DISCLAIMERS: Not many needed on this one. The characters are mine. They sprang forth, from my own heart and mind, with more than a little help from my muse. Some of the dreams, you might recognize as scenes from our favorite television show. There might also be some shared characteristics between my characters and those on XENA: Warrior Princess. For this, I make no apology. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all. No copyright infringement is intended and no tangible profit will be made by me. Hey! Would I be writing fan fiction if I were not utterly and completely taken with this show? No. Since you are reading this, obviously I do write it. I respect the creators far too much to outright steal from them. Is it my fault if these two women are just too damn good to be confined to the TV screen? I think not.

SEX or other warnings: Not really. Not this time around. Just be aware that a foundation is being built and this IS an alt, uber and if women loving women bothers you...well, if that bothers you this is not the story you should be reading. If it illegal where you live or you are underage, move along.

THERE, I think that should cover all the bases. If I missed one, email me and I will make the repair(s).

FEEDBACK: I always welcome feedback. I will admit that negative feedback hurts, so if you just plain hated it I probably donít need to hear it. But, being who I am, I would read it anyway...so, go ahead. If you found problems or errors, of course, I welcome the alert. Actually, anything you care to share with me will be more than welcome. I can be emailed at: samanthaeruskin@gmail.com

MYSTI: Mistress of Dreams

by Sam Ruskin

Part 1

I hovered in that quiet place between wakefulness and sleep. My eyes fluttered open as I felt her approach. We had known one another for a long time. A very, very long time. The Mistress Of Dreams ëstoodí over me, smiling. Most people still think of her as The Sandman. SandMAN. That still pissed her off! Like a MAN could do her job. Even an immortal man. NOT!

Just for the record: She is never responsible for what you find in the land of dreams. Her job is to gently lead you on your journey. Once in a while she is given the added task of hurrying someoneís return from the foggy, mystical realm. Iíve been on that list a few times myself. She is expressly forbidden to interfere in even the smallest way. The Mistress is not even permitted to answer questions regarding the dreams themselves. The content of said dreams, that is. Hey! I said she is not responsible for what is in the dreams, not that she was unaware of what was in them. Mysti (her name) always knows both the dreamer and the dream(s). Relax. She never tells. Part of the job description. It is a rule she never breaks. Now you see just one of the reasons why a man would not be a good candidate for this job. Just imagine some of the stuff she sees and NEVER tells. Not even in locker rooms, car garages, or bars. Nor does she ever use the secrets she is privy to for her own purposes.

Anyway. There she was, floating at my bedside. Iíd known it would be her even before I had opened my eyes. Much as I liked Mysti, and I liked her a lot, she was not a welcome sight. Not tonight.

I shook my head and moaned softly. "Please. Not tonight. Not again. No more. I canít take it. That dream is making me crazy, Mysti."

Hers was a gentle smile. She looked at the edge of bed, in question. I nodded and sighed. Slowly she floated onto the bed and sat next to where I lay. The light in her eyes was so...well...kind. It was as though she knew I needed to say something more. She waited.

Again, I shook my head. This time it was to ward off the hot tears springing into my tired eyes. "Please, Mysti. Iím begging you. This dream has been with me for so long and this time Iíve had it every night for two weeks. I really cannot bear it another night. Just leave me tonight, please. No dreams. Yeah. No dreams at all would be a welcome change." I paused as an old thought returned. "Unless youíd care to explain the dream to me?"

The quick chuckle lit the room like the sweet sounds from a babbling brook in springtime. "Devious as ever, I see."

"Canít blame a girl for trying." I laughed right back. Exhausted as I was from fighting sleep for two days, the laugh felt good.

She shook her head, causing her golden hair to shimmy. "Gillian, you know very well I cannot explain your dreams to you. I am forbidden to discuss the content of your dreams. With you or anyone."

Looking into her soft, brown eyes, I thought I saw something there. Something hidden. But what could it be? Wait a minute. What was that emphasis on the word "content" all about? My eyes narrowed as I tried to think with an exhausted brain.

