Warm sand. The sound of waves rhythmically lapping against the shore...
I woke up to find myself on a beach.
All was silent, apart from the sounds of Nature: thus a peaceful atmosphere was created.
Distantly, I felt someone lightly caressing my back but I sense that that even was taking place in another dimension and also that the owner of the hand did not mean to disturb events here.
I rolled onto my back and gazed up at the sky. It was cloudless and a beautiful blue. The stroking had stopped but I felt the surface beneath me rise as the person stood up, and a few seconds later some weight was put over me, covering me from my shoulders to my toes.
I continued to stare silently at the blanket-like vastness above me, my thoughts wandering so that I imagined fairies flitting across it before beginning to feel weightless and rose to drift, like a feather, on the breeze.
The other-dimension human lay beside me, causing me to land on the sand, and he took my hand in his, tickling my palm as his fingers walked across it.
I focused on his presence, without crossing over into his world.
He seemed calm, content. He found it possible to enjoy peace in a way I was surprised by. His company was comforting despite his invisibility and lack of substance. I hadn't ever imagined that ghosts could be a reassurance, but this one was.
He enabled me to be solitary without feeling lonely, quiet without feeling ignored and contemplative without feeling guilty for any distance I might unwittingly be placing between myself and other people. Also, he made me feel loved. It was something he conveyed to me as though our minds were touching.
‘They are,' he whispered, and I wasn't startled. I had been expecting him to say something for a while now: after all, in some reality we were physically close.
The boy chuckled. ‘Do you often speculate about other dimensions?'
‘No,' I replied. ‘I'm just in a thoughtful mood.'
‘I see. And is it also just this once that you've forgotten who I am?'
‘How can I answer that question?' I asked, amused.
‘Fair point. Do you know who you are?'
‘Perhaps,' I replied, teasingly evasive.
There was a pause.
‘This would be a good beach to chase you on,' the boy remarked.
‘Oh, you just try it,' I said, climbing to my feet.
And a fuzzy figure appeared.
An instant feeling of wrongness hit me and I was suddenly nervous.
‘Isn't that ... dangerous?' I asked, trying to work out what one would have to do to enter another's dream while they're minds were linked.
‘You're probably right,' the boy admitted, disappearing. ‘I could get lost in your world.'
‘What a shame,' I murmured, sighing. I was relieved and glad he wasn't doing anything wrong anymore but I couldn't help but feel he'd make good company in a dream. I was suddenly painfully aware of the distance between us.
The boy rubbed my shoulder comfortingly and I remembered we weren't too far apart.
‘Oh well, at least I can talk to you,' he said.
‘Yes, I suppose that's true.'
‘It's always a delight to talk to you, Rosa.'
‘Rosa? Is that me?'
The boy chuckled. ‘Yes: yes, it is.'
I began to walk.
‘So, are we good friends?'
‘Mightily. There's so much we've done together: yet so much we've yet to do.'
‘A lifelong companion. Wow, that sounds amazing.'
‘It is,' the boy said quietly. ‘Together forever. You and me doing everything as pals. I would definitely say we're inseparable, Rosa.'
‘How heartening,' I murmured.
I sensed the boy smiling at me.
‘So, ... do you have a girlfriend?'
The boy sounded amused. ‘Yes, I do, and you have a boyfriend.'
I laughed. ‘It's so odd to think.'
The boy suddenly didn't sound amused anymore.
‘Well, because this is another dimension and I don't really know myself, and here we are talking about boyfriends and girlfriends - random of me to bring up in the first place... It's all just bizarre!'
The boy sounded curiously guarded as he asked, ‘But you would love your boyfriend, right?'
I laughed. ‘Of course! If he were the right person, I'd love him with all my heart. All my soul, perhaps. But I would love seeing him, and knowing there was someone there for me who cared intensely only for me, and, oh, my life would just be so perfect.'
The boy sounded relieved and content as he said, ‘Yeah, love is quite wonderful.'
‘Oh, it's more than that,' I said - ‘it's the greatest sensation in the world!'
‘How d'you know?' the boy asked, intrigued.
‘Well, I don't,' I replied, flushing. ‘I just know there's a perfect feeling out there. Of belonging, that serves to complete you. Tailored to suit everyone. Individual to each relationship. Intense, profound, beautiful and true.'
‘Wow,' the boy murmured, sounding awed. ‘Even in sleep, you're marvellously romantic.'
I blushed deeply. ‘Am I romantic even though you have a girlfriend?'
The boy chortled. ‘Oh Rosa. Rosa, Rosa, Rosa. You are my girlfriend.'
I stopped walking. ‘What?'
‘It's true. You and I are soul mates.'
I felt very embarrassed and my cheeks were noticeably hot.
‘Well, why didn't you say? Did you want to humiliate me?'
‘No, of course not.' His tone was soothing - he didn't sound angry at all. ‘I just didn't want to spoil the serenity and mystery of your dream by talking too much about reality. I'd never want to hurt you. I love you.'
I averted my eyes. ‘I forgot you,' I murmured. ‘That's like the greatest betrayal in the world. I'm so sorry.'
