“Wake up sleepy head.”
She had to repeat it twice more before I finally opened my eyes to see Sophie’s bright green ones staring back at me. We’d been together since college, married since graduate school, and she was sweet, sexy, caring, and the most compassionate person I’d ever known.
She was way too good for me.
“There he is,” she smiled, as soon as my eyes were able to focus on hers. “I thought you were going to sleep the day away.”
“What time is it?” I mumbled, trying to rub the sleep from my eyes.
When I finally looked back at her she shrugged, “Five minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off, but I figured you’d rather wake up to me than that blaring thing.”
“You’re right,” I smiled back and a moment later her lips were on mine. But instead of taking things where she obviously wanted them to go, I pulled back.
Like I always seemed to anymore.
And like always, she just smiled at me with understanding in her eyes and instead of getting angry that it had been months since we’d last had sex – I couldn’t even remember when the last time was – she didn’t even mention it and only asked, “So, did you have any of those cool dreams last night?”
I couldn’t even really pinpoint when they’d started, but Sophie had convinced me to start keeping a journal of them, if only because she thought they were cool and could be turned into a novel one day. I had them frequently enough that I’d already filled one leather journal and was halfway through my second one, but what she didn’t know was that I didn’t write down everything I dreamt.
Everything in my dreams were always so vivid it was like they’d actually happened to me (and some of it was really sick and twisted, so I was glad they hadn’t actually happened to me) which was why I didn’t want to hurt her by admitting some of the things I dreamt about put her in a really bad light. I don’t know why my subconscious thought so poorly of her because she was nothing if not the perfect wife and it only made me feel guiltier.
But that wasn’t the worst part.
What really had my guilt meter pegged in the red was the other woman I dreamt about. Blond hair, blue eyes, and a smile that could light up Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve, she wasn’t anyone I knew in real life. But I still felt unfaithful towards Sophie for the feelings I had for this imaginary woman my subconscious had decided to like better than my own wife. She didn’t even have a name and if I didn’t know any better, I would swear that I knew her because it always seemed to be on the tip of my tongue in my dreams. But whenever I’d ask her what it was she would never respond.
But that’s all they were.
“Babe?” she asked when I hadn’t responded. “You alright?”
That was a loaded question, but I tried not to be annoyed and just said, “I’m fine.” And softening my expression, I added, “Sorry, no dreams last night.”
At least none that I was willing to share.
She looked disappointed, but I couldn’t tell if it was in me or my lack of anything new for her to read later on. So I just got out of bed to hit the shower before I was late for work.
We’d relocated to Shreveport from Las Vegas a couple of months earlier because had Sophie gotten transferred. She was some hotshot corporate accountant for her father’s company and while it was obvious Phil wasn’t her biological father – obvious because of his Latin heritage and her Irish coloring – he was the only father she’d ever known after he’d married her mother when she was still an infant. Her mother died unexpectedly a year later and he raised her as his own.
He even offered to give me a pity job working for him, but I politely declined. Sophie was the breadwinner of the two of us, but I didn’t mind in the slightest, preferring to work in my little computer repair shop I’d set up downtown. It was just me there which was for the best since my condition sometimes got the better of me.
Or should I say, all of me’s?
I’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia just after Sophie and I got married and while it was manageable with medication, sometimes it got the better of me. I got injections every two weeks to try and keep it at bay – which was part of the reason why Sophie and I hadn’t been intimate in so long. It took away any sex drive I had – not to mention the unexplainable guilt I felt towards my dream girl for even entertaining the idea of having sex with my wife. I hadn’t even mentioned dream girl to the therapist I saw once a week – he was really interested in my dreams too – so I wouldn’t look even crazier than I felt. It was bad enough getting told over and over again those things, no matter how real they felt, never happened and were just a figment of my fucked up my imagination. A manifestation of my ‘crazy gene’.
Not his actual words, but close enough.
I was fine. I knew she wasn’t real and it wasn’t like I saw her anywhere else besides my dreams. If I ever did, then I would know it was time to either up the dose or get my padded room ready.