Mysti slowly lifted her left hand toward my face. "You know, you really do look tired. Why donít you close your eyes? Just for a moment.." she soothed.

My eyelids felt too heavy to lift. My breathing started to go deeper, slower. Whoa! I bolted upright. "No you donít, Mistress of Dreams! What did you mean, you canít discuss the CONTENT of my dreams? Is there something you can discuss? Have you been holding out on me, Mr. Sandman?"

ooooo. I never saw brown eyes flash quite that color before.

"Donít call me that! I hate that!!"

Even with the way I felt, eyes burning and stinging, I couldnít help grinning. "Sorry. Didnít mean it. You know that. Címere." I gave her a quick hug. She giggled. "Now. What exactly is it you are NOT saying? That you CAN say, that is."

She closed her eyes, smiled and shook her head. "Somewhere in there is a cohesive thought I bet." She grinned. "Maybe even a question that makes sense."

"Oh shut up."

She stood. "OK".

I grabbed her arm. "You know what I mean. Spill it."

Sitting back down, she took my hand. I was sitting against the headboard now. "Gillian, you know I am quite limited in what I am permitted to say about your dreams. Already you know more than most humans. Do you realize how few even believe I exist? You are very special. More so than you would ever believe, I suspect."

"I know you canít actually tell me about my dreams. Whatís in them, I mean. Or anyone elseís. What do you mean, special? And I have always believed you existed. You probably have my Dad to thank for that. All those bedtime stories when I was a kid, you know?"

"Your father was a very wonderful man. I am very sorry you lost him a few months ago. With your mother dying when you were three, you must feel very alone these days."

New tears. Not hot ones this time, though. These were the heavy, silent tears that come unbidden but with less pain each time. "Yes. I do." I started to wipe the tears away but she took both hands in hers and I just let the tears slide down my cheeks.

"Iím sorry, Gillian."

"I know." I squeezed her immortal hands. "But the dream I keep having isnít helping, you know? Canít you just help me stay awake a while?"

She chuckled softly and let her head first bob up and down, then from side to side. She rolled her eyes slightly. "A while, huh? Help you stay awake a while? Gillian, my sweet bard, you have been fighting sleep for days now. This is not good for you. The dream wonít hurt you. You know that, donít you?"

"Whatís a bard?" The tears had stopped. She had managed to distract me from myself.

"Um. A...a what?"

"Donít pull that with me. You called me a bard. What is it?"

She wouldnít look me in the eye. That was very unusual for Mysti and I knew it. "Gillian, I..." she seemed to be searching her mental thesaurus.

"Gotcha, didnít I?" I grinned.

The grin was returned, with just a hint of pink climbing up her neck. Funny. In all the years I had known Mysti, Mistress of Dreams, I had never before noticed that she blushed. Wonder what that was all about, I thought.

"You did, in fact." She paused. "For all the good it will do you." The blush gone, she raised her head in silent triumph. "Rules are rules, after all."

"Oh no you donít, my inhuman friend."

"Hey! That is NON-human, not IN-human!" We both laughed.

I was holding my sides and shaking the bed with my laughter. Damn, that felt good. Sheíd always had that effect on me, even when I was a young child. I couldnít remember a time when Mysti had not been part of my life. I had always believed in her, thanks to my father and all the wonderful tales he told. I remember, as a little girl, some of my friends would ask me where he learned all those fairy tales. I would tell them, with no small degree of indignity, that those were NOT fairy tales. They were stories. I told my friends that, while I had no real knowledge of their origin, I had no doubts as to their truth. The laughter that always followed was never appreciated.

Now, here I was all these years later and, at twenty five, they were still laughing. Not that I hung out with any of my old friends anymore. I didnít. We spoke if we ran into one another in town or at a mall or something. That was about the extent of my social life now that my father had died. I had always felt something missing from my life. Most people just said it was because I had never really known my mother. Somewhere deep within me, I had always known it was more than that. Daddy seemed to know it too, though I never quite knew how. Once, when I was around 17, I had asked him.


