This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The fourth entry of our Top 20 Undiscovered Shortlist is Dream Catch Me by Becky Gulc
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Over to Becky Gulc…
DREAM CATCH ME (BLURB)
‘My life is over’
‘Your life is beginning all over again, starting right this minute. Get up’
‘My legs aren’t working’
‘My brain’s not working’
‘Perfect. Where are we going?’
‘To catch our dreams’
Harrie achieved a life of contentment by the age of 22 –literally stumbling into her dream marketing position at the Yorkshire Daley and meeting the very beautiful and not at all bland accountant Ben, both within the space of a month. Harrie has spent nine years living on cloud nine; fulfilment comes so effortlessly, life is so straightforward.
But when Harrie suddenly loses her job and her husband in as quick a succession as she found them an identity once so well formed is left broken in pieces. But can she get it back? And will she even recognise it?
Ricocheting from one boyfriend to another is Karen’s forte. To everyone’s amazement Karen finally settled down to her first serious relationship at the age of 28. Always one for surprises Karen failed to mention that her new live-in lover was a woman right until the housewarming party. Domesticity.
When Karen has finally found the relationship of her dreams why does she find herself flirting outrageously with her happily married male boss? Does a secret hunger for a baby make this attraction impossible to resist?
A need to escape sees these Yorkshire friends head to New York and Los Angeles in search of answers, but will they find old dreams or new dreams? And will these be at home or away?
READ THE FIRST 3000 WORDS OF DREAM CATCH ME OVER THE CUT
Dream Catch Me by Becky Gulc
Day 31. Imagine watching Requiem for a Dream repeatedly for four weeks in a row, no vitamin D breaks, no popcorn, no aero bubbles dipped in hot chocolate, definitely no loving arms around your shoulders giving you a comforting squeeze every now and again. Imagine that and then you may, just may, get a sense for how my outlook on life is shaping up right now. If you’ve never seen that film, well don’t, not if you’re feeling in any way depressed to begin with or don’t want to become depressed. Stick with The Notebook, which is what I’m aiming for each day. I am hoping Ryan Gosling will lift me from my pit, but not yet, I’m not ready for him yet. I know, not ready for Ryan Gosling? I’m definitely not well.
Each day is becoming like Groundhog Day, without the snow, without Phil and Rita, and without the pesky alarm. That’s not needed now, but still, thanks to almost ten years of 6am starts I have my very own internal alarm clock now, which has as much use as a knife and fork to my dog. I do have my very own Mrs Lancaster who greets me each morning though.
I wake every day with a start, 6am, not a minute sooner, not a minute later. It makes no difference that the Marks and Spencer Tuscany Red velvet curtains make me feel like I’m in the Abyss compared to my usual sheer voile curtains, not my choice but I’d become used to them over the years. In fact they were quite useful for helping me wake up early. So I’m there in the Abyss each morning without a single committed crime.
For the first few seconds I forget, the seconds before I open my eyes. I turn over from my foetal position on the right hand side of the bed in search of my husband’s round and toned perfect behind to spoon. Nothing. No one. It’s about this time each morning, 6:01am, that I remember. It’s about this time that I open my eyes in disbelief, searching for recognition of home, searching for the purpose I once held so strong.
‘Harriet? Cup of tea for you there love’
Mum. My lovely, patient, scarily aging Mum. She comes into my room at 7am every morning regular as clockwork, she doesn’t knock, she doesn’t react despite the fact that I stay as still as a pair of eyebrows on an A-list celebrity’s surprise birthday party.
‘Desmond is looking sad this morning, you going to take him out?’
No response. I love Desmond with all my heart, but still nothing. I insisted on bringing him here but that was before the adrenalin left my body for empty. Try something else.
‘I need to go to the bank later, fancy joining me?’ How could I refuse? I feel the pain in her cracked voice, I know she worries, yet I still can’t move. I need to stay here. ‘We could try that new coffee shop on the promenade? It’ll do you good to get out; you need some sun on your cheeks, look at you you’re like a ghost.’ I love coffee shops. I love the feeling of sunshine on my face, the world is a better place on sunny days. Alone. Please let me be alone. I hear her stand for a few moments before turning to leave and shutting the bedroom door gently behind her.
I spend the next hour wondering what they’re doing now back home, imagining every detail of their morning routine, a routine I took for granted. I stare up at the ceiling; the Artex swirls have now made way for a simple smooth mahogany look. Dad finally gave Mum the go-ahead to get the decorators in last summer, now that the ‘Flaming Monkeys’ had flown the nest. Dad is a real film buff just like me. He’s always loved The Wizard of Oz much to Mum’s amusement, some of my happiest memories are of my Dad pretending to be the cowardly lion, pretending to chase me around the garden, roaring at me, until I pretended to be the Wicked Witch back at him, then it was him doing the running, I’d nearly wet my pants I laughed so hard, in fact I think I probably did. To Dad I’ve always been Dorothy, or Dot as he now calls me, my two younger twin brothers went from being the ‘Flying Monkeys’ due to their hyperactivity in their early years to the ‘Flaming Monkeys’ once they hit their teenage years. Even though they are both knuckling down now they are in their second year at University in Sheffield they will always be his monkeys. At 31 years of age, I don’t think Dad expected me to be landing back on his doorstep anytime soon. Well, here I am!
