Ruanna's Dreams
Part One

By: Molly E. Hamilton

There was something odd about the Berringers' daughter. She was unusually good at skipping (almost to the point to where it seemed as though she could fly), she was borderline scary petite, and she had a faint glow to her soft skin. Her hair was a golden red color, and she had purple eyes that could be a beacon to your darkest thoughts…if she was happy. Her name was Ruanna. She was adopted, of course, because the Berringers believed it was irresponsible, wrong even, to have children due to "overpopulation" and the fact there were so many children "already born and waiting for a family." They would even decline every baby shower invitation.

Mr. and Mrs. Berringer had many extremes they lived and swore by. They felt all food in their diet required measurement, along with the highest level of scrutiny. Anything worrn on their bodies needed to be natural. All "man–made" materials were detestable. The air filters in their home and car were cleaned daily and promised "top efficiency." They did their best to be surrounded by things that could be described as "real" and "organic." Every waking moment needed to be productive in some way. Sitting idly and letting thoughts roll through your mind was frowned upon, but the biggest offense to the Berringers was fantasy. Ruanna couldn't have fairy tales, television, unrealistic toys, or anything Disney (the plague). Their daughter would be just like them.

And yet, Ruanna began to trouble her parents once she started to speak. She was very fond of napping and bedtime, and she would awake from her happy slumbers saying her first word: Nana. The problem was that no one but Ruanna knew who Nana was. The grandmothers were called Mimi and Gram–gram. There was no sitter. Nobody was called Nana. It was very unsettling for the Berringers indeed. Where did she come up with that? They attempted to ease their worries by declaring "Nana" was simply a mispronunciation of her own name, but as the child continued to develop, that hypothesis was proven wrong. Nana was a constant. Little Ruanna would toddle around the house, sometimes in tears, calling for her Nana.

As words were added to Ruanna's vocabulary, the Berringers only fretted more about their daughter's nighttime adventures. She started to say forbidden words. Words like "magic," "fairy," and "unicorn." Despite the brigade against the world of pretend, she was not saved from such roaring nonsense. What was more disturbing was that "Nana" was teaching Ruanna things. The young girl mysteriously picked up on counting, the alphabet, writing her name, and moon phases before her parents could begin teaching her themselves. These were good things to learn, but unexpected.

"Who showed you how to do that?" her parents would ask.

The answer? "Nana." Nana was a secret help that no one understood. She even aided in potty training. Her bribes to use the potty were far better than Mommy and Daddy's bribes. Nana had chocolate, corn syrup, and a Pegasus ride for the grandest potty accomplishment.

When Ruanna turned five, Nana was trying to teach her something else. She was trying to teach her how to fly. This was not going well though. Not in dreamland and not in reality. Ruanna would leap down from the top of the stairs in the Berringers' house, run through the yard and spring into the air, but she couldn't achieve her goal. Practicing the art of flying only got Ruanna's beloved naps and early bedtimes restricted. The Berringers would watch for her dreamy gaze and clap their hands for her attention. They would get flashcards for her to stare at. They purchased more educational toys. However her sleep rebellion was a quiet one. The more the Berringers tried to ground her attention to their wiles, the more she sought the refuge of Nana.

"Something's wrong with my wings. Me and Nana don't know what it is," Ruanna would tell her mother. "They won't come out. They're stuck."

With eyes brimming with tears, Mrs. Berringer would ask, "Ruanna, who is Nana?"

"My Nana," Ruanna would answer. "She takes care of me when I sleep."

The Berringers' feelings of devastation were building. It was getting harder and harder to rationalize Nana into the category of an imaginary friend. The only logical conclusion the sensible Berringers' could fathom was that Ruanna was schizophrenic.

"Nana's not real. You cannot fly. There are no Pegasuses," they always assured her. Then there were the doctors and the long, confusing visits that came with them. "Always listen to grown–ups." Ruanna wanted to believe them, but she also learned to keep her own world to herself. The taught silence masked Ruanna's "condition," but her dreaming never stopped. Her dreaming was becoming an escape. For she knew she could never be what the Berringers wanted her to be. She was not a "logical, efficient individual." She was a girl who believed in magic and savoring the moment. Hardly could she get peace but in her dreams.

As she got older it began to be harder to live in two worlds at once. She favored the dream world, but she knew she shouldn't. Nana always told her that she belonged in the dream world. Nana said Ruanna was special and a gift to all who weren't in the dream world. Nana was a fairy. Ruanna was supposed to be a fairy too. But Nana died when Ruanna was 14. She was old, but that didn't make it easier to take.

"Ruanna, why are you so depressed?" Mrs. Berringer asked one morning when Ruanna was sobbing in her cereal.

"I—I can't talk about it," she said softly.

Mr. Berringer was sitting across from her at the table. He had perfect posture and was elegantly drinking his black coffee; he had ground the beans himself. His composure was kept; he was unmoved by Ruanna's apparent sorrow. Mr. Berringer avoided eye contact with his daughter and only glanced at his wife. Mrs. Berringer frowned. "Those dreams again?" she asked impatiently.

"Nana…" Ruanna gulped and took a shuddering breath, "died," she whispered.

"That means you're growing up, dear," Mrs. Berringer said factually. She poured her daughter a glass of cold milk and plopped it beside her. "This is a good thing. Just like when we gave your stuffed animals away."

"But I loved her."

"Soon you will be old enough to take the medication," Mr. Berringer said adjusting his tie one last time. "Then you won't deal with these sorts of problems anymore." He stood up and patted Ruanna's head on his way out.

"I can't go to school today," Ruanna stammered.

