See You In My Dreams
by Rob Nisbet
If the poem was true then tonight she would dream of her future husband
Tonight was the eve of St Agnes, and Hazel was dreaming.
It was dark outside and a cold rain pattered against tall windows as she wandered through a house she didn’t recognise. The rooms were old-fashioned and ornate. That picture of Keats looked down at her from every wall, his cheek cupped in the palm of his hand as he gazed thoughtfully out from the canvas. Yet it was not Keats of whom Hazel wanted to dream.
She was in a kitchen. Her brain was reminding her that she hadn’t eaten all day. Eating too close to bedtime caused dreams, she thought vaguely: cheese or something indigestible.
Well, not tonight, apparently. Not on the eve of St Agnes.
Keats watched her from every landing
She wandered through a dining room; a romantic candle glowed over a table set for two. This was more like it. A staircase zig-zagged up to the bedrooms. Keats watched her from his frames on every landing and she tried to ignore the hollow rumbling from her stomach. The doors were closed but she knew someone was in each bedroom. These were the people she wanted to dream about.
Keats was responsible, of course. She’d been reading a lot of his poems recently, including The Eve Of St Agnes.
She’d struggled with the language and references, but the tradition had stuck in her mind. Don’t eat on the twentieth of January, and you will be sure to dream of your future husband.
The room was colder still
Hazel approached the first bedroom. She had her hopes pinned on athletic Steve at the badminton club; indeed, she could hear the swish and thunk of rackets.
Inside was chilled with the gloom of a winter’s evening and she found herself serving against an unseen opponent. They played in near darkness. Was it Steve? That portrait of Keats was illuminated on the far wall and each time her opponent crossed in front of it, Hazel seemed to see the shadowy figure topped by the painted features. Eyes set wide apart, sharp nose, curling hair.
This was not Steve. She tried the door of the next room. If not Steve, then Andrew from the accounts section would be her second choice. This room was colder still – like Andrew (never Andy), somehow aloof – but, tall and dark, he magnetised Hazel.
A monitor flickered in the blackness where a shadow was working, but all that could be seen was the face on the screen. Keats again – staring ahead, fingers curled against the side of his handsome face.
Hazel closed the door. Even in her dream she realised this was not working. Her mind was too set on the poet, not eating, the mechanics of the tradition.
Steve or Andrew? It was a simple question
She shivered on the landing and listened to the rain. Steve or Andrew? It was a simple enough question.
Then light broke apart the heavy curtains. It was St Agnes’ Day – the eve had passed, and with it the chance to see into her future.
Andrew or Steve? As she woke, Hazel realised that her very uncertainty indicated that perhaps neither was perfect.
She blinked away the old-fashioned house and its rooms, but she was still cold and could still hear water. Rain drummed against the open window of her bedroom. Slipping from the bed, she shut out the January chill.
A plate on her bedside table bore the crusts from a cheese sandwich. She hadn’t fasted at all. Next to the plate, her book of poems by Keats, his boyish face printed on the cover. No wonder his was the only face to appear in her dream.
At last she saw him
- Hurriedly Hazel got ready for work. It was still raining as she slammed the front door and dashed out. She car-shared with Brian from Maintenance, and he’d be waiting. Ah – she saw him, parked a little way down the street.
He looked bored – his eyes set a little wide apart, sharp nose, curling hair, his face cupped into his palm as he stared out at the steadily falling rain…
More free online stories:
Read more great new stories in My Weekly and My Weekly Special, on sale now