Note: This is an excerpt of The Boundless, a novel.
Aaron opened his eyes.
Tyesha looked down at him, dark curls framing her heart-shaped face as the first signs of morning poked through the curtains into the bedroom.
“Hey.” His voice, a whispered croak. Dried slumber tears caked the corners of his eyes. He rubbed them away, the embers of dream fading at the edge of consciousness.
“Morning,” she said softly. She raised a cellphone beside her face, the display side facing Aaron. He squinted but could not read it, so she moved it closer to his eyes.
Missed call. Chuck. 6:58 a.m.
He groaned and closed his eyes.
“You slept through the phone,” she said.
He took a breath and opened his eyes again. “Yeah. Sorry.”
“Another bad dream.”
“Not bad,” he said. “Just a dream.”
One he could have sworn he was truly living. Again.
Aaron hadn’t remembered his dreams in years, and he preferred it that way. Nothing good came to light when you slept. Dreams were memories you couldn’t outrun, horrors you never wanted to live, or joys you would never know in the waking hours. When they were kids, instead of asking Aaron how he had slept, his brother would ask, “How did you dream?” Aaron stopped answering one day, and eventually his brother stopped asking. At some point, Aaron stopped remembering his dreams and decided it was because there weren’t any.
But these last few weeks, Aaron had dreamt nearly every night. Come morning, he would wake disoriented by the shock of the abrupt shift from elastic, vibrant dream to hard and misty morning. During the day, he would find himself thinking about something that had happened earlier, only to realize he was recollecting the dream and confusing it with reality. For some reason, none of this bothered him. Instead, it piqued his curiosity. I’m changing, he realized.
Aaron creaked upward and swung his legs out of bed. He collected his glasses from the night table beside his bed and put them on. At the foot of the bed, the dog raised an eyelid.
“Morning, Bruce,” Aaron said.
The dog responded by going back to sleep, a black mass of fur comfortable on the floor mat.
Aaron picked up his worn and torn blue jeans off the floor and slid them on. He looked at the phone. “I hate these things.”
“I know.” Amusement rang in Tyesha’s voice. “It’s one of those things I love about you.”
“You have such bad taste in men.”
“Everyone keeps telling me that.”
Aaron punched in the call back to Chuck.
“Morning, sunshine,” Chuck’s voice greeted him.
“You just woke up, didn’t you?”
“Well, clear the cobwebs and get in gear. Homicide broke this morning. At least, that’s what it looks like. Not your garden variety. Pretty bizarre. Every news outlet from Atlantic City to Philly will be there. I know these types of stories aren’t your thing, but you need to head over.”
Aaron sighed. “Where?”
Chuck gave him the address.
“What do you know so far?” Aaron said.
“I’ll forward you the message I got.”
Aaron ended the call and turned back to Tyesha. She had wrapped the sheet and blanket around herself. The sheer white contrasted her skin, those deep brown eyes, the tight curls that flowed outward from above her brow in complete disarray. Beautiful girl, he thought. I have no idea what she’s doing with me.
“Go back to sleep,” he said.
“It’s okay. I’m up. I have to get Eva ready for school anyway. She’ll be up soon.”
He nodded, then got out of bed and fished a sweater and fresh t-shirt out of the closet.
“What is it?” Tyesha said.
“Sounds like a homicide.”
“You’re an award-winning investigative reporter. Let them send someone else.”
“There is no one else.” Aaron headed for the bathroom for a two-minute shower.
“I liked it better when you didn’t have to write about these sorts of things.”
A long, slow breath seeped through his lips. “So did I.”