As it turned out, Nathan and I returned to the studio the next evening and indeed the piece was finished. Mind you, we still had to spend most of the night allowing the kiln to cool down before we dared remove my precious art piece from within. I’m pleased to say, it came out perfectly. It was everything I wanted it to be.
“It’s beautiful,” Nathan told me inside our shared space.
“I wouldn’t have been able to finish it without your help,” I replied. “I wish I could thank you properly…”
“How do you mean?” he replied curiously.
“You know, giving you a huge hug and all that,” I told him, shrugging our shoulders.
Next thing I knew we were face to face again, inside his mind once more. We were surrounded by fleeting images of his memories again, and this time I caught a few glimpses of our working on my sculpture.
Meanwhile, Nathan opened his arms and I quickly did the same.
“Thank you… thank you so much…” I blubbed, feeling tears of actual tears running down my cheeks. Then I pulled back and looked at him and asked, “Why? Why did you do all this, sharing your body with me and all?”
“Because, you asked for my help,” he said simply.
I shook my head eyeing him carefully, “No, there’s more to it than that. You’ve let me inside you, literally, in a way you yourself said you rarely do. So why me?”
All around us the images changed and I saw myself, much younger, eyes wide and frightful. That’s when I got it. “You felt guilty about me seeing what you did to those men, all those years ago,” I breathed.
He nodded. “The look in your eyes whenever we met, I never understood why you looked so troubled and standoffish. I just thought I was just reminding you of what you went through. I’d had no idea you saw…”
I reached up and stroked his face. “Don’t. Neither Brian nor I would be here today if you hadn’t shown up and did what you did.”
“People who had tortured children and were going to do much worse. Plus, you were already injured and still outnumbered. They pushed you too far and you fought back the only way left to you. Not to save yourself, but to save me, Brian and all those other children. I know that now. I also know you’re a good person, which is why I trusted you enough to accept your offer to help me. And I’m never going to forget it,” I told him.
“Thank you,” he sighed and finally smiled. We hugged again and as we separated, I guess I had a funny expression on my face, because he asked, “What is it?”
“The door between us? You said you could close it when we were done, but… would please leave it open, just a crack? Please?” I asked hopefully.
“Is that what you want?”
He smiled. “Always.”
I hugged him again and soon after I found myself back in my body in my hospital room. No one was there, but I didn’t feel alone. I could still feel Nathan, and that made it easier for me to rest.
All of this happened about two months ago, and I can still feel his presence even when he’s not around. But, tonight I can see as well as feel him. Here at my exhibition, he’s been making the rounds, but was close by when it came time to unveil my piece. My jaw and hands are still healing, although I can actually talk again. As for the hands, they’ve responded well to the surgeries and I’m even using clay as part of my therapy to build up strength in them again. But now I know for sure I’ll be able to keep making works of art and beauty once more.
As you can expect, my mom burst into tears of joy when she saw it. She hugged me, carefully of course, since I’m still healing. Still it was so worth it. She could barely speak, she was so moved, but her eyes and smile spoke louder than the entire New York Philharmonic symphony blasting the 1812 overture.
I briefly wondered if Nathan was feeling what I was experiencing, then saw the huge smile on his face across the room. Brian and his family were with them, as well as Jack’s. They’re part of what Nathan calls his “extended” family, and now I am too…
“And always will be…” I hear in my head.
“Back at you,” I reply through our link, and he smiles.
- THE END