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Never Could Ben Have Imagined.

Never Could Ben Have Imagined

Ben pushed the door of his apartment open, dropped a few envelopes of junk mail on the floor, and gently pushed the cat back into the house with the toe of his shoe. Darcy, a pretty, multi-colored, tabby cat, with honey colored eyes, meowed at him loudly, and Ben smiled down at her.

"Evening, Darcy. I bet you're hungry. Probably the only reason you're glad to see me, you little minx." Ben smiled, sleepily. He dropped his keys in the pocket of his slacks, bent down to pick up the fallen junk mail, and got a nose full of Darcy's tail.

"Knock it off, Darcy, I'm getting the food as fast as I can." Ben said, pushing Darcy's flank, but the cat wouldn't give up. She meowed persistently, and came right back like Ben's legs had static cling powerful enough to pull a cat. Darcy made figure eights in between each of Ben's steps as he neared the counter, and made his way into the kitchen, as if pushing him along to hurry and feed her. After a long day at work, with pushy higher-ups, and a boss that had the heart of a snake, co-workers that delighted in the latest gossip around the office, Ben tried to just do his job and stay out of everyone else's way. He did what his co-workers called favors by taking on jobs that were specifically for the secretaries, that always doubled, tripled, and sometimes quadrupled his own workload. Though he kept to himself, it was inevitable that some nosey, pushy, power tripping jerk came to his cubical and tried to make forced small talk before they increased his work load by another tenth. But Ben never said no, and felt he had to be guarded, because the least little thing he said would produce the latest gossip around the office, and Ben didn't want to be the source of any new tidbit that got passed around.

Tammy Hill was a huge contributor to the gossip that went through Ben's workplace, and she was infamous about making mountains from mere molehills. However, what Tammy was very good at doing was leaving out her own skeletons from her closet. She had slept with just about every male in the office, but somehow she conveniently left those parts out. No matter, most of the other women in the office picked up where she left off. Then there was Kip Clayton, who was basically the male equivalent to Tammy Hill. What was even more interesting is that Ben himself had had the unfortunate experience of catching the two of them going at it in the copy room one day, and since he had kept his mouth shut about it, Tammy and Kip both pretended Ben was just the best of all their friends. But, as with most of the other people Ben worked with, they had never invited him to an after work function, or one of their numerous parties, or included him in any bash they threw for a mutual co-worker. To put it bluntly, where Ben worked, people were only nice to him if they wanted something. Everyone else at work was pretty much like Ben. They kept their heads down, worked, and didn't even try to do favors for people like Kip Clayton, or Tammy Hill. They were higher-ups, but Ben had started thinking perhaps he should be like the other 20% of his co-workers that made no effort to be buddy-buddy with anyone. It sure would decrease his workload, and it wouldn't cost him a cent in pay!

Ben's social life was nothing that impressed him either. He had been on a few dates, and had even tried that 'speed date' thing where a bunch of singles get together and see how much they have in common with a bunch of other singles. For Ben it was a bunch of hyped, bull crap, and he really didn't connect with anyone he had met, with the speed dating, or otherwise. Ben had lots to offer; he just hadn't found the right woman to share it with. That left a void in Ben's life, but he had his ways of combating it.

He knew Darcy was a good pet, but he was tired, and sleepy, and at that present moment, Darcy seemed to be buttering him up for no other reason than to be fed. As he opened the cabinet, and got out a can of Darcy's cat food, she wailed at his feet as though she would starve at any moment.

"You women...you're all alike." Ben said, scraping the bits of fish scented mush from its can and putting it into Darcy's bowl. As soon as he sat the bowl down, Darcy started up her engine and purred loud enough to make the windows in his apartment rattle. He felt a little bit guilty for having thought so negatively towards her, and he gave her a pat as she hungrily ate her food. Darcy stopped eating long enough to nudge Ben's outstretched hand, and then went back to eating. Ben smiled.