"Mmmm?" He had looked up from the newspaper. My Dad always gave me his full attention. I missed him so much.

"Daddy, why do I always feel like there is a whole inside me?"

"Missing yer Mom, honey?"

"Yeah. But I always miss Mom. This is more than that and it is always there. Itís been there as far back as I can remember. And Iíve been having that dream again, too."

"The Mistress is at it again, eh? Honey, the dream wonít hurt you. Someday it might even help you understand how to fill that hole. It did me."

"Huh?" Daddy had a hole in his life? But he always seemed so together to me.

"Once upon a time, I had a hole in my life too, honey. A big hole. A hole I thought would keep getting bigger until it ate me up."

"What happened?" I had asked him.

"Your mother." He smiled.

"Oh." There didnít seem anything else to say to his answer.

"You donít remember much about your mother, do you?" Mysti asked gently.

"No. I donít have many memories of my own; but she was kept alive for me through his memories. Even at the very end, you could see the love burning in his eyes when he thought of her."

The Mistress nodded. "That must have been some hole she filled."

"Mmm. And, you know, he told me that even after all those years without her physical presence the hole remained filled. I wonder if thatís what the emptiness I feel is all ab.....Hey! You really are a sneak, my friend. What is a bard? And no changing the subject again!"

Waving her immortal finger in the air, the dream mistress toyed with me. "You know very well, I canít...".

"Ah ah ah now. I did not ask you to divulge anything about the dream. Any dream, in fact. You called me ëbardí. What, I repeat, is a bard? And why does just hearing the word make the hair on my arm stand up?"

Clearly, she was thinking. "All right. A bard is a storyteller, a writer."

"Like Daddy. He was a great storyteller. I must get it from him then, right?"

"Not exactly. But you really do need to go to sleep now, Gillian. I have a job to do here. You know?"

I knew she was only half kidding. She had already spent more time with me than with most people and I knew it. "Please Mysti. That dream really makes me hurt inside, sometimes. I have been having it almost as long as I can remember. When will I ever find the answers? Will it ever stop hurting? That hole in my soul, I mean?" I could see she was trying to decide how much she dared say. I also knew she was easing me back onto the bed and humming that hypnotic melody of hers. The little sneak was putting me to sleep and there was nothing I could do about it. As my two-ton eyelids dropped to a close, I felt her pull the Hunter Green comforter around my shoulders.

The dream mistress leaned in very close and whispered into my left ear. "Sometimes, Gillian, the question is the answer." She softly kissed my cheek and was gone.

Like a laughing child on a hill of snow, I was tumbling. Whether I wanted it or not, sleep was on itís way. Soon I would be in Mystiís realm once again. Not far behind would be the dream. Why was I not afraid this time? What was it she had whispered, my dozing mind asked me.

"Sometimes, Gillian, the question is the answer."

Now, what was that supposed to mean?

Part 2

I could feel myself slowly sinking into Mystiís kingdom, the land of dreams. This time I was tumbling more than falling. Somewhere in the farther recesses of my brain, I wondered why. It had been at least two days this time. Two long days and nights of struggling against sleep, refusing to close my eyes. It wasnít even that the dream was a bad one, necessarily. It was more...haunting. Yes, that was it. The dream haunted me. It had been a part of me as far back as I could remember and it never quite left me. Over the years, there had been times when the dream seemed to fade and I would almost forget it had ever been there. Almost, but not quite. Then, after my fatherís funeral, I realized the dream had never really been absent at all. My mind had merely played a trick on me, blurring conscious memory of the dream upon waking. Smiling, I wondered if my immortal, sneaky friend had anything to do with that. Probably. My eyelids began to flutter as I felt the deep softness that was ëherí realm overtake me.

.......The soft chanting of the voices mingled with the stronger voice before me. She held a long, curved dagger over his chest. Something was said about a sacrifice being required. Then it happened. The woman with my face reached out to stop the dagger only to find herself covered in the other womanís blood. The intended ëvictimí rose from the altar, bathed in victory. The scream shook the walls of the temple and tore at my throat. "Nooooooo!"

