Chapter One

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I shot up in bed. My body drenched in sweat. I awoke from a dream, like all the others. In these dreams I am another person, a similar person, but definitely someone else. The dream had felt so real like I was recalling a memory. These dreams have been coming more frequently lately, and they've felt more life-like. I wake from them, dazed, confined in another's persona. Yet- I always feel like myself.

I've shared the presence of these dreams with my parents, often my mother. She always manages to convince herself that the dreams come about when I am overwhelmed. When I am especially stressed. She finds the dreams troublesome, so she's made an appointment for me to speak with a counselor.

My appointment is today, on my first day of school. I am still trembling from the dream. My stomach is tied in knots. No one knows about my memories or dreams, except for my parents. If I'm honest, the dreams terrify me. They make me feel like I'm missing something and I will never discover myself. I am a stranger in my own body. I feel lost, but, I can't help but think that there's more to them. I know that they're supposed to mean something, but what? I need the counselor to help me. It feels as though I need someone to fix me.

As I get ready for the day, the dream lingers on my mind. I yearn for the people from my dream and feel a strange sense of longing for another life. I know it's not normal for the dreams to affect me in this way. A loud knock on the door startles me. It shakes me out of my head and I lose my train of thought.

"Ashlynn, are you almost ready?" My mother calls from the other side of my bedroom door.

I call out, "Give me a minute mom!" as I pull on my favorite sundress. It's creamy white with blue flowers. The dress is soft and lightweight. I pair it with a jean jacket and some brown, strappy sandals. I run a brush through my hair and pull it up into a bun, before applying my makeup. A few sprits of my favorite perfume and I'm ready to go. I close my eyes and breathe deeply inhaling the light, floral scent. As I step out of my bedroom, I stumble into my mom. She must have been waiting for me.

She greets me with a tight, one-arm hug and asks, "Are you ready to go?" I smile, taking in her familiar, cotton scent and embrace the hug. We start down the sidewalk and walk out to the car. The engine hums as we pull out of the driveway. She drives in silence for a moment and I debate over whether I should tell her about my dream. I don't want her to worry about me, but we are going to see a counselor about my dreams.

I begin, "Mom, I had another one of my dreams last night."

She hesitates for a moment, then asks, "You did? Would you like to talk to me about it?"

I desperately wanted to tell someone. The dream had affected me in a major way. Getting to the point, I say, "I, well she, was hanging out with a gorgeous guy. He must've been a friend. I believe he was her neighbor." As I thought about the dream, I began to feel embarrassed. My blood rushed to my face, causing my cheeks to flush red. Was it possible to have a crush on a guy that wasn't even real?

"Were you her again in this dream?" She asks, "Ashlynn?"

I look her in the eye and answer, " Yes, I was Riley, but the boy he seemed so familiar. It felt like I'd known him my entire life."

She grasps for something to say, "It could be your brain recognized him from somewhere. You know? I remember reading that every face that appears in your dream is identical to a face you've seen before. The face could be one of someone you've walked passed or seen through a window."

"Yeah," I reply completely unconvinced. If I had met the boy before, I would remember. That, I was sure of. "How much farther to the office mom?" I wondered.

"It's not too far, another couple of blocks. Are you nervous?" She asked me.

I took a moment to consider her question. Was I only nervous? Yeah, I was nervous. The aching in my stomach wouldn't go away. My knees are shaky and my heart is beating faster in my chest. Aside from the nervousness, I was incredibly eager. 

Eager to hear what the counselor had to say. I need to know what is going on with me. Why am I living another girl's life in my dreams? My heart was aching to hear some kind of reasoning, but I wasn't going to tell her that. Instead, I forced the feelings down and said, "No."

Upon arrival, the office was not impressive to look at. It was an old, brick building, with three floors of windows. The window's positioning was exactly like the windows of an old school building. I imagined many rooms on either side of a long empty hallway, reminding me of jail cells. An ominous thought that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I take a long, deep breath as I peek up at my mom. She must have noticed me perusing the building, or sensed my unease because she shot me a reassuring smile. My mom is very pretty. She is brunette with shoulder-length hair and bright, blue eyes. She has a kind face and I resemble her, but I also resemble my dad. He is quite handsome. He has sandy, blond hair and soft blue eyes.

My parents split up shortly after I was born. Now, they are both happy and married to other people.

My dad's voice broke through my thoughts, "Hey boo, are you ready for this?" I smiled at him. I didn't realize that he was coming. A strong sense of relief poured over my body. His presence had always calmed me and made me feel capable of conquering everything.

I hugged him, "Yes dad, I'm ready for this." I meant it. I was ready for answers. Then, we began walking towards the door. My mom on one side and my dad on the other. I shoved away all of my remaining doubts.

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