Fiction

More Than Words

His hands were the first thing I noticed about him.

He was sketching, brushing feather-light pencil lines effortlessly across the page. One of his hands commandeered the pencil while the other scratched nimbly at the nape of his neck. They were beautiful. Whatever was on the paper in front of him was beautiful, too.

I stood for a while, just observing, until it occurred to me that what I was doing was a little bit creepy. So I edged in front of him, clearing my throat. “Do you mind if I sit down?”

He looked up at me, startled that someone had the audacity to disturb him at work. But his eyes met mine and softened a little around the corners, a wordless gesture that gave me the confidence to slide into the seat across from him. I half expected him to tell me to get lost, that he was concentrating and needed to be alone, but he just went right back to his drawing like I’d never interrupted him at all.

Anna Karenina was calling me; I had almost sixty pages to read before AP Lit. Yet I was going cross-eyed reading about Levin’s domesticity, and my gaze kept shifting unwittingly toward this quiet boy and his expressive hands.

After a few minutes of staring at my book with utter futility, I surrendered to my curiosity. “What are you drawing?” I asked, quietly enough that he could ignore it if he wanted to.

He didn’t, though. He didn’t look up, but he answered me, pausing between strokes and biting his lower lip. “I’m not sure.”

“Well, it’s nice,” I said, letting the conversation fade to silence before speaking up again. “I’m Sophie.”

He cracked a knuckle. “Adam.”

When the bell rang, he finally looked at me. The corners of his mouth twitched into a smile I hadn’t expected as he extended his hand across the table. The heel of it was shiny with graphite, the pads of his fingers dented from holding the pencil, but his grip felt like a promise. “Very nice to meet you, Sophie.”

***

The next time I sat down across from him, I didn’t bother asking for permission. He was eating an apple, tongue darting out every once in a while to catch the juice that threatened to escape from his mouth.

“Hi, Sophie,” he said with a genuine grin.

“Hi,” I replied, blushing when his eyes lingered on mine for a little too long.

We didn’t talk much. He drew, I read – Anna Karenina, Great Expectations, A Clockwork Orange. His drawings were strange and smudged and haphazard, but they were all equally lovely. He made the kind of art you’d put in a museum in hopes that someone would be smart enough to understand it.

I jokingly asked him to draw me one day. He laughed and said he didn’t really know how to do people.

“You never had to do portraits or anything?” I asked, wincing as I recalled my pathetic attempt at a self-portrait back in the fifth grade.

“I didn’t say I’d never done it.” He brushed his forehead absent-mindedly. “I just don’t really know how.”

“What do you mean?”

“People are tricky,” he said. “The thing about people is, you can get them wrong. This,” he gestured toward the paper in front of  him, “nobody is going to tell me this is wrong. With people, it’s different.”

I agreed with him, kind of. The self-portrait I made in fifth grade was definitely wrong. But I didn’t believe someone like him could draw anyone less than perfectly. Maybe he was just seeing them the way nobody else could.

***

“I wish I could draw,” I confessed one day as I watched his hands at work.

He laughed. “You can. Anyone can draw. It’s one of the first things babies learn how to do.”

“Yeah, but I wish I could draw like you. You know…” I trailed off. “Well.”

I was waiting for him to say something encouraging, because he was that kind of person, but instead he reached into his sketchpad and pulled out a folded up, slightly torn square of paper. He hesitated, rubbing it between his fingers for a couple of seconds, before handing it over to me.

He stopped me before I could open it. “No,” he said simply as I tried to unfold a corner. “Not right now.” So I slipped it in my pocket and didn’t say a word.

When the bell rang, he disappeared before I had a chance to say anything else.

***

The next day, I kissed him.

I didn’t plan it; I didn’t even consider it ahead of time, I just sat across from him like I always did and opened The Picture of Dorian Gray. It took me seven agonizing minutes to realize what he was doing.

“Is that…what are you drawing?” I asked incredulously as his pencil strokes became rounded, fluid, detailed.

“I’m trying something new,” he said.

“I can see that.” I rolled my eyes. “I mean, that. That’s a person.”

