Life is But A Dream
a Dark Shadows Short Story
Nancy Eddy

    "Barnabas?  You awake?"  Willie was asking as Barnabas Collins opened his eyes and looked around, trying to regain his bearings.  "You alright, Barnabas?"
    "Yes," Barnabas assured his friend.  "I suppose I must have dozed off for a moment."  He watched as Willie lit some candles.
    "More than a moment," Willie told him.  "I left to go into Collinsport two hours ago.  You were sitting here then."
    Glancing at the clock on the mantle, Barnabas frowned.  "I'm due at Collinwood for dinner."
    "Yeah.  That's why I woke you up."
    "Thank you, Willie," Barnabas said, but he wasn't sure he meant it.  The dream had been so real.  And the temptation to cry off dinner at Collinwood and simply go upstairs to his bed was strong, except that he knew that dreams didn't continue themselves from one time to another.   It was over, and as Julia insisted, he had to accept that he would never see Angelique again.  He would get on with his life.  He had to.

    He had no more entered Collinwood than Roger appeared from the study.  "Barnabas.  Liz was beginning to be concerned that you had forgotten dinner this evening."
    "I very nearly did," Barnabas said.  "Willie reminded me of the time."
    "Do you have a moment?  I'd like to discuss something with you."
    "Of course."  He followed Roger to the study, accepted the glass of sherry his cousin offered.
    "I'm not certain how to start," Roger said slowly.  "What exactly is your relationship with Julia?"
    Barnabas frowned.  "Julia?  We're friends.  She's probably the best friend I have.  I suppose I feel toward her as you do toward Elizabeth.  Why do you ask, Roger?  It's not like you to be curious about such matters."
    "You know that she's in love with you?"
    "No, Roger, she's not.  Oh, she might have once believed herself to be in love with me, but time and experiences have made her face reality."
    "And that reality is-?"
    "That I have resigned myself to remaining alone for the rest of my life.  Julia, like many other career oriented women, tended to misread my friendship.  Her feeling for me is the reciprocal of mine for her."
    "You've discussed this?"
    "Why, yes.  The other evening over dinner at the Old House, as a matter of fact.  I rather had the feeling that she was interested in someone else, and wanted my blessing, even though it is quite unnecessary."
    Roger's blue eyes became excited.  "And did you give it?"
    "I couldn't-not without knowing who the other party might be.  Would you by any chance know who the lucky man might be?"
    "I hope I do, Barnabas.  In fact, I hope it's me."
    Barnabas found himself smiling.  "So do I, Roger.  Julia deserves someone to care about her.  She's been very loyal, very special."
    "She is that," Roger agreed.  He shook his head ruefully.  "It's been so sudden.  She and I have lived in this house practically under each other's feet for the last five years and never really paid any attention to one another.  And I still can't tell when I realized how I felt.  But I care very much for Julia, and wanted to make certain that I wouldn't be upsetting you if I asked her out."
    "Julia's her own person, Roger.  I can't tell her who to see or who not to see.  I can, however, wish you happiness."
    "Thank you."  There was a knock on the door and both men turned to find the very person that they had been discussing standing there.
    "Good evening, Julia," Barnabas said.
    "What are the two of you doing in here?"  she asked.  "Elizabeth says that dinner is ready."
    "Then we shouldn't keep my sister waiting, should we?"  Roger asked, offering his arm to the surprised woman.  Julia looked from Roger to Barnabas, then accepted his offer.
    Barnabas thoughtfully followed them into the dining room.

    He excused himself as soon as he could after the meal, after seeing Julia and Roger leave together for a walk.  Elizabeth had asked his opinion regarding a new contract for the cannery, and it was becoming all Barnabas could do to keep his mind on what was taking place around him.  The memory of the dream was returning, as clear and sharp as though he were looking at it through a window.  It was a powerful draw, pulling him back to the Old House.    He paused several times during the return home, to look around, comparing-He opened the front door and was hanging his coat and cane when Willie entered the foyer.
    "You're back early," he commented.  "I didn't expect you for another hour or so."
    "Why don't you take the rest of the evening off, Willie," Barnabas suggested.  "I don't think I'll be needing you further tonight."
    Willie frowned, uncertain of Barnabas' mood.  "You sure you're alright, Barnabas?"
    Barnabas paused, his hand on the stair-rail.  "I think so, Willie.  Or I will be once I get some rest.  Good night."
    "Rest?  But-you slept most of the afternoon."
    "I know.  Perhaps-with the work I've been doing at the shipyard, I've simply overdone it a bit.  Good night."  He continued up the stair, leaving a frowning Willie behind.

    Upstairs, Barnabas prepared for bed and slid between the cool, cotton sheets.  Now that he was in bed, sleep seemed elusive.  A thousand thoughts began to crush in on him:  the work that needed done before the shipyards could open on schedule, whether Julia and Roger would marry, concern for Quentin's growing relationship with Maggie.  His eyes began to close.  He would have to talk to his cousin about Maggie, he decided.  He couldn't stand by and see Maggie hurt when Quentin had to leave Collinwood.  "Have to protect her," he said.

    "What did you say, my darling?"
    Barnabas opened his eyes, looking around the fire lit room before drawing a relaxed breath.  "What?"  he asked the woman at his side.
    "You were talking in your sleep," she said.  "Something about, protecting 'her'.  What did you mean?"
    "I was dreaming," he told her.  "A most strange dream.  I seemed to know everyone, but they were dressed strangely-even I."
    "Another of those?"  she asked.  "They always leave you so upset-"
    "I wish I knew what they mean, why I've been having them."
    "I know one way to take your mind off of them," she said, turning more fully into his arms.
    "I beg you to try, my darling wife," he said, teasingly, looking into her blue eyes.    This was where he belonged, he sighed.  With his loving wife, Angelique, living his life with her and their sons.  He refused to consider any future without them at his side.  The future-he could no longer even recall any of the dream as her hands worked their magic . . .
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