Continued from: Earworm: Part 54 — Best Dream Ever
Hope glanced at the clock. Still a few minutes before the late bell. She wasn’t joking with Joel, she was going to talk to William about her dreams. It came to her last night, lying in bed—her mind racing and spinning—she knew exactly how to approach William and put this all to rest, to ease her over-thinking mind. The answer is so simple, how did I not see it before?
She stopped, recognizing the call of Irrational Hope. Maybe Joel was right. This was stupid. This was crazy. No, it wasn’t, not the way she worked it out in her thoughts. Granted, she realized she was acting a little… silly, but she needed to put that nagging, song-stuck-in-her-head feeling to rest. She turned and looked at William.
He sat in the back of the room with both elbows on his desktop, head held in both hands, eyes closed. He looked like an exhausted family member in a hospital waiting room.
“Hey,” Hope called to William in a friendly tone. She didn’t quite recognize her own voice, and she remembered being a child at the supermarket with her mother, and having the compulsive urge to scream with lung-emptying fervor. Screaming for no other reason than to confront whatever impulse control held her back from doing it. But sanity, conscience, the fear of what the others, especially her mother, would think—all those little character attributes of Rational Hope—stopped her. She wished Rational Hope would stop her now.
But there was no turning back here, she was swimming into the deep end, and she might just swim right into lunacy. They could skip the sleep lab and send her straight to the funny farm. But lunacy or not, she had a bur she couldn’t shake, a deep paranoia telling her William Knight was causing her dreams. And although she realized Rational Hope tended to be right—and most definitely was this time—compulsion was more persistent, and crazy or not, one had to feed compulsion what it wanted, she needed to quell the hunger pains of her psyche. William didn’t respond to Hope’s initial greeting, and she almost took the chance to bail out. Instead, she found herself calling, “William.”
William’s head twitched and then lifted. He looked like a man stranded on a desert island hearing a voice on the wind.
Hope sang, “Will-iam,” waving her hand as if hailing a cab.
“What’s up?” Hope forced a smile.
“Where were you yesterday?”
“Yeah. Weren’t you absent yesterday?”
“Uh, yeah. I… uh… wasn’t feeling well.”
“I think something’s going around.”
“So are you feeling better?”
“A little. I’m still very tired.”
“Yeah, I’ve been feeling that way lately too. Why didn’t you stay home today?”
William shrugged. “Too many days out of school usually means a trip to the doctors,” he said. “You know mothers.”
Hope offered a knowing smirk. “Yeah, I know mothers.”
Here we go folks. Hope steps up to the diving platform…
“Hey,” she said, “can I talk to you about something?”
…and she jumps.
William shifted in his seat. “Uh… about what?”
Beads of sweat broke out on the back of Hope’s neck. “This sounds really… dumb, but…” she laughed to illustrate just how dumb it sounded, “I had this really weird dream, and you were in it.”
He shifted in his seat again. “Yeah?” he said.
“Yeah,” Hope giggled. “And this sounds so dumb, but… do you have Mrs. Thompson for psychology?”
“Well, you know the term paper we have to write?”
“Well, I thought about writing a paper analyzing a dream about a random person,” Hope said. No response from William. Hope continued, “Anyway, I figured I’d interview the dream’s subject and see how accurate my perceptions were. You know, get the subject of the dream’s thoughts… about…it…” her voice trailed off. This did sound stupid when actually spoken out loud. “They aren’t like sex dreams or anything.”
D’oh! Could she embarrass herself a little more?
“Really,” William stated.
“Yeah,” Hope said, unsure if his response was to her dreaming about him or that they weren’t sexual in nature. “So how about it, think you can help me?”
“When would be a good time for you? You know, to meet?”
“Yeah, you know, to talk?”
“Okay,” Hope paused. The late bell rang. “How about tonight at the library?” she said in a hushed voice as Ms. Bradford entered the room.
“Yeah,” William said, “tonight’s good, uh… what time?”
“Seven all right?”
“Uh… okay,” he said, still dumbstruck.
“Great,” Hope smiled her widest smile as Ms. Bradford began taking attendance. “Then I’ll meet you tonight,” she whispered, still hiding behind her bright smile. William responded with a grin and nodded. Hope regarded him, looking him up and down, and then she turned forward in her seat, the smile dropping from her face.
At the end of the day, as the students exited Mr. Grey’s classroom, Hope ducked away from Joel. “Where are you going?” Joel asked her like a parent questioning a child about to do something wrong.
“I have to do something,” Hope said, pulling from his gravitation toward her.
“You’re not… this isn’t…”
“Don’t worry,” Hope said, “I’ll call you later.”
She darted through a gaggle of students and rushed down the halls, hoping she wasn’t too late. She was relieved to find William still rummaging through his locker. She walked up behind him, tapped him on his left shoulder, and then darted to his right. William flinched, turning in a panicky jerk to his left, seeing no one there, and then returning to his locker. “Hey,” Hope laughed, “I’m over here.”
William flinched again as if someone goosed him. He looked up at Hope with eyes deep and vast. But those eyes were also defensive.
“Still want to meet tonight?” Hope said, feeling somehow guilty for the defensiveness in his eyes. She was, after all, a member of the high school elite that treated him like a leper, and she suddenly realized that in a way she was messing with this kid just like the rest of them did. He didn’t know anything about her dreams. He couldn’t be responsible for what her mind was doing. They are your dreams, Mr. Grey had told her. But still, she had started this plan in motion, it was too late to bail out now.
“Uh… yeah,” William said.
“So, then, you’ll be at the library at seven?” Hope said.
“Uh… yeah, sure.”
“Great.” She regarded him, almost studying him.
God, how did her mind so accurately capture and reproduce every nuance of this kid in her dreams?
“Uh… well,” William said, “I gotta catch the bus.”
“Okay. Then, I’ll see you tonight.”
“Yeah,” William smiled.
She’d never seen him smile like that before—in reality, anyway. And her guilt relaxed. She felt almost righteous for bringing that smile to his face. She felt good about making this connection with him. She wasn’t messing with him. She was opening herself to a possible friendship. Maybe her dreams were trying to tell her something. There were deep secrets in the wells of his eyes, maybe she could tap them.
“I’ll see you tonight, My Hope,” William said, and he took off down the hall.
Hope watched, slack jawed, as William burst out the doors and trotted to the row of busses.
Did he just call me My Hope?
Dizziness washed over her as she tried to grasp William’s last words.
I’ll see you later, My Hope.
Could it be a bizarre coincidence that he called her the same term her father bestowed on her so many years ago? Had she even heard him right? It was paranoia to think William was responsible for her dreams. It was compulsion to ask him about them. But now, in the real world, was it possible that a boy in her math class was controlling her thoughts? The floor beneath her felt as though she was balancing on a playground’s seesaw, and she walked shakily down the hall.
Continued in: Earworm: Part 56 — Right Again
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