Once again he woke up screaming.
It was the dream, of course. The same dream. The same overwhelming, inescapable dream.
But there was something different this time. There was no distance to it, no feeling of safety. It had crossed over and crystallized and become stiflingly, palpably, claustrophobically real. The colors were bright and the sound was crisp. He could see the faces, hear the voices. Feel the pain.
And he had to listen to the crying.
When he realized he was awake, that the sound he heard was real, was actually coming from inside him, he bit the scream off and the physical effort hurt his throat, as if the noise were being ripped out of him. He had to force himself to think about where he was, who he was, to stop himself from screaming again. And then he had to bite down on his lip so hard he drew blood. Otherwise he knew he could have howled and wept for minutes, for hours. Forever.
He was drenched in sweat, the sheets so damp beneath him he thought he'd wet the bed. But none of that was new. He was used to that. No, it was the end
of the dream that left him weak and trembling. That's what was different.
This time he dreamed that he talked.
And because he believed in the veracity of dreams, he woke up terrified.
The reasons for his terror had dominated his thoughts ever since the moment she had come to him, the woman he loved so absolutely, shaken and subdued, ever since she had told him she had to talk to him in private. It had been sunny that afternoon, and he remembered the warm glow he'd felt, basking in the realization that everything was going perfectly, all their plans were coming together so smoothly. When she leaned over and whispered to him, he had never seen her look like that. So frightened. Pale and trembling. He couldn't imagine what had done this to her. Then she told him about the package that had arrived. What was in it. And what the instructions were that came with it.
They had sat together, holding each other, for a long time after that. Saying nothing because there was nothing to say. Because everything he had worked for, they
had worked for, was crumbling now. No, not crumbling. Exploding.
He had canceled all meetings, shut off all phone calls. They had locked themselves behind closed doors. Then she spoke, examining their options, going over every choice rationally and calmly. Analyzing. Probing. Until finally she had put her hand over his, her skin cool and soft. Her softness was all that kept him from bursting into tears.
"There's only one thing you can do," she said.
"That's the one thing I can't
do," he said sadly.
"There's no other choice. Anything else is too risky, too terrible for you." She touched his cheek. "What if they find out? Think what would happen."
He didn't have to ask who "they" were. And he didn't have to think. He knew what would happen. He knew exactly what would happen.
He also knew that he could never accept the way out she was urging him to take. She could propose it only because she didn't truly understand his power, didn't know what she was really asking him to give up.
After all her rational explanations, after eliminating choice after choice, ultimately it was still impossible, what she was asking him to do.
So he'd thought of another solution. A far better one.
The latest dream showed him that it was right. And just. He knew better than anyone that it was just.
He sat up suddenly in the bed, as if the quickness of his movement could shed the fear like an unwanted layer of skin. He blinked furiously, willing the nightmare--and the night's solitude--to disappear.
It was just getting light outside, the sun's first rays filter-
ing down so passively they didn't seem to have the strength to make it all the way through the windows of the bedroom. But neither the shadows of the dawn outside nor the icy air-conditioning inside--the best system money could buy--were able to disguise the brutal humidity of this Washington summer. His rapid breathing slowed somewhat, and he uncurled the clenched fingers of both hands. He tried to force himself to be still, to relax. To come back to life. But he
He glanced to his left, where his wife slept soundly. He wondered how she could possibly sleep, and yet he was glad she did. For the first time since he'd known her, he didn't think he could face her, couldn't talk to her, tell her what he was thinking. Yet despite everything it pleased him to hear her gentle, rhythmic breathing, so comfortably familiar to him, soft and delicate. And there was another marvel: In twenty-seven years of marriage she had never been anything but a comfort to him. Never anything but a tower of strength.
He swung his legs out of bed. They were not yet steady. Still sitting, his bare feet planted in the pastel Aubusson carpet, he ran his left hand over the smooth, hollowed-out top of the bedpost. He loved their four-poster bed. Built in 1782, dated and signed by Nathaniel Dolgers, the greatest of colonial carpenters. It was too short for them, really, and not all that comfortable. But he insisted they sleep in it. He looked at his wife, curled up in the sheets, and smiled. She thought his affection for the bed was because he'd always loved working with his hands, had always, above all, worshiped craftsmanship. But that wasn't it at all. The real reason was that the bed had cost $175,000. A bed! And every single night before he slept--if he slept--he thought about what his mother had done when he'd told her he was sleeping in a $175,000 bed.
She'd laughed. She'd thrown her head back and laughed and laughed until tears of wonderment flowed down her leather-tough cheeks.
His legs were steadier now, his heart no longer pounding. He stood slowly, padded over to the window. Directly before him he could see the square, deserted and still. To the right, below him, at the eastern side of the house, he could make out the garden, the silhouettes of her flowers. He glanced back at the sleeping woman and had to shake his head. They always referred to them as "her" flowers. And when she talked about them, she might have been talking about the children they'd never had. Put her before a Grant Thomas rose or a Campanula lactiflora
and her face would soften, her eyes would glisten, her voice would coo in that tender, musical tone of hers. And when she touched
those petals--what caresses, what love. Whenever he passed one of the arrangements she'd cut for the house, he couldn't help but reach out and stroke the petals himself. He always felt as if he were touching her. And she were touching him.
Excerpted from Gideon by Russell Andrews. Copyright © 2000 by Russell Andrews. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.