When I walked into the kitchen dressed for the day Sophie was standing there with another one of her brilliant smiles and handed me my travel mug of coffee, asking, “You want anything in particular for dinner tonight?”
“Whatever is fine with me,” I replied, feeling even guiltier. She really was perfect and deserved a better husband than I turned out to be. She’d even given up the idea of us having kids since my condition was hereditary. My father had never been around, but my mother had it too and she’d ended up committing suicide when I was away at college. And to add to my guilt, I could barely even remember what she’d been like anymore.
Sophie leaned up to give me a kiss and smiled, “Well then I’ll surprise you.”
“Sounds good,” I smiled back, faking my happiness. “Love you,” I added, hoping that didn’t sound fake too.
If it did, she didn’t call me out on it and as I walked out the door she only said, “I love you too. Don’t forget you have your appointment this afternoon. Want me to pick you up?”
“No, I’ll manage.”
I had been experiencing some side effects from the medications, but they adjusted the dose and I’d felt okay after the last couple of times. I already felt bad enough that she was stuck taking care of me so much and I knew she had an important job to do, so I didn’t want her to have to babysit me all the time. We’d gotten into a pretty heated argument about it after my last appointment, with her wanting to come along, but I put my foot down and she begrudgingly agreed.
Seeing the worry on her face, I said, “Really, I’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I’m leaving there, okay?”
“Okay,” she sighed, but rather than stick around for her to try and weasel her way into my appointment, I hurried out the door.
The day was just like any other when I opened my shop. I got a lot of work from the nearby college campus thanks to the kids downloading porn instead of malware protection, which could also be said of my more senior clientele.
Who knew old people liked to watch so much porn?
At least they were able to get it up and it should probably bother me more that I couldn’t, but it was just another side effect of my condition. I didn’t care.
About much of anything.
The only time I felt alive was in my dreams, but I honestly didn’t expect Sophie to stick around forever. I had nothing to keep her there other than a shitload of issues and a journal she thought was “cool.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a better husband, but I had a hard enough time just being me anymore. However, at my last appointment, I did ask the doctor about maybe getting a script for Viagra, figuring I could at least do that for her. But she was so fucking good to me that when he said it wasn’t compatible with the medications they had me on she just hugged me and said she didn’t mind.
She loved me anyway.
At least I gave her something good to read in bed.
I worked on a few laptops during the morning hours and closed up a little before lunch, so I could run to the bank. There’d been a message on the answering machine from them saying two of the bills in the night deposit I’d dropped the day before were counterfeit. They needed me to fill out some forms and I planned on getting a bite to eat and then going to my appointment from there. The bank wasn’t too far away from the shop, so I decided to walk and left my car behind. It wasn’t until I got there when I realized it was the first of the month and there were a lot of people in line, but it was moving quickly enough that I stayed instead of coming back later.
People watching was something I did enjoy and my mind always tried to puzzle out who they were. What their life was like. What kind of person they were, like if they were a good guy or a bad guy. It was a stupid but entertaining way for me to pass the time, but given my condition I had to question what I saw just as I reached the front of the line.
Three masked men had stormed in through the front door of the bank with guns drawn and one declaring, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hold-up.”
As if that wasn’t enough a barrage of bullets littered the ceiling above us and took out every camera within sight.
Okay then…this was real.
Screams echoed over the marble floors, but soon quieted and the one doing the talking stayed put in the lobby, while another one slid over the counter where the tellers were, with the third disappearing into the office and coming back with a parade of employees all with their hands up.
“Just do as we say and we’ll be out of here in a jiffy,” the first one said.
It was just like my dreams.
Not the bank robbery part, but in my dreams I wasn’t some drab computer repairman. I was a bad ass mother fucker who kicked ass and took names – part Jason Bourne/part John McClain – and perhaps I really was in need of my medication because as soon as the leader started herding us poor schmucks towards the back of the bank, my body reacted without my brain’s consent.