Scenes shifted, as they always did, and suddenly flames were reaching out, assaulting my senses. Hot, evil flames that threatened more than death. In the pit of my very being, I knew this was evil personified. Just beyond the fire that ripped at my very soul, I heard a voice. Within that angry voice lay my hopes, my dreams, my very world. Her hand reached out for me more than once but the demon surged onward. Tears stung my eyes as I cried out to her. The dreamscape had been muted, I noted, because I could not hear the name as it rushed from my lips.

Just when despair was about to overtake me, the scene shifted once again. The demon had been vanquished and the tall warrior dove toward the flames...and me. I felt strong arms surround me and pull me close. So close. The sound restored, I heard that wonderful voice again: "Iíve gotcha. Iíve gotcha. Iíve gotcha." Over and over I heard those words and felt her breath upon my neck. It was then I realized I was clinging to this strong woman, my savior, my hero. With all that had just happened, I had never felt so safe, so loved.

Gently she lifted my face to hers. Like always, things got very fuzzy at this point. Never had I felt such a pull toward anyone as at that moment. Then it happened. Peeking out from the fuzzy, dream-like vision, were the bluest eyes I had ever seen. Something had changed. I had never been permitted to see her eyes before. Nothing really. Just a kind of silhouette. The look in those eyes captured my very soul.

"Would I ever know that kind of love while I was awake?" I sobbed the same question I had been asking myself nearly all my adult life. The wracking cries, as much as the dampness of the tears, woke me.

"Same time. Same channel. But with a new ending. I think I like this one better." I smiled into the still dark room. "All right, Mistress of Dreams, those baby blues get you off the hook this time." I sighed. "Hell. Who am I kidding? Iíd forgive you anything to get another look into those gorgeous orbs!" Laughter filled the room.

Hours later, the rising sun bathed the eastern sky in muted shades of orange, pink and gold. Truthfully, this was NOT my favorite time of day. But today was different. Something had changed and the dream was only the beginning. At the time, I had no idea just how great that change would be...in every sense of the word.

The Womenís Support Group was something I had joined shortly after my fatherís death. A girl I worked with had shyly suggested it when I kept losing weight I really couldnít afford to lose. She had also noted, with reddened cheeks, that I wasnít sleeping and it showed.

It was no secret that my father and I had been very close or that my mother had died many years before. Most of the people I worked with had seen him on more than one occasion. Everyone who knew him adored him. His death had been sudden, for me. To say that it had jerked my world from beneath my feet would have been a gross understatement. But, a support group? I really didnít think so. Not my style. Not at all. Or so I thought.

Being an incredibly ësoft touchí, I hadnít a clue how to get out of attending at least one meeting. Annie, from advertising, had all but begged me to accompany her that week.

"Oh well," I wondered aloud, "What harm could it do?"

"Actually, Gilly, it could do a lot of good." Annie gently touched my nearest arm. I smiled, wishing she would drop the shortened version of my name. She continued. "When my brother died last month, I was completely lost. He was all the family I had left." She wiped a fresh supply of tears with her lilac sleeve.

"Iím so sorry, Annie. I didnít know...I mean, I knew about Archie but I guess I thought your folks just lived out of town." Shit. Did I have my nose THAT far into ëmy booksí? Unacceptable, I chastised myself.

"Itís OK, really, Gilly. I donít think anyone knows. But the group helps. I promise. Just try it once. Tonight. OK?" That silk sleeve was getting quite a workout.Guilt alone would have assured her my company. As it was, there was a healthy dose of curiosity thrown in for good measure.

