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The Careys had spent months searching for an apartment in the city. After sleeping on friends’ floors from July through the beginning of September, they were ready to have a home of their own. Their friends had been more than welcoming, but the search was growing tiresome.
“Hon…” said Owen from the couch one night as he scrolled through the online listings once more, “Hon, there’s one in Lakevi-…oh wait, nevermind.” The white glow of the screen lit up his glasses as he sat in the near darkness of another friend’s apartment.
“Owen, let’s go to bed,” said Mal from the doorway. She looked endearingly at her husband and sighed with a sympathetic smile. “Come on, you’ve been looking for hours.”
She crossed the wooden floor to sit on the couch by him. The old boards creaked beneath her bare feet. Mal put her chin on Owen’s shoulder but his eyes remained on the screen.
“Just one more…” he muttered, half to her and half to himself. “Mal, what do you think of this one in Wicker? It looks really good on here, but…” His voice trailed off as he scanned the glowing page. His eyes were sore. “But the price—that can’t be right?” His thick brows elevated.
“That looks nice, Owe. Come, let’s go to bed.” She reached across his lap and slowly pulled the top of the screen closed.
“Alright,” said Owen. “That last one looked really good. Let’s check it out tomorrow.”
“Oh, I have that thing with Beth tomorrow, but you go! Go look at it for us.” Then, almost to herself she added, “hope I don’t have that dream again tonight.” They rose to walk to the guest room. Owen rubbed his tight neck; he didn’t realize he had been hunched over so long.
Owen and Mal had moved to Chicago four months after they were married. Both were from Arizona, he from Flagstaff and she from Phoenix. Their wedding was beautiful and lush. They were beautiful. They had moved to Chicago so his web design business could finally get off the ground, and she could connect with the fitness community in Chicago.
Malorie was a marathoner. She was the fastest female at Phoenix U, but nowadays it was a hobby. For a brief time before meeting Owen, she had tried to launch her own line of snacks for runners that replaced electrolytes and boosted energy called Malorie’s Calories.
When the idea failed, she went by Mal.
The next day Owen and his friend David drove to Wicker Park to look at the house. It was situated just several blocks north of Six Points, Wicker’s central hub, in a beautiful lane lined with green trees and brick sidewalks. Every house appeared to have been designed by a different architect, providing an eclectic appearance of a giant mosaic. The house was on the center of the block, edged on one side by a very postmodern glass house, and a tall brown brick home on the other.
The house itself was nice enough. It boasted no spectacular features compared to the rest on the block, but it was beautiful in its own humble respect. Whitewashed wood paneling fronted it, with green trim and a red brick base.
“Wow,” said Owen, looking over the building the way a child stands before a bakery window with his finger on his lip. “I seriously can’t figure out why the price is so low.”
Dave had accompanied Owen on a number of house hunts since he had arrived in the city. “Let’s look at the inside,” he sighed. “Maybe that’ll explain it.”
They ascended the steps and knocked on the green door. Getting a closer view of the house only made it more appealing to Owen. A relatively well-kept garden sat just below the front windows on either side of the front porch where a smattering of colorful flowers were in full late-summer bloom.
The door opened and a woman in her northern 60’s appeared behind it. She smiled gently as her bright green eyes smiled up at the men.
“You must be Owen,” she said, extending a small shriveled hand. Her skin was soft and cool, and when she smiled, her lips dug deep into her cheeks. She told them her name was Ava.
“Please, come in,” she said, stepping back from the door and opening it wider.
“Oh, thank you,” said Owen.
“Can I get you anything?” she tossed over her shoulder as she walked back toward the kitchen.
“Uhm. No ma’am, we’re fine,” he called back as they entered, scanning the interior of the house. It was small enough to be cozy and large enough to host get-togethers. Dave and Owen both took turns throwing out courteous questions to show their interest, but Owen had made up his mind. The worn white walls and hardwood flooring added character, and the location was ideal.
“It’s all so great,” said Owen after Ava had shown them throughout the entire building, “but if I may ask, is there a reason the price is so low? I mean…”
Ava looked at the ground and for a moment, her warm demeanor dropped. Half a second later, she looked back up and smiled wearily. Her eyes suddenly seemed like they were a foot inside her head as she spoke through the forced grin.
“No reason,” she nearly whispered, pushing her well-worn dimples back into her cheeks. And after a moment, “I’m just ready to move on, get somewhere quieter. Out of the city.” She turned and walked back to the kitchen. “Please, look around all you want, gentlemen,” she called back through the door.
The next day, Owen parked the car in the nearest spot he could find, two blocks away, and he and Mal walked to the house. He hopped alongside her, still reeling with disbelief that he had finally found their home. They were three houses away when Mal’s pace slowed.
When Owen looked at her, her eyes were wide and her feet were dragging.
“Mal?” he said, “Everything alright?”
She paused for a moment. “Owe, this may sound crazy, but you have to believe me.”
He nodded, encouraging her to go on, thoroughly confused.
“You know that dream I’ve been telling you about? The one I have every couple nights?”
“Yah.” He wished he had listened better when she had described it.
“I think this is the street from my dream. I know it sounds crazy, Owe, but I’ve seen this street before. Exactly like this, as it is today. Sometimes it’s night, but also like this.”
Owen was nodding sympathetically.
“And, I always walk up to that house over there.”
She was pointing to the house. Their house.
“What happens then?” he asked.
“Well, I knock on the door, and then wait. Right when the door begins to open, I wake up.”
Owen felt his neck tense again. He tried to brush off the whole thing, hoping it was mere coincidence. They knocked and Ava answered with a big, wrinkled smile.
“You must be Mal!” she cried, reaching up to embrace her.
Ava and Owen walked Mal through the whole house, Owen showing her every unique feature and special corner of the building. By the end of the tour, Mal had nearly forgotten her dream and had been swept away by the whimsical interior of the property.
On the drive home, Mal asked why the price was so low.
“That’s exactly what I asked her,” replied Owen. “I guess it’s just her time to move on and she’s in kind of a rush to get out of the city.” He chuckled, “I guess at that age, you need to make decisions a bit quicker.” His wife elbowed him while he drove.
The next weekend they moved in. By the first night, boxes littered every room and their bed was a queen sized mattress lying on the ground. They were exhausted.
Mal went to the bedroom while Owen got some work done on the computer. He had already made a few connections in the city, and business was quickly picking up. He was good at what he did.
About an hour later, there was a knock at the door. Owen looked at the clock in the corner of the screen and shook his head. It was almost eleven. Muttering under his breath, he pushed himself up onto his feet and walked to the door. Fidgeted with the locks. When he got it open, he looked out on the porch and no one was there. He leaned out the doorway and looked up and down the street.
He shook his head and closed the door. “Kids,” he muttered to himself. And then, “old lady couldn’t take a joke.”
The next morning Owen told Mal about the pranking.
“It’s no big deal,” she said, smiling and smacking his arm. “They’re just welcoming the new people. We’re like the new kids! We’ll meet them soon and it won’t happen again! Lighten up!” She laughed. Mal finished her breakfast and left for an interview with a gym only a few blocks from the house.
The next few days blurred together as the two of them unpacked their belongings and filled in the barren places in the house. Mal got the job and Owen began catching cabs down to the Loop several days a week for meetings with new clients.
Two weeks later, they were asleep when there was another knock on the door. Neither one stirred for a moment until the knock came again, louder.
“Mm-I’ll get it,” slurred Mal as she threw her long legs off the bed and stood up. After dressing, she shuffled to the door and looked outside.
No one was there.
Mal froze as she fully woke up and remembered.
She had been having the dream again.
Credit: Ethan Renoe