"Joseph, Joseph, wake up." Out of a corner of the darkness a small hand pushed on Joseph's pajama sleeve, shaking him awake.
"Wha...What do you want Matt? Go back to sleep..." Joseph grumbled, he yawned tiredly and rolled over.
Matthew's small hand rested on his brother's backside motionless for a few seconds. He cocked his head to the side; he could still hear the music down below. "Wake up Joe." He pushed on his brother with more force, "Do you hear that? Come on, come look at this."
Joseph finally forced his sleepy eyes open, lifting his head ever so slightly as he strained his ears to listen. He could hear the faint musical notes drifting upwards to his room. He pushed himself up on his forearms and threw back the covers.
Matthew, delighted at finally capturing his older brother's attention, turned quickly on his heels and padded out of the room gesturing at Joseph to follow him. He brushed his hair out of his face with the back of his hand as he made his way down the hall. Pausing at the banister of the stairwell he turned back towards Joseph, his eyes nearly glowing with excitement.
Once Joseph reached him, Matthew squatted down, his face resting between the beams of the banister. Joseph followed suit, his body next to his brothers. Both boys peered down into the darkness below that was their family room. The only light they could see came from the flickering candles their mother so loved to collect.
Joseph blinked and rubbed his eyes, trying to see past the darkness, finally he saw them.
"See." Matthew's boyish grin and animated eyes made Joseph bit back his sigh.
"Yeah Matt, I see them. There's Mom and Dad." He gently ruffled Matthew's mop of hair.
"They're dancing." Matthew turned away from Joseph and pressed his face once again through the banister rails.
"Yes, they're dancing, you see today is their wedding anniversary, they're celebrating."
"Because they got married?" Matthew's small voice and wide eyes made Joseph chuckle.
"Yeah because they got married." He nodded quickly at his younger brother trying to remember what it was like to be five years old and full of wonder at life.
"I'm gonna get married too." Matthew's green eyes were filled with a determination Joseph could only remember seeing during Matthew's piano lessons with Ms. Young their teacher. "I'm gonna marry Mama..."
Joseph suppressed his laughter at his brother's words and began pulling Matthew back to his room. "You can't marry Mama, she's already married to Dad."
Matthew frowned unhappily pondering his brother's words, he gave one last look at the figures dancing below before truning his head away and following his older brother back down the hall.
"Well then who am I gonna marry Joseph?"
"You'll find someone." Joseph pulled back the covers to Matthew's bed, gesturing him to jump in.
"Someone like Mama?" Matthew's voice was filled with sleep as the young boy burrowed under his covers fighting to keep his eyes open just a little bit longer.
"Yeah, like Mama. Now go to sleep Matt." Joseph tucked the covers under his brother's chin.
"Joe?" the young boy murmured drowsily.
"What is it Matt?"
"How am I gonna know when I find her?" his voice dropped to a soft, sleepy whisper.
"I don't know Matt. Dad always said he knew from the second he laid eyes on Mama, he just knew..."
"And how long have you been having these dreams Mr. Steele?" Keith looked up from his notepad at the sullen, brooding man in front of him.
The man didn't answer; he was deep in thought. He sat rigidly in his seat, his head bent down, arms crossed in front of him. His eyes held a glazed look, a look of a man who perhaps hadn't slept in a while, or eaten anything of substance. The gaunt hallow of his cheeks reminded Keith of a man near death, and he shivered mentally inside before trying again.
"Mr. Steele?" Keith paused, placing his pen down on top of the notepad, "Just how long have you been having these dreams?"
The man didn't move, and Keith thought that he still hadn't heard him, he was about to ask a third time when finally he say the man's eyes blink twice finally processing the question.
When those piercing green eyes were finally raised to his, Keith could see that inside that shell once lived a man of great happiness, a man of joy, a man of hope. But something had destroyed that, and Keith didn't know what. All he knew was that this man had come to him for help, and he was going to do everything in his power to help him...
