But Stella is actually more ‘alive’ than doctors realize. Though outwardly unresponsive, she’s actually ‘awakening’ in Jarmo, an Eden-like paradise that actually existed 9000 years ago in pre-Mesopotamia.
In this alternate world, the New Stella is beautiful and desirable, while the hunky chief of the tribe turns out to be a notched-up version of her Anthro professor, Harry Vale. Stella flourishes in Jarmo, where Harry teaches her the finer points of romance and passion.
But is Jarmo and all its delights truly an alternative reality? Or is it just a dream, and Stella the Dreamer? Is her beloved Jarmo (as well as New Harry) nonexistent, just a figment of her severely injured brain?
When Stella emerges suddenly from the coma, she must make an irrevocable choice between two lives… one of which may not really exist—and the choosing of which might lead to her obliteration.
A ‘New Adult’ contemporary romance, DREAMER explores the nature of Reality and Love, showing us that neither are absolutes. And that Reality is what you make it—as is Love.
Wedding two of a double wedding is about to commence:
From a different stone bowl this time, Betta anoints both groom and bride with three blue stripes on each cheek. She then paints the tied wrist band with blue pigment, too. “You are now husband and wife,” Betta announces solemnly, but she can’t help smiling. Everyone else is whooping and cheering at the young bride and groom (who must have less than 28 years between them, I decide) as they wave goodbye to the guests and close the door behind them.
Harry squeezes my hand, looks at me a little anxiously, and takes a deep breath. “Ready?”
Oh shit, SHIT; we’re next. Suddenly it’s showtime, and I’m really nervous. No backing out now. My breath starts coming in short gulps and gasps. I feel like I’m on stage before thousands of people, blinded among the footlights, glazed with panic.
The crowd quiets suddenly. They know that the opening act has successfully concluded, and the Main Attraction is about to start.
I’m shaking visibly when Grandmama, Betta, and the three other wise women—ones I don’t yet know by name—bind my right wrist to Harry’s left one with a slender, leather cord. It’s tied with plenty of slack, but I can see it’s not meant to come apart.
As Betta dips the fingers of one hand into a pot of red pigment, she intones, “May the Great Mother bring blood to your marriage bed, symbolizing the fertile soil in which the Chieftain’s seed will be planted.” She dabs the center of our Jarmo symbols with red paint, directly above and below the cross bar of the H.
Despite my trembling, I find myself wishing fiercely for a mirror… for any reflective surface at all, which in prehistoric Jarmo just isn’t to be had. How I would love to just see myself with face paint. Just once! To marvel at the color and flickering lights, the wildness of it all.
The singing, cheering, rhythmic clapping, and constant joking is now higher-pitched, stronger, and louder even than it was for Maidie and Timon. Everyone is pretty wasted from beer, wine, and barbecue. Many are unsteady on their feet, but still experiencing a fever pitch of vicarious sexual pleasure. Even the little children dance about, shoving one another and giggling, enjoying the antics of their elders.
Harry opens the door to our own house—now as dear and familiar to me as if I’d lived there always. With the arm that is tied loosely to mine, Harry clasps my hand and leads me inside. As he closes the door, the singing and cheering grow louder still.
Oh shit… dear God… Harry already knows I’ve not had a husband before. But does he know that I’m still a virgin? Does he hope that I’m still a virgin? I’d better say something. Quick…
My hands and feet are clammy and freezing on this warm spring night. I’m not sure if my legs will hold me up for much longer. The singing, laughing, and chanting outside the door grows louder. It’s starting to give me the willies. Won’t they—please, please—just get too tired, or drunk, and go away?
In desperation I rattle on: “Harry, you know…”
I slow my words and try for a semblance of calm. “You… may know… that I’ve never done anything like this before. I mean, of course I… know how this whole thing works. It’s just that I don’t know how to… please you…because I haven’t…”
“Of course you’ll please me,” Harry says softly. “You please me right now.” I know he’s trying to set me at ease. “I wouldn’t be doing any of this right now if you didn’t… please me.”
He takes my two hands in his and looks into my eyes. We’re in deep shadows. The fire pit’s flame is low. “You please me just by… being. You don’t have to do anything at all.” He squeezes my hands, then releases one to add a couple chunks of wood to the fire. The fire flares up cheerfully; its shadow dance against the wall somehow reassures me. But still I can’t stop trembling.
