PORTRAIT OF A DREAM
I couldn’t believe it, my dream man was back and my heart pounded with excitement. He stood on the other side of the courtyard, staring at me: I was totally lost and under his spell again.
‘Come to me, please come to me,’ he murmured. His voice was as soft as velvet and it floated as if on a zephyr breeze. His full-length robe had golden edges that gleamed like the early morning sunshine and his long blond hair moved gently. He was magnificent. A cry of pleasure escaped from my lips as his outstretched arms beckoned to me. ‘Come to me my dearest. It is time and I need you…oh how I need you,’ he pleaded.
Recognition flared briefly as his deep blue eyes bored into mine, piercing my soul and heightening my already receptive senses. Pure joy, strange distantly remembered love, longing and peace settled over me like a warm silken blanket. I was being cosseted beyond my wildest dreams. I was a compliant and happy slave, a helpless moth hovering and flitting over a flame and I ran towards him.
I could feel the sun filtering through the gently swaying palm-trees circling the courtyard. A heady perfume exuded from the tropical plants surrounding the ornate fountain in the centre and the sound of water trickling and flowing over stones, was like gentle music to my ears. This was a peaceful paradise interrupted only by the sound of bees, fluttering their sun-drenched golden wings around me.
I was nearly there…
I woke suddenly. It was dark and the digital clock beside me glowed clinically: it was only 5a.m. I heard the insistent sound of a police car’s siren as it sped beneath my window. I groaned. I needed to be back in that beautiful courtyard with him. Instead, all I could hear was the rainwater splashing and gurgling noisily down the drainpipe outside my window.
I sleep alone, but not by choice you understand; you see my husband Michael had decided one morning several months ago, that we were no longer compatible. His feelings for me had gone, been extinguished or whatever else you may say about the loss of love. He’d moved out the following day, the rat, and only last week, the final divorce papers had been signed
Of course I still miss him – we’d been married for eight childless years for heaven’s sake. As usual, my eyes searched for Michael’s familiar shape beside me. But for once, the fact that he wasn’t there didn’t fill me with pain and anguish. Instead, I was filled with a kind of wondrous optimism.
Throughout my life, my dreams had conjured up a man with deep, gentian-blue eyes and long flowing hair. Unaccountably the dreams had stopped once I’d married Michael. Now they’d started again, only this time I’d allowed my dream man’s eyes to pierce my vulnerability and finally my soul.
With a languid sigh, I stretched and snuggled back under my duvet.
I wanted to be with the man who had always had such a profound effect upon my senses. If I couldn’t have him in reality, then I would have to be with him in my dreams…
The next thing I knew was the sound of my mobile phone ringing and fumbling sleepily, I picked it up.
‘Hi Sue. You took a long time to answer.’ It was my best friend, Liz.
‘Sorry, I was fast asleep – I’m absolutely zonked. I had a disturbed night.’
‘What, another one?’
‘Yes,’ I replied with an expansive yawn.
Are you doing anything today?’
‘Nothing special. I’ve got some shopping to do and the garden needs weeding.’
‘Really Sue,’ her friend retorted. ‘What happened to that fun-loving beautiful blond, slim girl I used to know? Michael’s a bastard. He’s not worth all this angst.’
‘You know?’ her friend said.
‘Yes, and from now on I’m going to think of him as my ex-husband.’ Wow, the words had at last been said. What brought this on, I asked myself?
‘Well done,’ Liz continued, ‘I knew you’d come to your senses one day.’
‘Liz, do you remember me telling you about the strange dreams I used to have?’
‘Yes, they involved a rather dishy man, didn’t they?’ Liz chuckled throatily.
‘Well, last night I dreamt about him again and now I find that I don’t give a fig about Michael any more. Isn’t it great? And I have this strange feeling that something momentous is going to happen today.’
‘Yes. You don’t think that I’m going mad, do you?’
‘No, of course not: realism has reared its head at long last and about time too. And yes, something momentous IS going to happen today. You’re coming up to London with me.’
My head suddenly ‘zinged’ as a pair of blue eyes swam enticingly before me and my heart missed a beat. ‘Well, I suppose I could,’ I replied.
‘Good. We’re catching the 9.37a.m. train to Waterloo and then we’re going to the National Gallery. Its ages since we’ve been and perhaps it will encourage you to start…’
‘…painting again?’ she teased. ‘You can’t possibly let all the hard work you’ve done in the past, go to waste: it’s just sitting there in your garden shed.’
‘Oh, I don’t know, my heart is not in it any more, but London sounds wonderful…and Liz?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘A flash of inspiration perhaps, anyway we should be at the station at 9.20. You know what the ticket queues can be like, so you haven’t got long. Bye.’
‘Bye,’ I said into thin air. Liz could be bossy sometimes, but she was right, a few hours in London would be perfect.
I climbed out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. I stared at my reflection in the mirror and was surprised to see that my eyes looked brighter: in fact they positively sparkled, but why? I walked downstairs with a renewed spring in my step and minutes later, I managed to eat some breakfast, lots of it in fact, which was strange because ever since Michael had left, I’d merely been picking at my food!