My thoughts would be interrupted each morning by the sound of the garage door being opened followed by the engine of the van being started up before fading into the distance. Don’t leave. My Dad only works three days a week now as a plumber, but as far as Mum and I are concerned, this semi-retirement is nonsense and he needs to stop work completely, not only for his own health but for Mum. She’s lonely and needs a retirement buddy. Each morning I hear a pounding against the downstairs radiator, no doubt Desmond’s tail wagging against it with excitement as he is put on his lead for their morning walk on the beach, at least he is providing company.
At 8:45 each morning, I hear my Mum shout goodbye up the stairs to me in vain before she leaves for her daily trip into town. I can tell she’s bored as she could easily do all the tasks in one trip a week, but no, she gives herself one task a day, she always needs to go out for more milk in the afternoons, as well. I am too busy in my head to think of the wasted cold mug of tea sitting on the bedside table. I feel a relief when she leaves. Free to analyse everything in peace. I sleep for hours, my dreams taunting me, I’m back there, then I’m not. I’m like David Aames in Vanilla Sky, I need to buy some crazy dream package from Tilda Swinton and make everything better, even if it is just a temporary measure.
My mobile phone is switched off, my Facebook account temporarily de-activated (I would have permanently de-activated it if I could); my Twitter account is probably gathering a whole load of new spam followers for me in my virtual hiatus. I eat little, tiny mouthfuls of my favourite meals brought to me on a tray each lunchtime and evening by my Mum. My stomach rumbles but I feel no hunger. I shield my face from any light on the few occasions I leave the bedroom for the bathroom. I haven’t showered since I arrived, I haven’t brushed my hair. I have worn the same Pyjamas for the past 31 days, with more and more of the white polka dots being replaced by gravy stained brown ones each day. The size twelve bottoms which left indents on my waist when I first arrived are now struggling to grip onto my hips.
My Dad comes to open the small bedroom window at least once a day, he’s no doubt glad Mum chose a high awning window at this point, he’s not used to ‘imbalanced’ people in his house, and definitely not an imbalanced daughter. Three or six pm are his usual times. I shut it at least once a day, 3.05pm or 6.05pm are my usual times. The fresh air would remind me of a world beyond this room, a world I haven’t got a place in.
‘It’s not doing you any good you know, being cooped up in here. It’s starting to smell like someone’s died in here.’ Bless him, but I know he’s trying to provoke a response. It took until today to give a response. Day 31.
‘I have Dad. I feel like I have died’
Two months previously:
Even though it had happened before, I was still in shock the day the second round of redundancies was announced. During the first round I was sunning myself in Majorca (compulsory lager shandy in hand) when a text arrived from my boss Callum,
Hi Harry. Not to worry you, but there are
a few changes going on here but don’t
worry, YOU ARE SAFE. Have a sangria for
me! Talk when you’re back. C.
He never could spell my name right even after five years of knowing one another. Needless to say, I made the most of the rest of that holiday just in case it was my last. Not normally a big drinker I tried every cocktail on the menu twice over, we went jet skiing and paragliding for the first time in our lives, we did karaoke (well I did anyway); a little song about survival was just what I needed. I’d never made it further than the Balearics on holiday, much to Ben’s annoyance. The thought of a long haul flight would make me break out in a cold sweat, it didn’t matter how much I’d love to go to the US, to visit the movie studios, to visit New York; unless they invent a speedboat for the Atlantic, it’s just not going to happen. And even then Ben would be seasick so we’d have to travel separately. Could we even afford it now anyway?
Ben was sweet and reassured me we’d be fine, that his salary would cover us until I found something else. But Callum had assured me I was safe, a follow-up text told me not to speak to anyone about it so I kept it between Ben and myself. I’d begin endless debates about the details, knowing full well but not wanting to admit that my second family was about to be ripped apart, how many would go? Who would it be? So and so has to stay, so and so should go, the guilt encapsulating me as I think this, no one deserves this. Ben nodded and shook his head at the appropriate points whilst continuing to read the Steve Jobs biography.
I’d known something was amiss before I left. The recession and change in government has taken its toll on all areas of the economy, why would we be any different? People still read newspapers. Yes they do, but not quite as much. Apparently the dreaded digital revolution is finally catching up with us, slowly but surely. With Callum and the rest of the Yorkshire Daley senior management team not having the vision to think creatively our reader offer has always remained the same. Online subscription? As alien a concept to them as a bacon sandwich without brown sauce to me.