"Well, maybe all of you aren't the same." He smiled. While he stood in the kitchen, watching Darcy, his mind began to wonder momentarily. Then, with purpose, his head rose, and he went to his favorite lounge chair. This was Ben's station! He eagerly grabbed his headphones, and clicked his remote to start a CD that he had in his stereo, and sat down, taking a few deep, relaxing sighs. The music was ambient, more or less just soundscapes, and sound effects that consisted mostly of nature, or birds, whale songs and waterfalls. Soon, he was on his way to completely relaxing. He kicked one shoe off with the toe of his shoe, and then alternated. After a few wiggles here and there to get cozy and situated, Ben was satisfied. He sat there for a few minutes, then loosened his tie, resituated his earphones, and took a few more deep breaths. Just as he was getting to the place he wanted to be, he felt a weight drop onto his lap. He opened his eyes, and Darcy stood, forelegs on his right thigh, back legs on his left thigh, still licking her chops from eating a tasty dinner. He smiled at her, and ran his hand down the silky coat of her back. Darcy nudged Ben's hand, and then curled up into a little ball of fluff, and while the music played in Ben's headphones, and Darcy's purring vibration soothed the constriction of nerves in his belly, Ben began to float away.

After three minutes, Ben popped open his right eye, and looked at the digital clock on his stereo. It was nine o'clock on the dot. Ben had told Eva he would meet her at nine-thirty, but he already knew that if he was early, she would be there...waiting for him. He closed his eyes again, and soon, his body completely relaxed, his breathing became rhythmic and quiet, and he was barely aware of the lounge chair he was sitting in.

Some time ago, Ben had discovered that he could literally create anything he wished in his mind, and make it happen with such a vividness, that he could actually feel things, see things, and hear things. It was a state of mind that he could escape to, do as he wished, and return back to reality as if he had awakened from a dream. The difference was that Ben never lost consciousness. Upon further exploring the ability, Ben began creating more elaborate events like, parties, performances, different eras in time, or history, fantasy lands with mythical creatures and beings, and travels to countries he had never seen. He had had many adventures in the private recesses of his imagination's creations, but a year ago, he had envisioned a beautiful woman that had so captivated him that she had been his constant focal point when he escaped into a realm where he was the creator. Wherever he went in these mental excursions, he took Eva with him.

Eva was everything in a woman Ben had had no luck finding in reality. He had become so attached to her; she literally had taken on a life of her own. They did everything together in Ben's mental canvas, played every role, traveled every land, and in addition to the joy Eva brought to Ben, was the realization that since this was in Ben's mind...the possibilities were endless, and they had until the end of time to be together, and do as they pleased. Neither Ben, nor Eva would ever grow old, get sick, be tired, or be unhappy. It was an unending plethora of happiness; something Ben had had great difficulty finding in reality. Here, it was safe.

Even the locations that Ben met Eva in were beginning to deal themselves out randomly. At this level of Ben's ability, he had only to close his eyes and watch the show, so to speak. This time, as he ventured further into his creation, a white haze began to dissipate, and the first thing he saw was cobblestones, and thatched rooftops, tables and chairs with rod iron filigree, and berets, randomly adorned on different people's heads. It was bright, and sunny outside, and the temperature was perfect...as always. At one of the tables, her auburn tinted, brown, hair gleaming like a velvet halo, smooth, even complexion tanned lightly, with legs long and tempting sat Ben's love, Eva. She wore a white, sleeveless, top that was thin, and the sunlight showed a very subtle shadow of her bust. A long powder blue skirt that was just as thin, and sandals on her pretty, smartly pedicured feet finished off the outfit. She turned the moment the white haze was completely gone, and flashed a brilliant smile at Ben. Shoving her chair aside, she ran to greet him, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. Ben nearly melted in her embrace, taking full advantage of her kiss, and savoring the warmth of her body pressed against his. He pulled away from her kiss, and hugged her tightly.

