Chapter 7:

Dan's head was throbbing and a single bead of sweat broke loose from it’s birthplace just above his right eye and trickled down his forehead and settled into his right brow. He seemed to be moving in slow motion. Or, was it that he could barely move at all. As the salty liquid seeped into his eye his vision became blurred. Dan blinked and rubbed his eye in order to see clearly the image of his 'once-upon-a-time' wife.

It seemed that as he moved closer toward her she became more real. In fact, the t-shirt that was torn just a moment ago, became whole. It was no longer torn. He stood stupefied as his brain tried to rationalize this concept.

Again he heard the car horn from outside in the driveway. Just when Dan had thought that part wasn’t real, it seemed it now was. What should his decision be? It was becoming clear to him that if he moved towards the front door in order to investigate the sound outside his 'born-again' wife appeared to become faint or unreal. But if he stood steadfast she remained quite complete. How in sanity’s sake was he to proceed?

Dan finally decided to test this situation again by turning toward the front door. As he looked back at this woman he once knew as his wife, it was confirmed. The tear that ran across the left shoulder of the shirt reappeared. He immediately backed away from the front door again. And again, the shirt became like new. And it wasn’t just the shirt. It was the girl's whole being became more clear and less faint.

And then a more frightening revelation came, the solid and obvious knock on the front door. It was as if reality was trying to destroy the world in which this woman could exist. The voice of his neighbor came clearly through the door. "Dan! Are you O.K.? Is everything alright? Did you find that girl... Babe?" He was absolutely petrified.

There was no way of opening the door without causing Ronnie, if that was who she was, to disappear. Dan waited. Maybe they would just leave. But no, the sound of the TV would give them away. Again they called. "Dan, do you need help?" It was Mr. Williams’ voice alright. He finally decided to answer without opening the door. "Yes! Everything is fine. She is right here on the couch resting. I can’t let you in right now. " he offered. "O.K. then. We just wanted to be sure." one of the two men said. "Thanks again for looking for her but she is safe and sound." replied Dan. He heard a couple of chuckles from the two men as they got back into their vehicle and drove off. It was as if another crisis had been avoided.

He was once again alone with ‘Ronnie’ just as if this was the way it had always been. But Dan knew deep down that this was definitely NOT the way it had always been. And he also knew that this was just the beginning of situations like this one. A similar event was bound to happen again. How in heavens name was he going to handle another predicament the next time? But for the moment he had time to think.
It was dark now and he hadn’t fed the dogs yet. At the same time he was afraid to leave Ronnie out of his sight for fear she would disappear again. Oh no! he thought. Here we go again. Was everything going to be a test? Maybe that was it. If he believed she was real then she was. Could it really be that obvious?

Dan decided to take the risk and let 'Ronnie' know that he was going to go outside and feed the animals. All he had to do was take a step away from her and move toward the back door and he would know right away if she was going to start to fade. Slowly and ever so soft- footed he took a single step toward the back door. 'Ronnie' looked at him quizzically as if he was acting strange. That was a laugh, everything was strange and getting stranger. "Are you O.K.?" she posed. He looked at her intently for any indication that she might become faint or began to disappear. Nope. All was quite solid looking and there was no tear in the shirt. "Yeah, I’m fine." he lied. But he was feeling a little better about the situation.

Dan continued slowly toward the back door keeping his sight focused on 'Ronnie'. All seemed well. When he reached the back door he grabbed his flashlight and hurried outside as quickly as he could. Good, it had just stopped raining. This would be the fastest feeding job he’d ever accomplished. He raced to the shed and gathered up the feed bucket and proceeded to give the aussies their food in lightning fashion and then returned to the house and into the living room where he had left his 'wifely twin' moments ago. Whew! he exhaled, she was still there watching the TV.

Dan wondered for a minute why that was. Why was 'Ronnie' still there he asked himself. As he analyzed this paradox he realized that it was because he believed she would still be there when he came back into the house. This confirmed what he was starting to believe was a possible answer to this impossible puzzle. He just had to believe. It seemed it was as simple as that. But he also realized that he might just have the smallest bit of doubt lingering in his mind. What would he do about that?
As Dan stood quite still realizing that his mind was beginning to accept this woman as his wife, a new and more fearful thought was slowly taking hold of him. If he had been dreaming earlier then how did his neighbor know he had been looking for his 'back from the dead' wife? Again he ran to his computer and television to confirm what day it was. It was still Sunday. Or.... was it Sunday all over again? And for the umpteenth time he wondered if this was what madness was all about. Now it was really getting late and he better rustle up some dinner for Ronnie and himself. Right about now he should start thinking about the next day. If anything was making sense it was that tomorrow was going to be Monday.
Dan looked toward Ronnie and she smiled back at him as she asked, "Babe, can you make my favorite burritos? You know! The ones with sour cream." "No problem. I’d be delighted." He returned. It no longer surprised him when she mentioned something only his wife would know. In fact his brain no longer even put an emphasis on her name.
As Dan was cutting up the vegetables on the cutting board, a new and extremely bothersome thought toyed with his psyche. Would Ronnie be able to go places with him or was she to only exist in this one place? If that were true then he knew she couldn’t be real. He looked up from the cutting board again. There she was just as beautiful as ever, intently watching TV as the sorrel quarter horse cleared the last fence drawing a cheer from the crowd. As they sat there together eating dinner and watching the graceful horses he made a decision. This was probably the most important decision he had made so far. Tomorrow he would try to take her with him into town. This would be a fearful choice on his part. Would she disappear again?
It was beginning to get windy again outside again but the rain had stopped. Dan hated the wind. It was so unsettling. This was going to be a very long night. Later, as the two of them climbed into bed he heard the hoot owls start their night- time cries. He peered through the bedroom window out into the blackness of the night just in time to see the silver- white moon creep out slowly from behind the gray- black clouds. It was completely full and reminded him of a big yellow Necco wafer.

As they lay there pondering tomorrow’s fortunes he turned toward his beautiful companion and lightly kissed her on the forehead. He brushed back her long tresses in order to see her face reflected in the moonlight. She was truly a wonder. With that he lay back and fell into an uneasy sleep.