That had been about three months ago and I hadnít missed a meeting since. I had dreaded it, to be honest, fearing it would be one of those touchy-feely things where everyone cried in their beer all night. I couldnít have been more wrong. It wasnít like that at all. It wasnít even a "grief" group, per se. It was, well, it was exactly what Annie said it was: a Womenís Support Group. There were six women, including Annie and the moderator. I made seven. Each of the women were dealing with issues that had left them stumbling, groping for an anchor. Any anchor. The one thing they had in common (which did not include me) was they had been in private counseling prior to the forming of the group. I later learned that Annie had made prior arrangements with Bev, the moderator, to bring me that Wednesday.

After everyone had acquired their choice of beverage and a handful of pretzels, Bev suggested they introduce themselves to me. She promised Annie would introduce me afterward. I remember flashing my co-worker an embarrassed smile and she responded by squeezing my cold, sweaty hand.

These were not the women I had expected at all. There was nothing "wrong" with these women. Nothing a better world or good friend and a rich supply of time wouldnít cure. Mentally, I smacked myself for even thinking such rubbish. "Wrong" indeed! What century was I living in?!

"Iíll start us off," announced Bev. "Obviously, I am the moderator of the group. Most of you have been in private therapy with me at one time or another. I am single, have no children and get at least as much FROM this group as I give." She nodded to the woman on her immediate right. "Joannie, why donít you go next? Just tell us your name and whatever you are comfortable with." Bev patted Joannieís leg and smiled.

The tall redhead shifted in her upholstered chair. "Well..um...Iím Joannie Crenshaw. Iím divorced, have a ten year old son, Timmy....and...um...the ex from hell. He..um...likes to...um...talk with his...um...fists." She looked to Bev who gently closed her eyes for a moment, then nodded.

An older woman, with salt and pepper hair, spoke next. "Hi. Iím Pat Thomas. I have three grown children. Two boys and a girl. They are 17, 19, and 22. John, James and Linda, respectively. I am married, last I checked. Trouble is, my husband seems to have forgotten that little fact. Heís been living with his 24 year old lover for eight months now. I found out seven months ago. That either makes me incredibly stupid or too fucking trusting. Or both." She too, looked to Bev and waited for the nod. A pattern was becoming clear.

Next to speak was Tammy, a painfully shy young woman with dirty blonde hair and chestnut eyes. "Mmmy nname is Tttammy. Iím 22." She swallowed so hard, I just knew it hurt. "I ggguess Iím here...." another gulp and a slow intake of air. "...on account of my...ah..lifestyle." Her eyes pleaded with Bev, who made big point with me by rising and moving to the young womanís side. Bev put her freckled arm around Tammyís shoulders and nodded to the next woman.

There was only one woman remaining between me and my turn. Now, I gulped. A bit less audibly, I hoped.

I shifted in my seat to turn toward the obviously tall woman in the chair next to me. She had arrived only moments before we started. Much to my surprise the other women had me nearly spellbound, with their brief auto-biographies. Now I noticed the swinging midnight hair as she turned toward Bev, showing me her profile.

"All right. My name is Maxine but I strongly advise calling me Max." A full round of chuckles took me by surprise. " I am 29. Gonna hit the big 3-0 in about a month. Cracks about that belong with the name Maxine." Another round of chuckles burst forth from the previously quiet group. "Why am I here? Hey, Bev, why the hell AM I here?" Max laughed out loud. The sound was almost musical. Bev shook her finger and her head as she grinned at the stunning beauty. "Yeah, yeah. All right. I have a bit of a problem with anger management." She did something with her face that earned another chuckle but from where I sat I couldnít tell what that had been. "All right. More than a bit. And my family has a problem with my being gay. That about cover it, Bev?".

Max turned to more fully face the moderator, which put us face to face for the first time. As our eyes met, I gasped and shuddered. I was unaware, at first, that Max had done the same.

The words were out of my mouth before I could edit them. "Holy shit!" At least a million miles away, a husky voice whispered: "Oh my friggin God!".

Annie touched my leg, then squeezed, then squeezed again. I knew it was there but I simply could not respond. I was caught in a snare. I dared not move a muscle for fear I would wake and the vision would be gone. There they were. The most incredible blue eyes I had ever NOT seen before. And they were locked on me.

