BY KIM NATHAN
To escape her grief and a loveless marriage, Cara accepts a temporary job reassignment in Seattle, where she continues to have sensuous dreams of the unknown man. There she encounters an angel who claims to be sent by her dead sister to help her find the man in her dreams.
Meanwhile, photographer Jay Amiens sees angel wings on his film and has recurring intimate dreams about a woman he doesn’t know—but would love to meet in person.
Set in 1993, Dreaming Montana invokes the spirit of Seattle at the height of the grunge era, with the city as the backdrop for Cara and Jay to potentially cross paths.
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Chapter One Excerpt from Dreaming Montana
Angel wings. Yes, he was sure now, that was what he saw. The image emerged from its chemical bath, flitting off the paper as if an angel had just exited stage left, rushing to the sidelines, leaving behind the action in the center field of the photograph. He hadn’t noticed it before on the test strip, but now he saw it, faint at first in the orange glow of the safety light, but growing darker in contrast as he agitated the chemicals in the tray. There was the distinct curve and arch of a wing, folds of curling feathers pointing down toward the earth, and something so shadowed that he couldn’t make it out, but it might have been a face, turning to look at him. So, he thought. It was happening again.
More than two years had passed, and now he thought he must have imagined the whole thing. But recently he sensed it again, the hovering, the feeling of being watched, and of conversations taking place about him, of higher beings looking in and commenting and directing the motions of his life. It started when his mother died. He had since told himself that it was just his grief playing tricks on him, that there was no God. If there was, why had his mother been taken so abruptly? She was a believer right up to the end, and that was when the angels appeared. Barely lucid for a week, she was vibrant and alive in these final moments, opening her pale blue eyes so wide, full of happy tears and staring into the middle distance of her hospital room, arching up from her bed with a look of wonder and joy on her face.
“Oh, the angels!” she cried, “They’re so beautiful. Can you see them, Jay? So beautiful…”
He held her hand and, though she lay motionless, he felt her slipping away from him. He clasped her even tighter, but there was only this final moment of ecstasy and then she collapsed back into unconsciousness. She died an hour later.
He had not seen the angels then, but it seemed he saw them everywhere after that moment. Once he got back home to Seattle, he found them in song titles and store signs and magazine articles. If it wasn’t the word, then it was their image. They followed him wherever he went, reminding him of her last words. He knew it was a matter of selective attention, like learning a new word and then seeing it everywhere, but he felt a presence along with it. The sightings, as he referred to them, seemed to happen more frequently when he was feeling low, as though he was being reminded someone was watching over him. His pragmatic view of the world rejected this idea as frivolous and self-important.
He saw no reason why he should be entitled to any special attention, particularly from beings he didn’t believe in. In the fleeting moments when he did believe in an afterlife, which he hoped for but would not commit to, he wondered if they were emissaries from his mother. The sightings faded away about six months after her death. If they were sent by her, and he wasn’t saying that they were, she seemed to have moved on in the afterlife. He imagined she had better things to do.
But it had started again, first in subtle ways, but now unavoidably, showing up in his photographs, his livelihood, in the one place where he could not ignore them. He saw now the entire second roll of film was ruined by them. The first roll was unaffected so he would use those for the client. The phone rang as he was hanging up the last ruined photograph on the drying clip.
Without leaving the darkroom, he picked up the phone.
“Hey, Jay! Whatcha doing?” A male voice said, hardly audible through the background noise of a bar.
“Hey, Eddie,” Jay answered. “I’m working.”
“Are you in the darkroom? You’re the only guy I know who actually has a phone in his bathroom,” Eddie chuckled. “Why don’t you bust outta there and come on down to the Croc to meet up with us? The band is here. People are asking about you.”
“I need to finish up this job.”
“Man, you’re always working. Why don’t you do that tomorrow? Come on down to the
bar and have some beers with us.” Then the shrill sound of a woman’s laugh and a drummer warming up in the background; the first band at the Crocodile was about to go on.
“Can’t do that, Ed. I’m on a deadline.”
“My sister is here, and you know, she’s asking about you, wants to meet you.”
“Maybe I’ll see you around tomorrow.”
“Ah, c’mon, what are you, a hermit? Don’t you like girls?”
“I like girls just fine. But right now I need to finish this job.”
His friend continued to cajole, but their conversation was interrupted by a sharp barking coming from outside the darkroom.
“Bridget!” Jay yelled to his dog through the door.
“Man, what’s up with the dog? Maybe she wants you to come down to the Croc, too.” Eddie joked.
The dog’s sharp bark reached an annoying pitch.
“Bridget!” Jay yelled again, beginning to lose his patience with both his dog and his friend.
The dog’s barking continued uninterrupted.
“Maybe you should go see what she wants? This might be some kind of Lassie thing.”
“I gotta go …”
“Go see what she wants and then come down to the Croc!”
“Call me tomorrow, Ed.” He hung up the phone and yanked opened the door.
Bridget, his Australian shepherd, barely glanced his way. She sat in front of the sliding doors to the balcony of his condominium, barking insistently.
“Bridget!” Jay called out, but the dog’s stare remained fixed on the balcony door.
She threw him an anguished look and rotated restlessly in a circle, finally settling down
again, still pointing at the sliding door. She let out one more sharp, insistent bark.
Jay looked at the balcony, but it was difficult to see through the sheer drapes against the night sky. He thought it nearly impossible that someone would have climbed up six floors onto his balcony, but he knew his dog and she was not a barker. Something out on the balcony had set her off.
She gave him a whimper as he approached, looking relieved that he had finally come to investigate. Slowly, he peeled back the drape and saw nothing. Bridget wagged her docked tail encouragingly, her blue eyes tracking his every move. He petted her head and then ran his hand down her merle coat, hoping to soothe her, but she let out two more staccato barks, so he felt compelled to open the sliding door and let her out, just so she could see for herself that no one was there. The dog raced by his legs and out onto the balcony, sniffing madly. Then she looked up into the night sky and howled.
“Bridget!” he snapped at her. She lowered her head and gave him a sheepish look before skulking off the balcony, collapsing inside on the living room rug.
Jay remained outside, feeling the evening breeze coming off Elliott Bay, slightly chilly even for July. It was one of those nights when he could smell the sea. He looked across the bay to the lights of Alki Point, but then the sound of a boat horn distracted him; the ferry was just slipping out of Colman Dock on its ten o’clock run to Bainbridge Island. He peered over the railing, down at the ground, but saw no one. Whatever it was that set off Bridget, probably some bird, he thought, it was now gone.
The noise from the rushing cars below on the viaduct sent him back inside the apartment. The view was incredible, but the freeway hum prevented him from spending much time outside on his balcony.
He came inside and threw Bridget a perplexed look.
She peered up at him, her black snout now pressed firmly between her white front paws.
“Do you need to go out?” he asked her.
No reaction, other than apologetic eyes gazing up at him.
Okay, have it your way, Bridget, he thought, bending down on one knee and ruffling her marbled black, white, and gray fur.
Then he remembered the angel wings and the hair stood up on the back of his neck.
An ecopy of Dreaming Montana by Kim Nathan.
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