Beth didn’t want to break the spell, sitting next to him, against him, his breathing deep and even, his heartbeat steady and reassuring against her cheek.
Jack sat so still and silent for so long, Beth thought perhaps he’d fallen asleep. Then she began to fear that he’d slipped into unconsciousness again.
The sun had very nearly set. Had they drifted off? Had it taken her that long to tell him of her dream?
“Thats a pretty scary dream. But you know what?”
“I think we can break it. Maybe you already did.”
“So we followed the ribbon to the tree?”
“Well, my dad and I found it. On our own. With some help from your dad, but, still… You weren’t the one to show me that secret spot.
“I followed the trail marker you left, but it led me away from that place. Back to safety. Right under your bedroom window.”
Beth swallowed nervously. Did she dare hope?
“You climbed a tree, but it wasn’t your Dragon Tree. And you were the one to fall. And you didn’t hit the ground. You hit me.
“You turned it all around, Beth. Turned it all backwards and sideways. Only the good parts came out right.”
“What good parts? It is a terrible dream. I hate it. Watching you fall, and die.”
“Well, I haven’t fallen. And I’m not dead.”
“You weren’t supposed to be there,” Beth said.
“If I wasn’t there, who would have caught you? You think it’s hard to watch in a dream, Beth, let me tell you — when that branch snapped, I just — I —” He couldn’t catch his breath. There was heat behind his eyes, and he leaned his head back, staring up at the red-orange sky, and felt the heat seep out, down his cheeks.
He gave up trying to say anything, and just held Beth against him until his arm stopped trembling.
“Was that the dream you had the other night? The one you said you couldn’t tell me about?”
“You weren’t supposed to hear that,” Beth said with a sniffle. “It’s bad enough that I burdened your mom with all my weepiness.”
“Well, I’m glad I did. And I’m glad you told me about what’s been bothering you forever. And I’m glad I followed you. I would have even if I’d known how scared you were of me following you.”
Beth sighed. Then she let out a short laugh.
“You know, if the you in the dream had had the same stubborn pig-headedness that you do here, maybe we could have avoided all this in the first place.”
She got up, brushing off her jeans. She held out her hand, helped Jack to his feet, and they walked hand in hand back across the slightly overgrown yard, through the hedgerow, back home.