I don't own the characters, the places, or anything really, I'm just borrowing them. Please don't sue me, I have nothing you want.
I have some people I'd like to thank before we get into the story. Some of you Tweeted at the start of November interested in reading, so it's likely you've forgotten, but hey, it happened. And as the story is complete, I will likely be editing and uploading a chapter every fortnight or so (this may change, depending on the demand - I will take bribes).
TeriasMcKlay - One minute I'd never heard of NaNoWriMo, the next minute I was signing away my November to write this story. So thank you for making this happen, and thanks for all the advice and nudges along the way. You really are a Termineditor :-)
loneLovaticPLL - Thanks for wanting to read the story, and thanks for brightening my days.
rckpprszzrs - For her emails, encouragement and help along the way.
rcampdel - For being interested in reading this story and telling me not to hide it under my bed. And for a lot more too :-)
shokoshik - For the encouraging Tweets, especially the ones that started with "Listen..."
SilentWonder510 – For mentioning Paige's swagger, and for always getting people to sign that Back Paige :-)
**** Chapter One ****
Rain pattered against the window, a slight gap at the bottom of the window-frame caused the curtain to move in the breeze, casting shadows into the darkened room.
Emily sat on her bed as she had for the last hour, frowning as she concentrated on the sketchpad resting on her legs. She never used to be interested in art, but in the last months she had been plagued by a strong urge to sketch her dreams.
While portraying the scenes onto paper, she did not focus on what the final picture was. It was as if an unseen force was possessing her. Images would come to her mind and she would sit in her room, the lights dimmed, sketching until the representation was complete. The sketch would then be thrown into her desk drawer without her studying it. She'd then return to whatever she had been doing beforehand.
This sketch was no different. As the last details were put on the page, she had a quick glance at it - a pencil sketch of a girl, seen from the side; it looked like she was reading. Emily shrugged and popped the sketch into the desk drawer, just as her mother knocked on her bedroom door.
"Emily, your shift starts in 30 minutes."
Emily looked at her watch, she had no idea she had spent so much time drawing. Her hand hurt and her legs were tingling. "Thanks, Mom." She'd need to grab herself a coffee when she got to work in an attempt to wake herself up and get her through her shift.
After getting dressed and gathering her things, Emily walked downstairs grabbing an orange from the kitchen and saying goodbye to her mom. She got in her Toyota and headed to the Rear Window Brew, the coffee shop where she worked as a barista. It only took five minutes to drive there, but she wanted to get in early to try and give a good impression. It would also allow her time to enjoy a coffee before the customers started arriving.
"You look like hell," Zach said as she entered.
Emily looked over at her boss and raised an eyebrow. Great; Just in and her boss was already complimenting her.
"Hi, Zack," she replied. "I think I could use an Americano."
Zack laughed, "you'll turn into an Americano if you don't slow down."
Emily laughed with him, knowing that he had a point. Since the dreams started, she had been walking around like a zombie hobo. Her mind was constantly elsewhere, thinking about the dreams. Her morning coffee helped her through the day.
She couldn't place a reason for the dreams starting and hadn't told anyone about them, she wouldn't even know where to start.
She had no idea why she was dreaming constantly, night and day, about... truth be told she wasn't even sure what she was dreaming about. Sometimes, the girl she had drawn today appeared. In her last dream she was reading, alone, seated at a little round table with an old fashioned desk lamp. The dream was almost in grey scale, as if taken from the silver screen. Perhaps Emily had watched one too many old movies and her mind was playing tricks on her, leaking out into her sleep.
The dream before that was very vivid. A stream; swollen after a storm, running rapidly through a quiet forest. A dark haired girl stood near the stream, Emily felt that she was the girl this time but couldn't be sure. She stood, staring at the trees around her, the birds tweeting their song. It looked like autumn. Suddenly, her head turned in response to the sound of a twig breaking. A scream shot through the forest and then Emily woke up.
She had painted that view instantly, hunched over her sketchbook in the dark. The curtains remained shut to block out everything that was happening in the world. She was in her own zone when she painted/sketched a dream scene. Each one was of a different thing, but they felt connected somehow, as if eventually they may form a story. Whether it was something meaningful or just a series of random images, Emily didn't know. Yet.
