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Judas Dreams PDF Print E-mail
Written by Martin Owton   
Thursday, 01 September 2005 00:00

I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock. 4.34 The digital display grinned back at me. I kicked the sheet off and stepped onto the cool wooden floor, fumbling for my rope-soled sandals; an hour before sunrise and yet it was warm and sticky. I padded towards the kitchen in search of a drink, opening the fridge I found a bottle of mineral water. I drank some and splashed more over my face, then I stood looking out at the clear night sky with Sarah’s voice still echoing around my mind.

The intensity of the dream had shaken me deeply and stirred up a host of long-buried feelings. What had triggered it? She was years behind me now. Sure, I thought of her from time to time, but I couldn’t remember ever dreaming of anything so vividly; not even after mescal, so why now? There was no answering that and no returning to bed, so after a few minutes watching the sky begin to pale I headed for the shower determined to make the best of my early start.

I thought a lot about Sarah as I worked through the day. Everybody has a girl like that in their past my friends have all told me at various times, usually just after I opened the second bottle of tequila. The one your heart burned brightest for, the one your soul ached for, the one you never married and always wonder how it would have been. The one you always think about going back for. That was Sarah. Crazy, wonderful, maddening, beautiful, but ultimately the one I’d walked away from. You don’t marry them because you know they’re not good for you and that had certainly been true. No-one whose moods change that quickly can be fairly described as normal. The sensible part of me remembered the bad times; the letdowns, the humiliating dismissals and the long cold silent months when someone else was more interesting. But despite all these there had been something special between us, something that had always drawn us back together. Until Ines.


I’d met Ines at a particularly low point in my life; after a really bad Sarah dumping and she’d been good for me. She’d turned up when she said she would, she didn’t flirt with my friends and she didn’t play childish headgames. Slowly I immersed myself in her comfortable scare-free cocoon and put my life back into shape. The programming courses finally paid off and I got the job at the bank in their international IT department. The information revolution was only just breaking back then. The department was new and the senior management had no idea of what could be done. I knew more than them  and the scheme began to take shape.


Sarah mistimed it all. If she’d tried to get me back earlier I would have gone; back to the edge of the precipice where she liked to keep her lovers. But her arrogant assurance that she could do as she pleased with me pissed me off and I went with Ines. Of course the scheme was well advanced then.


Maybe I was trying to drive the memories out of my head with work, or maybe I wanted to ensure an undisturbed night’s sleep but I worked pretty hard at exhausting myself that day. Anyway it worked that night and I woke next morning with no dreams to trouble me.


Not so the next day. I’d had a fairly usual kind of day: played a bit of golf in the early evening, had a couple of drinks, gone to the restaurant just to keep an eye on things, went to bed about two. Woke up at five with tears running down my face and Sarah in my head. This time I remembered her words. It had been a rerun of so many phone calls we’d shared. Sarah sobbing “I just need to see you.” I’d never been able to resist her tears, apart from once.


It bothered the hell out of me. I couldn’t concentrate on business and several times through the day I found myself near to tears. Just as well I was on my own.


I wondered what I should do about it. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not superstitious. I don’t read horoscopes, I’ve walked under any number of ladders and a black cat that crosses my path gets kicked. I’d dreamed about a horse winning the Derby once and I’d put a hundred on it. It came seventh. So much for the predictive power of dreams, but this was something else. The intensity of the experience was shattering. After a lot of thought I decided it couldn’t do any harm to phone Colin.


Colin is a good mate; one of the few from my past who I trust to know where I am and he used to be married to Sarah’s sister Carol. They’re divorced now, but they’re still on good terms, so he’d know what’s going on with Sarah. I had to wait until mid afternoon, when it was evening in London, to call. Time passed very slowly, the years rolled back and I was waiting to phone Sarah, the nerves knotting my stomach until I was nauseous.


Finally time. I dialed, the phone rang, Colin answered.


“Hullo mate, it’s John. How you doing?”


“John. Long time no speak, what’s happening?”


“Just calling to catch up on the gossip. How’s the Arsenal getting on?”


We talked about nothing much for a few minutes; just reaffirming mutual ties.


“So how’s Carol?” I asked, seeking an entry to the subject I really wanted to talk about.