“Yup,” he replied without taking his eyes off the page.

“I thought you didn’t do people.”

He shrugged. “Figured it was worth another shot.”

The person – the girl – took shape in front of my eyes. Angular chin, slightly downturned mouth. Eyes a little too far apart. Feathery eyelashes and bold eyebrows. A slight dusting of freckles on the tip of her nose.

“Me,” I breathed. “You’re drawing me.”

It was both fascinating and terrifying to watch his capable fingers trace my likeness across a piece of paper. No one would mistake it for a photograph, but he was capturing something that was decidedly me, and I knew I had been right the first time I asked him about drawing people. He saw things the way that nobody else ever could.

When he finished, he held it up for me with a sheepish grin, and I smiled back while something warm and heavy spread through my entire body.

“Did I get it sorta right this time?” he asked, nervously raking a hand through his hair.

“Sorta,” I said breathlessly in the seconds before my mouth was on his.

***

He kissed like he drew: carefully, skillfully, and a little selfishly. It didn’t take me very long to figure out that he loved that way, too.

The first time we said it, we were sitting under the tree I used to climb as a kid. I told him about the time I fell off the fourth branch and broke my arm, and he drew me a little cartoon – a tiny upside-down freckled girl, her mouth curled into a surprised “oh!”, dangling from the fourth branch of a towering tree. I laughed until my stomach hurt and kissed him until my lips tingled, relishing the feeling of his wonderful hands as they roamed across my back and shoulders and face.

“I love you, you know,” I whispered to him when we were catching our breath.

“I love everything about you,” he whispered back, running a finger along my jawbone. We laid there under the tree, our limbs tangled together, until the sunset started to spill across the sky and we remembered the rest of the world.

***

“I never looked at that note you gave me,” I told him one day while he was cooking dinner.

“What note?” he asked, scraping a diced green pepper into the saucepan on the stove.

“That folded up piece of paper. The one you handed me, and acted really cryptic about, and never mentioned again.”

He smiled knowingly. “I wondered why you never said anything about that,” he said before starting to hum his favorite ABBA song.

Neither of us mentioned it again.

***

I found him again at our five-year high school reunion. He was sitting on a barstool, his heel tapping on the leg, sketching on a napkin. He hadn’t changed at all.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” I asked, gesturing toward the seat next to him.

“Sophie,” he said, letting his eyes crinkle a little as he half-smiled. “Hi.”

“Hey,” I said back. The silence enveloped us like a blanket, warm and familiar and comforting. Being around him always felt private, even when there were a million other people in the room.

“You know,” he started after a few minutes, “I didn’t…I just, I mean -“

“I know.” I rubbed my thumb across my bottom lip. “You don’t have to say anything.” To tell the truth, I didn’t really want him to. It was easier this way, without words. Words can never really mean everything they’re supposed to.

“I’m glad you’re still drawing,” I finally said, squeezing his shoulder as I stood up to walk away. “You really are amazing.”

I could have let him talk. There were plenty of stories I could have told him, about the rambunctious high school English classes I was now teaching or the incredible man whose ring I was wearing, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Our relationship wasn’t about words and sentences and conversations. It was about feelings and instincts running wild, smudging the lines in a picture nobody could figure out anyway. We were art, and art was messy, and the artist never got a happy ending.

That night, as I unfolded the fraying piece of paper I kept on the nightstand by my bed, I was glad I hadn’t let him say anything. I ran my fingers over the fading pencil marks, the ones that knew me before I knew him, and I saw all the pieces of him he didn’t want me to see. “Art is the lie,” Picasso once said, “that enables us to realize the truth.”

His drawings had always said more than he ever could.

Did You Love Him?

“Did you love him?”

***

I met him when I was six and he was seven. My parents had just finalized the world’s most hostile divorce, and my dad and I moved into this tiny little ranch house in a part of town I’d never seen. “A whole new start, babe,” he said, reaching behind him and ruffling my hair. “This is our home now. ”

Next door, a silent little boy stood still on the front porch. No matter how many trips my dad and my Uncle Keith took carrying boxes into the house, he was still there. Watching. Waiting. Waiting for what?

