Author: Guede Mazaka
In her dream the pitch is green, so green it stings the eyes, and even though the sun is at noon there is still dew on the blades and the world so everything glistens. Each line on the ground is crisp white and even the shorts of her uniform are pristine in a way they really only are when fresh off the rack. The poles of the goal-nets are free of any dents and it is warm, with just a slight breeze. Not enough to blow her hair in her face and annoy her.
In her dream they’ve just finished practice, or maybe they’ve just run to the field and are working up the energy to start practice. Either way, they are flushed, a little breathless, and there’s a sweet lazy feeling running through them that she can nearly touch, as if they’ve all the time in the world in this middle space in between places, times, appointments, families, other connections and responsibilities. Their hands just happen to graze against each other, then snag together and suddenly one of them swings—she can’t tell which—and they go down on the grass. And because it is a dream, there is a towel ready to smother their fall. It is wide, wider than any real towel is, and it is colored as brightly as the bikinis on the California beaches, and it is extraordinarily fluffy. She just has to roll on it and laugh at the sky.
So she does, and soon they’re both rolling together and their limbs tangle and then it is such an easy slide to slower, slower, slow unhurried twisting about each other, elbow running smoothly over the side of a soft breast, mouth floating across a long throat. She tangles her fingers in thick hair and pulls up the most brilliant smile on earth, and her legs shiver against strong muscled ones that slip round, drift soothingly to wrap her to that smile. When their lips meet, it seems just like kicking the ball into that perfect arc that smashes past every defender by grace alone.
It’s so warm, and so sunny, and the easy jumble of them together seems so natural. It takes Jess a moment to respond. “Jules?”
“You’re…you’re thinking of Joe, right?” There’s a quaver in the voice. It’s out of place in this lovely rich world where nothing outside of the pitch and themselves exists. It starts to crack the sky.
Jess frowns and feels a sluggish strange horror creeping into her middle, spreading insidiously outward. But it has not quite reached her head, and anyway she has never grown comfortable with lying, never learned to reach first for the untruth. Her laugh is awkward in her mouth. “No. Why would I think of him? I’m with you.”
“Jess,” Jules says again, voice vibrating sharp with nerves. And her fingers are suddenly digging hard into Jess’ shoulders, and her face is dissolving into…her face.
But everything else is dissolving into what it is not: the pitch into their room, the towel into Jess’ bed, and suddenly Jess wakes. The first thing she sees is Jules, mouth open and moist-looking, as if freshly kissed, and eyes staring at her with a terrified hunger that Jess understands too well and not at all.
“I…I need to…” Jess pulls out from under the other girl and she stumbles off the bed, like the time she was drunk in Germany. Only now she feels even sicker, and she knows very clearly what she’s done wrong this time. Her hand catches the doorframe as she sways out of the hall and it hurts, but only dully, and she can barely feel her feet at all as she runs for the bathrooms.
In the stall she falls to her knees and props her elbows on the rim, holds her head in her shaking hands, and then she asks the Gurus for their wisdom. She asks God for his all-encompassing understanding. She asks, very quietly, not to lose Jules. But it’s a long time before she can stand again, and when she does she still isn’t sure of anything.
“Jess?” Jules calls. She is clutching the corner of the turn into the bathroom proper, her hands white on the dingy tiles. “Are you…are you…you were sleeping…really deeply. Are you…”
“I’m—fine.” Jess pulls at her hand, tugging her nerves out through the strands, but the queasiness in her belly still lingers. She hunches her shoulders and looks at Jules. Opens her mouth.
But Jules speaks first, speaks in a rush that leaves Jess no room. “You were dreaming. That’s okay. You know dreams aren’t real—everyone knows that. We do things in dreams that make no sense. No sense at all. It’s—it’s okay there. Y—Yeah?”
For a very, very long time, Jess doesn’t know what to say. The silence, however, goes on too long and so she finally forces something out of her mouth. It’s thick, strained, wrong. “Yeah.”
“Yeah.” Jules glances at the floor before backing off a step. “Yeah. It’s all right. Yeah.”