“Nightmares Are Made of This”
Never quite even-handed or necessarily fair, life settles on the precipice of endless balances: wealth and poverty, ambition and apathy, love and hate, darkness and light… dreams and nightmares. Often it seems as if there is an excess of the bad and the good will never come, or not enough of the good, and too soon dispersed. Living in the space between, we try and hold on, to avoid giving up living a dream, just to face hard realities.
Jahn had found his aerie, and was trying to keep a firm grip, but his dreams of late were inundated with nightmares.
Jen’s newly announced pregnancy was not a nightmare. Oh, he’d stood dumbfounded as Fiona had fed him the news, and there was an uncomfortable silence as he digested it, but… the news wasn’t bad. It simply was what it was, though there didn’t seem to be a right way to express the confusing mix of emotions welling up within him. Worse still, was the look on Jen’s face.
Jennifer Reed was someone others would call cute, even if Jahn thought her beautiful. A snub nose, lively blue eyes that sparkled with warmth and pleasure, utterly kissable pink lips and long, naturally blonde hair that trended towards platinum gave her a wholesome look that had at first, and despite her age, made him think of her as someone’s kid sister. But now, with that expression on her face… Jen looked miserable and scared. He’d seen a shadow of something similar on her friend Amy once, and it had impressed on him as a kind of terror. Was she afraid of him, what he might think?
Inwardly, Jahn cursed himself. They’d talked about marriage and many of the important things that went with it, but somehow children had never come up anywhere but in conversations that had taken place almost a year past. His sexy new girlfriend Jenny had brightly reflected that she might like to have kids someday, and his sophisticated and worldly new girlfriend Fiona had thought that she might like to have children after she’d climbed as far as she thought she could at V&P, but the musing had been abstracted, well before he’d popped the question to the pair of them.
The trio wasn’t even married yet. Where did they go from here?
He was taking too long to work this out in his head, and Jen was visibly deteriorating. Wanting nothing more than to hold her in that moment, he stood and circled the end table to take her in his arms. Fiona stepped back, watching with that cool and appraising gaze. It’s not just Jen waiting for a response, he realized, as the blonde began to shake in his arms.
“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here,” trying to soothe her, and feeling desperately clumsy about the attempt. Not a trifling argument this, something that could be gotten over with apologies all around and makeup sex.
“I’m s-sorry, s-so sorry,” she sobbed into his shoulder. “I m-m-must have f’gotten to t-take them some, ah, some, ah sometime.” The pills, right. Maybe it had been in the excitement over Florida, going or coming, or the preparation for the camping trip. Heaven knew that he and Jen rutted like bunnies; it was a testament to the quality of the stuff she’d been taking that they hadn’t had a… accident before now. Grimacing inside at the poor choice of word, he thought, is that what this is to me? An accident?
Occasionally his fantasies had run in the direction of having children with the two sisters, perhaps a boy to follow in his footsteps or a girl to dote on, but it had always seemed like those conversational abstracts, something for the far future. Simple fact was, like it or not, he was now a father. Jen was the mother of his child.
Decision time. Be a rock. It’s what Dad always told me, what Roger always showed by example, he thought. Jahn had asked them to marry him, and for better or worse, a child was going to be a part of that. Getting through this might be a challenge, but it was not insurmountable. Be. A. Rock.
“Jen,” he said, as calmly as he was able, pulling her tightly to him. “I am here for you. Did you think I wouldn’t be? That I would hate you, change my mind about marrying you?”
“N-n-no.” she said, tears still flowing, soaking the front of his shirt.
“So you’re pregnant, and I’m still here. You are the mother of… my child. Is that something you want, or do we… need to discuss other options?” It surprised him how much that possibility suddenly hurt, though he’d only squared off on the decision moments before.
Jen was silent for long moments, perhaps trying to understand what he was talking about, or simply composing herself. “N-no. I d-did, do want to have children with you, b-but it’s so soon, and, and, b-but-“
“But…?” he prompted, gently.
“I w-want you to still want me!” The sex, it always seemed to come back to that with Jen. Jahn knew it was her preferred way of expressing her feelings for him, making her feel wanted and showing that she wanted in him in return. But she thought he wouldn’t want her anymore? That shocked him, and hurt a little too. Did she think him that shallow?
