Cheating Death

Sweat drenched Lucila’s body; she was panting from waking up out of a nightmare. Grabbing a towelette from her nightstand, she rubbed the sweat from her face and peered at the time. It was about three thirty in the morning, three hours short of when she had to wake up. Banksy stared at her from the foot of her bed; she could see his shiny eyes looking back from the dimness of the streetlamps. He came over and placed his paw on the bed. Lucila smiled and patted his smooth head.
As if he had intuition, Banksy knew to come over to her for comfort. She didn’t know how she would be coping without him. Every night played out the same way, from the horrific nightmares of her death to Banksy’s soothing presence. Lucila decided to get up and start the day. She had been meaning to finish her collage before going to work.

Lucila stared out of her art gallery’s office window; her thoughts smeared with the grimness of her nightmare. She had to remember it if she was to survive the day. She pieced the dream together from what little images she scavenged out of her mind. Lucila dreamt that she was coming back from her lunch break at her favorite cafe; she was texting a friend when the bus stop, she was walking by got slammed by a wayward car. Her body was hit by debris, causing her brain hemorrhage. The paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
Covered in goosebumps, Lucila became conscious of her surroundings and noticed her assistant approaching.
“Luci, we have a potential client who would like to speak to you?” Gabby said, eyeing her. “Are you alright? You look worse than usual.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks. I’ll speak to them.” Lucila said as she got up and adjusted her suit jacket. She made sure to cover the scar on her forehead with her bangs.
“Gabby, can you do me a favor and order us both something from DoorDash for lunch? I changed my mind about going to Chez Mamie.” Lucila said over her shoulder.
“Sure. I’ve wanted to try this new place that opened a few blocks away.”

Eating her leftovers from lunch in front of her TV, the evening news of the car accident at the bus stop came up; it made Lucila lose her appetite. Banksy was resting his head on her lap; she ran her palm over his coat to calm her nerves. Lucila wondered if these nightmares would plague her for the rest of her life. Her therapist couldn’t make heads or tails of the premonitions, and Lucila was beginning to think he didn’t believe her.
Ever since her car accident two months ago, her nights have been filled with terror, with the next day being worse than the nights. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had to save herself each day. Initially, she had near misses or luck as she would like to believe. She also had to contend with migraines, severe head-splitting pain that kept her sometimes from doing anything. Her head felt like there was one coming on now, she decided to take her medication and go to bed. Lucila dreaded going to sleep, yet she had to know what to expect the next day.

The end of the week brought a flurry of activity for Lucila’s art gallery; catering was confirmed, as were the rentals, and a long guest list was triple checked. One of her star artists was showcasing her newest works, and it would be a night to remember for art lovers of all kinds. On Saturday night, the gallery was filled with art dealers, critics, and fans. In tandem with her artist, Lucila socialized with the crowd.
Growing exhausted after a few hours of entertaining, she headed to a corner of the gallery to relax and came across a figure standing in front of a large painting that she had made a couple of years ago. Curious, Lucila approached slowly. The woman was tall and lanky; a fitted dark blue dress hugged her ebony skin, and she wore a chic bob with dangling earrings.
“I could feel it pulsing.” The woman said without looking at Lucila.
“I was listening to heavy metal when I painted this one.”
The admirer turned toward Lucila. “I thought it might have been rap.”
Her eyes transfixed Lucila; they were gray and reminded her of a morning fog she jogged through on a trip to London.
The woman smirked. “The paintings in this room are better than the featured artist.”
“Thank you. Just so you know, I am in no way saying that the other works are bad by saying so.”
“Do you really think that her art is great?”
“Between you and I, I don’t think so. Maybe a couple of them.” Lucila raised her hand. “If you’re going to keep one of my secrets, I must know your name.”
“Destiny.” The woman in blue shook Lucila’s hand.

Sunlight poured in through Lucila’s room, causing her to stir; she sat in bed and glanced towards Destiny’s sleeping form. Checking the time on her phone, she realized she had slept all night without a nightmare. Lucila went rigid, her breathing sped up, and she had to stumble to the bathroom.
She splashed cold water on her face as she tried to remember if there was anything she had dreamt about. Nothing came back to her. Why didn’t I have a nightmare? What changed? Lucila thought of things that might have been different, and it occurred to her that this was the first night that Destiny had slept over. After five months of dating, it didn’t bother Lucila when Destiny fell asleep on her bed. Could that be it?
During their five-month courtship, Lucila hid from Destiny that she had premonitions about her death, yet Destiny knew about her nightmares and migraines. She didn’t want Destiny to believe that she fabricated stories. As much as she was constantly stressed about Destiny finding out, she enjoyed her company.
Through the bathroom door crack, Lucila could see Destiny stirring awake. She dried her hands and walked out, cracking a smile.
Destiny embraced her and gave her a gentle kiss. “Sorry for the morning breath.”
“It doesn’t bother me.”
Destiny entered the bathroom. “So, what do you want to do today? It’s supposed to be a nice, warm day.”
“I was thinking maybe we can just stay home and relax.”
“Really? You finally get a few days off and want to hide indoors?”
You have no idea how appropriate the word hide is.
“I thought I could catch up on painting, maybe some collage work.”
“But that’s work-related!”
“I do enjoy painting, you know. I was doing it well before it became my profession.”
“Yeah, but… I was hoping we could go to a park or maybe the jazz festival. I heard there’s one going on in Grammer Park.”
“I guess we’ll see how I feel after some breakfast,” Lucila said, not knowing what else to say.

