Olivia is feeling under the weather—and more than a little sorry for herself. She wishes there was a magic cure for her illness and her current solitude. Can she dream her way out of her predicament?
by Catherine Mesick
Olivia King was not feeling well.
She was twenty-five years old, living in a tiny apartment by herself, and trying to battle a severe cold.
And she was wishing that she wasn’t all alone.
Her light brown hair was piled in an untidy bun on the top of her head, and her cornflower blue eyes were rimmed with red and drooping as she tried valiantly to stay awake.
She lay on her couch in front of the TV, listening to its vague burble, but she wasn’t really sure what was on.
Beyond the TV, she was aware of the bright, sunny day outside. It was June, and the weather was probably lovely, but Olivia wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Her head was swimming, and her whole body ached. Somewhere, she knew, there was a box of extra-soft tissues that might offer comfort to her sore, stuffy nose. But as she searched blearily without lifting her head from her pillow, she couldn’t find it in her immediate environs.
Then Olivia saw it.
The blue box with the fluffy white tissues was on the table at the other end of the couch—down by her feet.
She raised her head for a moment and then decided against trying to move her aching body.
She figured she could live without the tissues for right now.
Olivia rested her head back on her pillow and pulled her red fleece blanket up to her chin. Within moments, she was asleep.
She found herself in a beautiful dream.
Above her head was a dark sky filled with stars, and below her bare feet was a sandy beach that sloped down to gently plashing water. The air was warm and soft and filled with the tang of salt. And the water itself was wondrous—in its dark depths it appeared to have as many gleaming stars as the sky above.
As the surf washed up onto the beach and then rolled away, it left the glittering, golden stars on the dark sand.
Olivia marveled at the stars’ beauty. Then she waded out into the waves and scooped up a handful of the warm, sparkling liquid.
She brought her cupped hands to her lips and gingerly tasted the water, which was warm and salty and somehow very wholesome—like a rich, savory broth.
She drank it down and was amazed at how soothing the star-filled water was.
Moments later, a strange, melodious chime rang out across the dark beach, and Olivia looked up.
At the same time, she started awake, and she mourned the loss of her dream-concocted broth.
The chime rang out again, and Olivia realized her phone was ringing.
She blearily scanned the room for it.
Unfortunately, she discovered that the phone was on the table at the other end of the couch—along with the blue box of tissues.
Reluctantly, Olivia levered herself into a sitting position and then pushed her aching body until she could stretch just far enough to reach both phone and tissues.
She clutched the box of tissues to her body and then fell back against her pillow with her slim, dark phone pressed against her ear.
“Hello?” Olivia croaked.
She hadn’t had the energy to glance at the luminous number that had popped up on her screen and therefore had no idea who was calling.
“Hi, hon.” It was her mother, her voice warm and soothing. “How are you doing?”
“Not great,” Olivia admitted.
“Do you feel as bad as you did yesterday?”
“I’m afraid so,” Olivia replied, wondering how the simple act of talking could require so much effort.
“I wish I could be there.” Her mother sighed softly. “You’re so far away now.”
Olivia could picture her mother sitting in her sunlit San Diego kitchen, while she herself languished on her slightly lumpy couch in her postage stamp of an apartment in the New Jersey suburbs.
It was the price she paid for getting a coveted position with a fancy New York law firm.
“You could bring me some of your famous minestrone soup in a matter of minutes,” Olivia said, feeling her eyes watering as she smiled.
She had a vague notion that she was telling a joke of some kind, but now that she thought about it, she wasn’t too sure what it was.
“I would definitely bring you some soup.” Olivia could hear a smile in her mother’s voice, so maybe she had succeeded in saying something amusing. “I wish I could do a little magic, snap my fingers, and send you some right now.”
“What kind of magic makes soup?” Olivia asked. She chuckled—a dry, rasping noise that sounded more like a cough.
“Everyday magic,” her mother said with sympathy in her voice. “I don’t want to keep you talking, honey. I just wanted to check in and see how you were doing. Try to get some sleep now.”
Olivia put the phone down and wished that everyday magic was a real thing.
Then she fell asleep.
She found herself in another dream.
This time, she was standing on a towering mountain with a green valley below. The view was beautiful, but the air was cold, and a biting wind whipped around her. Olivia could see dark clouds roiling as a storm brewed close by, and soon she was enveloped in sharp, icy rain.
Olivia searched frantically for shelter and, instead, found a pair of silver wings nearby on the ground. The feathers were long and soft and shining, and somehow, the rain slipped right off them.
She placed the wings on her back, drawing them on like a cashmere sweater, and they unfurled behind her—strong and gleaming.
She gave her new wings an experimental flap, and soon she was soaring up into the bursting sky.
She hurtled up through the storm as lightning flashed all around her, and she kept flying upward until she found herself above the dark, churning clouds. She flew in the direction of the warm, life-giving sun until the clouds disappeared and she could see the green earth below.
Olivia fluttered down to the ground and set her feet down on the lush grass of a beautiful garden. There was a thick blanket of blossoms just in front of her—a riot of color with flowers in red, pink, lavender, gold—even blue.
She let the silver wings slip off her shoulders, and they fluttered away—off into the bright, sunny sky.
Olivia stepped forward and lay down on the bed of flowers—their petals soft as silk—and felt herself relaxing as their sweet fragrance enveloped her in a healing cloud and the sun high above warmed her skin.