"I can't believe I could miss you this badly in just twenty-four hours." He said, with his face buried in the side of her neck, and breathing in the scent of her skin, and hair. She smelled like vanilla, and flowers, almost good enough to eat. Eva pulled back to look at him, her hazel-green eyes bewitching and suspending him in a state of awe.

"God, you're beautiful." He gasped. Eva smiled again, her eyes batting long, butterfly-like lashes at him.

"What shall we do today, Ben?" she asked, ready to go at Ben's mere whim. Ben was thankful for her submissiveness tonight. For the last few months, Eva's persona had taken on a bit of a challenging air Ben wasn't sure he liked. If he wanted to do an adventure underwater, Eva wanted to do one in the desert. If Ben wanted to do an adventure in the North Pole, Eva would opt for some tropical paradise...again! If Ben wanted to compose an adventure in England, Eva would request they do an Old West scene. Well, Ben didn't like the Old West, by God, and if the truth be known, he won any difference of opinion, because, well, this was all his doing. Eva was there to serve him, and though he had to remind her of that now and then, he supposed that the element of her challenging what he wanted was probably something he had added to make Eva more life-like.

"Ah...well...what is this? France? France is good. Famous for lovers." He chuckled, pulling Eva to him, and making her laugh.
"Then France it shall be." Eva smiled, her voice soothing, and melodious to his ears. He had to admit, he did have quite a thing for Eva, and each time he thought this, he made a mental note to pat himself on the back.
"But you know? Come to think of it. What about Italy? You up for a ride in a gondola?" He asked.
"I could wish for nothing more!" Eva exclaimed, letting her head fall back, her hair sweeping up in a gentle breeze, the sun catching the highlights, and revealing a beautifully delicate neck. Before she had lifted her head, the scene had changed, and both Ben and Eva were standing at a dock, a great waterway between them, and the buildings across from them. A gondola had just pulled up to receive its two passengers.

Ben helped Eva down into the boat. Her outfit had changed, and now she wore a dark red skirt with a slit up to her thigh, and a low cut, black blouse that ruffled, and flirted around her cleavage. The high heels she wore were gold, and strappy, and tied around her calves in thin, crisscrossed strips, and the color scheme made Eva's complexion pop! Eva scooted over, and made room for Ben, then looked up at him with a sheer sensual leer.

"I think I like where this is going." Ben said, nodding his head in approval, and hopped into the gondola next to Eva. While they drifted through the city, the gondolier sang in Italian, and paid no mind to the lovers. They laughed, giggled, kissed, and cuddled, but soon, they wished for something else, and the scene changed again. Now they stood hand in hand at the top of a waterfall, surrounded by the dense foliage of a tropical jungle. Eva was outfitted in a very tiny, olive-colored bathing suit, and a beige mesh wrap that encircled her hips, and served no other purpose than fashion, because it had no function. It certainly didn't cover up anything! Not that Ben wanted it to. Behind her ear was a giant, fuchsia, bloom of some unknown species, and Eva's eyes looked greener than ever. She was looking at their surroundings, a look of wonder and curiosity washing over her facial features that made her absolutely desirable, and child-like at the same time.

"How far down do you think that is?" Eva asked, with a concerned look. Ben's lips turned up in an impish grin, and he grabbed Eva's hand suddenly, and shouted, "I don't know let's find out!" With that, the two of them were falling, Eva was screaming in unabashed fright and amusement, and the force of created gravity pulled them down to the waters below. As they neared the bottom, the mist of the water that was crashing into the pool, hit them quickly, feeling like tiny, little pellets, sending the exhilaration of leaping off a waterfall to an unsurpassable level of delight.

Ben surfaced first, treading water, and waiting for Eva to come up. He turned in the water, looking for her, but couldn't see her.

"Eva!" he shouted. There was no answer. He frowned, looked around, and still, could not find her.
"Eva, where are you?" he shouted, his voice reverberating off the valley, and into the sky above him. The echo faded, and all he could hear was the pounding of the water, slamming into the pool.
"Eva!" He shouted again. Ben decided that if he had to yell for her again, he'd just...
"Ben!" he heard her voice, and smiled immediately. When he turned, he saw her on the bank of the pool, the most angelic creature he had ever beheld. She had cast off her bathing suit, and was motioning Ben to come with her.
"Now that's more like it." Ben thought.