Dreams? Was that all they were? Just dreams? I didn't know how long I had been having these dreams, it seemed like my whole fucking life was just a dream, and I couldn't even begin to explain how it was haunting me, eating at me, making me hate myself and everyone around me.
I blinked slowly trying to collect my thought before answering Dr. Whitewater. Finally I raised my eyes to his. The look on his face was clearly filled with concern, but I could see the fear in there too. It was the fear that I saw in so many eyes that made me start seeing Dr. Whitewater. They would all look at me with that same wide eyed, alarmed look, making me feel like a failure. Some of them tried to talk to me, make me talk to them, but I managed to ignore them all, all of them except for Ben. He was the one who tossed me on my ass and threatened for me to either straighten up or get the hell out of all their lives because they couldn't take watching me fucking kill myself anymore.
"The dreams, uh, about six months now, I've been having them." My voice was ragged and raw and sounded hollow to my own ears.
"I see." Dr. Whitewater jotted something down on his notebook before glancing back up at me. "And you say when you wake up from these dreams you feel like you can't breathe?"
I nodded quickly without looking at him, not telling him that when I woke up from these dreams it felt like a fucking monster was sitting on my chest, pressing down on me with hollow, greedy eyes, making me gasp out loud for air. I didn't tell him that I would jolt upright in bed with tears streaming down my face and an ache in my heart so bad that I couldn't go back to sleep no matter how hard I tried.
"And you are currently taking Serax?" Dr. Whitewater brought his pen up to his temple scratched it briefly.
"Okay then, why don't we try Ambien to help you get a good night's sleep. I'm going to prescribe you Ambien along with your Serax and when you come in next week you can let me know how it works out for you." Dr. Whitewater scribbled something down on his notepad.
"Sure, thanks Dr. Whitewater." I placed both my hands on the arm rests of the chair, pushing myself up, I was glad to be out of there.
Dr. Whitewater placed his notebook down on his desk and leaned forward, frowning slightly. "Mr. Steele, you realize that sooner or later you are going to have to talk about it."
My head shot up towards Dr. Whitewater and my hands gripped the armrest tightly. I didn't answer him; I wasn't ready to talk about it yet.
"And you haven't told me anything about your wife." Dr. Whitewater watched me quietly with sympathetic eyes.
The walls suddenly felt like they were closing in all around me. I was tired of Dr. Whitewater's look, tired of the being in that office, I needed to get out of there now.
"My wife still lives here in Prescott with my son." I could feel my heart hammering in my chest at the thought of Sarah and Henry.
"When was the last time you saw your son, Mr. Steele?" Dr. Whitewater could tell I was getting ready to bolt.
I was already turning away from him, towards the door; trying to get out as fast as I could. My mouth was dry, so so very dry, thirsting for what I had been craving every day and every night, every hour of every day. The struggle was enormous, the burden never ending.
"The day he came out of the hospital," I choked out, swinging the door wide open, "Before Sarah said I couldn't go there anymore."
And with that I was gone, heading down the hall past the receptionist who only glanced up at me with a disinterested frown before looking back down at her computer screen.
The cold winter air swirled all around me, but I hardly felt it. I didn't feel much of anything these days. Everyone I passed on the sidewalk was all bundled up in their overcoats and scarves, giving my tee shirt and jeans looks of incredulity and a few of disgust.
I know I must have looked like shit, and I rubbed my hand against my jaw feeling the stubble scrape roughly against my hand. I hadn't shaved in weeks and couldn't remember the last time I changed my clothes.
I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets and walked briskly the few blocks to my apartment.
"Hey buddy, got a smoke?" One of the bums who often camped out along the wall of my apartment held out his hand to me. I lived on the poorer side of Clayton, the part on one really ever talked about. The only thing around here were a few old liquor stores, a tire shop that was closed down, and my apartment building.
"Not today, sorry." I gave him a quick shrug before twisting the key into the rusted gate that surrounded the place.
