The last time we visited the Less family, Dream revealed her plan to steal Heart's baby and pass it off as Eric's in order to trap him. Dream insisted Heart break things off with Eric, saying she would reveal the family's secrets if she didn't, but instead, Heart told Eric the entire truth about her family and her mother's incestuous relationship. She also told him of Dream's plan to take their baby. Dream overheard, and threatened both Heart and Eric with a pistol. Eric was able to tackle Dream and restrain her on the floor, which resulted in the gun being fired and Dream being killed.
Warnings: references to violence
“Eric... she’s dead. Dream is dead.” Heart’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Oh God, Eric...”
Eric bit his lip and looked away. He knew, of course, that Dream was gone. Lying that close to her while he was struggling to gain control of the pistol... her breath in his face and her tense body under his... he had known the instant the life left it.
“I’m sorry, Heart,” he said miserably. “I didn’t want her to get shot. I... I was trying to get the gun away from her!” He fell to his knees, shaking. “I don’t know how it went off, Heart... but it was... it could have been... oh God!” His voice had a raw edge of horror. “I’m a murderer!”
“Eric, don’t you dare say that!” Heart dropped down to the floor beside Eric, holding him close. “No one could ever think this was your fault. Eric, she brought the gun in here. She was threatening me... threatening us! You saved our lives!”
Heart looked back at the still, lifeless form of her sister, and spoke in a quiet, steady voice. “The only person at fault here is Dream. She killed herself, Eric. She’s the one who came in here, waving a pistol and threatening us. You have to remember that, Eric. It wasn’t your fault.”
Heart held Eric closer and continued to speak, reassuring herself as much as him. “Dream did so many terrible things, Eric. She raped you, for God’s sake! She raped you and she was going to steal my baby. She was going to make you believe our child was the result of her assault on you!”
“But... but she wasn’t always like that...” Eric sorted through his confused jumble of memories... trying to reconcile the image of the vibrant teen girl he had once dated with the monster lying dead on the floor. “She used to be... she...”
“No Eric. She’s taken advantage of every situation she could for as long as I can remember, and she’s always come out on top... until now. Eric, she had a poisoned soul, with nothing but hatred and jealousy for everyone. It was only a matter of time before it killed her.” Heart sighed. “But I hope wherever she is now, she will finally find some peace.”
“What are we going to do?” Eric asked in a strained whisper. “We need to call someone, Heart... the police...”
“You’re right,” Heart replied sadly. “I’ll call them right now.”
As Heart made the call, Eric found he could not look away from Dream’s body on the floor. The viscous flow of blood had finally slowed to a stop, but it still shone wetly and the coppery smell of it hung in the air. It sickened Eric, but he found he could not leave. Instead, he moved closer.
“I’m sorry, Dream,” he whispered, and slow tears leaked from his eyes. “I’m so sorry. It didn’t have to be this way.”
Eric choked out a sound between a laugh and a sob. “Dream, do you remember when we were young? We had some good times, didn’t we?” He reached out and touched Dream’s cheek, which was already turning cold and grey as the lifeblood drained from her flesh. “My God,” he sobbed. “What happened to you, Dream? What happened to what you were?”
Heart was without a doubt Eric’s true love, but he had once considered Dream a friend. More than that, even. He had dated Dream during their teenage years and those memories were a part of him he could not forget.
Dream had been so full of life then. Easily angered, yes... and a quick wit who had kept him on his toes, but she’d also been a lot of fun in her own way. She’d been a wonderful dancer, and sometimes just listening to her colorful speech would send Eric into gales of laughter.
It was so hard for Eric to believe it had come to this.
Such a waste. Such a terrible waste.
“The police are on their way.” Heart whispered, touching him gently on the shoulder. “Come on, Eric. Let’s go out onto the front porch to wait for them.”
“That’s a good idea,” Eric replied, nodding as he allowed Heart to help him up. Then, arms wrapped around each other, they slowly left the kitchen.
The police secured the scene quickly, and after both Eric and Heart gave their statements and the necessary data was gathered, the officer in charge told Eric all the evidence backed up his and Heart’s version of the events.
Eric was not criminally charged, and the coroner arranged for Dream’s body to be taken from the home and prepared for burial. At dawn, the CTS decontamination crew arrived with their scrub suits and steam cleaners, and by the time the sun had climbed a few more degrees into the sky, no one would have ever been able to tell such a horrendous incident had occurred.
