My life has been dominated by two dreams.
In the first, I see my twin sister Cat at seven, the last time I ever saw her. She is all pink and golden – hair hanging in yellow ringlets, dancing blue eyes, rosy cheeks. She is beautiful, my sister. Light, sweet, charming. My opposite.
My father is pulling her as she sits in a little red wagon, laughing and waving. They’re in a wild, grassy field. Birds are twittering, crickets chirping. A butterfly flits by. Gently swaying grasses and colorful wildflowers brush against her, stroking her soft skin, loving her. She laughs and caresses their long, flowing stems.
But there is more in this field than plants, insects and birds. Fairies live here too – although they usually hide when people walk by with their heavy crushing footsteps, unnatural smells and callous voices. My father, plowing through with bent back and plodding footsteps, sends them cringing and scurrying away as well.
But then they hear the tinkling sound of my sister’s laughter.
Peeking from behind brown-eyed Susan’s and pebbles, they see Cat in the wagon, clutching a dandelion in her fist, rubbing the yellow petals against her face. She astonishes them, seduces them, hypnotizes them. They’ve never seen anything like her before. Gradually, they creep out and move closer. Cat virtually sparkles in the sunlight, bright and shining. As she catches sight of the fairies, she laughs and blows them kisses.
The fairies, now completely under her spell, swarm over to her, nuzzling her face, soft arms, slender neck. She smiles, touching them back – fingers grazing over delicate wings not much more substantial than a cobweb.
More fairies emerge as my father guides her deeper into the field. The grasses become thicker, taller. The fairies cling to the blades, reaching their tiny hands out to caress Cat as she drifts by.
Finally, the queen herself comes forward, tall and majestic. She wears a dress made from white tulips and daffodils, sparkling with dewdrops. Her long, silky, golden hair is entwined with white daisies. Large green eyes peer out from under her mass of hair. Her face is cold, all sharp angles and pale skin, but beautiful.
“This is the one,” the queen says, her voice like breaking glass.
Cat looks up, fairies tangled in her hair. She blinks as her gaze meets that of the queen’s. They stare at each other, each mesmerized by the other. Then, slowly, the queen reaches down and gathers my sister into her arms. The fairies dart out of the way, hovering above them like a cloud of gnats. The queen turns, Cat cuddled in her arms, and they disappear, vanishing into the thick grass.
My father pulls the wagon a few seconds longer before realizing something is wrong. Seeing Cat missing, he drops to the ground and begins searching fruitlessly through the grass. “Cat,” he yells over and over. “Cat, come back. Come back!”
Nothing answers him, not even a chirp from a bird. He cries her name over and over, begging her to come back, while the fairies croon over their newest prize.
My second dream is completely opposite - much like the difference between Cat and me. It begins with me and my parents in the car. We’re going to Milwaukee to visit my grandparents, but suddenly my parents take a detour. We drive down an old country road filled with potholes and thirsty cracks. My chest begins to take on a familiar heaviness.
We’re at a church, a white country church with a tall steeple and an elaborate stained glass etching of Mary and Jesus in the manger. A bell rings, deep and melodious. I’m having trouble breathing.
We walk to the graveyard behind the church, my parents in front of me, talking quietly, ignoring me (as usual). The bell continues to ring, the sound growing louder, echoing in the stillness. I stumble, trying desperately to breathe, to draw air through lungs now shrunken into a tight ball of twine. I need my inhaler, but don’t know where it is.
My parents continue to ignore me. I gasp and start to fall, but now I’m floating, floating, toward the graveyard. All I can hear is the tolling of the bell. I can’t breathe at all. My lungs burn, a bright fireball in my chest. This is it, I realize. This is the end. This is where I die.
I wake then, gasping and reaching for my inhaler. As uncomfortable as it is, I prefer it to the hot tears and heavy sick feeling that follows the fairy dream. Cat is the chosen one. I’m the disappointment.
These were the dreams that dominated my life. If I had other ones, I never remembered them. Only these two. I never told a soul about my dreams – they were my penance, my burden, my personal hell.
Until the day Cat came back, turning my life into something worse than any nightmare I ever could have imagined.