It wasn’t so much a nightmare as it was a memory. A memory of a life, of what it could have been had she only said yes.
Now, with him feet away in the produce aisle, picking up, sniffing peaches, and putting them back down again, she wonders if it would be inappropriate to walk up to him and say, Hi. Remember me? Remember what we were, what we used to be, what we could have been together?
She had fallen asleep watching the Newlywed Game and dreamt they were married, that they quizzed themselves on how well they knew each other, fought whenever they got a question wrong, made up all night when the game was over.
She could still feel his touch on her skin, his body pressed into hers, his heart beating against her chest. It was real, it had to be, until she woke, and it became a nightmare, because she was lying along on the same dead mattress she’s had for the last nine years, with its lumps and broken springs and bedbug carcasses.
No sense in trying to change the past, she reminds herself. Fate is fate, and she missed hers. Still, it wouldn’t hurt just to speak, would it? She takes a step forward, and he turns his head, in the other direction; someone is calling his name. But it’s not his name they scream.
“Daddy, Daddy!” The little girl runs to him carrying a bunch of spotted bananas. He scoops her up, sits her on his right hip and kisses her forehead as she drops the bananas into the basket he carries in his other hand alone with the peaches he’s finally selected. And although a mother doesn’t follow, the pang in her chest cautions her from continuing on the path toward another heartbreaking nightmare.
She drops her grocery list to the floor, just as he begins to spin around with his daughter in his arms, and she exists through the sliding doors, just as she came, having purchased nothing, with the one wish that her dream could still be fulfilled, if only he’d find the post-it note on the floor, see it stuck to the bottom of his shoe, discover the thumbprint on the pastel yellow slip of paper, and diligently seek its match.
It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt from Maria Hazen Lewis, “Nightmare,” hit a little close, because I just had a dream about an ex…