Phyllis J. Burton
My heart began to pound with excitement. My dream man was back! He stood on the other side of the courtyard and as I stared at him, I knew that I was now totally lost and under his spell.
'Come to me...come to me,' he murmured. His voice was as soft as velvet and appeared to emanate from inside my head. He wore a full-length beige-coloured robe with golden edges that gleamed like the early morning sunshine. His long flowing blond hair moved gently in the balmy breeze: I thought that he was magnificent.
A cry of pleasure escaped from my lips as his outstretched arms beckoned to me. 'It is time...come to me my dearest...come to me,' he pleaded.
Recognition flared briefly inside my brain as his eyes bored into mine, piercing my soul and heightening my already receptive senses. Feelings of pure joy, distantly remembered love, longing and peace settled over me like a warm silken blanket. I was a compliant and happy slave being drawn towards him: I was a helpless moth hovering and flitting over a flame.
I ran towards him.
I could feel the hot sun filtering through the gently swaying palm trees that ringed the old courtyard. A heady perfume exuded from all the tropical plants surrounding the ornate fountain in the centre and the sound of water trickling and flowing over rocks and stones was like gentle music to my ears. This was a peaceful paradise interrupted only by the sound of bees as they fluttered their sun-drenched golden wings all around me...I was nearly there...
I woke suddenly and struggled to open my eyes. It was still dark outside and the digital clock beside me glowed clinically: it was only 5a.m. I heard the insistent sound of a police car's siren as it sped beneath my window. I groaned. I needed more sleep. In fact, I needed to be back in that beautiful courtyard. I needed to be with him. Instead, all I could now hear was the rainwater splashing and gurgling noisily down the drainpipe outside my window.
I sleep alone, but not by choice you understand; you see my husband Michael, had decided two months before, that we were no longer compatible. His feelings for me had gone, been extinguished or whatever else you may say about the loss of love. He had moved out the following day!
Of course I still miss him - we'd been married for fourteen childless years for heaven's sake. As usual, my eyes searched in vain for Michael's familiar shape beside me. But for once, the fact that he wasn't there didn't fill me with anguish and grief. Instead, everything seemed different and I was filled with optimism. But why was I now feeling this way?
I knew the answer now.
Throughout my life, my dreams had conjured up a man with deep, gentian-blue eyes and long flowing hair. Unaccountably the dreams had stopped once I'd married Michael. Now they had started again, only this time they seemed real and somehow tangible: I had allowed my dream man's eyes to pierce my vulnerability and enter my soul.
With a languid sigh, I stretched and snuggled back under my duvet cover.
I wanted to return to my dream-world: I wanted to find and be with this handsome man, who always had such a profound effect upon my senses.
I woke again later to the sound of my mobile phone ringing beside me and fumbling sleepily, I picked up the receiver.
"Hi Angela. You took a long time to answer." It was my friend, Liz.
"Sorry Liz, I was fast asleep - I'm absolutely zonked. I had a disturbed night."
"Yes," I replied with an expansive yawn.
"What are you doing to day?"
"Angela, what happened to that fun-loving beautiful blond, slim girl I used to know? Your husband's a rat. He's not worth all this angst."
"You know?" she said in surprise.
"Yes, and from now on I'm going to think of him as my ex-husband." Wow, I thought with pride; the words had at last been said.
"Well done," Liz continued, "I knew you'd come to your senses sooner or later."
"Liz, do you remember me telling you about the strange dreams I used to have?"
"Yes, they involved a rather dishy man, didn't they?" Liz chuckled throatily.
"Well, last night I dreamt about him again and now I find that I don't give a fig about Michael any more. Isn't it great? I feel that something momentous is going to happen to me to day."
"Yes. Liz...you don't think that I'm going mad, do you?"
"No, of course not. Realism has reared its head at long last, that's all. And yes, something momentous IS going to happen to day. You're coming up to London with me."
My head suddenly 'zinged' and a pair of blue eyes swam enticingly before me. "Well, I suppose I could?" I replied.
"Good. We're catching the 9.37a.m. to Waterloo and then we're going to the National Gallery. Its ages since I've been and perhaps it will encourage you to..."
"...paint again?", she teased. "You cannot possibly let all the hard work you've done in the past, go to waste. It's just sitting there in your garden shed. The man from the local art gallery says that you should..."
"Oh, I don't know about all that, but London sounds wonderful...and Liz?"
"I don't know," she said. "A flash of inspiration, I suppose. Right, I'll see you at the station at 9.20, so you haven't got long. Bye."
"Bye," I said into thin air - she'd already hung up. Liz could be quite bossy sometimes, but she was right, a day in London would be perfect.
I climbed out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and was surprised to see that my eyes looked brighter: in fact they positively sparkled: but why? I walked downstairs with a renewed spring in my step and then minutes later; I actually managed to eat some breakfast!
As the train pulled into Waterloo, I could hardly contain my excitement, but Liz insisted that we had a cup of coffee first. We sat at a small table in the station forecourt, but I couldn't get rid of a strange all-pervading feeling of urgency.
