As he enters, he feels a sharp pain as he steps on the shards of whatever he had shattered in his tantrum earlier. He cringes and has to lean on the bedpost to keep his balance. He reaches down and pulls the shards from his feet, and returns to bed. He knows he should probably clean and dress his foot, but he is determined to return to her. He has already wasted too much time with his unexpected meeting, and he needs to see her face again, needs to feel the sweet taste of her lips against his.
He lies down and within minutes slips into the wonderland that is his mind. He finds himself in the same chair he had sat down in when he tried to fend off Alfred Streyer’s assault on the sanctity of this place. He gets up and returns to his breakfast preparations. He puts the food over the fire as Iris enters the room.
“I made your favorite,” he says as she comes over to him and kisses him. All his anger and frustration melts away with that simple display of affection.
“Aww, what’s the occasion?” He smiles.
“Just a special treat for a special woman. I’m sorry it isn’t ready yet, I expected to be done sooner but it still needs some time to cook.” She walks over to him and takes his hand.
“That’s fine. Gives us just enough time.” She takes his hand and starts to pull him away from the fire.
“Time for what?”
She looks over her should and says, “To give you something special,” with a seductive smile as she leads him towards the bedroom.
Salem sits by the fire in his study and flips through the pages of his book as Iris cooks them dinner. It is an interesting read. It is a collection of short stories, many of which end with unexpected twists. He is in the middle of one in which a man who has spent years chasing another, trying to kill him for stealing his lover away, and he has finally caught up to him. As he nears the stories climax, someone begins to pound on the door. He does not need to get up to know it is not a part of his dream. He can think of only one person who would disturb him in this moment: Mr. Streyer, come to tear him away from his satisfaction.
He will not let it happen again. He closes his eyes and puts his hands over his ears. He brings an image of her face to his mind and focuses on it with all his might. The pounding on his door grows louder, more frantic, but he refuses to acknowledge it. He starts to rock back and forth in his chair like a frightened child, and his eyes are shut so tight that they hurt. Tears slip through them and stream down his face. His heart seems to rock in his chest as he fights with reality for control of his mind, and his breaths come out in short, shallow bursts. He feels his grip on the dream slipping, and starts to panic. But then it ends. Streyer has given up, left to do whatever it was he did.
Salem opens his eyes and rubs the tears from his cheeks. He smiles, proud of his victory, then picks up his book and returns to his stories.
A crashing noise draws Salem’s attention away from his book. He looks up and listens for a moment.
“Iris, are you alright?”
“Yes! Why?” She yells from the kitchen.
“No reason. Thought I heard something.” He sits and listens. What could be happening outside of his dream? Before he can think of an answer, he feels a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. As he is shaken, the world around him starts to fade and blur. He is caught off guard, and is not prepared to hold onto sleep. The next shake wakes him as the dream collapses around him.