I stayed on Sandman Island, where I shared my cottage with Mother. We obtained a second bed, although I continued to snuggle against her when we slept. She grew stronger each day but her mind remained fogged. I clung to the hope that Dad would come up with a way to reverse the mind-drains. He had invented the Dream Catchers, after all, and recalled them just as easily. Anything was possible.
Periwinkle hired Mother on as a permanent staff member. She proved to be a dutiful worker and the staff applauded each simple task she completed. This filled me with both pride and sadness.
I continued to follow the Viewing Crystal news. Every Visitor was now shedding abundant thoughts and the River was restored. Cloud beasts grew plentiful again and the section of the Forest that had disappeared had returned.
Despite the fact I no longer worked as a Substitute, I managed to get the scripts of many of Dad and Penny's dreams tweaked so they could sometimes visit me. Dad had repaired the roof and continued working on fixing the Dream Catchers.
During one of Penny's dreams, she asked me to return to Realearth over her winter holiday and stay at her house as a guest for a whole week.
"It's okay with Dad," she had said. "In fact, he suggested it. We'll take you to the mall, movies, and amusement parks. We'll be like sisters are meant to be. In the same world. I'll lay out some clothes for you."
I approached Mother, as I did every day when I left for school, or to visit Peter and Jenna. She was clad in a bright sundress and her long hair, shining with reddish-gold highlights, was neatly tied back with a flower behind one ear. Her body was now more slender than frail and her lovely face held the hint of a healthy glow. She smelled faintly of lilacs.
"I'll be back soon, Mother," I said, kissing her cheek. "I want you to continue helping Periwinkle and Andrew while I'm gone." I had repeated this message countless times but my throat still ached whenever I said those words.
"Yes, Miss Remmi," she said. I thought I saw a flicker of a smile, a slight sparkle in her otherwise blank eyes, but it could have been my wishful imagination.
I turned, pulled out the ghostsilk, and hung it in the air. Without looking back, I formed an image of Penny's bedroom in my mind and stepped through.