I awaken in a garden. I’m surrounded by sunflowers seven feet tall. There must be hundreds of them. I’m in a pink velvet wingback chair. Did i fly here to wherever i am?
I look up. The sky is clear blue, not a wisp of white. It’s cool like mid autumn. I bend my head back to feel the warmth of the sun on my face for a minute. I’m sleepy. Maybe i’m still asleep?
I hear music. I think it’s something by Liszt. It’s coming from my left. I look in that direction, and see a path through the garden. It’s so long i can’t see where it starts, but it ends where i sit; in the center of a sunflowerless circle, about ten feet around. It’s like a crop circle.
I look straight ahead. I stand, but feel dizzy. I stretch then feel better, but i’m tired. I notice how beautiful it is here. Maybe if i rest awhile, and relax, i’ll wake from this dream and be in my own bed.
The sun is shining, but it’s not too hot. The chair is comfortable, and i adore sunflowers. They appear in my dreams often. Yes, that’s it. I’ll sit down again and drift away. If only i had a cocktail. A dirty martini with three olives would be perfect.
I sit in the soft chair and close my eyes. I hear Liszt again, but i can’t name the piece.
Is the music coming from the sunflowers themselves? It’s a little louder this time.
I close my eyes and prepare to dream, but before a minute passes, i hear a voice on my left..
I hope i’m not disturbing you, Miss Eugenia. But here is the martini you asked for to drink before your flight.
I play along, because why not?
It’s the dirty martini i just thought of. I say, thank you. And you are?
Why, you know me, Miss Eugenia. I’m the Inn’s night bartender, Forrest Crowne.
It’s only now that i notice that Forrest is a Jaguar.
I smile and say, thank you again, Forrest. This is my favorite as you know. I take the drink from the tray and realize an end table has appeared next to my chair. I think what next?
But of course. I look straight ahead and see, five feet across from me, another wingback chair, but this one is purple velvet, and in it sits a gorgeous and regal tuxedo cat.
I laugh out loud. I can’t help myself.
Kitty says, with perfect grammar, Eugenia, at what do you laugh?
Oh, i’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing and intrigued because this is the most bizarre dream i’ve had in ages. I’m enjoying it.
Ah, you think this is a dream?
Well, isn’t it? Maybe i should know this already, but what is your name and how long have we known each other?
Kitty looks puzzled and says, my name is Annette, and you and i have known each other since i was three hundred and you were five.
I don’t laugh this time. This is only a dream. I’ll wake up soon. This is just like that whole season of Dallas, the TV show. Pam has a dream. That crappy season is just a dream. She wakes up and finds Bobby in the shower or whatever. Yeah. That’s it. Maybe i’ll wake up in my own shower, or in my own bed or on my couch.
Annette watches me.
What are you thinking, Eugenia? If you don’t remember, you must have questions.
Forrest clears his throat. I’d forgotten he was there.
He says, if neither of you would like anything else, i should get back behind the bar.
I say, nope nothing for me. Annette purrs, showing she’s content and wants nothing else. Forrest heads back down the sunflower path.
I should have requested another martini. I have the urge to check my texts. I look around for my purse.
Annette says, it’s stowed under your chair, Eugenia, just like it is when you fly on a regular plane.
I want to laugh again, but i’m too freaked out. Where’s Forrest? I need a second martini.
Then i think, wait. I don’t have to sit here. I can get up and walk away. I can walk down the path like Forrest!
Annette says, it’s too late now, Eugenia. We leave in three minutes. You must stay.
I say, what? You can read minds, Annette?
No, but i can tell you’re afraid. You have no reason to be.
I sit back again and try to relax. What can happen? I’m sure i’ll wake up soon, hopefully within the next three minutes.
I gulp the rest of my martini. I’m not calm. Annette watches me with her sharp, cagey feline eyes.
Then, of all things, the sunflowers start to hum. I reach under my chair for my purse and pull out my phone.
Annette says, Eugenia, type fast. Only a minute and a half.
I text my friend, Camille. When the flowers started to sing, it dawned on me where i am. A year ago, Cam made a trip to this same place. It’s called Six Rubies. The innkeeper here recruited her to find Time. She found him with the help of a private investigator. Now i’m here, but how i got here and why i’m here, but about to fly off somewhere, i’ve no idea.
Camille. I’m in Six Rubies but about to leave. Come if you can. No idea how i got here. What the hell?
Okay, Eugenia. It’s time, says Annette. Your chair is in the upright position. Turn off your phone, and stow your bag under your chair.
I think, god, why didn’t i have another drink or three?
Annette says, close your eyes, and listen to the sunflowers. Focus on the flowers.
I hear them. They hum and then begin a chant. Lost time – find the hidden gems. Lost time – find the hidden gems.
I want to open my eyes, but i don’t dare.
Annette says, keep your eyes closed. Focus only on the sound.
The sunflowers’ chant is hypnotic. I feel like i’m floating. Am i? Or am i flying? The chanting grows fainter. I strain to hear, but now it’s too far away. All is quiet.
Okay, Eugenia. Open your eyes, but sit still.
I open my eyes, and Annette and i are indeed floating in our chairs. It’s nighttime, and the stars are bright, but they glow lavender. I’m relaxed. My legs tingle a little.
Annette looks supremely pleased with herself.
She says, look around. Isn’t it beautiful? We’ve been up here for two hours, but it doesn’t feel like it does it?
I try to look in all directions at once. I see Leo. He winks at me and waves a paw. There’s Aquarius. He flashes me the peace sign, and i send one back. And there’s Venus in a pink negligee walking her little Scottie.
I want to order another cocktail, and just as i think it, Forrest appears to my left…