He had trouble looking Sam in the eye. His mouth was a grim line. He was testing lines, ways of saying what had to be said.
“If I weren’t such a wimp, I’d knock you over the head and sink your Jeep in the lake.”
“What?” Sam couldn’t understand the abrupt change in attitude.
Charlie leaned across the table.
“My sister has visions. And they’re nearly always right. I’ve been around long enough to believe what she says.”
“Well, a while back, maybe two or three years ago, her visions of you started to get clearer. She could see the two of you, together, and it was a bit more intimate than just holding hands.”
Sam didn’t have to acknowledge that. In his dream, they’d been wrapped together so tightly there’d been no doubt.
“So, she knows you’re destined to be lovers, and she could sense her love for you and yours for her. Every girl’s dream, right?
“Now here’s part two. The two of you are swept up in some danger. There’s a brilliant flash of light, and then...nothing. She believes, and I have to think she’s right, that she finds her love, has a night of passion, and then dies.”
His fist hit the table, still not able to look at Sam. “I really, really hate this Romeo and Juliet tragedy stuff. And I should just get rid of you. Make the vision not come true.”
Sam was struck silent. His mind raced back over all the times he’d lived that dream. Yes, there was the dawn. She realized it was time. He felt the danger, and she tried to comfort him with her fatalistic belief. This is how the world is supposed to be.
Charlie was watching him. “Your dream, how does it go? And skip the icky parts.”
He told him. “But mine ends before any flash of light--before the danger hits. Why does she think she dies?”
“Because there are no more dreams past that point in her life. She’s had prophetic dreams all her life, and they’ve come true. Things she’s experienced alone, and some that I’ve been in. They always come true!
“And then, the flash of light, and that’s the end of them.”
Charlie put his face into his hands and stared into nothing in particular. “She’d been thinking about it a lot. That one last dream was pretty much the climax of her life. And she accepted that there was nothing for her past that point.”
He looked him in the eye. “She went kinda off-balance for a little while. She changed her name. ‘Agatha’, because she thought it meant ‘death’. She started dressing in black, and died her hair to match her mother’s. Some of the goth stuff was just theatrics, but it became her life, something to hold onto. She became death as an armor against her own.”
He brushed some of the black hairs from the table.
“But you’re here now, for real, and she’s decided it is time for the final act. You saw her--she just killed ‘Agatha’ without a hint of regret because your sketch showed her in red hair and no eye makeup. She’ll dive right into her romantic vision and smile into the face of death as it comes for her.”
Charlie sighed. “I’d fight her over it, but you see--I’m not in that dream, just you two. She’d just kick me aside and go on with her destiny anyway.
“You see why I’m tempted to get rid of you--to spoil the vision.”
Sam nodded. “She doesn’t die in my dream. I won’t let that happen.”
He pulled the Jeep into the driveway, went inside and turned off the TV.
“Hey, I was watching...,” his father complained.
“In the kitchen. Family meeting.”
He found his mother cooking. He turned off the stove.
“Everything can wait.”
His parents settled around the kitchen table. “This had better be good.”
Sam remained standing. “Dad, I need to see my birth certificate.”
He frowned. “Well, I’m not sure. I haven’t seen it around in a long time.”
Sam shook his head. “I don’t buy it. Half the house is filled with filing cabinets. It was a joke when we moved. You know right where it is. I need to see it.”
His mother asked, “Why?”
He took a deep breath. “Because I have reason to suspect that my birth mother may have died.” His parents exchanged glances.
“Well that’s ridiculous. I’m your mother.”
He put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Mom. It’s really okay. I just have a critical need to know. A look at the birth certificate would put my worries to rest, now wouldn’t it?”
She looked at her husband. The wordless moment grew long.
He sighed, “Okay, I’ll get it.”
The document spelled it out. Three months before Teri was born, Ginger Delany gave birth to Samuel, but it was only signed by the father. The mother’s signature line had been labeled DIED IN CHILDBIRTH.
Sam’s Mom’s name was Elizabeth.
He pulled up a chair and sat down between them. His eyes welled up and he felt crushed, over a woman he hadn’t known existed.
“I’m sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to hide it from you. I just thought, when you were older, it would be better.”
“It’s okay, Dad. Mom. I’m not angry. I’m confused, but I’ll get over it. Can you...can you tell me what happened, medically?”
He shook his head. “I was in the room. It was as normal as it could get. She started having contractions and we went to the hospital. We had a bag packed and everything. It was all clockwork, until her water broke. Suddenly, she was in terrible distress. They rushed her into the delivery room for an emergency C-section. You came out fine, but her heart had just stopped. The doctors didn’t know anything.
“Your grandmother Doris came in from Denver to help me out, and Lizzie here, her neighbor, came with her. She was in pre med, and was practically your mother from the first week on. I was a wreck, and she pulled me out of it, too. We were married before you were six months old.”
What happened to me is the same thing that happened to Charlie and Teri. Something killed our mothers.
He straightened up. Everybody’s eyes were wet. It was a family tragedy, and he’d brought it out into the open.
“I’m sorry I was so...abrupt. Sometimes I know things, dreams and intuition. Some things happened today and I just had to know for sure.”
“It’s okay, son.”
“Mom, did I ruin supper?”
She tossed down a wash towel she’d been twisting in her hands. “No, but I’m a wreck. Bud, call for a pizza.”