It all happened so fast – I wished they hadn’t taken out the cameras already because it would’ve been nice to see for myself just what in the fuck I did – but in the span of seconds I had the leader caught unaware. Using his body as a shield, I effortlessly relieved him of his gun and put a bullet into each of the other two robber’s heads. The leader got knocked out with the butt of his own gun for his troubles and it was all I could do to not stare down at him and say, “Yippee kai yay mother fucker.”
Needless to say, I missed my appointment.
I missed dinner too and since I’d forgotten my cell phone back at the shop, Sophie was waiting for me at the door as soon as I got home, ready to tear me a new one.
“Where in the hell have you been?” she yelled.
I couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so riled up. It was worse than when we’d argued over her going to my appointment.
That I didn’t go to.
“The doctor called because you didn’t show up for your appointment and you haven’t been answering your cell phone. I stopped by your shop but you weren’t there either, so where have you been for the last eight hours?”
Hoping I’d get out of the dog house quickly, I tried to smile and said, “Have I got a story for you.”
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, as she finally moved out of the way so I could actually walk into the house and said, “It better be a good one.”
It turned out that she hated my story, but I could understand her anger. She loved me and I could’ve been hurt. What I’d done wasn’t very smart and I freely admitted that I was very lucky everything turned out okay. Sophie had seen the story on the evening news, but I’d already left with the police detective by the time the news crews showed up. And the cops at the scene had no comment, so my name hadn’t been mentioned.
“Did you have to talk to the FBI?” she asked when I was done.
“No, they were busy with the one guy who’s still alive, but the detective said they might be contacting me if they had any more questions after reading my statement.”
That went over like a whore in church, but I couldn’t figure out why she was so mad until she said, “Daddy will have a fit if he sees this on the news. All it takes is one nosy reporter digging around and then the story won’t be “Hero Business Owner Thwarts Bank Robbery.” It’ll be “Schizophrenic Man Grabs Robber’s Gun – Lucky Only Robbers Were Shot.”
That certainly took the wind out of my sails. I’d been feeling pretty good about myself all day, considering I’d stopped a robbery in progress before any of the other poor schmucks like me had gotten hurt. But I’d forgotten.
Those other poor schmucks were nothing like me because I was crazy.
“Thanks Soph,” I said dejectedly.
“Babe,” she called out, when I got up and moved towards our room. “Don’t be like that…I’m just concerned about you, that’s all. Don’t worry, I’ll call our lawyer and have him threaten to sue if the police so much as mention your initials.”
Sure…God forbid that same nosy reporter digs deep enough and figures out I’m the crazy son-in-law of Philip Castle, BFD CEO of Castle Holdings Corporation.
“Whatever Soph, I’m going to bed.”
I tossed and turned for hours, with my mind refusing to shut off, and instead replayed everything that had happened that day. It was an easy thing to do since Sophie must have been too pissed at me to come to bed, but I got thirsty enough around midnight that I got up to get a drink. I expected to find her dozing on the couch, but she wasn’t and when I walked into the darkened kitchen, a flash of red outside of the window caught my eye.
Sophie was on her cell phone, pacing back and forth in the backyard, having some sort of heated discussion. And given the time, I doubted it was work related, so I did something I couldn’t ever remember doing before.
I people-watched my wife.
She cycled through stages of being angry and fearful – guilt-ridden and relieved – and since the conversation lasted well over an hour, I could only come to one conclusion.
She was talking to her lover.
I couldn’t blame her really, but it still stung. I would try and blame it on her just having a physical need that I knew I wasn’t fulfilling, but nobody talked to a booty call for well over an hour in the backyard after midnight. The least she could have done was have the decency to tell me she wanted out. I would’ve understood – hell, I’d been wondering what made her stick around for so long anyway – but the last fucking thing I wanted was for her to stay with me out of pity.
She was still pacing and talking when I went back into our room and got dressed. I tossed a few things into a duffle bag and threw it over my shoulder before quietly slipping out the front door without a word because I knew she would argue to get me to stay. But I already knew it was pointless.
I’d been her burden for long enough.
I was hoping I’d be able to get the car started and backed out of the driveway before she heard it and came around the front. But my plans to be stealth-like went to shit when two sedans came screeching to a stop at the end of the driveway and four burly guys got out yelling, “Eric Northman! Put your hands up! You’re coming with us.”