‘Rosa, it's okay. You're the most perfect girlfriend in the universe.'
‘I don't even know your name.'
‘That doesn't matter. This is just a dream. When you wake up, everything will be normal again: I promise.'
‘Thanks for the reassurance,' I mumbled, still a little ashamed of myself. I glanced up and tried to look at the guy. If I tried very hard, I could see a faint silhouette as though I knew his shape but couldn't quite access his features. ‘What is your name?'
‘Ross,' he whispered, and in the other dimension, he kissed my cheek.
‘I'm sorry, Ross.'
‘Don't be. Who can control their dreams, eh?'
I sighed. ‘I guess you're right. And, ... am I a good girlfriend when awake?'
‘I'm sure I've said this. You're perfect.'
I cheered up. ‘Well, that's good then.'
I resumed walking. I had no ideas where I was going - it was just pleasant to amble peacefully along the beach.
‘Hey, do you want to sit on that bench over there?' Ross asked, after we'd been walking a little while.
I looked in front of me to the left and saw a grey iron bench - the sort you sometimes see with a memorial plaque on the top plank that formed the bench's back.
‘Okay,' I replied amiably, turning slightly to stroll in that direction.
A few seconds later, I was sitting on it, gazing towards the distant horizon. The sky was golden now. Beneath it the sea glowed like late afternoon sunlight. The scene was beautiful and calming. What struck me was the vastness of the space before me. The sea stretched out to the sky, no land in sight beyond these sands, and both it and the sky stretched to the left and the right (north and south) without stopping. It was breathtaking.
‘The world is so huge,' I murmured.
‘Had you not noticed before?' Ross asked, his tone warm and kind.
I shrugged. ‘I don't know. I'm just blown away by the size of it.'
‘We always make it smaller, you and I,' Ross said sentimentally. ‘Condense it down, disregarding everything we don't need.'
I smiled. ‘That's beautiful.'
‘That's our relationship.'
‘You should go around kissing girls to combat materialism,' I joked.
‘I'm yours only, Rosa,' Ross replied seriously. ‘I can't even look at a girl without feeling bad.'
‘Pardon?' I was totally mystified by his last statement. Where was the shame in noticing that your girlfriend wasn't the only female in the world? I could tell he didn't mean look as in appraise: he seemed far too decent for that.
‘I don't think I've ever told you this before but there are times when it feels criminal for my senses to experience anything other than you. Even my voice and thoughts go awkward when faced with the prospect of talking to other people.'
‘Doesn't that make your life really difficult?' I asked, moved but at the same time concerned by his words.
‘Yeah. The only person I can talk to properly is Jack. And then I start feeling bad because of your history.'
‘Jack? So, he's, what, an ex?'
‘Adoptive brother. Sorry - that's what he is to me. But yeah, you two were going out for almost a year.'
‘Wow. You must be a stunner.'
I felt foreign discomfort. ‘Not really,' he replied.
‘What d'you look like?' I asked, changing the subject.
‘Um, I guess I look about 17, 18; tall; blonde hair, blue eyes. According to you I'm very handsome.'
I tried to picture him and failed. Curious, I then tried to picture myself. But I had nothing to go on so I couldn't do that either.
‘What do I look like?' I asked shyly.
Ross took a long time to respond but when he did, he took my breath away.
‘Like one of your parents was an angel. Your hair is long and smooth and straight, and the colour of the night sky. Your eyes are a rich dark shade of green, sort of like a fir tree - maybe lighter than that. Your face is perfect in its expressiveness and your eyes create the greatest effect. They are open and energetic, tireless in communicating every emotion you happen to feel, and bright and beautiful, unashamed to allow me to look upon your soul. Your body is long and slender and you're wonderful to hold; your skin is so soft and yielding to my touch and your fingers are elegant as they dance across my skin, playing me like a piano.'
I swallowed hard, overwhelmed by my emotions.
‘You're a dream come true,' I whispered. I knew this boy could not be a figment of my imagination, from the way I'd felt him stroking my back at the beginning of this dream. The fact I'd see him when I woke up filled me with elation.
Ross didn't say anything. I sensed that his descriptions were continuing in his head, becoming more private as he secretly portrayed me as a sensuous being, a creature who stole men's hearts before a bad word could be said against her.
‘How close are we?' I found myself asking, not knowing whether I meant physically or emotionally.
‘Touching.' Something told me his answer could mean either.
‘How in love are we?'
A mystical force guided me to ask ‘What's our purpose?'
Ross paused. ‘To be one forever.'
I breathed out, not realising I'd held my breath to begin with.
In the other dimension, Ross leant towards me and whispered in my ear, ‘I need you so much that ... sometimes... it terrifies me.'
Suddenly I needed to see him. I needed to see blue eyes darkened with intensity, designed to consume my heart and fill the space with a deep burning passion that would greaten his effect on me even more.
‘Wake me up,' I whispered, praying the moment wouldn't end before it happened.
My shoulder was gently but firmly shaken and my dream dissolved, leaving me caught by two windows that opened out onto open sky. I instantly felt like I was falling.
Ross was gazing at me very intently. And to my exhilaration, the moment didn't fade.