I felt Bev touch my arm. "Gillian? Max? Do you know each other?" There was more than a hint of concern in that trembling voice.

Having never met before, we none-the-less answered in unison.

"No...Yes....No." Baby blues refused to stray from deep green. "It....Itís.... complicated."

Over the fascinated hush that filled the room, I heard Annieís small voice: "Iíll just bet." How did I know she was smiling?

.........Hovering silently in the corner near the blinds, was Mysti. The Dream Mistress few believed existed floated over the two women.

A gentle breeze whispered but only two souls could hear the words. "Still want that dream to go away? Eh, Gillian? Huh, Max? Now, what was that question again?".

Part 3

Have you ever been driving in the Smoky Mountains very early in the morning? Maybe during early May or even June. You will be driving along when suddenly you are surrounded by a fog so thick the entire world just disappears. Oh, you know it is all still there. Just out of sight for the moment. Sometimes the fog is so pervasive that itís all you can do to make out the white line down the center of the highway. So you do the only thing you CAN do. You slow down. Way down. Almost to a crawl. Because the world as you knew it only moments before simply doesnít exist. All logic, reason and experience tells you that this current situation is temporary, but your hands still grip the wheel tighter as your palms begin to sweat.

That is the nearest I can come to telling you what it felt like when Max turned and I got caught in those incredible eyes of hers for the first time. Only this was a fog that went well beyond my visual sense. In fact, that seemed to be the only sense that was not only functioning, but at peak performance. Never before had my eyes beheld anything so clearly, so completely. My brain was clicking away taking mental photographs, making certain never to lose this vision before me. The loving blue eyes from my dream had stepped into my reality and taken residence in the woman sitting barely 18 inches away. There was a strange sort of hum in my ears that included several voices, the sound of distant breathing, the slight buzz of flourescent lighting, and a rythmic beat that made my ears tingle. I could smell the coffee from the pot in the corner as it blended with the sweetness of the half-consumed Pepsiís and the chosen scents of seven different women. There was a gentle pressure and soft warmth on my right thigh and forearm that my clouded mind identified as human hands. Anxious, worried human hands. Inside my mouth I tasted an odd mixture of salt, sugar and something else. What was that, I vaguely wondered. Yet, I simply could not budge from those eyes that seemed to hold my very being within their depths. It wasnít until later that I became fully aware that, in all those long minutes, those blue orbs had been caught in mossy green.

"Please, Gillian, youíre scaring me. Itís Annie. Look at me!"

Slowly I felt someone moving my face. No! My brain screamed inside my head. Donít take me from them. I need them. I need those eyes. But the moment was lost and someone was tugging on my hands. Both hands were being gently but firmly pulled but by different people. That is when I began to identify the taste in my mouth. Blood. I must have bitten the inside of my cheek without realizing it and the hot, salty ooze was making itís way out the corners of my mouth and down my chin.

"Gillian! Youíre bleeding!" It was Annie and she was typically over-reacting.

"Gillian? Itís Bev. You okay, honey? Here," she dabbed at my mouth and chin with a soft tissue. I felt my right hand being released only to have the warmth find itís way to my shoulder.

"Max? Max, sweetie. Itís Bev. You in there, angry warrior?"

I shook my head to break free of the fog that had surrounded me for what seemed like ages but must have been only minutes. It did not escape my attention that Max was doing several quick shakes of her head as well. I glanced about the room and found all eyes were on us. Max and me. Feeling like I had just shown up at work stark naked, I gulped and felt the heat of the blush as it crawled up my neck and shoulders.

"What happened?" The phrase leaped from my mouth, in a knee-jerk response.

Bev looked from Max to me and back again. "You tell us." There was a snicker making itís way around the room. "Do you and Max know one another or something?" The moderator again looked from Max to me and back again. "Well?"

