The Ballad of Tommy Lynch

I always thought I would marry Tommy. He and I had been raised together, neighbors and friends. He’d put worms in my hair, hidden frogs in my bed and been my first kiss on a hot summer night. I asked him to the Sadie Hawkins and he asked me to the junior prom. He was gone before the senior prom. They never even found his beat-up little off-roader. He just went out into the woods and never came back.

But he’s not dead. Not even the dead can haunt the living as effectively as Tommy had haunted me these seven years since he drove off into the back trails. He runs in my dreams, offering me the things we never got and telling me to wait. He promised me that I would see him again, and crazy as it was, I believed him.

I dreamed about Tommy again. He stretched his hands out to me, entreaty in his eyes. He looked so different in these dreams than he had when we stood together in the sun, but I always knew him. His eyes were darker now, his hair shaggy, his clothes tattered, and his ears coming to points. But he was still my Tommy with eyes full of adventure and lips that promised forever.
“Jan, please…”
“Tommy? What’s wrong?”
He rested his hand on my stomach, holding me close against him.
“Our chance is coming soon. And if you want our baby to have a dad, you have to be ready.”
“Ready? Ready for what? Tommy, what are you talking about?”
His eyes were distant for a moment.
“They caught me when I fell off my quad out in the fire break. But you can win me back, if you play by their rules.”
He gasped like he was in pain and I pulled him closer.
“Tommy, what’s wrong?”
I always hate when the dreams cause him pain. It just doesn’t seem fair for him to be trapped in my dreams and still feel pain.
“Go where I kissed you in the rain, after the Halloween party your dad threw. Remember?”
He’d been dressed as a knight. I’d been his princess. He’d held me close, fending off imaginary dragons and we’d laughed and laughed and laughed. And he’d kissed me there in the middle of the intersection without a care in the world.
“I remember.”
“I’ll run to you when they hunt and you have to hold me, no matter what happens. I promised I’d find a way, Jan, and this is it. I love you so much.”
He kissed me, his lips tasting like every promise we’d ever made in daylight or in this twilight between the worlds.
“I love you too, Tommy.”
“Then remember this. Friday night, Jan. Just remember Friday night.”

Friday drew down bleak and stormy as the day pressed on. I stood before my closet to dress for battle, choosing my armor with care. I donned the green skirt that Tommy always said was his favorite, the one that stopped just above my knees. Over it, a tank top and the letterman that has hung in my closet since Tommy left it the day before he vanished. Pulling it tight around me, I inhaled the scent and wore it like an embrace as I strode out to the old intersection on the edge of town. At first, there was only myself, silence and the road. But as the moon rose in the sky and the hours drew dark, I heard a sound like hoofbeats on the asphalt and the baying of hounds on the wind. And bells. Silver bells. From the road out of town ran a figure with lights at his heel. The closer they came, the more I could see. Lights became glowing hounds and knights astride horses like none I’d ever seen. And the lone figure running was my Tommy bold. I grabbed him in my arms and pulled him in tight as I could. The dogs snapped and growled, but I squeezed my eyes shut and clung as he writhed and fought and shifted shapes in my arms. I felt the teeth of the hounds bite into my flesh. I screamed and I cried. But I never let go. Not when I felt only scales, not when my arms were full of fur. Not even when Tommy burned like the fires of hell. Then it all went quiet.
“Jan?”
I opened my eyes slowly and looked around. There was no blood, no dogs, no knights.
“Janet? Is this real?”
Slowly, I stood, pulling my Tommy up with me and put his jacket around his bare shoulders.
“It’s over, Tommy, you’re home.”

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