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David McClain, retired teacher, is depressed as he faces the fourth summer since the death of his wife. The big Victorian house, once full of the happy sounds made by his beautiful wife and three lively daughters, now is silent, and he has resigned himself to stoic loneliness.
But life still has more in store for him than he imagines, as a series of dreams begin to haunt him, awakening echoes of a forgotten love...Who was she? Why can’t he remember? Does she still exist?
Dejected, he flopped on the big, overstuffed couch. So tired…so damned tired… Suddenly his eyes were swimming, and he sat there, expressionless, tears running down his cheeks. Before long, he drifted off to sleep.
It was one of those weird, surrealistic dreams, but unusually vivid. He was young again, and back in college, a place distorted but recognizable as the campus he knew so well. He was walking the Ohio University green with a girl on his arm. Meggie? No. No…someone else. Someone different. Margaret Drexel was still a girl back in Toledo he didn’t even know yet, wouldn’t know until he came back from the ’Nam. David McClain was a rational man even in his dreams; but even in his dream he felt a twinge of guilt that it wasn’t Meggie.
He caught a glimpse of long brown hair, but the girl’s face was somehow always turned away from him. As he opened the door to the tavern (The Lantern? Yes…), he still couldn’t see her face, though he desperately wanted to. He knew without seeing her that she was very lovely, and tantalizingly familiar somehow. But nonetheless, no name arose in his sleeping mind.
He awoke in the cold hours well before dawn, his neck screaming from the awkward position he had slept in. His bladder—damned prostate!—was screaming in unison, and he headed for the bathroom, the dream still vivid in his head. He expected it would rapidly fade, as his dreams always did.
But it didn’t. If anything, his memory of it grew stronger. All during the aimless day it haunted him. It had been so real. He could still feel the touch of the girl’s hand, hear her soft, melodious laugh, smell the sweet scent of her gorgeous hair, her perfume, see the lovely, graceful sway of her hips—hell, he could even describe the clothes she wore…everything except see her face. It was maddening, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. He knew she was no idle fantasy but a real person, and someone he knew he had known…if he could just remember…
More than a little irritated with himself, with renewed determination he set about finding something useful to do. The garage was a mess—he could visualize Meggie (ah, Meggie, Meggie…) shaking her head in disapproval that he had let it get in such a state of sad disorder. He got at it, and after four hours of hard, sweaty work, the garage was presentable again, and in the process he had nearly—but not quite—dismissed the dream from his thoughts.
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