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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Romance/Love · #2173729
Was it dream or reality? It seemed to be both at the same time.
November Prompt:

“Oh, my head.” Ruby dragged herself up out of sleep. The dream shivered and lingered at the edge of her thoughts. “It seems so real like it really happened.” Nothing seemed real at the moment. The wall next to her bed was in the wrong place. She found that out by bouncing off of it when she stood up. Now her head felt twice the size it had upon awakening.

“Where the heck am I? How did I get here?” She rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The pounding in her ears faded into an off-key jazz melody struck on the keys of a distant piano. “That tune.” It seemed hauntingly familiar but out of place. Her feet edged around the foot of the bed. They began searching for the rhythm of the strange music and found it. Ruby wiggled her toes, hummed a mindless refrain, and her hands joined in like a conductor leading an orchestra of finely tuned instruments.

“Why is the floor so cold?” She stared down at her naked feet. “Where are my red slippers?” Her twirling around revealed she’d fallen asleep in the rest of her clothes. The mystery of last night was like a slowly disappearing fog.

“Is this where aunt Helda and uncle Roy put me up for the night?” She seemed to recall that there was no more room in the family home she’d come to visit on the impulse of a moment. There was always a horde of the extended family moving in and out of the two-story farmhouse and an open invitation for more.

Ruby yawned the rest of the restless night out of her system, stretched, and noticed a single white folded piece of paper with slender scrawls of writing adorning it. “Thank you. This will explain all, I am sure.” The message was written in a delightfully designed formal cursive in flowing black ink. It was so ornate that it was hard to decipher. “I’ll take it with me. I’ll figure it out later. At least I’m not alone. Who is that piano player?”

The off-key notes tickled and played with Ruby’s imagination, coming alive and dancing with her feet. She felt herself slipping back into a daydream replica of the dream she had awakened from. “Dark eyes, curly black hair dancing over a forehead, a fine beard as soft as a teddy bear’s when stroked. Lips softer still that kissed my fingertips with such grace my own lips lingered near to taste each hungry breath.”

“That is no relative I remember meeting.” The dream nudged closer to her beating heart. Ruby fled down the hall on silent, invisible wings, to the room where the music played. “Hello. Is this your house? Is your name Jacob Marley? Are you really only twenty-one?” The thoughts stole through her mind picking and choosing what to remember as the man of her dreams came into view.

“Good morning. It is my father’s summer house. Yes. Don’t you remember me? Last night was unforgettable, ‘Miss Ruby red shoes’. Perhaps you drank too much ruby red wine while we danced.”

It is all a blur, kind sir, and you along with it. I think you stole my heart. Where did you put it?” Ruby padded on silent feet. }Her ruby red gown whispered a greeting as she allowed herself to be swept up in her dream man’s arms. “You are not real, are you? This is all make believe.”

His hand cradled hers against his lips. She leaned against him feeling two hearts beat as one. Her’s may be lying hidden there next to his own. Ruby leaned down her ruby red hair against his chest to listen to the beat. “There it is. Give it back.”

Laughter is what he gave her. “You are a delight. I missed you upon waking in my own room. It was all I could do not to go fetch you. Did my playing disturb your slumber?” He danced her about as she hummed the tune he had been playing. She caught at each stray off-key note, blending it in where it hung vibrant and alive in the air.

“It is our tune. Isn’t it? We created it together last night. Tell me I’m not making this up. Please do.” Stray beams of morning cast along dust motes streamed through the room’s windows. She went to stand by the view of verdant lawn, bubbling water fountain in the shape of a fish, and her old Volkswagen Beetle that had brought her here. That was real, at least.

“You left these under the piano bench when I carried you to your room.” Jacob Marley dangled them idly on the tips of his hooked fingers. “You dance as well without them as you did with them warming your feet. May I put them back on where they belong?” He knelt as she nodded. Her flaming red curls matched the glint in her eyes. He saw the morning sun reflected in a blaze of awe and flickering wonder he found there.

“Do you believe in love at first sight?”

“Oh, please. Dream. Do not stop.” Ruby sighed as deep as breath allowed. “Is that the phone?”

“Is it yours?” Jacob handed her missing ruby red purse to her. “I’d lay odds on it. That’s where the sound is coming from.”

“Hello? Aunt Helda? Yes. I’m up and awake. Can I bring a guest?” Her hand clutched at Jacob’s as if she owned it. “All right. We’ll be right over.”

Ruby looked down to see a ruby red sapphire ring placed on her finger. It had slipped on so easily that it felt like it had lived there forever. “It is my mother’s. She gave it to me on my twenty-first birthday a week ago. Now it is yours if you will have it.”

