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Gone (Dream Catcher #3)
Lisa McMann

JUNE 2006

24/7/365

It’s like she can’t breathe anymore, no matter what she does.

Like everything is closing in on her, crowding her. Threatening her.

The hearing. The truth coming out. Reliving Durbin’s party in front of a judge and the three bastards themselves, staring her down. Cameras following her around the second she steps outside the courtroom. Exposed as a narc, all of Fieldridge talking about it.

Talking about her.

For weeks, it’s on the local news. Gossip in the grocery store. Downtown. People point, murmur with heads close together, those looks on their faces. Randomly coming up to her and asking invasive questions. Strangers, former classmates, leaning into her space, whispering, like they’re her closest confidantes: So, what did they really do to you?

Janie’s not cut out for this—she’s a loner. She is underground. It’s like she hasn’t even had time to let all the other stuff sink in—the real, the important. The Janie life-changing stuff. The stuff from the green notebook.

Going blind. Losing the use of her hands.

The pressure is breathtaking.

She’s suffocating.

Just wants to run.

Hide.

So she can just be.

JULY 2006

Five minutes that matter.

Across the desk. The spot beside her, empty.

“I don’t know anymore,” she says. “I just don’t know.” Presses her palms into her temples, hoping her head doesn’t explode.

“Whatever you decide,” the woman says.

It is their secret.

AND THEN

Tuesday, August 1, 2006, 7:25 a.m.

“I can’t breathe,” she whispers.

His hot fingers lace her ribs, sear through her skin to her frozen lungs. He holds her. Kisses her. Breathes for her. Through her.

Makes her forget.

Afterward, he says, “We’re going. Right now. Come.”

She does it.

On the three-hour drive, she looks through eyelashes at her blurred fingers, curled in her lap. Pretends to be asleep. Not sure why. Just soaking in the quiet. And knowing, deep down.

Knowing that he,

and this,

are not answers to her problems.

She’s beginning to realize what is.

THE FIRST THURSDAY

August 3, 2006, 1:15 a.m.

The inquisitors are nowhere to be found on this side of the state. Here, at Charlie and Megan’s rental cabin on Fremont Lake, no one knows her. The days are peaceful but the nights . . . in a tiny cabin, the nights are bad. Dreams don’t take vacations when people do.

It’s always something, isn’t it? Always something and never nothing for Janie. Never, ever nothing.

Like the car a doctor once told her never to drive, she craves it. Craves the rebellious never, the elusive nothing. And when the next nightmare begins, she thinks about it for real.

1:23 a.m.

Janie shakes on a lumpy sofa. Beside her, stretched out in a reclining lawn chair, is Cabe. Asleep.

He’s dreaming about her.

Janie watches, as she sometimes does when his dreams are sweet. Storing up memories. For later. But this . . .

They’re playing paintball in an outdoor field with a dozen faceless people. It looks like a video game. Cabe and Janie move through the obstacles and shoot at each other, laughing, ducking, hiding. Cabel sneaks up and takes two shots at Janie, two red paintballs.

They nail her right in the eyeballs.

Red paint drips down her cheeks, her eye sockets hollow.

He keeps shooting and takes out one limb at a time, until Janie is just a body and a paint-striped face.

He sobs, remorseful, kneels next to her on the ground, and then picks her up and carries her, puts her in a wheelchair. Rolls her away to an empty part of the field and dumps her out onto the yellow grass.

Janie pulls out of it. Knows she shouldn’t be wasting dreams. But she can’t help it. She can’t look away.

When she can see, she stares in the dark at the ceiling while Cabe tosses and turns. She slides her arm over her eyes, trying to forget. Trying to pretend like this hasn’t been happening for two months straight, on top of everything else. “Please stop,” she whispers. “Please.”

4:23 a.m.

He dreams and she is forced awake again.

She holds her head.

Janie and Cabel are in the backyard of Cabe’s house, sitting in the green grass. Janie’s arms end at the elbows. Her eyes are sewn shut, needles still connected and hanging from the thread, down her cheeks. Black tears.

Cabel is frantic. He pulls an ear of corn from a paper grocery bag and strips the silk away. Attaches it to one of Janie’s elbows. He plucks two marbles from the paper bag. Big brown Tiger’s Eye shooters. He pushes them into Janie’s sewn-up eyelids, pushes hard, but they won’t stick. Janie falls over backward like a rag doll, unable to catch herself without hands. The ear of corn breaks off her elbow and rolls away. Cabe cradles the Tiger’s Eye marbles in his hands.

Janie, numb, can’t watch anymore. And she won’t try to change it. Not a dream like that. Because it’s about her, and how Cabe is dealing with things. It feels completely wrong to manipulate that. She just hopes he never asks her to help.

Still, she doesn’t want him dreaming it, period. Not any of it. She kicks out her leg. Connects. Everything goes black.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. Goes back to sleep.

It’s been like this.

It’s like everything he can’t say comes out in his dreams.

9:20 a.m.

Familiar stirrings put an end to dreams. A welcome relief. Janie rests on her couch half-asleep. Talking herself back up. Back to normalcy. She puts on her facade.

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