“Guys,” I called out, while nervously raising my hands. “I think you’ve got the wrong house. My name is Andre. Andre Paul. My ID is in my back pocket.”
They didn’t look like they believed a word I said and cautiously moved forward. With their guns still trained on me, out of nowhere a motorcycle came barreling around the corner and an open can of tear gas landed in front of them, just as the rider did a sharp loop through my grass and skidded to a stop in front of me.
“Eric! Get on!” they cried and I almost told them my name wasn’t Eric, but the coughing gunmen who had retreated from the gas were circling back around.
My fight or flight instincts kicked in, so I hopped on, just as Sophie rounded the side of the house. She almost seemed like she was dumbstruck, but then I was too when she suddenly looked pissed and…
Was that a gun she took out from her lower back?
There wasn’t enough time for my eyes to focus on it before the bike took off and whoever my savior was drove like a madman, dodging and weaving through the side streets and back roads of the little suburban enclave we lived in, until we ended up in a seedier section of town. The bike pulled into a darkened warehouse through an open door and came to a stop next to a blue compact sedan with the engine turning off a second later.
I got off the bike and took several steps away from my possible rescuer/probable kidnapper. But when they too got off the bike and turned to face me, as soon as they took their helmet off, I knew I was fucked.
It was the blond from my dreams.
I hadn’t ever missed a dose of my meds since I’d first started on the bi-monthly injections. But they really should’ve warned me that going twelve hours overdue would have dire fucking consequences.
“Eric,” she said with relief. “Why didn’t you contact me?”
“Fuck!” I exhaled with relief. “I’m dreaming! I must’ve fallen asleep after all.”
The ‘Eric’ thing was new, but I could deal with it. Hell…that explained the whole adultery scenario, since my unconscious mind had it out for Sophie. And maybe she would even get a kick out of finally having something new for me to add to the journal and wouldn’t be so mad about the bank thing.
Or maybe that was a dream too?
“Eric, what are you talking about?”
Feeling a shit ton of relief now that I realized what was going on, I finally relaxed and asked, “So beautiful, are you going to tell me what your name is tonight?”
Normally she’d just smile at me coyly and distract me in other ways – enjoyably naked ways – so I dropped my duffle bag, thinking we’d be getting busy any second, when she decided to improvise and gasped, “You don’t know who I am?”
It had to be a dream because she still wasn’t answering – even if she normally didn’t acknowledge that question at all – but I gave myself two giant thumbs up for the outfit I’d imagined her in.
Tight black leather from head to toe and I blamed my oh-shit reflex for not noticing earlier for the few minutes I’d been on the back of the bike.
“Well that’s a catch-22, huh?” I answered with a wicked smile. “I mean, we meet up like this nearly every night and from the stuff that we do, I do know you in the biblical sense. But since you’re only tight lipped about your name then I guess…no.”
“Shit,” she mumbled.
And did she just wipe away a tear? Dream girl never cried before.
“Grab your bag and get in the car,” she ordered, sounding all business-like while walking over to the sedan.
“Backseat?” I asked with a grin.
“No, you giant perv,” she huffed and got in on the driver’s side.
Did I have some latent dominatrix fantasy I didn’t know about?
Must be…but it was all good because she was smokin’ hot.
I quickly slid into the passenger’s seat and tossed my bag into the back when she started the car and gunned it out through the same door we’d come in through.
“Give me your cell phone,” she ordered, which I thought was odd, but who’s to say why my brain came up with half of the crazy shit it did.
“I left it at the shop,” I replied, figuring there was no sense in lying about it to myself.
She nodded and looked like her mind was going a mile a minute.
And I thanked Christ this was only a dream because she was driving way faster than that.
But I got confused when I reached over to put my hand on her leg and she smacked it away, saying, “Who said you could touch me?”
Is this where I was supposed to say, “I’m sorry mistress?”