“I don’t understand…” he said, hesitantly, still holding her close. “Why wouldn’t I want you anymore?”
“B-because I’ll b-be ugly and fat and-“ the rest was incoherent, but he got the gist.
“Jen, it’s just nine months. I’ll spend every day of that time showing you just how much I still want you if you need me to.” Immediately upon saying that, Fiona caught his eye, still watching in silence, and he wished he’d phrased the words differently. Perhaps she saw the stricken expression on his face and understood implicitly, because she simply gave him a serene smile and waved it off. Roger had been Jahn’s rock; Fiona was Jen’s. But damn, he wanted to be that for both of the sisters. His fiancées, his future.
The words Jahn spoke to her after that seemed to fade into rambling and become a haze of comfort and love, as much as he could give, as much as she could take. More important than anything was her understanding that he would be there for her for the rest of their lives. Jen had her cry, but she understood, and when she was done the three of them – Jennifer Reed, Jahn Halvers, and Fiona Reed, sat down for the first time as a family, and discussed their future together. ***
That old song is one that has stalked Jahn’s thoughts throughout his relationship with Jen and Fiona, but the haunting has been a happy one, a soothing and reassuring beat that popped into his head every time he remembered just how lucky he was. It is, or was supposed to be, a happy, pleasant tune whatever the lyrics.
But when he slept that night, that song was the heart of his nightmares.
… use you, to abuse you… Three women stand before him, ghosts of exes past. One of a height to match him, clad in latex, strawberry blonde hair tied back into a severe bun. Two women, much shorter than she, kneel next to her, submissive in demeanor, the pale blonde pleasuring her with lavish kisses as if she were a lost love newly found, the brown-skinned brunette gazing up at her with adoring eyes. “You were never worthy,” the woman spat, words rich with scorn and derision, pointing a riding crop at him. “Not even of being a slave.”
... be abused, be used by you… He is as tall as he ever was, and with more body weight, but the mass is his body gone to seed. Staring contemptuously at the two small women in front of him, he lashes out, conferring slaps as if they were gifts, demanding obedience as if it were something owed. There is love for him in the sisters, but it is something twisted and wrong, shown through eyes as flat and lifeless as blue paint, eyes as dull and lusterless as brown wood. What is he doing to them, what has he become? Is this what he always was?
… am I to disagree… Two diminutive cars, one baby blue, the other a pretty brown, speed toward him at breakneck pace, and as they fly down the road, they shift, changing form, becoming effeminate robots, shapely things with curves instead of edges. Bumping fists, they merge, no longer diminutive, changing shape not just to become more powerful in a single form, but far larger as well, blocking out the setting sun and luminescent moon in the sky. “We are Jennifyon, transformed and greater than the sum of our parts!” Cold metallic eyes settle on him, and it lowers a massive gun that spits scouring energy, turning the world red. With grating laughter, it roars. “What need have we of you?”
… looking for something… Like porcelain dolls made up in the finest silk wedding dresses, the two women whirl about him, ever faster in their orbital dance. They seem to blur, blonde hair streaked with brown, high cheekbones and snub nose together where they never were before, a sparkling blue eye and lustrous brown. Mismatched, overmatched, tumbling, turning. One asks, “Do you remember, remember my name?” in a piping, yet mellifluous voice, while the other adds in the same dulcet tones, “Say my name, say my name!” He cannot, he does not know which is which, and the inability strikes him with horror. Realizing his failure, they strike, crying out as one: “How could you forget me? Am I nothing to you without her?”
… travel the world… Riding down the road again, wind flaring his jacket and blowing his hair, two sets of arms about his waist, he looks over to see the brother and the mother on a second bike. They are looking back at him, the disappointment, profound disappointment on their faces. “Thought you were better than that, bro,” says the man, while the woman simply points at his crotch, disgust on her face. Eyes riveted on this condemnation, he doesn’t even notice that the bike is sailing through the air, off a steep and unending cliff.
