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TO DREAM AND DANCE BENEATH THE STARS

TO DREAM AND DANCE BENEATH THE STARS

A magical, "what if?" story... only available here!

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Hold On To What's Real...

On the eve of her birthday, for as long as she can remember, Alanna has dreamed of him. But dreams fade away in the morning light, and she isn’t sure if the love of her her life is actually a figment of her imagination. Will she give him up or put all her faith in the impossible?

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I gasped in shock at the familiar figure I saw across the crowded train station. I couldn’t see his face, but his broad shoulders and ebony hair—rumpled and in need of a cut—made my heart skip a beat.

Could it be him?

I was being ridiculous, of course. I knew it, but I still couldn’t keep from making my way toward him, weaving through the crowd while keeping his tall form in view.
I dared not look away or I feared he’d disappear. My heart thudded as I quickened my steps, a fruitless hope making my skin prickle and my palms sweat.

It seemed like I saw him everywhere, and every time when I least expected it . . . so it always took me by surprise.

At the grocery store . . . the gas station . . . getting into a crowded elevator.

It was never really him, though. Only a figment of my wishful imagination.

It couldn’t be, after all.

Because he wasn’t real.

***

I first met him the night before I turned four years old. The memory of the dream was vivid and crisp, like they all were. A little boy, dressed in blue jeans with a rip in the knee and a red t-shirt, stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick house, staring at me across the wide expanse of front lawn. I remember the odd color of his eyes—a blue so deep and dark it reminded me of my mother’s sapphire bracelet. His dark hair was cropped close on the sides, but left longer on top, and it swirled up from a cowlick in the back.

He said nothing, and neither did I.

We just stared at each other.

When I awoke, even at my young age, I realized something strange and wonderful had happened.

Then it happened again on the night before my fifth birthday . . . and on the night before every birthday since.

The settings for our unusual meetings were never familiar but always comfortable. At six, we played tag on a grassy hill, the sun warm on our backs. At eight, we walked through a cool forest, turning over rocks in search of creepy crawlies.

“What do you think this place is?” he’d asked me as we sat on the damp ground, leaning back against a rough stump. “Is it real?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. It feels real while we’re here. At least to me.” I reached out and picked a pink flower from a cluster growing near my feet. I rolled the stem in my fingers, brushing the blossom against my lips.

He scratched his cheek, leaving a smudge of dirt behind. “Yeah. To me, too. But in the morning, I’m not so sure.”

I nodded, still gazing at the flower.

“Okay, let’s try again,” he said, turning to face me with his legs crossed, leaning his elbows on his knees. “What’s your name?”

I looked at him intently, concentrating fiercely. “Alanna. Alanna Thomas. My friends call me Lannie. I live with my mom and dad, Bob and Anne Thomas, in Vinter’s Corner.”
“Alanna Thomas . . . Bob and Anne . . . Vinter’s Corner,” he repeated, his brow creased in concentration as he struggled to sear the words into his memory.

We’d tried it many times before. We could talk about almost anything . . . our families, school, our friends. But with the morning and our inevitable waking, our vivid conversations would become dazed and unclear. Eventually, like most dreams, our experiences together drifted into the realm of déjà vu and words on the tip of your tongue. When we were together, it would all come rushing back in sparkling colors and rich scents and intense flavors. It was real.

When we were together . . . it was real.

But the other 364 days of the year—365 on leap years—Aiden was a flash of memory. A mysterious figure just around the next corner. A quirk of a smile. A pair of cobalt eyes that burned at me behind the lids of my own but were unrecognizable. Even his name evaded my thoughts just a few moments after I awoke . . . melting away as consciousness finally claimed me. I eventually took to keeping a notebook by my bed and tried, in those first muddled minutes, to write down what I could remember from my dreams. My scribbled ramblings made little sense, but I treasured them anyway.

No matter how hard we tried, there was no way for us to find each other in the waking world—nothing that could prove it was all really happening.

“You try,” I demanded, brushing crazy red curls away from my eyes. “Where do you live?”

His eyes narrowed as he willed me to remember. “Chicago . . . it’s in Illinois.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know where Chicago is, Aiden.”

He shrugged and stood up, brushing off his jeans. “I don’t know why we even bother. It never works.”

A loud screech drew our attention upward to the patches of blue peeking through the trees.

“Here he comes,” Aiden murmured. “I guess it’s time.”

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