Just as she felt the last of the rain-borne chill drifting away, a strange chime rang out, shattering the garden and the warmth.
Olivia jolted awake.
Her phone was ringing again.
Luckily, it was lying right by her side this time.
She pressed it to her ear.
“Hello?” Olivia drawled.
“You sound terrible.” It was her best friend, Ellen Stanhope, her voice kind but a little startled.
“I’m afraid I feel terrible,” Olivia admitted.
“You poor thing,” Ellen said. Olivia could picture her friend’s warm, brown eyes brimming with sympathy. “I wish I could be there for you, but we’re going to be in Chicago all week.”
“I’m glad you and Jim finally got to go on vacation,” Olivia said, making an attempt to sit up and sound normal. “You don’t need to think about me at all. You guys just have fun.”
“What about the new guy—Travis?” Ellen asked. “I’m sorry, but I’m blanking on his last name. I only met him the one time.”
Olivia smiled despite herself, and for a moment the aches and the chill in her body seemed very far away.
“Travis Haberly,” she murmured.
His handsome, good-natured face rose in her mind’s eye. She could picture his curly black hair, his green eyes, the way his cheeks dimpled when he smiled.
“That’s right,” Ellen replied, a hint of apology in her tone. “Any chance he’ll stop by to check on you?”
“We’ve only been dating for a few weeks,” Olivia said with a twinge of wistfulness. “I think it’s too early for that. Taking care of a sick girlfriend is a later stage.”
“Does he know you’re sick?”
“Yes,” Olivia said regretfully. “I had to break our dinner plans tonight. I’m just not in any shape to make it.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.” Ellen’s voice was soft and soothing. “Take care of yourself. I’ll check in on you again tomorrow.”
Ellen hung up, and Olivia settled back down on the couch. Her eyes drifted to the TV.
She was vaguely aware that a cooking show was on.
As Olivia watched fresh green herbs get chopped expertly and then dropped into a steaming pot, she felt another twinge of regret over her lost evening out with Travis.
It was also a lost opportunity to see that dimpled smile.
As the TV pot began to bubble, the green herbs roiling in a golden-brown liquid, Olivia felt her eyelids growing heavy.
She closed her eyes and opened them in a dream.
Olivia found herself standing in a kitchen. She wanted to make something delicious for Travis, who—she thought hazily—was coming to see her soon. But instead of ingredients, utensils, and mixing bowls, all she had was a bare wooden table and a magic wand.
She waved the magic wand once, and a bronze goblet appeared in front of her. She waved the magic wand again, and a handful of gems of all colors and sizes appeared in front of the goblet.
Olivia scooped up the gems and dropped them one by one into the goblet—first yellow, then green, then blue, then violet, and finally ruby red.
Every time a gem touched the metal of the bronze goblet, it began to fizz and disolve into a liquid. Soon the goblet was full to the brim and warm to the touch, and Olivia breathed in the delightful aroma of hot mulled apple cider.
She was just raising the goblet to taste the drink when there was a terrible sound of thunder—as if someone were breaking down the walls of the kitchen in which she stood.
Olivia’s eyes flew open. There was indeed a loud sound in her apartment, but it was just someone knocking on the door.
She pushed herself to stand with reluctance and shuffled to the door, clutching a tissue.
She looked out through the peephole.
Standing in the hallway outside was a tall, lean figure clutching a brown paper bag.
Olivia felt her heart flutter.
It was Travis.
Olivia opened the door a crack and peered out at him.
“Hey, Travis,” she said. She was excited to see him but horrified by how she must look.
“Hey,” he said, dimpling at her. Olivia felt her heart give another little flutter. He was wearing black trousers and a white dress shirt with sleeves that were rolled up, revealing his tanned forearms.
“So what are you doing here?” Olivia asked, trying to smooth out the croak in her voice.
“I know you’re not feeling well,” Travis replied, sounding a little uncertain, “so I took off work a little early. I thought I’d bring you some soup.”
He held out the paper bag, and Olivia stared at it in surprise.
“I know it’s a little soon,” Travis said quickly. “We’ve only known each other a little while. But I really wanted to bring you something to make you feel better. Sorry if it’s weird.”
“No, it’s not weird at all,” Olivia said, feeling warmed by his smile. “That’s very thoughtful.”
“It’s chicken noodle,” he said. “From Lisa’s Deli. I’m afraid it got a little cold on the way over. I can come in and warm it up if you like, and I promise I’ll only be here a few minutes. And then I’ll leave and let you rest.”
Olivia glanced down at the paper bag. She loved Lisa’s Deli, and she’d told him that once.
And he’d remembered.
“Thanks, Travis. That’s exactly what I’ve been wishing for.”
He stepped into the apartment, and Olivia settled back onto the couch.
Travis went into the kitchen and bustled around for a few minutes, and Olivia could hear the beeping of the microwave.
Then Travis brought her the chicken noodle soup in an oversized mug with a little side of saltines.
Olivia sipped the soup gratefully, inhaling its healing warmth, and looked up at Travis.
She realized that there was such a thing as everyday magic after all.
And it was even better than she’d dreamed.
© 2021 by Catherine Mesick
Thanks very much for reading! You can pick up my free novel Pure here: https://catherinemesick.com/books/.