillow lay on the floor, several feet away from the bed. His breathing was irregular.
Downstairs, he could hear Peggy cooking breakfast, humming some big-band music as she worked. In the Mood, if he wasn't mistaken. He nearly smiled before recalling last night's events.
Was Peggy going to die soon? When? What had Sarah been trying to tell him?
His head nearly exploded with all the thoughts. Groaning, he slipped from bed, and the small wooden frame creaked as he did.
Steve paced to the bathroom, splashed his face with cold water, changed his clothes, and padded downstairs.
"Good morning, Steve." Peggy smiled as she flipped a pancake, placing it atop the high stack that sat on the plate next to her. "It's been so long since I've made breakfast for anyone! I thought I'd make extras, just in case." She grinned, placing two cups of coffee at the table.
"Yeah, uh, I…morning." He stuttered, taking a seat at the small kitchen table.
"Did you sleep well?" She asked.
"Yes ma'am." He replied dutifully, though his voice cracked as he did so.
"Hmm." She frowned, pouring some more batter in the pan. "You're lying to me."
"Excuse me?" He spluttered, nearly dropping his coffee.
"Yes, you are." She nodded, her gray eyebrows furrowing. "But the question, Steve, is why? Why are you lying? Did you not have a good night?"
"I…I, uh…" He sighed, deciding that lying was no use. "I had a dream about Sarah, last night."
"Really?" Peggy's eyebrows perked up. "About?"
"She…uh, well, she mocked me…and told me that….that I was flawed, toxic, even, and…and that well, that I would lose something important to me."
"Strange." Peggy shrugged with a confused smile. She turned back to the pan, humming once more.
"Uh, Peggy?" Steve asked finally, his eyebrows furrowed.
"Yes, Steve?" She called over her shoulder.
"Didn't you hear me? I said that the ghost of our dead daughter appeared to me in a dream, and gave me ominous news. Isn't…doesn't that cause some alarm for you?"
Peggy sighed, flipping the last of the pancakes onto the plate as she turned off the stove.
"Look, Steve, when Sarah died, I had tons of dreams about her. Believe me, plenty of them had bad warnings. But here I am, all these years later, and nothing has changed."
"So…so you think it's meaningless?"
"No, Steve." She smiled, with her small, sarcastic half-smile, "I don't think it's completely devoid of meaning. Who knows? Maybe it's just your brain's way of telling you to go out and enjoy life, and appreciate all that you have."
He sighed, giving her a skeptical look, and rested his elbows on the table in front of him.
"Look, with these types of things, you have to be an optimist, okay?" She smiled, taking the plate and bringing it over to the table.
She took a stack of three pancakes for herself, pouring a hefty dose of syrup on them, and began to eat, quietly. Steve's plate, however, remained clear of food.
"Steve, aren't you going to—"
"The dream was about you, okay?" He blurted suddenly. "She was warning me about your death!" His breathing was erratic, and he struggled to open his airway.
"Steve." Peggy smiled, grabbing his hand to console him. "Steve, it's okay. It's alright."
"No, it's not alright, because I'm going to be alone, and you're going to leave me, and I…I can't do it, Peggy, I can't!"
"Steve!" She admonished, slapping his face lightly. "Get a hold of yourself!"
He winced, and his breath quieted, his pupils returning to normal.
"Now, Steve. You know what you're going to do after we finish breakfast? You're going to take some of the cookies I made yesterday—heaven knows there's just too much for me—and you're going to get on your bike and head back to wherever it is you came from. No looking back."
"No buts! Because Steve: I don't plan on dying anytime soon. Understand? I've taken perfectly good care of myself—on my own—for the last few decades, and I don't plan on stopping. Got that? I'll only allow you to visit if you promise not to obsess about my mortality. Okay? Because if it doesn't worry me, it shouldn't worry you, either."
Steve could only nod, as she finished her lecture and began eating her pancakes again. Suddenly, it was as if the clouds had been lifted. His heartbeat became regular, his appetite returned, and they finished their meal together, talking, laughing, and swapping stories.
Afterwards, as planned, he placed a Ziploc baggie full of chocolate chip cookies in hi pocket, pulled on his leather jacket, and took out the keys to his bike.
"Goodbye, Peggy." He said, pulling her in for a tight embrace.
"Goodbye, Steve." She nodded, placing a small kiss on his cheek. He smiled as he walked towards the bike, sitting and starting the engine. The motorcycle roared to life, and he puttered away, into the early morning sunlight, following nearly all of Peggy's proposed plan. He did, however, break one rule. He looked back, as he was driving off.
Peggy was there, standing on her lawn, just as he had left her. When she saw him turn back, she gave him a smirk, and shook her head as she began to walk back indoors.
Steve faced forward again, a grin plastered to his face, as he drove on, the sunshine warming and illuminating his face.