… seven seas… Pressure crushes his chest like a vice, he surfaces from the water in an explosion of breath. Two children, a boy and a girl, walk on the surface of the waves, and he reaches an arm out to them. “How can you be our daddy?’ asks the little girl. “We have two mommies, there has to be two daddies. You’re not two!” Turning their backs on him, they leave him to sink into the depths, alone. ***
Breath exploding from his lungs again, he screams this time, lunging upwards and into the waking world. The blonde (Jen, her name is Jen) is startled awake, and the brunette (your name is Fiona. it. is. Fiona) is drawn back to consciousness by his weeping.
When lucidity finally came back to him, Jahn told them about the nightmares, the sense of self-destructive failure that encompassed each of them, the loss and confusion, the fear. Anxiety and fears of inadequacy, Fiona had told him reasonably, her slender fingers and light kisses a balm on his tear-stained face. They express what you feel unconsciously; they do not define you. Jen simply hugged him tightly, her smooth cheek a tonic on his chest, told him he’d make a great father, and that he’d have her to look forward to for the rest of his life.
Descending back into the realm of sleep, his dreams were sweet once more.***
Jahn was as good as his word, and he meant to be every step of the way. She and her sister have been here for him, and he would do the same, no matter what. Time alone with Jen was like worship to a little goddess, folded hands of gentle love and reassurance upon her chest his form of prayer As the month passed, so did her fears, and he could see happy expectations growing in her as large as her belly soon would be.
For Fiona, a devoted kiss upon the lips whenever time allowed. He would not forget her, no matter what. She already knew that in her heart, but those little insecurities always plagued him when he least expected it, even if her soothing hand is enough to banish the nightmares and send him back into the realm of pleasant dreams. He didn’t need those dreams any more than he needed nightmares; he just needed to be there for them in every waking hour. ***
November rained announcements and plans; Mary would be coming back to stay for the duration of Jen’s pregnancy, all those necessities would have to be acquired, to make ready for the baby. Baby blankets, a crib, a stockpile of diapers, a seemingly endless list of supplies. Rearranging the rooms was necessary, because there simply wasn’t space for them to have private sanctuaries like they’d enjoyed in the past. There would be privacy though, Jen made sure of that, and she insisted he spare some of his time for her sister.
Plans upon plans…
“We’ll name him Jahn Junior if he’s a boy, Jahna if she’s a girl,” he told Jen confidently, with just a hint of teasing in his voice.
“You will _not_,” she insisted, voice thick with outrage. “The baby needs a real name! Her own!” Fiona simply laughed at her sister, a big book full of baby names already in hand.
… but throughout it all, love.***
Company is the last thing Jahn expected tonight, and he left the ringing phone to Mary as he finished installing child-proof shields around his computer. Mrs. Reed had advised this, though he was probably sure it could be found in the host of advice books that Fiona had brought home. His fiancées had gone out for groceries, Jen in the thick of her cravings again, though he suspected she was playing it up. The bedroom wasn’t the only place she had shown a flair for the dramatic.
Surveying his work with approval, he turned with a frown to the door of his room. Was that crying? Jen and Fiona must be home, the blonde in one of her mood swings again. Time to be a rock, he thought with positivity, bounding through the door and down the stairs to see what had brought her down now…
… and froze as he got to the living room. Mary stood with the phone cradled in hand, sniffles subsiding as she composed herself.
No. Oh, no. Let it not. Thoughts seemed to muddle and his chest seemed to seize him.
His running had not been noiseless, and Mary Reed turned to him, eyes red with fresh tears. “We need to go…” She blurred and became two women in his vision, then coalesced back into one. Pain seemed to radiate outward from his chest, numbness in his joints as the world slowed to a crawl.
“Which,” he demanded hoarsely. “Which one…?” Unable to think for the pounding in his skull, Jahn’s blood sounded like thunder in his brain. Didn’t police make the contact for this? Why a phone call? This didn’t make sense. He couldn’t _think_.
“There was an accident. They… they…” Mary was unable to complete the sentence, reaching blindly for her coat. Her eyes lock with his, great dark pools of fear, of… something. Swelling like black holes, those lightless circles seem to encompass her entire face, and he feels himself drawn in. The sun! The moon!
Darkness. … to be continued …
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/sweet-dreams-are-made-of-this-ch11.aspx">Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This, Ch.11</a>