In a small newspaper of thirty people, everyone had to be working to capacity and aiming higher all the time to turn a profit. Four people were laid-off, three in editorial and one in distribution. I was relieved for my close friends and colleagues that they had escaped this, I felt bad for those it affected. I haven’t seen those four people since, by the time I arrived back from my holiday they were gone, it was that quick, ruthless. I got on with my work, working late into the evenings looking at new markets, thinking ‘outside of the box’ just like our marketing team had been told to do. I soon lost myself again completely in the job I had been in love with for nine happy years. I blocked it out.
When everyone was called in for a company meeting a sunny Monday morning in July nine months later, I still wasn’t prepared for what was coming. I took a seat next to the window, the sun sneaked through the gaps in the vertical blinds creating sparkling fairy particles in the air, it could only be a good day I thought. Looking back it was nothing but dust; we couldn’t afford a cleaner anymore after all.
Even as the dismal company finances were presented I didn’t see it coming. A narrow selection of words were absorbed by my brain, ‘loss’ ‘deficit’ ‘need’ ‘savings’ ‘survive’, words that didn’t sound good but they were delivered in such a light and optimistic tone by our Managing Director Martin that I was convinced we’d all be told to pull our socks up or risk being out on our ears. But then it came. The add-on. The add-on everyone who had been there nine months previously had experienced beforehand.
‘We need to make a number of redundancies to reduce our costs by the end of the financial year. We will be speaking to all those affected as soon as possible after this meeting’
That was that. Silence. I didn’t realise I’d been holding on to our secretary Anna’s arm until she silently and swiftly stood up and I could see white finger marks where I’d left an imprint. We’re leaving now? Are we playing sardines so they can’t find us? I knew Anna was one of the potential candidates during the first round. We all knew the paper would need to remove non-essential staff first and foremost. She was essential to my life. Anna. I didn’t move from my seat, I scanned the room, who looks worried? Why does no one else look surprised? My colleague Sarah smiles at me, a smile that resembles Rose Dewitt Bukater’s to a blonde passenger gripping for life on to the railings at the stern of the Titanic, before falling to her death. I won’t let go. Who has got me? I was called in for a private meeting twenty minutes later.
It was the longest two weeks of my life after that. Sarah, Jodeyne, Johnny and I were all notified of possible redundancy, everyone in the team except for Callum. Anna had gone by the end of the day, my Anna, my second Mum to all extents and purposes. I had arrived for my first day at the Yorkshire Daley offices nine years ago looking like a drowned rat thanks to an unanticipated rainstorm (by me, I’d been far too busy ironing my suit to watch the weather forecast, besides how wet can you get when work is a ten minute walk away?) and winds of 50mph carrying me to work. It was Anna who greeted me, laughed at the sight of me and my panda eyes and bedraggled hair. Rather than feel paranoid her smiling eyes and warmth meant I couldn’t help but fall into fits of laughter with her. Even though she was at least twenty years older than me, I knew from that very moment we’d get along. I knew from the moment she brought me a cup of milky tea with one sugar without asking how I took it we’d be lifelong friends. Anna brightened every day in the office. I couldn’t save her, she knew she was for the chop and made it easy for them, no fighting, she’d go, as long as she got her leaving present and leaving do. After 15 years that was the very least she deserved.
We were told our team was not reaching the required targets; our team had some of the most expensive staff, our team , our team, our team, our team. Our team has ensured the newspaper turned a profit for the past five years, our team has the most experience; our team secured six new blue chip clients for the paper and the website in the past month alone; our team are being made scapegoats for sloppy leadership. Oh what I wanted to say. Instead I cried. I listened, cried, and went home to reflect on my comeback argument, and there would certainly be one.
My consultation meeting took place exactly a week after the notification. I redesigned the whole newspaper structure, sourced cheaper suppliers for all teams, produced a written case for why I should stay, why everyone in the team should stay. Ben worked out our monthly expenditure to the final penny and came up with various scenarios, having a part-qualified accountant as husband did sometimes pay its dividends. Yes we could manage without my job, for a few months at least but the measly redundancy package would soon run out, we couldn’t afford that we were only paying interest on the mortgage as it stood. It was about much more than that to me.
For nine years I had devoted myself to this company, I’d worked weekends and evenings to the detriment of my social life, how many months had it been since I saw Karen now, my so-called best friend? It was my fault. I needed this job, what else would I do? I’d fallen into the job straight from University and landed on my feet, I loved it, every day was different, every day was challenging, this is what I do, this is who I am. I’d taken it for granted; they were my family, an annoying family often, but a family. I wanted to save my team as much as myself, I wanted us all to stay, not to change. Who would make me coftea if Johnny wasn’t there? Yes, tastes as bad as it sounds. Who would keep us entertained with their latest dating episodes if Sarah wasn’t there?
‘Good luck today Harrie, and remember, if the worst happens, it’s life’s change agent.’ For an accountant Ben could be awfully thick sometimes. I barely registered him kissing my cheek goodbye.
‘Isn’t that death?’
‘Death is life’s change agent, not redundancy. Steve Jobs?’
‘Oh. Yes. Well, could be both!’
My efforts were all in vain. A week later I was on garden leave, jobless. A month later I was on marital leave, jobless, husbandless.