Turning to see Zack looking at her, concern and worry were visible in his eyes. Emily realised she must have zoned out.
Zack shook his head at her. Emily knew she had to snap out of it, or Zack would likely fire her. Only last week she had made a coffee, holding the cup inches away from the machine, the coffee pouring down onto the floor. She hadn't noticed. For a few seconds she didn't even notice the steam burning her arm.
"Can you take these over to the table by the window?"
Oh great, i'm useless thought Emily, he was just using her as a waitress at the moment, not trusting her to make the coffees like the other workers.
Taking the tray and making her way over to the table, she sat the coffees and cake down, muttered "Enjoy" and turned to return to the till and take the next order.
Emily turned, quickly realising that she had just delivered coffee and cake to one of her best friends, Hanna, without even noticing.
"Hi, Hanna, I didn't... I was..."
"On another planet, again" replied Hanna, clearly both annoyed and concerned for her friend.
"I'm sorry" replied Emily, genuinely wishing she could stop her mind from overworking just for a day or two.
If she could have a good night sleep without dreaming and have to then sketch that dream out, it was all she would need.
Hanna motioned with her arm to the woman opposite her, "This is Bridget. She's going to see about getting a job for me down at the mall."
Emily raised her eyebrow then instantly dropped it again; she knew Hanna was struggling since her mom went to prison. Her grades had slipped so she hadn't been able to pursue a career in fashion.
Emily shouldn't be too quick to judge, her story was not exactly full of achievements either. Her dad had spent so long away that she had struggled through high school. Her mum was always there for her but there was always an easiness with her dad and she missed that. Emily's grades slipped towards the end of the last year, leaving her unable to get the results needed for the college course she had her eye on. The part time job at the Rear Window Brew was supposed to keep her tiding over while studying evening courses to try and get the qualifications she needed. The application form for the course never got completed, and 4 years later she was still working in the Rear Window Brew.
They would often drown their sorrows together at the local bar.
Hanna had given Emily a hip flask when she was going through a rough patch after her dad got shipped off by the army again. She kept it in her wardrobe, some alcohol left in it. When things got too much, she would take a drink. When the hip flask was empty, Emily bought a bottle of vodka and had eventually drunk it all. She hated the taste but had to admit that for a few days it allowed her to sleep without crying.
When the dreams started she had gone out and bought a bottle of whisky this time. It burned her throat when she swallowed it down and made her insides erupt in heat as it crept down her neck and into her stomach.
It was clear from the concern in Hanna's eyes that she suspected Emily was drinking again.
"I wish you'd talk to me, Em."
Emily swallowed a dry lump in her throat. She knew it would feel better to tell someone, and Hanna was always there to listen. Along with Hanna there were two others: Aria and Spencer. They had been inseparable for years. Aria was an author now, living in Los Angeles. Spencer was a young hotshot lawyer over in New York. Hanna was the only one left in Rosewood. Neither of them had heard from Aria or Spencer for years.
Emily let out a sigh, "I finish at eight."
Hanna looked puzzled.
Emily stood in silence for a few seconds, wondering whether to repeat herself or make an easy escape. "If you're free tonight, I finish at eight. We can chat after that?"
An instant but surprised smile crossed Hanna's face, "Sure, Em, I'll meet you here?"
"Sure" replied Emily, slightly regretting having made the offer.
Once Hanna left the Brew, Emily spent the rest of the day with one half of her mind on the work, and the other on meeting Hanna that night.
She had finished cleaning the tables earlier than expected. It had been a quiet day, the mid-week lull starting to set in. Standing behind the counter, she stared at her surroundings and wondered how best to start the conversation with Hanna. Should she pull out the pictures and show her? Hanna would probably look at her as if she had finally lost her marbles altogether. She glanced at the clock - 7:55.
"Emily, I'm just going to lock up if you're ready?"
Emily turned round to find Zack standing with his jacket on, that concerned look on his face again. She removed her apron, setting it on the clothes hook and exchanging it for her jacket which she pulled on. "I'm ready."
Zack and Emily exchanged a smile as they made their way to the door and into the street.
Emily immediately shoved her hands in her pockets; it was getting colder at nights. Glancing down the road, she noticed Hanna walking towards her.