Ruby raised it to the sun where it shone with such inner light the world turned red around her.Perhaps it was her blush that made it seem so. “Are you asking me to be yours? How can you be sure? We met in a dream, didn’t we?”

She felt her fingers pulled to his lips. His words caressed her tingling touch. “If I have stolen your heart, I give my own in return. It is only fair.”

There was no room left inside Ruby’s soul for all the happiness growing there. She gave a yelp of joy and flung herself at him, relishing the vibrant feel of his body melting into hers. The letter fluttered on its own pair of wings. Its fold opened and the note sailed up into sight before landing at both of their feet. Ruby felt Jacob hold her balance as she leaned down to capture the words written on its face.

“Did you write this? Is it a poem to me? The letters are so delicately inscribed. Will you read it aloud?”

A second male figure, shaped just like the first seemed to pull into shape from behind Jacob Marley. It must have slipped in the doorway while the two new lovers were lost in their world. “I wrote it when you broke my heart last night, choosing Jacob, my twin, instead of me, to dance with.”

The same dark brooding eyes, curl of raven black hair, and cleft chin, drew a remembered picture in her mind. “I was only being polite. He was first. You came in later. I tried to make you feel comfortable, did I not?”

“Too comfortable. My life is no longer complete without you in it. I am a shadow of my lost soul. Shall I read this or not?”

“Oh. I could not bear having two of you loving me with equal measure. I remember you as one and as one you will always be.” She snatched the poetry up, balled it into a wrinkled old used up piece of her past and flung it away. It bounced across the floor before laying alone in a shadow by the door.

“It was too perfect a night to live in the day.” She looked from one suitor to the other. “Oh, I cannot bear seeing the jeweled tears offered in your eyes. Let this dream end as did all others.” Ruby closed her eyes. Her feet lay dead, unable to move, silent reminders of some past life they knew.

When she opened her gaze fell on an open window where a robin landed, trilled out its birdsong and flew off at her approach. Down below, two young men of equal measure glanced up at her, waved, and looked not again. They were but a dream, a passing fancy, of some future not meant for earthly pride.

Ruby went down to her old ruby red rusty old Volkswagen Beetle. Two ruby red roses lay with their fragrance floating up to her tear stained face. She picked them up, kissed each petaled softness, and laid them to rest near the door she had come out of.

Next, to each one of them, she lay her own parting gift. To the one was received a cut locket of her ruby red hair curled around it. The scissors from her glove compartment had trembled in her hand as if she were cutting part of her life away.

One ruby red glove scented with her private perfume lay under the other rose. She knew the twins would return as soon as she was gone to meet her gifts. Each of their hearts had been returned, a little bruised, a little wiser, a little more yearning for a dream once held and set free.

“Did you have a nice night, my dear? Were you treated well?” Aunt Helda leaned into her husband, Roy’s, strong embrace. “You look a little bit lost as if you have forgotten something left behind.”

Ruby’s uncle Roy, stared past her out the kitchen door. Two young men had followed the girl, now turned woman overnight. They stood hesitant, half hidden behind an old oak tree at the edge of the property.

The blush upon her cheeks proved the tale. Ruby moved into Helda’s gentle hug as only one woman to another can know the meaning of. “ Some day, I hope to find a love like yours and Roy’s. How do you know for sure when it happens and when you are just dreaming it up?”

The look Helda gave Roy as he closed the kitchen door was filled with an inner light no sun could claim as its own. “You will know when it does. Until that day, come join the visiting kin. We have much to talk about and plan for the holidays.”

When Roy checked the old oak tree a little later, it stood alone. Its branches danced in the summer breeze. He heard Ruby humming an off-key little tune from the other room. Perhaps fate was calling. Perhaps it was too soon. Time would tell.

He picked up her ruby red slippers she had slipped off while tucking her feet under her on the family couch. Roy laid them by her side where one ruby red glove lay near her hand. Her fingers played with the soft ruby red velvet texture. A dreamy look was on her face.

Helda’s glanced was asking what Ruby was thinking of, but she knew. She nodded at Roy, winked, and accepted his embrace as the family answered Ruby’s questions about how couples had met, joined their love together, and made the family stronger by its presence.

Near twilights end, Ruby rose on her ruby red slippers to stare out the kitchen window past the old oak tree into a ruby red sunset. She felt something of herself waiting out there. A slow smile welcomed the silent prayer on her lips. She knew a little bit more about what that something might be. Her heart would tell her what her thoughts could not supply when the right time came.

"Ruby? Are you all right, dear?" Aunt Helda's love enveloped Ruby with a warmth of its own. Uncle Roy's hand on her shoulder loaned a little bit more.

"I'm fine." And she was. The next time love came calling it wouldn't be just a dream of itself. She would play with it, nurture it, and bring it home to her family where true love belonged and was shared.
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