The scene changed more than ten times during their lovemaking, and at last, feeling spent, relaxed and utterly satisfied, Ben traced Eva's lips with his forefinger. Her eyes were closed, and her mouth stayed in a contented smile.

"Ben..." Eva started.
"Mm-hmm?"
"I have to tell you something." She said. Her eyes opened, and Ben was transfixed. He knew he could literally lay there and stare at her for hours.
"Tell me whatever you want to." He sighed, caressing her cheek, and gently kissing her lips.
"I'm not really what you think I am." She said, then her eyes darted away, leaving Ben confused at the odd statement.
"What do you mean?" He asked, then a nervous smile parted his lips.
"I mean, I am, but..." Eva said.
"But what?" Ben asked. Eva rose up, and pulled a tassel-trimmed blanket over her bust. They had ended up in an elaborately decorated tent, with pillows and blankets, and incense burning all around them; the light source was various candles placed all around them, a setting fit for any royal Iranian King. Eva's eyes looked dark, and pupil less.
"Well, I don't really know just how to say it." Eva said, looking away, and then sighing.
"Just say it!" Ben snapped. Eva's head turned sharply, and she looked hurt that he had raised his voice. Then her brow furrowed, and she looked determined, but angered. It was the first time Ben had ever seen that expression directed towards him before. Sure, he'd witnessed it when they were gladiators, and Eva slue a charging juggernaut that was about to deal a deathblow, but now? In this instance? He felt his confusion growing. Something wasn't right.
"I can't!" she snapped, then her brow smoothed, and she looked sorry for snapping at him.
"Why on earth not?" Ben asked, this time softer, and more understanding, but at the same time, he was searching his mind to try to find out why this creation's setting had taken the turn it had. For quite some time, he had been allowing the randomness of his mind to go free, and in most cases, his imagination picked settings for him, to the point, he had to put forth little, if any effort. Perhaps this was a new twist. He relaxed, knowing that if he didn't like the way things were going, he could just redo it however he pleased. He could have Eva a thousand times in a night if he wanted it that way.
"Do you love me, or do you love what I am." She asked with a pleading look on her face. Ben almost laughed.
"What's the difference?" he asked with a shrug, then he smiled, but when he realized that Eva wasn't smiling, but rather looked terribly disappointed, he almost wiped the expression off his face with his hand.
"There is a difference." Eva said quietly, looking down at the blanket she was wrapped in, and picking at some unseen piece of thread that was astray. Ben didn't like the way this was going at all, and what was more, is that he had been repeatedly trying to start a different scene, or adventure, and nothing was happening! This made Ben back down real quick.

"Okay, sweetheart, you have me a little confused here. I know I have obviously done something, or...said something wrong, so...could you just tell me and let's go have some more fun, and be over and done with this? Or you know what, better yet, let's go..." Ben shook his head for any random thought to come to mind, "Oh, I know! China!" Ben exclaimed. But this time, Eva sighed at him, pushed the blanket off, and got up. She was completely dressed, but this time, she wore plain looking jeans, and a t-shirt, no make up that made her look like the supermodel she usually looked like, and as she walked to the front flaps of their tent, she looked over her shoulder long enough to give him a sad smile, then said, "Good night, Ben." Her eyes were still dark, her hair was straight, and she looked like she was slightly slouching a bit. She vanished into a white haze that seemed to envelop her as soon as she stepped out of the tent. Ben was alone in the tent. He waited for a few moments for her to return, but she didn't.

"What the hell is this?" Ben shouted in frustrated disgust, and Darcy leaped six feet off his lap, a frightened "yow" accompanying her lift off, until she touched down on the ground, and walked around the floor with her tail puffed out, her back arched, and her eyes as huge as saucers. Ben was angry now, and he hatefully shoved the footrest down on his lounge chair, and threw his headphones off his head.

