The way home was a winding way: past rows of identical house, through an always-open gate onto the high school grounds, around the graveled track and practice fields, and through another gate set deep into a hedge. Then the best part: through the old orchard, where in spring flowers of palest ghostly pink turned their eyes toward weak sunlight as a creeping green covered the heavy, gnarled branches; where in summer a heavy emerald curtain separated sky from ground, hiding small green orbs from all but knowledgeable eyes; where in fall the fruit glowed russet and red and palest green, where leaves turned sun-yellow before lazily drifting to the windfall-covered grass, knee-high all around; where in winter the black-barked fingers caught handfuls of snowflakes: Anne’s favorite place in all the world.
Often she lingered there, leaning her blue bike against the hedge and climbing into the welcoming arms of an apple tree. But not today--today she pedaled more quickly, skirting the unused orchard and rushing over the bumpy ground until she reached the blacktopped path that led to her house.
The red door stood ajar just as she’d known it would. Angry noise came from within. She’d been here many times before. It was a dream, a nightmare, a place she’d visited more times than she wanted to remember, and now it was real. She stopped, hesitating. The house simply pulsated with anger. In the dream, she’d never walked through the open door. She dropped her bike on the weedy gravel that edged the driveway and walked soberly up crumbling concrete steps to stand on the threshold. Here was where the dream always ended. Her entire life had led to this one moment.
Anne stepped inside, into the unknown. The dream was over.