Mrs. Berringer held her breath for a moment. "There are only so many mental health days you can use."

Ruanna couldn't respond. She cried more. Her head was now down on the table. The soggy Total cereal was pushed aside. The milk was untouched and became a part of the pristine background.

Mrs. Berringer sighed, "Alright. You can stay home today. At this point you will only be a distraction to your peers." There was no response. Mrs. Berringer watched her daughter's shoulders shake with grief. Carefully she slipped into a seat beside her and awkwardly slung an arm around Ruanna, who tensed at her mother's unfamiliar touch. Mrs. Berringer looked to the ceiling with slight disgust as she prepared herself to speak. "Can't you make her come back? It's your dreams." It was hard to encourage Ruanna to dream in the way she did, but Mrs. Berringer hated to see her daughter in a state of obvious dysfunction.

"No," Ruanna said. "It—it doesn't work," she lifted her head and buried her face in her mother's neck, "that way. I've tried."

Mrs. Berringer missed work that day. The death of Nana disrupted their lives for a short time. It disrupted Ruanna's much longer. She mourned Nana. She took her father's natural remedy sleeping pills to be sure to attend the funeral. Every night before sleep Ruanna would lay back in her bed and wonder how she could love someone so much who wasn't real. With her misery, she didn't want Nana to be real. But then she met Maverick, another being no one else knew.

The Berringers began noticing a change in their daughter. She became happier. She would smile at nothing. Giggle when she thought no one could hear. Her glow was brighter. There was more singing during chores, more skipping in halls. Ruanna was also much more eager to go to bed. Earlier and earlier it seemed she would rush to her room and go to sleep.

"Do you think she's really sleeping?" Mrs. Berringer asked as she was sitting on the couch one evening. It was 6 PM, and dinner was put away.

Mr. Berringer was sitting in his recliner, his files in hand. He slid his reading glasses to the tip of his nose and stared at his wife with a furrowed brow. "I thought she was."

"What if she's doing something up there?"

Mr. Berringer looked uncomfortable. He pushed his glasses back up, turning back to his papers.

"Like trying to get that near death high?" Mrs. Berringer said completely undisturbed. "I've read about kids putting belts around their necks. Or sniffing unsafe—"

"—Dear," he interrupted. And then back to his calm demeanor, "The child is sleeping."

"Kids get addicted to adrenaline," Mrs. Berringer continued.

Mr. Berringer stared at his wife while she babbled on. She had been reading forums about teenagers. Doing so made her more and more terrified. Mr. Berringer listened to her fret till she finally paused, waiting expectantly. She had given him permission to be listened to. It took Mr. Berringer a moment to realize he could speak.

"We can get cameras," he said.

So cameras were purchased and secretly installed into Ruanna's room while she skipped down the school hallways with a slight smile. Naturally the footage her parents captured was boring.

"Does it bother you that she never moves in her sleep?" Mrs. Berringer asked watching the footage with her husband. They were in their bed with pillows tucked properly behind their backs.

"She's just a heavy sleeper," Mr. Berringer insisted. Yet in his eyes was a quiet anger he would never discuss.

Mrs. Berringer watched on, "It's like she's not in there. It's like she's a doll."

Mr. Berringer frowned. He did another search on his Kindle about lucid dreaming. "In the REM stage there is always movement," he said with subtle damnation.

"Ruanna never even twitches. When do you suppose she will start dreaming?"

Mr. Berringer only glared into the darkness. He assured his wife he did not know.

Ruanna's grades began to decline. She was a very bright girl. Always overly diligent in her studies, but now she hardly cared. She earned a C on her history test, a B in math, and a D in English. Mr. and Mrs. Berringer were looking through Ruanna's backpack while she slept upstairs. Mrs. Berringer was holding the D paper in her hand, transfixed by the red, sloppy capital letter.

"She scored below average?" she asked her husband, needing confirmation.

Mr. Berringer was frowning at overdue and blank worksheets. In the tiniest of letters scrawled in the corner was the word Maverick. "Have you heard of a Maverick?" he asked, glaring more at the speck of a heart beside the name.

"Maverick?"

"Yes," he mused. "Maverick."

The school directory was torn through. The yearbook from last year was searched. There was no Maverick. "You go wake that girl up, this instant. She has a lot of explaining to do," Mrs. Berringer said. She still held the D paper in her hands. Mr. Berringer had the Maverick sheet folded neatly in his pocket.

The first confrontation was useless. Ruanna was very upset that her parents had been "snooping." She was more upset that her precious sleep had been disturbed. Ruanna said Maverick was just someone she met in a dream, and she didn't have feelings for him. Ruanna was in denial.

More rules were developed. She had to start calling them during lunch at school to avoid little naps. When she got home from school the Berringers would have her sit down at the table. Her room was off limits. They would watch her do her homework. They would watch her read her textbooks. After assignments were taken care of, they would have Ruanna knit. Sometimes she would have extra chores; whatever was needed to keep her away from sleep would be done. On the weekends she wasn't allowed to sleep in. Mrs. Berringer developed a strict schedule. Ruanna would only get the minimum amount of slumber. But then teachers were reporting that she was snoozing in class. She slept through lunch after the ridiculous phone call she was obligated to make to her mother. Other times she would simply lose her phone. She was losing weight. Debates of homeschooling were muttered in the wee hours of the morning in the bedroom of the Berringers. Maverick was a distraction.

"Two years. In two years she will be 18, and giving her the medication won't be so dangerous to her developing brain," Mrs. Berringer said smoothing out the tablecloth Ruanna knitted. Mr. Berringer nodded.

To Be Continued…

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Part One

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