Jazz glided along the breeze as if the musical notes took flight. A heavy crowd formed near the stage, with vendors and food trucks lining either side of the venue. Scanning the area, Lucila drew Destiny closer to her. She tried to keep the unease from reaching a crescendo.
Destiny pulled on her arm. “Let’s get closer!”
Lucila started to pull back but noticed Destiny’s face turn into a frown. Reluctantly, Lucila was guided to the stage. As they drew near, the breeze turned into short gusts. Glancing up, she noticed clouds gathering like swirling reams of milk. Ten minutes into the new song, rain began to drip down onto the crowd, gradually turning into a light shower. It wasn’t the rain that increased Lucila’s unease but the lightning, which was starting to dance across the darkening sky.
“Maybe we should get going,” Lucila said.
“But we haven’t been here that long, plus the festival is supposed to go on whether it rains or not,” Destiny said.
Parts of the crowd began to leave or take cover under trees nearby as the jazz band continued to play.
“What if we go under the tree?” Destiny asked.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Destiny headed towards the tree, leaving Lucila behind. The hairs on her skin stood on end, akin to touching a science museum’s electrical orb. Dashing to stop Destiny from reaching the tree, her vision turned bright, and a crack louder than a bullwhip engulfed her auditory senses. For a second, Lucila staggered in place.
As her sight and sound returned, Lucila searched for Destiny. Destiny had stumbled to her knees. Lucila crouched next to her. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?”
“No… I just have a ringing in my ears.” Destiny said.
Lucila sighed as she pulled Destiny up to her feet. They peered at the tree. It had been split in half; flames slithered along the edges; people laid underneath the limbs. Others ran past Lucila and Destiny towards the injured, followed by the ambulance, leaving tire marks on the grass.

While sitting at her pub-style dining table, Lucila read the news article on her cell phone. Across from her, rain pitter-pattered on the small kitchen window as the scent of fried eggs and bacon wafted to her.
A few of the victims from the jazz festival were still in comas two weeks after the lightning strike. Lucila couldn’t stomach finishing the article. She glanced at Destiny pouring over the pan like a haggard chef from a diner. Lucila feared what she had to do. It was also two weeks since Lucila had a dream, and her life had gotten reclusive.

With an unhealthy portion of eggs and bacon on her plate, Lucila grabbed her fork and then placed it down. “Desy, I have to say something.”
Destiny had a bit of food in her mouth, and she nodded.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“Well, the beginning is a good start. That’s what my dad used to say.”
Lucila rubbed her neck. “Desy, I think we should stop seeing each other.”
Destiny lowered her eyes. “You know, I’m going to want a reason why.”
“I feel that I am no match for you. You are extroverted, and I am not. You want to do things, and I don’t really care to. I think that I’m just holding you back.”
“Luz, it’s only been two weeks since that near-death situation. Of course, you’ll want to stay home to be safe. I don’t mind. It doesn’t mean we should split up.” Destiny said.
“Even before that, I wasn’t that outgoing. How often have you complained about wanting to go out and be with your friends? Lucila said.
“Yes, that’s true, but it’s not a big deal.”
“Well, I think you will regret it in the long run if you stay with me.”
“I don’t see that happening. I see us staying together for a long time, happy and in —” Destiny stopped.
Lucila’s heart skipped. Destiny peered down at her plate. The eggs congealed, and the bacon grew cold, mirroring what Lucila’s heart felt.
“Desy, I don’t see that.”

Leaves scattered from Lucila’s wake as she took long strides towards her art gallery. Without noticing, she brushed past a man going the other way. It jostled her mind from the details of her dream. Since breaking up with Destiny a month ago, the nightmares returned instantly. Her daily routine was newly ingrained, and she threw herself into her work.
Lucila was about to grab the door to her gallery when she felt eyes on her. She turned to look. Destiny was standing on the other side of the street. Her frame was wrapped in a coat, and her bob was longer. Time seemed to slow down as they both took a step forward. A smile spread across Destiny’s face, and Lucila couldn’t help but do the same.
Destiny began to cross the street, and that’s when Lucila remembered the dream. She struggled to recall because she was seeing it from the sidelines; the figure crossing and getting hit by a car wasn’t her.
Without hesitating, Lucila ran with her arms stretched out. Destiny’s expression changed from joy to fear as she glanced to the right. The screech of tires drew near as Lucila used all her momentum to push Destiny back onto the sidewalk. Lucila was airborne as she tumbled across the hood of the car, the sight of Destiny’s smile disappearing forever.

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