"On you go, Em," Zack told her, locking the door.
Emily nodded and smiled in reply; turning to make her way to Hanna. "Hey, Hanna."
Hanna didn't answer but instead walked closer to Emily, grabbing her into a hug. Emily hugged back, "what's going on, Han?"
"I've missed you, Em."
Emily laughed, "I haven't gone anywhere."
"You sorta have."
Ouch thought Emily. Sometimes Hanna was so truthful, her words hurt. It suddenly hit home how much Emily had been ignoring her friends since these dreams started. It didn't make a lot of sense, they were just dreams. Why were they messing her up for the rest of the day?
"I'm here now."
"For how long?"
Ouch again thought Emily as they walked together to her car. "Come to my house, I want to show you something."
When they got to Emily's house, her mom seemed surprised to see Hanna. "Hey, Hanna," she said, wiping her hands with a tea towel.
"Hey, Mrs. Fields."
"Oh, Hanna, you know you can call me Pam."
"I know." Hanna had always thought it felt weird calling your friends parents by their first name.
They walked up to Emily's room and over to the window-seat, where they sat down. "Okay, so you wanna know what's been going on with me?" Emily started, with a sigh.
"Of course I do. I'm scared you're drinking again" Hanna replied, a sad look in her eyes. She put her hand on top of Emily's who took it in her own and squeezed it reassuringly.
"I have, but not for a little while." Emily realised that it didn't sound very encouraging, "I've been having dreams."
She looked over at Hanna, who frowned but didn't say anything. "Most nights. And then I wake up and draw them."
"What? How can you draw a whole dream?"
"The dreams are of one thing; A forest. A face. I don't know where they're coming from or why I'm having them but I feel that they're all connected and I'm supposed to do something about them. Maybe there's some kind of message in them I'm supposed to decipher."
Hanna said nothing but squeezed her hand a little. Emily hadn't realised they were still holding hands. She squeezed back and looked away. "When I wake up, I sit there and I paint them. Sometimes I sit there for hours, and then I put them in the drawer. I started drinking again to try and stop them, but it didn't work. I spend most of my days thinking about them and wondering what it all means."
"Can I see them?"
"What?" Emily was confused, how could she show Hanna her dreams?
"Can I see your drawings?"
Emily sighed, she wasn't in any way an artist and she didn't even know if the contents of the sketches would be clear to anyone but her.
Walking over to her desk and opening the drawer, she paused with her hand above the drawings for a second, almost preparing her mind for what was to come next.
Lifting out the drawings, she placed them in a row on the desk, counting them. She had no idea how many dreams she'd had, but she counted out five sketches:
1. A girl from the side, reading.
2. A stream running rapidly. A girl (Emily?) stood in the middle of the forest looking towards the stream.
3. A forest, with a path through the middle and what looked like a pond in the distance.
4. A window, the details inside blurry. It wasn't possible to know where it was.
5. A shoe. Lying in the mud. It looked like a running shoe.
Hanna walked over to Emily and studied the drawings, "they don't look connected."
"I know. But I think I'm going to keep getting them until they link up somehow. It's not just the five dreams. I've had more, but I didn't draw them until recently. Something in my head told me I had to start taking a note of them. I bought some pencils and paints, and I've been drawing them ever since."
"Can you remember the others?"
"No. I used to wake up and drink to get rid of them. When I did that I couldn't remember them when I woke up again."
"How long have you been having them?"
"About a month." She pointed to the one of the girl reading, "this one was last night."
"Jeez, Em. You should have said something."
"I can't stop thinking about them, that's why I've been distant" she admitted.
"Maybe you need a distraction."
"Not drink, Hanna, I shouldn't."
"A night on the tiles never hurt anybody. You said you forgot about them when you drank."
Emily looked at her friend, who was looking back at her as if it was the obvious answer. "That's the thing though Hanna. If I'm supposed to piece them together and do something, how can that happen if I drink them away?"
Hanna sighed, "I don't know what else to suggest... Maybe you could tell me when you have a dream. Send me a photo of your drawing and I can help trying to figure it out? You don't have to burden yourself with this and do it alone."
Emily smiled, "That sounds good."
Hanna smiled back at her, "It's a deal then."