"Right," Liz said, finally draining her cup. "Are you ready?"
"Yes. I can't wait. Michael was never interested in art, unless it appeared in girlie magazines of course."
"Least said. Come on." Liz walked off.
The National Gallery was wonderful: the building exuded an unhurried aura of respectability and each room was a delight. There were so many differing styles, colours and sizes of pictures painted by people long since dead, but whose lives lived on in the images they had created. Time seemed meaningless as we walked from room to room.
I felt as if I was being drawn along by an invisible thread; but where was this thread taking me?
The second I walked into the main gallery, I knew.
A huge painting dominated one side of the room. It was beautiful and it glowed with vibrant colour.
"This is what I came here to see," I told Liz excitedly.
She looked at me strangely. "What do you mean? I thought that I arranged this visit?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"Come on Angela, let's find the restaurant. My stomach's rumbling dreadfully."
My heart sank. I had found the thing for which I had been unconsciously seeking and all Liz wanted to do was eat! "Would you mind if I stayed here for a while," I said, "only I'm feeling a little tired? I'll come and find you in a few minutes. OK?"
"Of course," Liz said placing her hand on my forehead. "You do feel slightly hot. I'll go and order us something."
"Thanks, I won't be long." To be honest, my head was beginning to thump and I sat down on the wooden bench directly in front of the painting. I smiled as I watched Liz wandering off in the direction of the restaurant. I knew that she would choose something sensible, like low calorie soup, if there was such a thing in a museum restaurant, of course.
I turned my attention back to the painting. It had been completely unsullied by the passing years and was still clear-cut and alive. A small sign gave the artist's name - Rebecca somebody or other (I couldn't quite make it out) - and the date - '1527'.
My heart missed a beat when my eyes strayed towards the intricate painted marble floor at the bottom of the picture. A lone white flower like a small lily, struggled for life in one of the cracks, which like the branches of a tree, spread at random across the canvas. The flower's bruised petals brought a touch of sad poignancy to an otherwise joyful scene.
By now, my heart was thumping wildly. Déjà vu...déjà vu, the flower suddenly screamed. I felt confused...vague memories fluttered like butterflies in my mind and...the invisible thread pulled at me again. I looked upwards.
Then I saw him.
Two deep-blue eyes stared back at me from the canvas! The man had a glorious head of golden hair, just like a halo. I took an involuntary breath. Could it be?
I heard a deep penetrating sigh beside me and I turned round. A young man sat beside me, his long, blond hair drawn back into a ponytail. He was slim and wore a faded blue denim-jacket and jeans and he too was staring intently at the painting. "My dreams...aarrhhh, it's a miracle," he whispered. His voice was as mellow as the sands of time.
"Sorry. What did you say?" I replied. He turned to face me and smiled...and my heart flipped. I was looking at two deep gentian pools, into which I felt I could plunge and lose all reason.
"I said, it's a miracle," he repeated 'and yes, I am beginning to understand. It is indeed a miracle."
"Wh...what is?" I spluttered.
"The picture. I remember it being painted." He looked away and a few tears began to fall down his handsome face, which he quickly brushed away.
"But how...this picture is dated 1527." I smiled nervously at him.
His voice grew softer. "Yes, I know, I was there you see."
He looked at me again and...I couldn't even begin to describe the feeling that began to spread throughout my body. I was tingling all over. It started at the tip of my toes and quickly spread upwards. I felt alive...joyful...and...whole.
I looked away and tried to bring myself back to the reality of the National Gallery...Liz...my home and even Michael. But none of it seemed to matter any more: my reality was the nearness of this man...this beautiful man who was sitting beside me. He WAS the man in the painting and MY DREAMS and what was more, I knew that I had loved him aeons ago.
A long forgotten name came to me. Anthony, I thought...my dearest, dearest Anthony!
I sat up straight. My mind was filled with confusion. I tried to close my mind to what was happening. You don't believe in reincarnation, I told myself fiercely.
"Yes, I was there," he repeated, his voice gentle, yet persuasive. "And so were you."
"Yes. You must remember...you were the one who painted this picture and you were the one who fell into my arms each night."
"I was...? But surely..."
"Will this help you to remember?" From inside his jacket he produced a flower: it was slightly bruised but instantly recognisable. He pressed it into my hands, before leaning over and planting a kiss on my lips. "My sweetest Rebecca, you cannot know how long I have waited for this moment."
"Rebecca?...Rebecca?...yes, I remember now." My heart felt as if it was jumping out of my chest as I looked down at the flower. "This flower...you picked it and gave it to me at the end of the sitting...Anthony...oh Anthony...how could I have forgotten?"
"Our time has come, sweet Rebecca."
"Yes...our time has indeed come, my dearest Anthony. I realise now that I too have been waiting for you...but in my dreams...always in my dreams."
Anthony stood up, clasped my hand in his and pulled me gently towards him. "It is time...come..."
His willing slave dutifully followed him.