I'm not sure what the fuck the gate was for because the average person definitely would want to be locked on the outside of the gate, not the inside. Bags of garbage leaned raggedly outside of doorways, often ripped apart by the wild cats that lived on the grounds. Broken beer bottles were strewn along the brown grass, and somebody's old stove had been tossed carelessly on its side right near one of the dead pine trees was now the home to a family of squirrels.
Once inside my apartment I threw myself onto the old secondhand sofa that Ben and Cassie given to me nearly a year ago. I struggled with myself, forcing myself wit breathe in the stale air, trying to get my mind off of what I craved so badly.
I stated at the ceiling, letting my eyes follow the wavy grew lines that ran in parallels across the plaster, trying to think of something to distract me.
Sarah...my mind always went back to the same thing...Sarah. She has been Cassie's roommate. Ben had dragged me across campus back when we were in college to show this girl he had a crush on.
Two girls chatted happily sitting on a cement bench near the student union, their backpacks resting at their feet.
I felt like a damn stalker lurking behind this huge tree with Ben hanging over my shoulder so that he could spy on Cassie. He pointed to this petite, black haired girl in skin tight jeans and bright red sweater. She was smiling and bouncing around in her seat, her hands flying around her face as she talked. I could see why Ben was attracted to her; he was always drawn to the cute, bubbly types, complete opposite of his own quiet, observing nature.
The girl sitting next to her was smiling and nodding her head in agreement but I could tell she wasn't really paying attention. Her eyes were focused above Cassie's head, gazing out into the distance as if she were daydreaming. The sun shone directly above her, making her eyes sparkle and her long brown hair glisten.
I began to tune out Ben's constant drone and focused my attention the girls by her side.
"Ben," I jabbed him with my elbow, causing him to pause mid sentence, "Who's the girl next to Cassie?"
"What girl?" Ben didn't take his eyes of Cassie, fucking bastard didn't even blink.
"There's a girl next to Cassie, idiot" Scowling, I turned to face him, "Who is she?"
"Oh...her," Ben finally took a breath, "That's Cassie's roommate, Sarah or something." He waved his had absentmindedly, "She works over at the coffee shop across campus."
I remained silent, studying the girl on the bench; she turned suddenly looking in our direction as if she could sense someone was looking at her, lifting her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. I didn't move from my spot, not sure if I wanted to be discovered or remain anonymous for the time being. She blinked a few times and then turned back to Cassie.
"Come on Ben, I have to get to class." I turned away from the tree and began heading away from the girls and their cement bench. Ben reluctantly followed suit, hitching his backpack up on his arm.
"You wanna have lunch after class?" He asked, giving Cassie one last glance over his shoulder.
I shook my head, "Nah, but I think I am really going to need a cup of coffee though..."
The shrill of the phone jerked me out of my thought and I jerked upright from the sofa at the sound. I stared at the phone as it shrilled again, not even bothering to reach for it. My answering machine picked up after the fourth ring.
"This is Dr. Whitewater's office calling to remind Mr. Steele that he has an appointment tomorrow at four."
I sighed and tuned out the rest of the message. I was required to see Dr. Whitewater two days a week and I knew if I ever wanted my wife and son back again I would have to follow through. I couldn't lose Sarah or my son, they were my whole life, a life I almost lost, but I was going to get them back, or die trying.
I pushed myself off the sofa and headed for the bathroom, forcing myself to turn on the shower and peel off my clothes.
The guy at the center always said the first few months are the hardest and he wasn't fucking kidding. I let the hot water run over my bare torso trying to remember the last time I really felt alive. I had a life once, I could find it again, I promised myself that. I stared at my toes watching the soapy water puddle around my feet. I knew exactly when my life had fallen apart, and despite everyone's efforts to help me, the downward sprial had continued. No one could figure out why I had shut myself away, not even Sarah. Only I knew why, and it still haunted me.
I scrubbed my body harder as if I could scrub away all the ache and despair that surrounded me. The only thing that kept me going right now was Sarah and my son, so I would do this for them, it would always be for them...