Duly Warned by a Dream

Duly Warned by a Dream

Daddy would never go out at night without leaving angels behind to protect me.

An artist's rendering of a father tucking his daughter into bed

For the hundredth time I glanced over my shoulder on my way to work. The business quarter was full of men in suits carrying briefcases, women in tailored skirts and sensible shoes.

It was the same crowd I moved among Monday through Friday, but this particular morning I sensed danger lurking at every turn. The night before I'd had a horrible dream, and I couldn't seem to shrug it off.

It wasn't like me to be so fearful. I was in my 20s, doing administrative work in downtown New Orleans. The city had been experiencing a rise in violent crime, but I used my common sense and didn't take risks.

The building where I worked was secure. At least that's what I told myself as I walked inside. A man held the door for me and flashed a smile. I looked at his eyes. No, those weren't the eyes from my dream.

Before I'd seen anything in the dream, I'd heard my father's voice: "Zsa-Ree!" He always shortened my French name, Jeanne Marie. No one had called me that since he died.

"Daddy?" I said in my dream. "Is that you?" But instead I came face-to-face with a pair of dark, menacing eyes. Criminal eyes, I thought to myself. Cold and deadly. I froze in fear.

"Watch out for these eyes, Zsa-Ree," Daddy warned. I wanted to run. But I stared at those eyes so I'd remember them like Daddy said. I jerked awake and couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. How would I make it through the day?

I stepped into the elevator and pressed 3. That was just like Daddy, telling me to use my head, to think before I acted. He used the same advice on the petty criminals and troubled youth he met on his beat.

Daddy was a police detective in New Orleans–not an easy job. Daddy got knocked out in a Mardi Gras riot, was shot point blank in the chest, and once caught a bank robber making a getaway.

Daddy knew all about keeping people safe. Me, most of all. He tucked me into bed before going out on patrol. He always made the sign of the cross over me. "Dream about pretty things," he'd said before turning out the light. "God's angels will protect you while I'm gone."

I lay back on my pillows. Of course I was protected. Daddy would never go out without leaving angels behind.

I missed Daddy terribly when he died, missed his jokes and his songs. I missed hunting for frogs and acorns together. But I still felt safe, as if Daddy had left his protection behind. Just like those nights when he made the cross over me before he went out on duty.

I walked off the elevator, still puzzling over why I'd heard Daddy's voice in such a frightening dream. "Use your head, Zsa-Ree," he'd said, just like when I was little. But use my head about what? Was I in danger?

My heels clicked on the linoleum floor. I took a deep breath and opened our office door. I waved good-morning on the way to my desk.

"It was just a dream," I muttered as I dropped my purse in a drawer. "Concentrate on your work."

That wasn't easy. The feeling of unease hung over me. At my desk, at the coffee station, even down the long hallway the led to the ladies' room. It was almost noon and I'd got almost nothing done. My eyes were puffy from not sleeping the night before.

"I need to splash some cold water on my face," I told the woman at the next desk.

I wove my way around my coworkers and walked down the hallway. The sounds of typing, telephones and conversation faded behind me as I approached the ladies' room door.