"That is not supposed to happen!" He shouted. Darcy ran for cover to another room, and Ben stayed in the living room, pacing back and forth and trying to make sense of what had just happened. It did more than perturb him. It did more than annoy him. It outright infuriated him! But why? Why was he so pissed off at Eva? At each and every point when he replayed what had happened for the next three days, he had to admit that what she had done wasn't really anything to be pissed off about. Not really. But for some reason, he could feel a rage just below his skin, bubbling, and churning, and it left him feeling like he'd been smacked around, told what to do, and ignored. Just like in reality! He yearned for the retreat of leaving reality behind and going on adventures with Eva, but he was angry with her, and so he had decided to conjure up someone new.

This proved to be quite a task.

The first night, it was a blonde bombshell...but it wasn't Eva, so Ben was only able to stay in his imagined world for a mere fifteen minutes! He just couldn't do it. The next night, he tried harder to create a new favorite, but the red headed woman he had created was dull, and only said the things he wanted her to. She was hollow, and flat, like some sort of elaborate hologram that only said what it was programmed to say. He emerged from his imagination in an hour feeling frustrated, and restless. On the third night, he imagined himself in the middle of a white room, no floors, no walls, no ceiling, and waited for Eva. When she didn't come, he stood up and demanded that she come out immediately! But no such thing happened. Ben began to worry that he had erased her from his mind completely. But how could that be? He was her creator, he certainly remembered her. So how could she just be...gone?

On the forth day, Ben sat in his cubicle at work. The stacks of files, papers, and documents that littered his desk looked like a fortress that was keeping him a prisoner. He stared at his computer screen with an expression on his face that was nothing short of murderous. One by one, his co-workers would stop off at his desk, drop off another load of files, or papers, give him quick instructions and leave. Ben just sat there, staring at his computer screen, tapping an ink pen on the keyboard, and feeling like he was going to explode.

When Kip Clayton popped his head in Ben's cubical, the pressure in Ben's head jumped up another fifteen notches. Kip was a pompous son-of-a-gun that was always bragging about his portfolio, women, his sport car, or something fickle like that. What made it worse is he honestly thought that he was God's gift to the planet. When he stood in front of Ben's desk, Ben could see the ultra white of his teeth as he talked in a rush, without even turning his head.

"Hey Ben, glad I caught you in, whoooo! Look at the load of paperwork on your desk!" Kip laughed, "Hey, one more won't hurt! Listen, I need about thirty-two copies of this report on my desk in about.... let's see, an hour? I need it pronto, so you better get a jump on it. The printer in the copy room needs a new cartridge, so you'll have to go down to the print shop at the corner. If you hurry you can beat traffic, oh and if you pay for this one, I'll get it back to you tomorrow, say...." Kip leaned over the looming stack of papers to get in Ben's face, "Someone doesn't look too happy today? Women problems? Hey man, don't sweat it! A good roll in the sack and she'll be callin' you Daddy in no time." Kip beamed. Ben thought he was going to throw up. He didn't know what was worse. Listening to Kip run his mouth, or the fact that he literally sounded like a Phil Hartman character on speed!

"If it's libido problems, man, let me tell you, I can get you an appointment with my doctor, and just between me and you, I completely lied about my little erectile problem, and all the ladies in the vicinity couldn't be more appreciative! Those pills really get the old solider to salute, if ya know what I mean? Whatever it is, chap, don't let it get ya down, I personally thought that you might be playing for the home team, but as a lady's man myself, I know that only an expression like that can be the cause of a woman..."

"WILL YOU SHUT UP!" Ben exploded, leaping out of his chair to a standing position. Startled, Kip reeled backwards, stumbled, and hit the wall of Ben's cubical. He righted himself quickly and made a hasty exit. Ben grabbed his coat, and the report that Kip had tossed on his desk, and threw it at the back of Kip's head.