But before I could say anything, she pulled her own cell phone out and hit the speed dial. A second later she told whoever answered, “Hey, it’s me. There’s a complication. I need you to take Jase and do like we planned, okay?” She listened for a second and replied, “No, I have him it’s just…something’s wrong. He’s not himself, so it might take a little while, but you all will be fine if you stick to the plan. I’ll contact you just as soon as I figure out when in the hell went wrong.” Her voice cracked when she added, “Stay safe,” and then ended the call before tossing the phone out onto the highway.
This dream was so weird. Normally whenever she was in it all we did was laugh and fuck.
And kiss and fuck.
And snuggle and fuck.
When were we going to get to the ‘fuck’ part?
I was just about to suggest it when she reached behind her seat and threw a file onto my lap saying, “Your name is Eric Northman. You were an undercover agent with the FBI working on a case targeting Felipe de Castro, aka Philip Castle. It took two years for you to get close enough to his inner circle to eventually work alongside his top cyber genius, Victor Madden. Together, with de Castro’s money and Madden’s smarts, they were working on a computer virus – one they would be able to control and that could bring down every encryption system worldwide, giving them sole access to…everything. Every country’s defense systems – banks – they could conceivably launch a nuclear weapon if they were so inclined. And that crazy bastard Madden finally succeeded, only both he and de Castro were so paranoid there was only ever one copy. You’d managed to reproduce a counterfeit version that would do nothing more than crash their own systems and were going to swap it out. As soon as we got word from you that you’d succeeded, the bureau would’ve swept in to make the arrests.”
She looked over at me, with a longing in her eyes I couldn’t ever remember seeing before and said, “You disappeared a year ago and at the very same time Castle Holdings Corp’s systems crashed and it took them weeks to get everything back online. That was when we knew the swap had actually taken place, but you’d never called in. No one knew if you were dead or alive. The company’s clusterfuck was all over the news, so nobody paid any attention when that very same morning, some dead guy turned up with no ID and a bullet hole in his head in some hotel room in Vegas. But the ballistics told us it was your gun that put it there. It was Madden.”
Sophie was going to go apeshit for this when I woke up!
Killer undercover FBI agent?
She was right. This would be a great book. Maybe it would make up for everything else, like not having sex in forever and the bank thing, if that wasn’t part of the dream too.
I played along with my dream girl and said, “Okay, so then why were those guys trying to get me to come with them when you pulled up? Do they work for my father-in-law’s company too?”
“You’re married?” she screeched. When I nodded, she asked in rapid fire succession, “For how long? How did you meet? Who is she?”
Dream girl was never so…jealous?
I kind of liked it, but only said, “Mmm…going on eight years now. We met in college and you saw her back at the house before you tore outta there. Her name is Sophie.”
She looked relieved and worried at the same time, but all she said was, “Those guys were FBI agents. Like I said, it was assumed you were either killed or went to the dark side when Castle’s systems went to shit and you didn’t turn up. But then neither has the virus. De Castro circled the wagons and there’s not a peep coming from his camp, so we had nothing to go on until today, when your fingerprints were scanned into the Shreveport PD’s database.”
I nodded saying, “They said they needed them since they knew I’d held the robber’s gun in the bank. Something about his prints should be on the bullets and not mine, but there were plenty of eyewitnesses to vouch I wasn’t with them. And since I stopped them, well…”
“Well…” she interrupted. “Now the FBI knows where you are – or were – and they’ll want to get that virus program from you. I’m having a hard enough time believing you and I know the methods they’ll use to get you to talk. But the problem is you seem to think your name is Andre Paul.”
“And you’re saying it’s not?” I asked with a smile.
My brain really was whacked sometimes, so when she didn’t say anything else – and since I wanted to get to the ‘fuck’ part of the dream – I asked the question that always got her busy distracting me with her naked body.
“So, are you going to tell me who you are yet?”
Her eyes looked right into my own as she said, “I’m…was your…partner, Susannah Stackhouse. But you only ever called me Sookie. The life you think you’ve led never existed Eric, but I’m going to figure out a way to give you yours back.”
Never mind that, she actually told me her name.
Maybe this wasn’t a dream?
Had I finally gone off the deep end?
Real or imaginary, neither option was good.
BFD – Big Fucking Deal