“It’s over, Eric.” Heart whispered as they watched the ambulance bearing Dream’s body drive off. “I can’t believe it. It’s all over.”
Eric was surprised at the tone of relief in Heart’s voice. There was a deep sadness as well, but until that moment Eric hadn’t realized just how much of a hell Heart’s life had been. Eric had only experienced Dream’s viciousness for less than a month; Heart had lived with her sister’s tyranny on a daily basis for nearly her entire life.
Now Heart had a chance to finally be free.
Eric put his arms around Heart and pulled her close to him. He felt the warmth of her skin and the firm roundness of her lower abdomen, reminding him of the life she carried. He breathed in the scent of her hair and sighed.
That makes two of us, he thought.
And at that time, he believed it.
After Dream was laid to rest on the same beach as her parents and grandparents, life for Heart and Eric began to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Eric threw himself into his college studies despite the many distractions, as he was determined to graduate with the highest GPA he could. He wanted to provide a good living for Heart and their coming child as soon as possible.
He was also still looking into getting an apartment, although now that Dream was gone, Heart seemed to no longer feel they needed to move elsewhere.
“My home is here, with my family,” Heart told Eric one afternoon when he had once again broached the subject of where they would live after they married. “There’s plenty of room in this house for the baby, Eric... and I like the idea of watching my child play on the same beach I did as a girl.”
“But Heart, doesn’t it bother you that your sister... um...” Eric cleared his throat. “I... I mean when you think of everything that happened in that house, don’t you feel like...” He trailed off, unsure how to express what he meant without dredging up too much unpleasantness.
“Yes, it bothers me, Eric.” Heart whispered, pressing her hand to her distended abdomen. “... but you have to remember, I had a lot of good memories in that house too. Maybe for me, that helps to overshadow all the bad ones, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t want to leave. Not anymore.”
Eric sighed and let the matter drop. He wasn’t at all sure he was willing to live in the same house in which he had been sexually violated, held at gunpoint, and forced to be a firsthand spectator to a violent and bloody death.
Yet he loved Heart with everything he was, and he wanted to be married to her and raise their child. He decided he would do whatever he needed to do, and he told himself if Heart was happy, that would be enough to make him happy as well. He’d just have to ignore the terrible memories of the violence and death he’d experienced in that house. He wouldn’t let that destroy his happiness.
However, he knew that would be easier said than done.
Just over halfway through her pregnancy, Heart decided she wanted to have the kitchen entirely remodeled.
She knew it wouldn’t completely obliterate the horrible memories of what had happened there, but ripping out the old flooring, replacing all the cabinets and repainting the room did seem to help a little. Not only that, she was sure Eric would feel much more comfortable if the room looked completely new, and to that end, she told the contractor to make it as different from the original as possible.
The results were amazing.
“Eric, you should come see what I’ve done with the house. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“I will, Heart. Soon. You didn’t breathe any paint fumes or anything like that, did you?”
“No. I hired all of the work done, don’t worry.” Heart stroked her bulging belly. “Which reminds me... did you want to come with me to my doctor’s appointment tomorrow?”
“I sure do.” Eric said, and his voice became threaded with excitement. “They’re doing the ultrasound, right? And we can find out if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“Yes, they’re doing the ultrasound, but don’t hold your breath to find out the gender,” Heart cautioned. “If they can get a good view of it, then they can tell, but otherwise...”
“I know, but it’s still fun to take a guess. I wouldn’t miss it. I love you, Heart.”
“I love you too, Eric. See you tomorrow.”
Heart hung up the phone and sighed contentedly, listening to the emptiness of the house and the sounds of the waves breaking on the beach nearby. Suddenly, her stomach rumbled and at the exact same time, the life inside her womb kicked... seeming almost impatient.
Heart laughed. “Hungry, are you? Well, I think I can take care of that.” She headed toward the newly remodeled kitchen, intent on having some fruit and cheese. Her doctor had told her a bit of protein at night would help stabilize her blood sugar and provide more restful sleep, and since her pregnancy was becoming ever more burdensome, she needed all the help in the sleeping department she could get.