"I'm not your errand boy, Kip! Go get copies yourself! And as far as the rest of you? I am not one of the secretaries here! If you left something of yours in my cubical, see to it that you get it done yourself! I have my own work to do, and I won't be doing anyone anymore favors!" Ben shouted. Oddly enough, employees in earshot of Ben's voice began quietly hurrying over to his cubical and getting their paperwork. In a matter of minutes, the piles and stacks that had littered Ben's desk shrank to what remained, a doable workload. Once the employees had filed out, Ben turned in a huff, and headed for the door. He passed Tammy Hill on the way out, and shot her a look that was menacing.

"You start running your mouth, and making this bigger than what it is with your need for gossip, and I'm going to tell the whole staff about your little escapade on top of the copy machine with Kip!" he spat. As his palm hit the door, Ben heard the voice of his boss, Mr. Shurley.

"Ben? Where are you going?" he growled.
"LUNCH! It could be a permanent one, or I could be back in an hour!" Ben shouted, turning to look at the pot bellied man who for some reason didn't look so tough right now. Mr. Shurley raised his eyebrows, shrugged, and called back.
"Oh...well. See ya in an hour, then." Then turned to go back to his office.

Ben was too upset to really eat anything. He found a quiet outdoor cafe, bought a cup of coffee, and hoped that the caffeine would help keep him awake. He hadn't slept well for the last three days, and hoped that he could make it until quitting time without freaking out again. Of course his mood was because of lack of sleep. Sure it was. It wasn't because of Eva. Ben laughed to himself as he started into his coffee cup.

"She isn't even real." He smirked, and shook his head.

"But what if I was?" came Eva's voice. Ben's head snapped up, and he turned in his chair quickly to look behind him. Instead of the supermodel features of his beloved Eva, Ben was staring into the face of an elderly woman with blue hair, gaudy jewelry, and sunglasses that made her look like a human fly. She had stopped in mid drink of her cup of coffee, and even the Chihuahua in her arms raised its ears, both giving Ben an expectant look, seemingly waiting for him to explain his actions. He suddenly felt silly, and apologized to the woman, and smiled at the dog. The Chihuahua barked defensively at Ben, as if telling him in its high-pitched yaps, to turn around and quit staring at them.

"Over here, Ben." Came Eva's voice again, and this time, Ben played it off. He looked for Eva nonchalantly, and spotted her crossing the street to the outdoor cafe, dressed in a knee length, form fitting black skirt with white pin strips. Her white blouse was pressed and her hair was pulled back in a bun behind her head. She wore black-framed glasses and looked like a business executive. Ben thought he could literally feel steam coming out of the collar of his sweater. She looked positively radiant, and Ben wanted to rush to her and kiss her. But he could feel a reserved air about her, immediately, so he stayed in his seat. He still didn't know what to make of her.

Eva was in the middle of the street, when a cab came racing towards her. Ben flinched to get up, and just before the impact, he yelled; "Eva! The cab!"

But it was too late. The cab was right on top of her, and just as Ben had gotten to his feet, Eva turned and the cab drove right through her, as if she were made of mere shadows. Watching the cab in its wake, Eva adjusted her glasses, and then turned to smile at Ben.

