Dawn woke as she did every day when the sun broke into her bedroom window. She lay quiet for a while, arms and legs splayed, as if she made snow angels in her sleep. She didn’t. Her dream was the same every night, at least, it was the only dream she ever remembered.
She was walking downtown, intending to have her morning coffee at the café. She loved sitting by the window and watching life pass by. This morning was different. A young man with black hair falling over his eyes was sitting at “her” table. She looked around, but every other chair was taken. That wasn’t unusual, there were only twenty chairs in the café.
The man looked at her and stood, offering her his chair, or rather “her” chair. She looked down, embarrassed, and shook her head, mumbling “No, thank you.” He insisted, pulled the chair out for her, slid his coffee to the other side of the table, and sat back down. Not seeing any option, Dawn accepted the gesture and sat across from him.
The man said his name was Jimmy and was establishing a sales route though this part of the state. He stayed in each town for a day or two to meet the shopkeepers and take notes on what supplies they sold and needed.
After thirty minutes or so Jimmy excused himself. It was time to move to the next town, but he would be back next Wednesday and would like to share a table again.
Dawn blushed, smiled, and nodded.
Their routine established, Jimmy met Dawn every Wednesday for a month, until he finally asked her to take a walk with him and she agreed eagerly.
They passed the bank, and the big rose bush nearly obscuring an alleyway that ran from the boardwalk to the back of the stores. Jimmy snapped off a rose and tucked it behind her ear before he pulled her hand and guided her around the roses and down the alleyway. She was confused and pulled back slightly.
“Dawn,” he urged, “come back to the old vacant horse barn with me. No one ever goes there and we can be alone.”
Scared, but excited, she went with him.
A half hour later they exited the weathered barn, re-arranging their clothes, brushing off the hay.
“Don’t tell anyone what we did, OK? Dawn, I want you to come away with me. Would you do that? Remember, I will be back here next Wednesday. Be ready for me. I promise to come for you. Promise.”
With that, he turned and walked behind the stores as she walked back down the alley, humming happily to herself.
Dawn stretched and yawned, savoring that happy morning feeling one more time before rising, dressing and descending the stairs to the kitchen to make her breakfast.
After finishing her cereal and juice, she never drank coffee anymore, she washed the dishes and placed them back into their proper places in the cupboard. Dawn grabbed her suitcase, stepped out the front door and started walking downtown, as she did every morning.
She shuffled past a bevy of women standing outside the general store, their murmuring mouths hidden by folding fans. They watched her small, soft steps, and downcast eyes as she passed by.
“Poor Dawn,” one would say quietly. “Everyday, walking and hoping. Will she ever give up?”
“She won’t,” another would answer. “It’s mor’n twenty years now. If she were gonna stop wait’n, she woulda, by now.”
Dawn heard them, of course. Perhaps they meant her to. She didn’t care. Continuing her ritual, she snipped a withered red rose from the bush outside the bank as she remembered him tucking a fresh one in her hair. She clutched her small valise closer to her chest and continued on her way, eyes focused straight down the boardwalk, ignoring the alleyway.
She thought, I will take this walk every day, until the end of time if I need to. I know he will come back for me, someday. Maybe today will be the day. He promised he will come back for me. He will return and take me away. He promised me.
Looking both ways she lifted the hem of her calico dress and stepped off the boardwalk. Delta Dawn’s hair shone bright and eyes sparkled blue in the mid-morning sun, returning the youthful beauty and hope of years long lost. A cloud passed overhead, restoring her drab present as Dawn crossed Broad Street, stepped back up onto the boardwalk, and continued down Main.
A block further down the boardwalk a man stepped out of a shop, rested his hand on the barber pole, and softly called,“Baby. Come in out of the sun. You know what it does to your skin.”
“Ok, Papa. I was just looking for Jimmy. I expect him back today.”
“I know, Baby. If not today, maybe tomorrow,” said the man with love in his voice and sorrow in his eyes.
Songwriters: Alex Harvey / Larry Collins
My original story did not include the dream now found at the beginning. I started the story even more in medias res with Dawn’s walk downtown. After letting the story sit for a while I decided I wanted to know what the man did to her to cause her so much pain. The only dream she ever remembers is the one where she builds the relationship, real or imagined, with Jimmy.