“Haven’t you heard? Oh I guess not. She’s really stressed out. Sarah’s back and living with her. “


“What happened? She bring the kids?”


“Oh yeah, she brought them. Finally walked out on that Scotch git and brought them down.” Sarah had married a Glasgow man after I failed to do what was expected of me. Rather too soon after for me to believe it was anything other than on the rebound. Colin had hinted before that things were not a bed of roses in their household. “He beat her up pretty good.” Colin continued.


“She divorcing him?” I asked as sweat ran down my chest, cold despite the afternoon heat.


“Yeah, quick as she can and get a court order to keep him away from the kids too. Between you and me she’s in a pretty bad way. I’ve seen quite a lot of her recently, been a shoulder to cry on you know. Literally that a couple of times. Carol’s not best pleased but she has to put up with it. It’s family after all.” We talked for a while longer about this and that, but I’d found out what I’d wanted to know and it was difficult to keep my mind on the conversation.


“When you coming out to see me you, old dog? What’s the weather like in London, raining I’ll bet? Come out and get your arse brown.” I said as I always did at the end of our talks.


“Yeah. Have to do it sometime. Might bring Carol. She’s gonna need a holiday. Take care, talk to you soon.” I put the phone down and poured myself a large scotch. I finished it in two swallows and poured myself another then sat beside the phone to review the situation. Sarah’s world had fallen apart and now I was having vivid dreams about her. Quite specifically about her wanting to see me; coincidence or what? Two things stopped me rejecting the “or what” option: firstly, during our long on/off relationship she’d always run to me whenever she hit trouble, and secondly she’d once had a stunning premonition about trouble for me. I’d been with her when she had it and, unfortunately, when it came true. It had shaken us both rigid (and still does me) and it had reinforced the feeling that there was something very special between us. Maybe the whisky was starting to take hold, but I could honestly believe that she was trying to contact me; that that special thing made it possible. Easy enough to resolve, I thought, a phone call can’t hurt and I can always put the phone down if it goes pear shaped.


I fetched my address book from the desk and flipped through it searching for Carol’s number. Something dropped from between the pages. I scrabbled to pick it up and nearly dropped it again in surprise when I saw what it was. A photograph of Sarah and me; taken on a day out during one of our good periods, her hair gleaming in the sun as she laughed at the camera. How many times had I gone through that notebook and not noticed it? Come to think of it, I didn’t recall keeping any photos.


I put the picture down by the phone and dialed Carol’s number. After a year of fifteen seconds it rang, then after four rings I got the answering machine. I put the phone down. What I had to say couldn’t be said to an answering machine and I sure as hell wasn’t leaving my number. I resolved to try again in an hour and went back to the whisky.


The hour passed slowly as I sat holding the photo thinking about my situation. To outward appearance I must have looked to be doing pretty well: respected ex-pat businessman, owner of a successful restaurant and resort complex. Money in the bank, Porsche 911 in the drive, plenty of good-looking women seeking my company and, best of all, nobody asking questions about my past. All true, but masking the lack of direction in my life since Ines left.


Strange thing for a good Catholic girl to do; walk out on a decent marriage. But then the Catholicism had a lot to do with it. I should have been sensitive to that earlier; when she started going to Mass regularly after the miscarriage. As it was I got precious little warning when she went; she just said it was God’s punishment on us and she could no longer live with the guilt associated with the situation and left. Bloody hypocritical; half the scheme had been her idea. She’d set it up out here, sorted the citizenship, sweetened the right men and so on; so it was a bit rich getting the guilts about enjoying the fruits of it. Big on guilt the Catholic church. Typically Catholic as well, we weren’t divorced. I just had no contact with her and none of her family would talk to me.


The hour passed with half the bottle. I tried Carol’s number again. Same answering machine. I looked at my watch. It would be getting late in London, too late to try again today. I put the whisky bottle away and tried to focus on my immediate surroundings. It wasn’t yet five o’clock and I was half cut.


Over the next few days I tried Carol’s number at all kinds of time of day and never got anything except the answering machine. I thought about phoning Colin again to see if they were away or something before it occurred to me what was going on. They were using the answering machine to screen incoming calls. Probably worried that it could be Sarah’s mad Glaswegian ex on the other end. My hanging up every time had possibly exacerbated that fear so I hadn’t done myself any favours. I could have spoken, asked them to pick up the phone, but it didn’t feel right. The only person I wanted to speak to was Sarah.