"You better sit down, before all these people think you're a lunatic." She giggled. Ben's face was pale with the remnants of fear. His eyes were wide, and his face took on an expression of shock, and disbelief.
"I don't...I don't understand." Ben said. Eva was looking behind him. He turned, and the old woman and her Chihuahua were obviously quite miffed at Ben's unexplainable behavior.
"Neither do we!" she snapped, and hurried off past Ben and the unseen Eva.
"Tell me what's going on." Ben said softly, pleading with Eva, and thinking he was possibly losing his mind.
"How about I do the talking, and you just listen. They can't see me, so if you keep talking to me..."
"They'll think I'm crazy." Ben finished, "Am I?" he asked. Eva took Ben's arm, and guided him back to his table. He sat down, and she took the chair opposite him. He could smell the vanilla and flowers, and her hazel-green eyes were like cool drinks of water to Ben's thirst for her. He felt her when she touched him too.
"Well, everyone here will think you are if you keep talking out loud." Eva smiled. God how he had missed her. His heart was pounding, and he felt himself trembling all over.
"Then how am I supposed to talk to her?" Ben thought.
"Just like that." Eva replied. Ben's eyes widened again, and he looked around.
"Don't worry, Ben, they can't hear what you say in your mind." Eva said, rather enjoying watching Ben slowly put the pieces together.
"It's been a year, Ben, and I want to be more to you than just an imaginary play thing." Eva began.
"But you are. You are so much more than just that to me, and I hadn't realized it until these last four days. I am so sorry, Eva. I really am." Ben thought. He watched Eva breath a sigh of what he hoped was relief, and not the onset of a goodbye.
"Remember when I asked you if you loved me, or what I was?" Eva asked.
"Yeah, that's what started all of this." Ben thought. He felt bad, and then he looked away, but the magnetic pull of Eva's eyes pulled him back.
"What if I was more than just your creation?" Eva asked.
"You already are." Ben replied.
"Ben...what if I wasn't your creation at all?" Eva asked. Ben frowned and thought it over for a moment.
"Like, you actually exist somewhere?" Ben asked, physically raising his eyebrows. Eva nodded. Ben felt a flutter in his heart, and his breathing quickened. He smiled, and took a few deep breaths to keep the dizzy feeling at bay.
"What you are able to do, Ben, is rare, but there are others like you...and me." Eva explained, "And when I met with you, in that mental imaginary world of yours, I was compelled to spend time with you because I adored your mind, your creativity, your passion, your heart...but I was troubled by one thing." Eva said, her expression changing.
"What was that?" Ben thought.
"If you aren't in control of everything, you are not happy." Eva said. Ben gave this some thought.
"But I am only in control of my creations. My real life is null, and void. I am happiest and strongest in my mind." Ben offered.
"You're stronger than you think you are, Ben." Eva whispered. "Life follows no certain pattern, Ben. And if you focus on what you don't have, or what you don't like, you'll overlook what you do have, and what you do like."

Ben again gave what Eva had said some thought. He had become so accustomed to doing as he was told, and making others happy, rather than standing up for himself, and obtaining what was rightfully his, that he had literally boxed himself into a reality that had left him sullen, pessimistic, and certain that his only recourse was to build a world where he could have it his way, and only his way. Ben sighed, starting to realize that reality, no matter how hard it may or may not be, just doesn't operate in that fashion. Living in an existence where all the lights were green may sound ideal, but it had led Ben further and further away from the actual beaches of a real world, propelling him to seek out the impossible, instead of embracing what was real.

"I have fallen for you, Ben, head over heels. And I came here with a lump in my throat, and my heart beating like a gong to see if you would allow me the chance to actually love you...here, in the real world." A crystal tear slid from Eva's eye and down the side of her nose.
"If you stay in a world of your own creation, you will always be safe, and never unhappy...but there would never be chances taken, tasks defeated, hurdles crossed, or a family started."
"A family?" Ben thought.
"Don't you want one, one day?" Eva asked.
"Well of course I do. But I'm not the kind of guy a girl like you would want." Ben thought.
"And how do you know that?" Eva asked.
"Because I know I'm not what you need in reality." Ben countered. "I don't have the money to take you to the places we've been to in my mind, and I can't defeat the undefeated in a Roman coliseum, Christ, I can't even swim!"
"You don't have to be perfect, Ben. You just have to be yourself." Eva said, and her hand caressed his face, and left lingering warmth that made Ben's eyes close.
"Do you love me, Ben?" Eva whispered. His eyes stayed closed, and he felt like his heart was going to punch a whole in his rib cage.
"Ben...tell me. Do you love me?" Eva cooed. Ben's eyes popped open and a smile parted his lips. He felt a surge of uncertainty, fear, love, and empowering positively all at once, and when at last he answered, "Yes. I love you, Eva." Eva's face brightened almost to the intensity of a small sun, she leaned her head back, and laughed, clasped her hands together in joy, and shouted, then suddenly disappeared, the echo of her laughter fading as quickly.
"Where are you?" Ben thought, "I want to see you, right now!"

