He woke from the dream and climbed down the stairs only to find her sitting there on his couch, among his things, oddly out of place, oddly comfortable. She said to him, I’m sorry.
Still trying to wake up and discern reality from dream he said to her, Sorry?
About sending the dream, she said. I’m sorry it had to be like that.
He kept his voice at a whisper. Upstairs his wife was sleeping. His son. He pointed at the door and said, I don’t know what’s going on, but you have to go.
I will, she said, but you have to know I was here.
You can’t just show up in the middle of the night.
I’ve been here for days, she said. The South suits you.
You have to go, he said. Please.
My wife is upstairs.
And your boy.
And my boy.
What’s his name? she said and shifted, just so, and the house filled with the crack of the floor creaking.
Samuel, he said.
I’m glad it’s old-fashioned, she said. I thought she would’ve wanted something modern, something that didn’t sound right when it became Grandpa Such-and-Such.
Please go, he said. I’m going to have to call the cops. I mean it, he said. I have to tell you, I’m really thrown off here.
But you feel guilty.
I don’t know, he said. But you need to leave.
You should know that I’ve been telling people I was pregnant with your baby for the last two years. I’ve lost all my friends because of it. My mother won’t speak to me.
He placed his hand on the top of his bookcase that sat against the wall. There was a lamp there with some heft to it and he thought he might have to use it to protect himself. Please, he said. I keep asking you to leave.
If I try hard enough, she said, I can still feel him in there. The absence of him. The void. I imagine he’s there now, learning his language and speaking to me in the middle of the night.
Please, he said.
I’m leaving. But I want you to know I was here.
I know, he said. Believe me, I know.
Then know this, she said. I know you.
You don’t know me. It’s been four years since I’ve even seen you, been in the same room. I’m different now.
I know you have the slightest speech impediment that no one else hears. Your accent hides it. All the Hoosier talk. I know when you were little you had ear infections and sometimes when you’re nervous you hold your fingers at the base of your right ear and worry they’ll come back.
Instinctively he touched the base of his ear. It occurred to him that these were the same words she’d spoken to him in the dream. In it, he’d been in his bedroom, in his bed, and his phone had rang and when he answered it the voice on the other end was a woman’s, a name he didn’t recognize. She’d called to tell him that this woman had been lying about being pregnant with his baby. That she was a liar. A witch.
Then the call had faded away and on the other end was her voice. The surprise was enough to set his teeth to grinding. I know you, she’d said. I know you have a speech impediment that no one else hears. All that Hoosier talk.
I don’t know what to say to you, he said to her as she sat on his couch, as she ran her fingers over the pillows his wife had made, but you have to go.
Of course, she said, and then sat the pillow aside and rose from her seat as if lifted by unseen hands. A lady always knows when it’s time to take her leave.
For a moment he watched her walk to the door. Everything in him told him to let her leave, that it was a miracle she might go without disturbing his wife and child, but he felt his mouth opening and asking of its own accord, Did he have a name?
Calmly, she put fingers to the swell of her stomach. From where he was standing, from his place there in the near-dark, he swore he could see it glow like palms pressed against the bulb of a flashlight. I just decided tonight, she said. Samuel is a fine, fine name.