You know, a lot of shows and movies and books always push at you the importance of friendship. It is impressed on you from your earliest days. To claim someone like that and put them in a role of invaluable intimacy and confide in them your deepest, darkest secrets... That's real love. Real trust. Real loyalty.
Lovers come and lovers go, but real friends are there to rag on you about them all.
I always, always thought that was true. That your friends would always be there to love you and support you and accept even the darkest parts of you with some level of understanding.
I guess part of me still believes it's true. When I look back on everything, I know that they had my best interests at heart. The problem is, they saw me as one person, and I knew different.
My best version of me wasn't theirs.
That's something I will never apologize for. It's something they don't have to apologize for. Unfortunately, it's also not something we can forget. And I've done some things since then that I couldn't ask them to forgive.
"What the fuck are those?" Sarah snapped, her eyes locked on my wounds.
Oh goody. "Coffee?"
"What. The fuck. Are those?" As a point, she jerked the percolator out of reach.
Sighing, I collapsed in the comfy folding chair and sighed. Time to see how much I could divulge this time. "I got them in a dream."
So far so good.
"How?" she barked at me.
"That's the million dollar question," I told her with a warning look of my own. "Are you asking how I got them or how they got out of the dream?"
I could tell by the widening of her eyes that her mind hadn't jumped that far into the dilemma. She saw wounds and went all Mama Bear on me. Leave it to her to let the most disturbing portion soar straight over her head.
"What happened?" She bit both words off in a deliberate snap. One that probably would have had me performing all kinds of word gymnastics if the side door of the van hadn't sprung open and Dasan sat blinking at us with a lazy smile on his face.
Sarah shot me a look that promised answers on pain of death before she got up and rolled D's chair up to the door. I shrugged and lunged for the coffee. He murmured a sleepy thanks before he reached both hands out and gripped the arms of the chair. In a quick, practiced maneuver, he dragged his ass and legs most of the way out of the van before he twisted and slid into the chair.
In all the years that we had been friends, I'd never asked D why he was in a wheelchair. Like most people stuck in chairs on the rez, I'd sort of thought it was a diabetes thing. Then I got to know him, saw how he ate, and saw his lack of insulin usage and decided that couldn't be it. But I'd still never asked. O had, and I'd gleaned from her that it was in relation to the night his mother's boyfriend beat her to death when Dasan was only five. From that point on, I'd sworn never to ask, and he'd always seemed to appreciate the fact that I didn't treat him like an invalid.
I smiled as I remembered the day I'd asked him to go on the road with me. His mouth had hung open for so long, I almost watched a fly zoom right into it. Then he started grilling me about how he would manage. He had doctor appointments and his chair and more personal issues. My response had been: First of all, I didn't know which parts of his body worked and which didn't, but he could maneuver his fucking chair all over the rez just fine, so what was the problem? And if he had to have a catheter or some shit, I didn't need to know, and he'd also been handling that just fine while I was floating in the bliss of ignorance. Second of all, I knew how to drive his ass back for his doctor appointments, and I was listed as his emergency contact and patient advocate anyway. In the end, I'd battered him down and he'd packed up and headed out with me.
Then we picked up Sarah and she'd taken up the job of coddling him. Bothered the shit out of me until I realized that he rather enjoyed the attention. A pretty girl he hadn't grown up with was fawning over him like he was a lost deer. He had her eating out of the palm of his hand in no time. Five years later, she didn't baby his ass anymore and the glamor of the pretty girl had worn off, but she was still undoubtedly the first one to anticipate his needs and be willing to fulfill them. Me? I'd grown up with him and trusted him to handle his own shit. If he really needed me, he knew I was there for him.
I was still lost in thought, sipping at my coffee, when D's voice shot through me. "What happened to your wrists?"
Now, perhaps the most unfortunate issue with the marks was that they were wide as fuck. If it had been thin cuffs, I'd have some defined, thin lines in my wrist that I wouldn't have minded hiding beneath a bracelet. The issue with these, however, was that he'd used manacles that were easily an inch or inch and a half wide and they'd been tight on my skin already. If I hadn't fought them, I'd have had red marks that probably would have faded overnight. But I did fight, and they had cut, and now they were raw and painful and I wasn't putting anything but some aloe gel anywhere near the damn things. But that also meant they were on full display.
"Exactly what I wanted to know," Sarah declared as she dropped back into her own chair.
Shrugging, I said, "I was chained to a wall with a guy's face plastered to mine. You really want the details?"
"Oh, TMI!" Dasan cried out and I grinned over my coffee cup.
Sarah neither looked convinced nor pleased with my answer. Made sense considering she knew about the second dreamcraft and she now miraculously believed me about the shadow man. Which, now that I thought about it, was a pretty quick turnaround.
"Hey, D, you want the camp to yourself for a while? I want to run down to the dollar store and get some lotion for this, and Sarah needs more conditioner."
"Yeah, no problem. You guys go ahead."
"Thanks," I said, draining my coffee and springing to my feet. Sarah quickly followed after me.
We were barely out of hearing distance when she asked, "It was him, wasn't it? He did this to you."
"I did this to myself, but he didn't help matters," I grumbled.
"So you actually saw him this time? In your dreams?"
A dark chuckle left me. "In his dreams, my dreams, and his fucking nightmare."
I shook my head. "Can't talk about it. Don't know why, but I can't. So don't ask for details, okay?"
That looked like it was a hard pill to swallow, but she eventually nodded. "Fine. But how did...?"
"I don't know, but I intend to find out. Now, tell me something, why do you believe me now? You didn't before when Dasan told you I was seeing things."
She didn't answer right away. "You were right. D isn't as observant as he'd like to be. And for you to have two dreamcrafts that screwed with him enough to where he'd take a tent over the van... Something weird is happening, and he's the only weird thing that's happened recently."
So fucking true. And she was still missing the obvious.
"It's not just weird, Sarah. It's a damn miracle. There's someone else in the world who can do what I can do. And he can do it better."
For that fact alone, I hated him. For that fact alone, I was obsessed with him.
YOU ARE READING
She is the mistress of dreams. He is the keeper of nightmares. As a Dreamcrafter, Istas travels the country from pow wows to renaissance festivals, peddling her wares to those seeking a respite from reality. From calm days on a beach to wild adventu...