Humming absently to herself, Heart opened the shiny new refrigerator, grabbed the cheese and turned to place it onto the counter. As she did so, she thought she saw something shimmering out of the corner of her eye.
She didn’t think anything about it at first, since there were so many more windows in the kitchen now. Heart was sure the glimmer was simply the moonlight reflecting from the ocean. However, as she busily sliced the cheese on the counter, Heart became aware the shimmering vision was moving... far more than a simple reflection would move. She turned to look at it fully...
Heart gasped, dropping the knife with a clatter.
Surely I’m not seeing... surely not...
Oh my God... it’s Dream!
The image seemed to turn toward Heart, and Heart’s blood turned to ice as she thought she saw a sinister smile curve across the specter’s pale, ghostly features. Then, it was gone; gliding through the wall of the house, headed toward the beach where Dream’s grave lay.
“I’m seeing things.” Heart told herself firmly, forgetting about her snack and heading toward her bedroom. “I’m just tired. Dream is gone. She’s dead and buried. I have nothing to be afraid of. Nothing. She’s gone. It was just a trick of the moonlight...”
Still mumbling those soothing words, Heart fell into a troubled sleep.
When morning came, Heart had forgotten the phantom she’d seen in the night, and when Eric arrived to accompany her to the doctors’, she didn’t mention it.
Eric looked around the transformed kitchen and while he appreciated the quality of the remodel and the work that had gone into it, he still couldn’t repress a shudder. Although the different flooring, walls, cabinetry and appliances did help somewhat to dispel the awful memories he had of the place, nothing could ever rid Eric of them completely.
He hoped as time passed, the horrid clarity of the images burned into his psyche would fade, but it wasn’t going to be any time soon.
“So, do you like what I had done to it?” Heart asked, indicating the shiny new fixtures and fresh paint. “I was thinking about having them put up a wallpaper border too, but I didn’t want to date it too much, as they say...”
“No, it’s fine the way it is.” Eric murmured, running his hand along the smooth granite countertop. “Was it very expensive?”
“Yes, but that was okay. There was still plenty in the savings from when my parents died. Might as well be used for something good, right?” She smiled hopefully at Eric. “Something that will help us both be more comfortable here?”
Eric looked up at the ceiling, noticing it had been remodeled as well. There was nothing left in this room whatsoever to remind him of what had happened in it.
So why did he still feel so odd? So... watched?
“Right,” he answered absently. “Well, honey... are you ready to go?”
“I sure am.”
Later, in the doctor’s office, Eric held his breath in the darkened ultrasound room as the technician squirted some kind of clear goo from what looked like a fast food mayonnaise squeeze bottle onto Heart’s burgeoning belly.
“Oh, that’s cold.” Heart said, and Eric rubbed her hand. He had actually seen the gooseflesh rising on her skin.
“Sorry about that,” the pleasant, dark-haired technician offered. “We do have a warmer, but it hasn’t been working right for ages. Now, how far along are you?” She gazed at the bulge of Heart’s stomach and then eyed the screen on her ultrasound machine, where she had previously keyed in the information from Heart’s chart, and frowned. “It says here you’re about 22 weeks, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Heart replied, then her eyes widened at the expression on the technician’s face. “Is there a problem?
“No...” the tech picked up the ultrasound transducer, again measuring Heart’s belly with her eyes, trying to decide the best place to start. “No, not a problem.” Gently she placed the instrument onto the goo over the crest of Heart’s pregnancy, squinted at the screen, and then smiled broadly. “Well, it won’t be a problem,” she amended her statement, “if you’re sure to buy two of everything.”
“What?” Eric and Heart both exclaimed.
“There... see here?” The tech swiveled the screen and pointed out two white circles in the midst of the swirling grayness. “Those are the tops of your babies’ heads.” She chuckled. “They’re facing each other right now. Playing patty-cake.”
“Babies? Two? Two babies?” Heart couldn’t believe it. She looked over at Eric, and he was just as shocked. “Two babies, Eric!”
Eric gazed at the fuzzy images on the screen with rapt wonder. His baby... his babies. The two perfect round heads... so beautiful. Two of them.
Suddenly, Eric began to laugh with delight. “You said it was a myth, Heart!” he teased. “You said it wouldn’t work... but I told you! I told you to be careful with that cheesecake! ”
More to come.