One week after scattering Mandy's ashes, Ed and Sandy returned to their jobs. Work had piled up while they were on leave, and they were both glad to be too busy to think. The last thing either of them wanted was to think. After work, they went to their homes and crashed from exhaustion.
Ed didn't relax before falling asleep, so his sleep was very fitful. He found himself having recurring nightmares, and he'd wake up sweating, with a pounding heart. The dream was always the same. In it, he could see Mandy's face in the mist of the waterfall. Her face was sad, and she just kept crying, over and over, "You promised. You promised." He tried to put this out of his mind, but it wouldn't go away. Even during the day, he frequently saw little girls with sad faces, who just looked at him.
At the end of his first workweek, he felt he had to call Sandy. "Hi Sandy, this is Ed. I just wanted to check in and see how you're doing."
"Miserable, she responded. I haven't been able to sleep. Every time I do fall asleep, I'm haunted by the same nightmare."
"That's strange," said Ed. "I'm having the same problem. Tell me about your nightmare."
"In it, I see Mandy's face in the mist of the waterfall. Her face is sad, and she just keeps crying, over and over, 'You promised. You promised.'"
"That's not possible," said Ed. "That's exactly what my dream is. What's happening to us?"
"I don't know, Ed. Maybe sharing the same experience triggers the same dreams."
"Can I come over, Sandy?"
"Sure, Ed, you're always welcome over here."
"I'll be right over."
When Ed arrived at Sandy's she welcomed him into her house. They sat on the sofa and just looked at each other, not knowing what to say. Eventually, Ed reached out and took Sandy's hand. He asked Sandy if she'd show him some of the family picture albums from when Mandy was a child. He couldn't believe when he saw the pictures, as the little girls he had been seeing, lately, were Mandy, at different ages. He shared this with Sandy. Sandy admitted she hadn't seen little girls during the day, but the difference could be due to the intensity of feelings Ed and Mandy had so recently shared.
"Ed, I'd like to ask you a favor, but please don't feel obligated to do it. I'll understand if you say no."
"How can I help, Sandy?"
"I am so sleep deprived, right now, I can't even think straight. Mandy hadn't really spent that much time here, yet I quickly got used to her presence. Now, I feel so alone without her here. Would you please just hold me tonight, as I sleep? Maybe that will help me sleep."
"Sure, Sandy. I'm not crazy about attempting to sleep alone, tonight, either."
Sandy took Ed to her bed, took off her shoes and lay down on her side, fully clothed, pulling a light blanket up over her. Ed removed his shoes before joining her under the blanket, spooning up to her back with his arm around her waist. It wasn't long before both were sound asleep.
When the sun rose in the morning, they realized they were so exhausted, neither of them had moved all night, and they had the most refreshing sleep they had experienced in a long time. Sandy expressed her thanks to Ed, while he admitted it helped his sleep also. Sandy offered to make Ed breakfast. Though they didn't speak much during the meal, they realized it felt good to reconnect. After breakfast was over, Ed said, "Sandy, I'm sure you have things you need to do, today, and I have projects to catch up on, so I'd better get going. Thanks for the breakfast ... and for the sleep. We'll have to get together, again."
Ed felt refreshed, after the good night sleep, so was productive with his projects. He felt good when he lay down for sleep, that night. Unfortunately, the nightmares returned.
At 9am, thinking Sandy was probably awake, he called her. "Hi Sandy, how was sleep?"
"The nightmares are back."
"Mine, too. Since I spent so much time over there, lately, maybe we just need to gradually reduce contact rather than attempt to go cold turkey. We won't be very good on our jobs, if we're sleep deprived; so what would be your thoughts if I suggest we sleep together during the week, and then we can try being apart, again, next weekend?"
"I'm open to it. We need our sleep."
On his way over to Sandy's, Ed stopped at the department store and bought himself a pair of pajamas. He hadn't worn pajamas since he was a kid, but they couldn't sleep in their clothes for a week, and he wasn't about to shock her by sliding in bed naked. When it was time for bed, Ed told Sandy he brought some pajamas, and she deserved to sleep comfortably, also. Both put on pajamas, and then returned to their spooning position. Sleep was restful, again. In the morning, Sandy prepared another nice breakfast. Ed realized he didn't bother to prepare himself a nice breakfast at his home, and he appreciated Sandy's effort to bring a little hominess to his life.