Harry looks at me uncertainly, assessing the situation. “Come here,” he finally whispers, gathering me close with his right arm; being tied to my right wrist temporarily hampers his left arm. We allow the tied arms to hang down and clasp our hands.
He just holds me, rocking from side to side just the tiniest bit. And holds me and holds me, stroking my hair, whispering, “Shh…” for the longest time.
“Come,” he says, gently leading me toward our bed. I can see the firelight’s erratic yet comforting gleam. Outside, the music and laughter continue, fueled by alcohol and the lateness of the hour.
“It’s all right,” he tells me, and slowly I start to believe him. “Just remember, it’s all right… it’s all right. You can do no wrong here… there’s nothing you have to do at all… just relax… and trust me. Once I start knowing you intimately, I’ll take care of the rest.”
I do feel I can trust him, but all that singing is making me nuts. Like a tea kettle coming to full boil. Soon I’ll start whistling, or shrieking, or something—ready to blow my top…
He pulls me down gently so that we’re kneeling, then lying, on the bed.
The music, cheering, and chanting grows higher and louder—it makes me want to scream… Harry notices, but he just holds me closer to him with his right arm.
“The singing… I can’t bear it anymore…” I’m close to panic.
“Shh…. Hush now…. All you have to do is look into my eyes… and keep looking until the sound grows dim.”
I comply with his request. And his magic starts to work. His eyes are so beautiful: such a light, clear blue, ringed by smudgy shadows. Up close, I see how shockingly good-looking he is, how comfortable he seems in his own body, how at peace with his world and his place within it. He keeps looking into my eyes, as if to mesmerize me.
It’s working. I exhale. Slowly but deeply.
“No matter what happens, just keep looking into my eyes. I won’t do anything that you don’t want me to do. Just… float upon the music… and dream.”
Then slowly, ever so slowly, his free hand starts caressing me. First my neck and shoulders. Then ever-so-gradually down to my backside, slowly massaging each cheek (the closer cheek more intensively than the other, again because of the tied wrists).
Float upon the music… It’s true, it works… The music outside seems more muted and faraway, no longer annoying, no longer distinct. I keep floating.
Harry’s caressing hand is now around my waist, moving up to my breasts, still covered by the homespun shift. It’s true what they say about one’s wedding day… I’m thinking that I do have Something Old: my old brain, which remembers both worlds equally… Something New: a new life in a new world… Something Borrowed: this lovely, vintage wedding dress with the snail shells… now I only need something blue.
“Do you realize now how beautiful you are?” Harry speaks suddenly, softly, in my ear. I emit a tiny whimper, my last vestige of apprehension.
“Star Girl, it’s all right.” Harry softly insists. “Now and forevermore. You do trust me, yes?”
I nod, wordlessly. He plants a very gentle kiss then draws back, still looking into my eyes.
“Then keep looking at me, until… well, until you can’t anymore. And by that time, everything will be all right. Do you believe me?”
I nod. “Do you trust me?” Again, I nod yes.
I look at him in trust and keep on looking… looking… floating on the music and blocking out the raucous noise outside our door.
Harry’s blue eyes hold mine in a place where there is no time.
Then I feel his hand moving between us, gently pulling up my shift, and then he’s touching me between my legs.
Although constitutionally wimpy when measured against folks more Cool and Adventuresome than I, nevertheless I’ve managed to come through some hairy times pretty much unscathed. Like that time in Idaho when the mountain lion jumped on me. Or when 750,000 Mexican free-tailed bats ejected droplets of pee on me as they surged from the mouth of the cave my husband and I were exploring. Then there was that instance, snorkeling with my husband and friends in an underground 'cenote' in the Yucatan, when the single overhead light went out (shudder). And how could I forget that time in New Mexico with the furious bull moose (I haven’t yet and never will…) Thank goodness for my marvelous husband, daughter, and son (and now grandkids, too) who keep me grounded, safe, and sane (mostly)… and who urge me to incorporate these wild detours into my writing. Making the switch from writing nonfiction to romantic fiction is proving to be a whirlwind ride for me… still in progress, still brimming with new possibility!