But there was no response. Ben got up from his chair, and looked up and down the sidewalk, searching for Eva. He turned around over and over again, still unable to find her, and at last he realized, with a brutal, sinking feeling, that she was gone. He ambled slowly back to his seat, a forlorn look on his face, and tried to piece together what had just taken place. He wanted to cry, but he had already drawn enough attention to himself, and pretty soon, someone would ask him to leave if he didn't cool it. He kept trying to stay hopeful, but someone as magical, beautiful and miraculous as Eva would never happen to him. It was all in his mind. Just a fantasy that he had created, and perhaps, a vision that had helped him muster up the courage to stand up to those pinheads he worked with. He sighed, trying to stave off the depressing feeling of never seeing her again, and even entertained the thought that if he had indeed created her, then he could do it again...couldn't he?

Ben raised his head, and stared off into space. He was mildly aware of a delivery truck that had pulled up to the curb. Somewhere in the distance, a siren was screaming, and for the first time since he had come to the cafe, he could actually hear the patrons talking amongst themselves. He was inexplicably in the real world. No beautiful scenes that he could change at will, no mythical creatures, no adventures, no Eva...just life. Part of Ben was telling him that he would have to learn to live in this world, and actually ask for better if it wasn't what he was getting. For the first time in his life, that seemed like a more reasonable thing to do than escape into a world he created.

The driver of the delivery truck stepped down from the cab, and carried a package toward the cafe. Ben stared through the figure in a tan ball cap, tan shirt, tan knee length shorts, and boots. He caught the sight of a straight ponytail behind the cap, and dark sunglasses. Some delivery girl making her rounds. The driver seemed to be looking for someone, and Ben watched just for the sake of not thinking about the loss of Eva. When the driver looked at him, Ben looked down at his cup of coffee. He didn't feel like talking to anyone right now. In fact, he wished he could just disappear. He wished he could sleep. He wished he could have just one more night with Eva. Just one more.

"Excuse me, could you tell me where to find Sable Street." The delivery girl asked.
"This is Sable Street." Ben said without looking up.
"Well, I'm looking for a certain guy." The delivery girl said.
"I just came here for coffee, I wouldn't know who you're looking for." Ben said, still staring at his cup.

"I think you're the one that can help me." The delivery girl persisted. Ben looked up at her, ready to tell her to buzz off, but he stopped before he'd said a word. He stared, at first in disbelief, then with hope, then with excitement that he could barely contain. Slowly he rose from his chair, and took the cap from the delivery girl's head. He reached behind her head and pulled the tie in her hair, and shook it loose. She was smiling at him. It was a smile he was very familiar with. With his fingers trembling, Ben slid the black sunglasses down the delivery girl's nose, and almost shouted. There, in all their blessed glory, were two beautiful hazel-green eyes, with long lashes, and a twinkle. It was her! She wasn't dressed as a supermodel, and she didn't have movie star make-up on, but she was more beautiful this way, than he had ever seen her, because she was real.

"Oh my god." Ben gasped.
"Hi Ben." Eva whispered softly, and Ben nearly collapsed. He pulled her to him, and hugged her tightly. The package dropped from Eva's hand, and she embraced him just as vigorously.
"I thought I lost you." He whispered.
"Never." Eva said. Her body fluttered in his arms.

They kissed, and Ben laughed when he heard the patrons at the cafe start cheering. He pulled back and looked at Eva again. He still couldn't believe it.

"Where do we go from here?" Ben asked her, his whole body still trembling, electrified with the events. In a million years, Ben would have never imagined something like this!
"Anywhere life...and a little imagination...takes us." She winked.