I could hardly contain my excitement as the train pulled slowly into Waterloo station, but Liz insisted that we had a cup of coffee first. We sat at a small table in the station forecourt, but I couldn’t get rid of an all-pervading feeling of urgency.
‘Right,’ Liz said, draining her cup. ‘Are you ready?’
‘Yes, I can’t wait. Michael was never interested in art, unless it appeared in girlie magazines of course.’
‘Least said. Come on.’ Liz walked off.
The National Gallery was wonderful as usual: the building exuded an unhurried aura of respectability and each room was a delight. There were so many differing styles, colours and sizes of pictures painted by people long since dead, but whose lives lived on in the images they had created. Time seemed meaningless as we walked from room to room. And yet, I had the strangest feeling that I was being drawn along by an invisible thread. But where was it taking me?
The second I walked into the next gallery, I knew.
A huge painting dominated the room. It was beautiful and it glowed with vibrant colour.
‘This is what I came here to see,’ I told Liz in great excitement.
She looked at me. ‘What do you mean, Sue? I thought that I arranged this visit.’
‘Well, yes you did, but…’
‘Wow, you’re strange sometimes. Come on let’s find the restaurant. My stomach’s rumbling like an approaching storm.’
My heart sank. I’d found the thing for which I’d been unconsciously seeking and all Liz wanted to do was eat! ‘Would you mind if I stayed here for a while?’ I said, sitting down on a bench. ‘ I’ll only be a few minutes.’
‘OK, but don’t be too long.’
I watched Liz as she wandered off and turned my attention back to the painting. It had been unsullied by the passing years and still clear-cut and alive. I felt that I’d seen it before and searched for the artist’s name. A small sign said “Rebecca…”. I couldn’t identify her surname, but it was dated “1527”.
My heart missed a beat when my eyes strayed towards the intricate marble floor at the bottom of the picture. A lone white flower struggled for life in one of the cracks, which like the branches of a tree, spread randomly across the canvas.
By now, my heart was thumping.
Déjà vu…déjà vu, the flower screamed at me. I felt confused. Vague memories fluttered like butterflies in my mind and…the invisible thread pulled me again. I looked upwards.
Then…I saw the man of my dreams!
Two deep-blue eyes stared back at me from the canvas. He had a glorious head of golden hair like a halo… I shuddered and took an involuntary breath. Suddenly, I heard a deep penetrating sigh and I turned round. A man of about thirty now sat beside me, his long blond hair drawn back into a ponytail. His handsome face seemed familiar to me somehow, he was broad-shouldered and even though he was sitting down, I could see that he was tall. He wore a faded blue denim-jacket, jeans and brown sandals and he too was staring at the painting.
‘My dreams…aarrhhh, it’s a miracle,’ he whispered. His soft velvety voice was as mellow as the sands of time. ‘Now I know why I was drawn to this place.’
‘Sorry. What did you say?’ He turned to me and smiled…and my heart flipped. I was looking at two deep gentian pools into which I wanted to plunge and lose all reason.
‘I said, it’s a miracle, and I am beginning to understand.’
‘Understand what…?’ I spluttered.
‘The picture: I remember it being painted.’ He looked away and a few tears began to fall down his handsome face, which he quickly brushed away.
‘But you can’t possibly remember it being painted…this picture is dated 1527!’
His voice grew even softer. ‘Yes, I know it was. I was there.’
He looked at me again and…I couldn’t even begin to describe the feeling that spread over me. I felt alive…joyful…and…oh, so whole. I tried to bring myself back to the reality of the National Gallery…Liz…and even Michael. But none of it mattered any more: my reality was the nearness of this man…this beautiful man who was sitting beside me. He WAS the man in the painting and my dreams and what was more, I had loved him aeons ago.
A long forgotten name came to me. Anthony…my dearest Anthony!
I sat up straight, and tried to close my mind to what was happening. I don’t believe in reincarnation, I told myself fiercely: the whole thing is fanciful and ridiculous.
‘I was there,’ he repeated, his voice gentle, yet persuasive. ‘And so were you.’
‘I was?’ My mind continued to deny the inevitable.
‘Yes. You must remember…you painted this picture and afterwards you fell into my arms each night.’
‘I did…? But…’
‘Will this help you to remember?’ From inside his jacket he produced a flower: it was bruised but instantly identifiable and pressing it into my hands, he leant over and kissed me. ‘My sweetest Rebecca, how long I have waited for you. I thought I had lost you.’
All my doubts evaporated in an explosion of recognition.
‘Rebecca? Yes, I remember now. You gave me this flower at the end of the sitting. Anthony, how could I have forgotten?’
‘Our time has come, sweet Rebecca.’
‘Yes, Anthony. Our time has indeed come. I too have been waiting for you…but in my dreams…always in my dreams.’
He stood up, took my hand and pulled me towards him. ‘And in mine also, and it has been so long. Come with me, Rebecca,’ he pleaded.
And forsaking all else, his willing slave followed him.