Author:J.J. (James) DiBenedettoSeries: Dream Series
Here’s an excerpt from book 4 of the Dream series, “Dream Family”. This is one of the darkest moments in all four books. Sara’s arrested, for a crime she didn’t (and couldn’t possibly have) committed. Although she only spends one day in jail before she’s bailed out, it’s a hellish experience that leaves her completely traumatized. But she finds when she gets home that the worst isn’t over yet…)
It’s obvious why she hasn’t come to me. She knows. Brian either can’t see it or doesn’t want to, but Lizzie knows. She doesn’t want me as her mother anymore because I’m damaged. Tainted. And she’s right.
But I still love her and the twins. Whatever I’ve got left, if there even is anything they didn’t take away from me, I have to give to them. What else can I do? So I hobble out into the living room. Steffy and Ben look up, and Ben calls out, “Mommy!” They both toddle over to me, each clutching a leg. I want to pick them up, but there’s just no way. My shoulders are still killing me, my hands barely work. Being able to pick up my children - just one more thing they took away from me.
Lizzie is sitting right where she was when I walked in, in front of the couch, staring up at me. She looks – I’ve never seen this expression on her face before – angry. Not childish “I want ice cream and I can’t have it” anger, but genuine, heartfelt, burning adult anger. And betrayal. Emotions a five-year-old shouldn’t ever feel. And it’s all directed at me.
Then she looks away from me, turns her feelings on her father. “Daddy, you lied! Mommy didn’t go to the hospital yesterday.” That’s not a five-year-old’s voice anymore. That much pain shouldn’t ever come out of a child’s mouth, and it’s spewing out of my beautiful daughter’s.
…I’m naked. My legs are squeezed together. The deputy digs into my arm, orders me to spread them, to step back into the footprints. I keep telling myself there’s nothing more they can take away from me, and I keep being wrong…
…Brian tries to answer Lizzie, but she doesn’t give him a chance. “I saw it. I dreamed it! Mommy told me to always tell you, but I didn’t, because you lied! I saw you in the dream, Daddy! You were all sad and angry because Mommy was in jail, where all the crooks go! She was chained up, and she was in a jail cell with bars and everything! I saw it, Daddy! But you told me she was in the hospital. You lied to me, Daddy. Only bad people go to jail, and only bad people lie. You and Mommy say that all the time.” Lizzie stops there, panting, shaking with rage. Just like her mother.
She needs me to be strong. She needs me to say the exact right thing that will make everything better, just like I’ve always done. She needs me to be the mother I’ve been to her for nearly six years. I stand there, looking back at my daughter, searching my heart for something, anything to tell her, and nothing is there. They took it all away and left me with a jagged, bleeding hole where something good used to be.
My mouth opens and closes and no words come out, and now I’m feeling unsteady on my feet. Brian sees me teetering and he pulls the twins away from me, just before I sink to my knees and fall back into a sitting position on the floor. I keep looking at Lizzie, willing myself to say anything at all, and I can’t, and then the crying – wailing, really - starts again. The twins join in and Lizzie sits there, horrified, frozen, staring at the wreck that used to be her mother.
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want her to see me this way. I’m failing her. But I guess that’s just who I am now. I failed Brian, and my parents and worst of all myself. Why should Lizzie be left out?
She’s crying now, too. And then she makes a decision. She comes to me. Slowly, hesitantly, but she comes. She’s never seen me this way. She never, ever should have. But she’s stronger than I am, better than I am. She climbs into my lap, hugs herself to me.
“Mommy, don’t cry! I’m sorry! I don’t want you to be sad!” I try to hold her, but I can’t make my arms or my hands work. Her sobbing is louder now, her head against my chest, and I can’t comfort her at all.
She realizes after a minute that I’m not doing what she expects, not squeezing her tight the way she’s used to. She pulls her head up, grabs my right hand with both of hers, stares at it. “Mommy, you’re hurt! Did – did somebody hurt you, Mommy? When you were in the jail, did somebody hurt you?”
I force myself to hold her. I let out a gasp, I’m in agony, but I have to do this. I have to. I’ve got her, I pull her closer, and then Brian comes over, enfolds us both in his arms. Just as though we were still an intact family.
