He woke up in a cold sweat, his breathing labored and his body shaking. He wiped at his eyes and realized that tears were streaming down his cheeks. His heart was pounding in his chest and thundered in his ears.
The dream. He could still see it; he could still feel the crowd bearing down on him, almost completely suffocating him. He could still feel the pressure increase on his heart and his lungs. This wasnít the first time. In fact, he had had many dreams like that one. Nightmares that resulted from the pressure and the demand of fame.
As his breathing slowed to normal, he pushed the covers back and swung his legs over the side. He quickly checked the figure sleeping on the other side of the bed and turned on his lamp. A soft, yellow glow illuminated his side of the bed. He wiped his damp brow and grabbed a cigarette and his lighter from the nightstand. He lit the cigarette with a huge sigh.
"Alex?" a groggy voice asked. "Are you all right?"
AJ felt the bed move and a familiar pair of gentle arms wraps around him. He slowly raised his free hand and touched her arm. He closed his eyes, breathing in her sweet, comfortable scent. Sandee. His wife. The only woman who seemed to understand. The only one who could challenge him to be better than he was. He glanced behind him to see the beautiful, soulful brown eyes that he loved so much.
"Did you have the dream again?" she asked.
Solemnly, AJ opened his eyes and nodded. "Yeah." He took a drag off his cigarette and continued. "Why? Why does something I love so much have to affect me this way?"
Sandee laid her head on his bare shoulder, her long, silky, black hair tickling his back. "I donít know. Youíre human, Alex. Maybe itís because you push yourself so hard?"
AJ took another puff and contemplated what she had said. Without answering her, he moved his free hand from her arm. He picked up his empty cigarette pack and crushed it in his hand. Sandee didnít even flinch.
"Man, I just get soÖ" There was a beat as AJ searched for the right word. "Angry because I canít control it," he finally continued. "I want to be so much for so many people that I get real tired." Sandee moved her head, and AJ extinguished his cigarette in the ashtray, turning to face his wife. He stroked her hair and kissed her. "Why do you do it, Baby? Why do you put up with all this madness?"
Sandee looked directly into his brown eyes; no humor was reflected in her own. "I love you. I love your voice; I love your smile; I love your heart and your soul. But, most importantly, I love your imperfections. Youíre not perfect. You have a hot temper just like me. Iím thankful for that because Iím not perfect," she explained.
AJ pulled her into a hug and closed his eyes again. "Thank you. You truly are my life, and I love you for that." He kissed her, and they both lie back down on the bed. AJ reached up and turned off the light.
Sandee?" AJ said after a few minutes.
"Youíre wrong about something."
"Oh, really? Whatís that?" AJ smiled at the sound of challenge in her voice. He pulled her closer to him until her head was resting on his chest.
"There is a time when weíre perfect," he said.
"Whenís that?" The challenging tone was gone from her voice, leaving only curiosity.
"When youíre in my arms. I love you, Baby." He kissed the top of her head and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.