She’s hidden beneath the covers, and I know she hates being woken up. The only exception is Christmas morning. Then again, she’s wide awake every Christmas morning.
I peel back the cover just enough to see she’s facing away from me. I rest my hand on her brown hair, and she doesn’t move.
“I know you’re sleeping right now, Brussels-sprouts. I just wanted you to know-” I pause.
I lived a very lonely life. That’s what people don’t get about me; that’s what they miss. Until you’ve gone without love, you have no idea how powerful it can be when it finds you. It’s not just a saying, and it sure as hell isn’t something I tell myself to feel better about giving up football. I don’t mean to get sappy, but as I stand here at my daughter’s bedside, knowing a short hallway away rests a beautiful woman who loves Phil Gordon the pool guy, I can’t help but thank God for all the life I have, and forget to give two shits about the one I gave up.
“I love you, Brussels sprouts.”
She turns over, and I finally see her face. Avery puts her hand in mine, then rubs her eye open.
“What time is it, daddy?”
I smirk. “Too early for you.”
I kiss her on the forehead, then get up.
“What is it?”
“Come over here!”
I sigh, then do.
I grin, then hold out the finger. She locks her tiny pinky around mine.
“Say it, daddy.”
“You sure? Figured you’re too grown-up for that.”
I smile. “Daddy cauliflower always returns for princess Brussels Sprouts.”
“Yay!” says Avery, kicking her legs and feet. I can’t help but laugh along with her – she hates vegetables.
I proceed to the kitchen, scoop out some Columbian roast, toss it in the filter, then add about four cups worth of water and turn the coffee pot on. I wait with my hands on the counter and my head dangling over my chest.
It was a dream, I remind myself. Nothing but a dream.
Still, ‘Master’ seemed so real. The entire scene did. Some dreams are so ludicrous you realize you’re dreaming while you’re in the middle of them. Other dreams fool you a little more, but as soon as you return to consciousness you realize you’d been tricked.
The coffee finishes brewing, and I pour myself a cup.
But then there are those other dreams, when long after waking, you are still convinced that you were in the presence of another being. Maybe not physically, but maybe metaphysically. The universe is a strange place.
“Are you trying to freak me out?”
It’s Loretta – she’s standing in the doorway, glaring at me.
“Yes, just the dream. Don’t worry-”
“You don’t spook easily, Phillip.”
“So why do you look so disturbed, baby?”
I think for a moment, and some primitive part of me urges me to warn her about Master. I almost want to stay here, just to watch over my family and make certain everything remains alright.
“Like you said, it was just a dream.” I hand her the mug. “Here, I don’t even want this. Have a good day, babe.” I kiss her and head for the front door.
“So why are you so upset?”
“Just being paranoid, like you said.”
“Love you, Phillip,” she says as I leave.
- Thomas M. Watt