About the Books:
Sara Barnes (later Sara Alderson, when she’s married) starts out in book 1 as an ordinary college student, until she learns she can see into other people’s dreams. That’s the basic premise of the series. The characters who appear in previous books, who also are important in book 4, are:
Brian Alderson – Sara’s husband
Betty & Howard Barnes – Sara’s parents
Helen and Ben Alderson – Brian’s parents
Lizzie Alderson – Sara’s oldest child, age 5 ½
Steffy and Ben Alderson – Sara’s twins, age 2
Laurie Kensington – Sara’s medical partner, previously her supervisor during Sara’s residency
Grace Sorrentino – a patient of Sara’s during her residency, age 8
Paul Sorrentino – Grace’s father. Also a powerful mob boss, who Sara faced down at the end of the third book
Beth Rosewell – Sara’s best friend, dating back to college
Kat Wells – Sara’s godmother, Betty’s best friend
Rebecca Brownell – now 21 years old, she was the teenaged girl who Sara rescued from a killer at the end of the first book
Joseph Harkness – Sara’s friend from medical school, godfather to Lizzie
Mary Harkness – Joseph’s wife
Book One -
In the first book, in the winter of 1989-90, Sara is a junior in college, planning on going to medical school. She's a hard worker, shy, no boyfriend, and perfectly ordinary. But she begins to have strange dreams. She's not even a character in these dreams - she sees a strange, creepy man assaulting a teenaged girl, the same dream every night. She doesn't know the man or the girl, but then she sees the girl's picture in the newspaper - she was raped and murdered, her body found on the side of the road. That's when she realizes, the dreams were the killer's dreams, and she was seeing into his mind. At the same time, Sara begins seeing other, random dreams of the people around her, friends and others in her dorm.
While this is going on, she's met a guy - a fellow student, Brian, whose dream she's also seen. He was dreaming of her, and has a major crush on her, and Sara takes the initiative and goes for it with him. Over the course of the book, her relationship with Brian gets very serious very quickly. With the help of Brian, and also her roommate and best friend Beth, Sara plays detective, using the clues from her dreams, and old-fashioned legwork, to figure out who the killer is. It turns out he's a former teacher at the college, Dr. Walters. At the climax of the book, Sara and friends figure out where he lives, and go to his house. There, they rescue another teenager who Dr. Walters is about to murder. In a final confrontation with Dr. Walters, Sara and Brian are both injured, but Sara keeps Dr. Walters talking until the police arrive and arrest him, saving the day. Six months later, Sara sees one last dream - Brian is dreaming about proposing to her.
Book Two -
The second book opens up in the summer of 1991. Sara has just started her first month of medical school, and she and Brian were just married a couple of months before. Sara's dreams start up again, and she sees the dreams of several people in the medical school, all of whom are dreaming about the death of one of Sara's teachers, the very unpopular Dr. Morris. Then that teacher becomes sick, and Sara is convinced he's being poisoned by one of the people dreaming about him.
While trying to survive the rigors of medical school, Sara again has to play detective and figure out which one of the suspects is trying to kill him, and how. In the end, Sara discovers that it's his secretary, Maureen Jackson, who's been having a long-term affair with Dr. Morris. Sara confronts Maureen in Dr. Morris' hospital room, and in a desperate struggle, she manages to stop Maureen from finishing the job and killing her lover. Several months later, with the dreams once again behind her, Sara gets good news - she's pregnant.
Book Three -
The third book jumps ahead to the winter of 1996. Sara finished medical school and now she's in her second year of residency at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her daughter is about to turn four, and she's just given birth to twins a couple of months ago. On a trip to Washington, DC for a medical conference, Sara and her very precocious daughter, Lizzie, run into the wife and son of her Congressman, and make fast friends with them. That night, Sara learns that Lizzie shares her talent for dreaming - Lizzie sees the Congressman's son dreaming. In the dream, the Congressman is being blackmailed by a "big, scary man with a big black car." Over the course of the book, Sara investigates and discovers that the scary man is a powerful mob boss, Paul Sorrentino. He's also the father of one of Sara's patients at the hospital.
After some investigation, Sara learns that the mobster is blackmailing the Congressman in order to get a toxic incinerator built, bypassing all the rules and regulations that ought to prevent it. In the end, Sara confronts the Congressman, and ends up punching him out before he can go back to Washington to carry out the mobster's orders. She then confronts the mobster in his own house, and Sara forces him to back down, convincing him of all the innocent people that will be harmed or killed if the project goes forward. Between her powerful argument, and the fact that she's been so forceful in standing up to him at the hospital when treating his daughter, the mobster is impressed by Sara and gives in to her demands. The book ends a few days later with the revelation that it's not just Sara's daughter who can see dreams, but her mother learns she has the same talent.
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.
He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.
The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.