After getting ready for work, in separate bathrooms, Ed said, "Thanks, Sandy. I truly appreciate everything. I'll see you after work."
The sleep seemed to help them catch up faster at work, so, by Wednesday, they were both back to their normal 9-5 routine. Thursday morning, Ed asked Sandy if she'd like to go out to a restaurant for dinner, saying he wanted to thank her for all she had done. When she said she'd love that, they made plans. They met at a restaurant Mandy used to enjoy going to. Ed had mixed feelings about going to that restaurant, but thought the sisters might have similar tastes in food, so decided to go with that. Sandy did enjoy the food, so Ed was glad he chose that place. Communication seemed to be flowing a bit easier, so the evening went well. That night, when they got into bed, Ed kissed the back of Sandy's head before saying "Thank you for the week, and good night."
As planned, Ed returned to his home the next night. He figured a week's worth of good sleep would allow him to sleep at home. Unfortunately, his sleep didn't cooperate, and the nightmares kept him up. About 2am, his phone rang. When he answered it, he heard Sandy crying. "Ed, I'm so sorry for waking you up, but I can't handle these nightmares."
"You mean they've returned for you, also?"
"Yes. I don't think I've been able to sleep half an hour so far tonight."
"Ed, maybe I'm being a baby about this, but would you please come over here?"
"Sure, Sandy. I guess we're in the same boat, so we might as well be there for each other. Ed drove to Sandy's, and they did sleep well the rest of the night.
Over breakfast, Ed said, "Sandy, I have so many mixed feelings flowing through me. I miss Mandy, terribly. You have always been so kind to me, and I am grateful you are here. I see a lot of Mandy in you, but you have your own uniqueness, also. I sense she was probably more playful and impulsive, while you were reliable and consistent. I see value in both directions. I like you, but I feel liking you is cheating on Mandy's memory, so I feel guilty. On the other hand, I know she truly wanted us to be together. I'm not sure how to rectify this internal conflict. I want you to know my conflict is not a negative statement about you. I just find it hard to believe she would be comfortable with me being with you, no matter how hard she worked to push us together. Maybe she didn't want this but felt she had to let it happen. I think it would be easier if I knew whether she felt inner conflict or not."
"Ed, let me tell you about Mandy. She could be headstrong and stubborn. If she didn't like the taste of some vegetable, there was no way you could get her to eat it. She spoke her mind, and you always knew she said nothing she didn't mean. On your first date, I sat home on pins and needles, wondering what the results would be. I wanted her to be happy, but knowing her, she was just as likely to blow you off as to fall in love. When she told me she had fallen in love, I knew it was real. She never played mind games or manipulated anyone. She called a spade a spade. I know what she said to us was truthful, but I've had my own inner conflicts, too. I respected her relationship with you, so never allowed myself to think of you as anything other than her partner. When she planted the seed in my head, I was caught off guard. I also respect you and care for you enough to never want you to do anything that isn't truly what you want. I was truthful when I promised Mandy to do all in my power to keep her love alive and healthy, but it's not in my power to make anyone else do something that person doesn't want to do. I would never be with anyone who was with me out of obligation, and I'm not the type of person who attempts to convince others of my value. What I may see as value might be different from what others see as value."
"Sandy, thanks for sharing. I see things much differently, now, though I'll probably still struggle with a shaky transition. I don't know what can exist between us, but I promise not to put up any barriers, and I promise you my words to you will always be the truth. If you haven't made any plans for today, I'd love to spend the day with you."
"I'd love that, too, Ed."
"How about a hike?"
"Sure. Give me time for a shower, and then we can leave."
The hike was very pleasant, and the awkwardness seemed to melt away as the day progressed. Ed even reached out and held her hand, on occasion. They found themselves talking about the nature that surrounded them rather than Mandy, and even shared a few laughs together. After the hike, Ed took Sandy out to eat. The communication flowed smoothly, and it was late before they realized the time and headed home.
.... There is more of this story ...