Annieís hand, which seemed to have molded itself to my right thigh, squeezed. I turned to look at her. She lifted both eyebrows and tilted her head, waiting for some sort of reply to Bevís question. I swallowed. Hard. My eyes made their way around the room and found the other women also patiently waiting for my answer. Our answer. Without thinking about it, I turned toward Max as if she would know what to say. Strangely, she had just made the same visual sweep of the room and was turning toward me. That is when a chuckling therapist stepped between us.

"Oh no you donít. Not that deer caught in headlights thing again."

Everyone laughed. Well, almost everyone. Neither Max nor I found this the least bit funny.

Maxís hand reached up and took Bevís forearm, moving her just enough to allow us to see one another again. She smiled slightly, breathed deeply, closed her eyes for only a moment, then smiled again. At me. Max had smiled directly and only at me. I returned the smile and took a deep, cleansing breath of my own. Then we both looked at Bev, knowing we had to say something. But what? What could I possibly say to this group of near strangers? Thankfully, I didnít have to answer that.

"Sorry to scare everyone. No. Iíve never met..."

"Gillian," I supplied.

"Gillian...before. At least not in this life."

There were a few chuckles but I noted that Bev, Annie and Tammy had not cracked a grin.

Max continued. "Itíll sound wack-o but I have been having this one dream nearly all my life. I never knew who the woman in the dream with me was. Actually, I had never even gotten a good look until recently when,for some reason I canít explain, I was allowed to see her eyes. They were the most wonderful deep green eyes I have ever seen. So beautiful and they held so much within their depths. Course I knew it was only a dream. Right? When I turned around and saw Gillianís eyes I just....I ....well, I guess I just kinda got lost for a minute. I know. Bring on the straight jacket. But, I swear to you. Those are the eyes from my dream."

Bev nodded. Annie and Tammy exchanged fascinated glances. I gasped.

"Dear mother of god. You have been having the same dream all your life too?" Damn. I had so not meant to say that out loud. But it was too late now.

Judging from the looks that passed from chair to chair, Bev would be ordering two of those white coats. Many things went through my mind in those moments. Among the thoughts most forward in my struggling brain were the ones concerning my next conversation with the Dream Mistress. ëMysti, girl. You are in deep shit here, my friend.í

Bev had returned to her seat and all chairs seemed to have scooted a bit closer, like covered wagons closing formation.

"Too?". Max reached long fingers toward my small hand. When her fingertips brushed the back of my hand we both drew in a quick breath. Neither of us dared to say anything aloud and only hoped that the jolt had not made a visible arc.

"Wow." We whispered in unison. Nervously, we both made a quick survery of the room to see if what had just happened had been noticed. It had not. Breathing resumed.

I cleared my throat. "Yeah. Well, I ..uh...that is to say...I have had a recurring dream since as far back as I can remember. I was always a woman in it though, even when I was just a little girl. I never knew who the other woman was. Until recently I didnít even know what she looked like. Not really. Then I was allowed to see just the eyes. Your...um...your eyes." I looked at Annie, Bev, the others and then back to Max. "I am NOT nuts."

At that we all laughed. All of us. Even Max and I had to admit the situation WAS funny. Strange, but also funny.

"Hmmm. Well, this is certainly the most interesting group session we have had so far. But Gillian, I think it was your turn?" I must have looked confused. "To tell us your name and a bit about yourself?"

"Oh. Oh, sure." I verbally stumbled. "My name is Gillian Montgomery. I am an illustrator for a local publishing company. Annie and I work together. She talked me into joining her tonight because sheís been a little concerned about me lately." I patted Annieís knee. "Ok, more than a little maybe. I lost my mother when I was only three so my father and I were very close. Very, very close. He was my world, really." Tears filled my eyes and threatened to fall. "He died a few months ago and...I guess Iím not handling it so well as I thought." The tears were making paths down my face now. "I just feel so lost. So...so damned alone. Shit. Iím sorry. I..."

I felt a strong hand on my left knee and looked over to find Max with tears pooling in those crystal blues I just knew I would never quite get used to seeing close up.

"Well, youíre not alone anymore."

next part

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