It’s my friend R’s birthday. He’s having a get-together with some friends. I didn’t think we’d be able to make it — my husband has to work — but after lunch I spontaneously make the decision to put the kids in the car and drive to his place.
We arrive at his place, but it’s different to the way I remember it. The property is huge. There’s a big, old barn to one side, a more modern building to house the horses on the other, and a ramshackle old farmhouse smack bang in the middle of the yard. The house has a sagging balcony wrapped around the wooden building, a couple of slats missing from the five-step staircase, and old sofas and bean-bags scattered on the deck and grass.
I take the kids to look for the birthday boy. The place is packed. There’s an indie band playing on a makeshift stage. I don’t recognise the musicians, but their music is familiar. There are people lying around on the sofas, other people chatting near the barbecue, and through one of the open windows I can see a group of guys playing some kind of networked computer game.
After some searching, I find my friend. “Happy birthday!” I say to him. He gives me a hug, makes a lame joke full of sexual innuendo, and tells me to grab a drink and make myself at home. Then he returns to the computers inside.
I spot a group of kids playing together out back and take my boys out there.
“Hey,” says a familiar figure. “I’m Jayne. I’m watching the kids while they kick a ball around. Want me to look after yours as well?”
“Sure,” I say.
I leave the kids to play and head back inside, looking for beer.
I sit on a sofa with my beer and put my feet up. The band is really good. I groove along to the music for a while before I realise I need to go to the bathroom. I walk inside, but can’t find anything. Every time I walk through a doorway, I end up back outside. I can see computers through the window, but I can’t find the computer room inside. I start to get frustrated. And I really need to pee.
“What are you doing here?” someone asks. I look over. It’s a girl I haven’t seen in years. (We’ll call her A.)
“Hi!” I say, happy to see her. “I’m here for R’s party. It’s great to see him.”
She stares at me. She’s angry. I don’t know why. Just as she’s about to walk away, I ask, “Do you know where the bathroom is?”
She scowls and says, “Fine. I’ll show you.” Then she stalks away.
I follow A to the left, along the balcony. We go down a set of stairs, climb through a barbed wire fence, and then scramble over a mound of discarded and broken furniture. On the other side, the air is colder and there’s no grass growing. I look around, but there’s no sign of the house and I can’t hear the band.
“There,” A says. I follow her pointing finger and see a broken, porcelain toilet bowl. “It’s that or nothing.”
She’s gone and I survey the toilet. I wouldn’t even consider using it, except I really, really need to pee. And there doesn’t seem to be any option. I tap my fingers against my thigh. Then I start undoing my jeans.
There’s no one around. And it’s not like there’s a door (or walls) to give me any privacy anyway. I look around and realise there’s a row of trees and bushes over to my left. Why use a broken toilet when there’s plenty of other options available to me? I leave the trash heap and relieve myself in the bushes, and then return to the party. There’s no sign of A.
I settle back down with my beer on a sofa and watch the sun shining in the brilliant blue sky.
“Hi,” a girl says. “Mind if I sit here?”
“Sure,” I say. I sit up and leave her enough room. There’s something very familiar about her. “Do I know you?”
She looks me in the eyes with a startling intensity and says, “I don’t think so.” Then she smiles again and holds out her hand. “I’m Sasha.”
We shake hands and I introduce myself.
“What do you do?” I ask.
“Lots of things,” she says. “I just started work as the editor of Speculate, a new Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine.”
We talk about books and stories and the appeal of speculative fiction for a while. Then she asks if I’d like a free subscription to the magazine. “Since you’re R’s friend,” she explains. I agree and give her my business card. She leaves to go talk to the band.
It’s late afternoon. I’m lying on a sofa thinking I should go find the kids and go home when Sasha returns. This time she’s followed by half a dozen other people. “Hi again,” she says with a strangely seductive smile. “You didn’t tell me you were a writer.”
I’m surprised. “How did you…”
“I always google people I meet,” she explains. “I’ve just been on your blog, reading your flash fiction. It’s really good.”
“Wow,” I stammer. “Thank you. That’s… that’s great.”
I feel weird and anxious, but she smiles at me again and all those feelings disappear. “I was wondering,” she says. “That story you wrote about Captain Aldo… There’s a lot that’s not explained. Let me ask you a question: Is Aldo a good man or a bad man?”
I struggle to remember the story she’s referring to, but can only recall the bare basics of it. “Well, I left the ending ambiguous intentionally,” I say. “So people could make their own decision.”
Her expression doesn’t change, but she’s disappointed. Some of the other people turn to leave. I’ve said the wrong thing. I speak up quickly, “But my intention… He thinks he’s a good man, but he often has to do bad things to protect the people around him.”
Sasha smiles. Everyone else smiles. Someone starts to applaud. “That’s great,” says Sasha. “I’m also a movie producer, and I’d like to make a movie of your story about Captain Aldo. I need you to write the screenplay. And I know exactly who will make the perfect Aldo.”
She looks past me to the man lying on the sofa behind mine and Nathan Fillion shakes his head. “Uh-uh. No way, Sasha. I’m not interested.”
He sits up and starts putting on his boots.
“Come on, Nathan,” Sasha says. “You haven’t even read the screenplay yet! It’s perfect for you. Trust me!”
“No,” Nathan says, drawing out the word. “Too many times, Sasha. But not this time.”
“No,” says Nathan. “This isn’t like the other times. You left me standing at the altar. I’m not taking your word for it again.”
Sasha closes her eyes and looks away. Nathan finishes tying up his boots and stands up. It’s now or never.
“Nathan?” I say.
“Yes.” He’s angry and hurt, but when he looks at me, he shoots me that familiar smile. I smile back. I can’t help it.
Sasha’s right, he’d be perfect for Captain Aldo.
“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry we won’t be working together,” I say. “I’m a big fan.”
I stand up and walk off the balcony. A few minutes later, they join me together. “I’m in,” says Nathan. “When do we start?”
Sasha smiles at both of us. “Right now,” she says. “I’ve got my people getting the barn set up for the first shot. Nathan, make-up is waiting for you.” She turns to me. “I hope you can get the first scene written and ready to go quickly. We start filming in half an hour.”
We all head towards the barn, and…
…and I woke up. Come on, you knew this could only end one way, right? Yes, it was all a dream. You can’t possibly tell me you’re surprised.
(Although, just to be on the safe side, when I woke up and phoned R to wish him a Happy Birthday, I asked if Nathan Fillion was there. You never know.)
I woke up feeling happy and at peace, confident that I’m on the right path to fulfill my dreams. Sure, that path may not involve writing the screenplay for a movie starring Nathan Fillion (in half an hour, no less!), but it’s the right path for me. And that’s all that matters.
Have you had a dream that changed or reinforced a decision you made? Do you pay attention to your dreams, or is that just me?