The dreams kept coming. Not every night, but always as intense. Mostly they were of a tearful Sarah begging me to come back though one was a rerun of when I turned her down for Ines. Sarah howling her eyes out in my arms, only in this version I dumped Ines and the feeling of wholeness and rightness completely overwhelmed me.


I stumbled through the next couple of weeks in such a daze that even casual acquaintances asked if I was OK. I found daily business too much to concentrate on with Sarah’s sobs in my head. I was drinking far too much and still the dreams continued, incandescent in my mind. One night I brought home one of the waitresses from the restaurant. She was pretty and full of fun, but the next day I felt terrible. I didn’t actually dream of Sarah that night but I felt as if I’d been unfaithful to her. Crazy. No way could I go on like this. So I drove into town to see a travel agent.


I felt a lot better when I was on the plane; well enough to think clearly about what I was going to do. The obvious thing was to bring her back with me. I’d got the money and the lifestyle to make things pretty good for her and her kids. I hoped the children wouldn’t be a problem, that they’d take to me. After all surely I was an improvement on a psychotic Scotsman. In fact they could be a real plus if it went well and, besides, they proved Sarah was fertile. Maybe she might want more. That was something that was bothering me more as I got older, not having kids of my own. I wondered if she still looked as good as she used to. Children can be a ruination to a woman’s looks and she hadn’t exactly had an easy time of it. Hope I still recognise her. I chuckled, picturing myself on the doorstep and not knowing her. Hope she recognises me, though I didn’t think I’d changed too much.


The duty free gin and the dim whine of the engines sang me to sleep thinking thoughts of how my new life with Sarah was going to be. Not surprisingly I dreamt of her again. This time I kissed away her tears and told her I was staying and everything was going to be alright. Floating on this rosy cloud I flew towards London and Sarah.


I knew Carol’s address so I bought a London A to Z in the shopping mall in Terminal 3 and after a few minutes study of it walked over to the Avis desk. The London traffic was much worse than I remembered and the hired Astra was a clockwork dustbin compared to the Porsche.


It took me nearly two hours to get to Tooting before I finally turned into the road of respectable terraced houses. I parked a bit of the way from where her house should be, partly because I couldn’t read the house numbers from the car, but mainly to let my nerves settle from the drive. As I sat doubts rose up before me in a vast wave; to come this far, risk this much on the strength of a few dreams. I must be truly demented. What if she wasn’t in? What if the address was out of date and Carol had moved? What if she didn’t want me? I sat paralysed by fear and the insanity of it all for minutes as the purpose of my coming this far battled with these potent foes. At last, suppressing the doubts almost physically, I stepped out of the Astra and headed up the street.


Carol’s house fitted with the rest; plastic mock wood replacement windows and neat borders to the small front garden. I walked up to the front door and rang the bell. After a few seconds that lasted a geological era there were footsteps, and through the frosted glass a figure approached. The door opened. I looked at her. She had hardly changed and I’d have known her anywhere. She spoke and with the sound of her voice fireworks started going off in my mind.


“Johnny.” If I’d expected a great reaction I was disappointed. I might have been gone to the shops for half an hour for all surprise in her voice.


“I’d expected surprise at least.” I said.


“Oh I knew you were coming. I’ve been dreaming about you for weeks. I dreamed about you on the plane last night.” She smiled at me and I stood there on the doorstep with my mouth hanging open like an idiot.


“Are you coming in then?” She stepped away from the door into the house. I closed the front door and followed her into the sitting room with my mind turning cartwheels. There were three men waiting in the room; big men with hard faces and eyes like beach pebbles. I knew what they were before the nearest man spoke.


“John Andrew Watson. I am Detective Chief Inspector Davison of City of London Police. I have a warrant here for your arrest on charges of theft and false accounting. You do not have to say anything.” As he repeated the formula I turned to Sarah, unable to speak, my eyes asking the question. Why ?


“Payback Johnny. Payback for everything I’ve been through since you went off with that Colombian tart.”


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