Home > Only Him (One and Only #2)

Only Him (One and Only #2)
Author: Melanie Harlow

One

Maren

Soft female voices drifted through the haze.

“Is she breathing?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure? Because she looks dead.”

“Aren’t you supposed to look dead doing Corpse Pose?”

“Not that dead.”

“Mildred Peacock kicked the bucket during yoga at the center last year, remember?”

“That’s right. She was wearing those awful purple leggings.”

“And that rubbish pink lipstick.”

“I don’t think the teacher’s dead. I think she just fell asleep.”

I opened my eyes and saw the nine students from my Friday morning Yoga for Seniors class standing above me. I was lying flat on my back, legs extended, arms at my sides, palms up.

“Oh my God.” I sat up. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, ladies. I must have dozed off. This has never happened to me before.”

“We thought you were dead,” said one white-haired woman wearing a T-shirt that said “My Grandma is a Hooker” above a picture of a crochet hook and a ball of yarn.

“You looked good dead.” Another old lady nodded enthusiastically. “Much better than Mildred Peacock.”

Embarrassed, I scrambled to my feet. “Forgive me, please. I haven’t been sleeping well, and it’s catching up with me.” For weeks now, I’d been having this recurring nightmare about being locked in a room with a big snake. I’d tried everything I could think of to ease my subconscious mind—meditated, detoxed, cleared my chakras—but nothing had worked.

“That’s all right.” The Hooker patted my shoulder. “Happens to everyone. Try some warm milk.”

“Put some whiskey in it,” suggested a salt-and-pepper-haired woman with a smoker’s voice.

“Thanks, I’ll try that.” I glanced at the clock and saw that I’d been out for the entire last ten minutes of class. “The bus is probably here to take you back to the senior center, ladies. I’ll see you next week. Thanks for coming.”

Several of them told me to get some rest before shuffling out of the studio, toting their rolled-up mats and water bottles. Over in the corner of the room, I turned off the music and looked at my reflection in the mirror. Bags under my bloodshot eyes. Paler-than-usual skin, especially for July. Worry lines creasing my forehead. I tried to relax my face, but the lines didn’t disappear.

Great, now that stupid nightmare was giving me wrinkles. Pretty soon I would look just like those old ladies in my class. I had to get some sleep.

Allegra, the instructor for the next class and an old friend from ballet school, came into the room. “Hey, Maren. How’s it going?”

“Other than the fact that I just dozed off while I was teaching?”

Her jaw dropped, then she smiled. “You did not.”

“I did. They thought I might be dead.”

She laughed and rubbed my upper arm. “You poor thing. Still not sleeping at night?” Allegra knew about the nightmare.

“No,” I said. “And I have no idea what to do.”

“You need to take some time off, Maren. A few days for mental health.”

She was probably right, but it was hard for me to take days off. I owned the studio, taught several classes a day, and often worked the desk, too. “I’ll think about it.”

“I can help cover for you. Just say the word.”

I gave her a grateful smile. “Thanks. The room’s all yours.”

Grabbing my water bottle and mat, I headed for the lobby and went behind the desk. I tucked my mat out of sight, checked email and phone messages, and put a load of towels in the laundry. Then I texted my sisters, Emme and Stella.

Me: You will not believe what I did this morning.

Emme: WHAT?

Me: I fell asleep while teaching Yoga for Seniors.

Emme: HAHAHAHAHAHA

Me: They thought I was DEAD.

Emme: OMG that’s even funnier!

A moment later, my phone rang, Emme Devine flashing on the screen.

“Hello?”

“I’m driving now so I had to call you,” she said, laughing. “But that’s hilarious.”

“It wasn’t hilarious, it was mortifying,” I whispered, smiling at a few women who passed by the front desk on their way to the dressing room. “I’m the teacher. I’m supposed to set a good example.”

“I bet those blue-hairs didn’t even notice. Half of them were probably asleep too. For Christ’s sake, I struggle to stay awake during yoga.”

I sighed, tipping my forehead onto my fingertips. “It’s that stupid nightmare, Em. I’m not getting any sleep.”

“You’re still having it?”

“Yes.”

“The same one? About the giant snake and the door with no handle?”

“Yes.”

“You need to google that shit, Maren. Figure out what it means.”

“No. I told you, I don’t believe in seeking wisdom on the Internet. Google doesn’t have any insight into my consciousness. I have to find the answers within.” I looked up and saw new faces heading for the desk. “I gotta go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I’m in a room full of people, but they can’t see me.

I keep trying to talk to them, but I can’t speak. I can’t even open my mouth.

I look down and notice I’m naked.

That’s when I see the snake.

Slithering through the crowd along the dark wood floor, it’s heading straight for me.

Panicked, I start running for the door at the end of the room, but my progress is hampered because I’m carrying a clock in my arms, the old-fashioned kind that used to sit on top of my grandparents’ piano. It’s ticking loudly.

Eventually, I reach the door but discover there is no handle. And it won’t budge.

The clock ticks faster and faster. I look down and notice the second hand is moving backward. It’s counting down, like a stopwatch.

I bang on the door, too scared to turn around and see how close the snake is.

It hisses behind me, and then—

I sat up in bed, gasping for air and damp with sweat, the sheets tangled around my legs. My heart was thundering in my chest. Sliding out of bed, I went over to the window. It was open, and a soft summer breeze blew through the screen, cooling my arms and chest. Taking a few deep breaths, I listened to the chirp of the crickets and inhaled deeply—fresh cut grass, the Forget-Me-Nots blooming in the window box, the lingering whiff of charcoal from someone’s backyard grill. I centered myself in the moment and focused on the way the air felt moving in and out of my lungs. Within a few minutes, my pulse had slowed and the trembling in my limbs ceased, but I couldn’t shake the anxious residue the dream had left behind.

It had to mean something, so what the hell was it?

Giving up on sleep for the time being, I left my bedroom, which was at the back of my ground-floor flat, and walked through the dark to the front. After making sure the curtains were closed, since I wore only a tank top and undies, I switched on a lamp. My laptop was sitting on the coffee table where I’d left it, and I scooped it up. I’d meant what I said to Emme earlier—normally, I didn’t believe the Internet could enlighten people about their own minds—but at this point, I was desperate for a clue.

Settling cross-legged on the couch, I set it in my lap, opened it up, and typed “dreams about snakes” into the search box.

The results, as I had expected, were all over the place.

Freud (of course) viewed the snake as a phallic symbol. Since there was a distinct lack of phalli in my life, I didn’t really see how that would make sense, unless my subconscious was bemoaning that lack. If that was the case, my subconscious could line up right behind the rest of me. I hadn’t had sex in two years.

The Dream Maven posited that a snake could represent something that tempted you, possibly something you felt guilty about. Well, damn, that could be any number of things.

Vodka, leather shoes, frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts, gay porn. The list seemed endless. But ninety-nine percent of the time, I didn’t indulge in those things, so I didn’t really think it was one of them. (Except for maybe the gay porn thing. That had real possibilities.)

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