I wandered over when I had a chance to slip away. He was a little taller than me, with white-blond hair and huge green eyes. I was startled by how big his eyes were. Maybe staring like that made them grow.

We didn’t say anything. We just sat down on his porch swing and dangled our feet until my dad got mad and carried me home.

***

In fifth grade we had to dissect frogs in science class. They smelled like death and formaldehyde, and the second my teacher handed me a knife, I felt woozy and had to sit down.

He was my lab partner, like always. He wasn’t loud, but he was smart. He smiled at me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s okay. I’ll take care of it.” And I tried not to watch as he cut and peeled and poked and pulled out organs, and he never once let me look at anything. He did the whole lab, all by himself, and proudly wrote both of our names at the top.

“Our names look good together,” I joked. I think I already loved him.

***

When we got to high school, he got even quieter. He barely spoke in classes, never said hello to anybody in the halls. The only times I ever heard him talk were in the afternoons, when we’d sit on his front porch and drink grape soda and work on our homework. He was still so smart, and so kind, and so lovely, those hours we spent on the porch. But we’d get to school the next day and he was back to radio silence, not even an “excuse me” when he nearly ran me over in the English wing.

One afternoon he was quieter than usual. I looked up from The Scarlet Letter and saw him gazing sideways at his picket fence and the setting sun. “Are you okay?” I asked him softly, resting my hand on his knee.

He turned to face me, and he stayed so quiet, so calm, as he slowly moved closer to me and his eyes swallowed mine and our mouths were touching, so lightly, and he tasted like grape soda and our tongues brushed against each other and it took all I had to pull away.

“I have reading to do,” I said as I turned the page. I didn’t bother to look at him. I knew what I’d see.

***

He kissed me again one morning, before I even had a chance to say hello.

His kiss was a breath, a question, the product of a boy so scared he could barely figure out how to move his body even a centimeter forward. I felt his lips grab mine, sucking, asking if I was okay. He didn’t need to ask. I was already drowning in a sea of ecstasy, wondering when he would get bored of my lips and move somewhere else.

“You’re the only fucking thing that makes sense,” he breathed into my ear one night as we laid tangled up in each others’ limbs. “You’re the only thing that matters.”

***

“Yeah,” I said quietly, catching a teardrop before it spilled over onto my cheek. “Yeah, I loved him.”

I loved him, and I hated him.

It was the circle of life. He loved, I loved, he left, I grieved. He was everything. Life in a flag, lamb on a breeze. It was only a matter of time before our time ran out, but I’d never love him any less.

 

Crazy

The walls weren’t the right color.

“They’re blue, please, they’re supposed to be blue,” I implored the white-clad women as they ducked in and out of my room. Nobody seemed to pay me any attention; the bustling never stopped or slowed long enough for my words to catch up. I just wanted somebody to listen to me. This was all wrong, everything, the walls and the floors and the noises –

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The room trembled and quaked as a high-pitched wail reverberated off the strange walls and settled in my eardrums. Searing pain ripped through my head like I was being impaled by a hot poker. Suddenly there were hands pressing on my arms, my legs, my forehead, my mouth – oh.

My mouth. That was me. I was screaming.

“Can’t she talk yet?” I heard one of the girls whisper to another. “I’m so fucking tired of all this yelling.” The other girl giggled. What did they mean, couldn’t I talk? Wasn’t anybody listening to me at all?

“Relax, now,” one of the older women said as she cupped my face in her cold hand. I squirmed under her touch. She smelled like bleach and baby powder, and it was churning my stomach to have her so close to me. There were still too many people crowded around my bed. I felt the sting of bile rising in my throat.

“Stop it, please,” I begged, turning my head to the side. “Leave me alone.” My vision blurred as their faces grew closer and closer, until all I could see were faces, eyes, blackness – and then I couldn’t see anything at all.

“This one’s seriously batshit,” a voice echoed as the sound sped further and further into the distance. “She’ll be lucky if we lose her. It’ll save her a lot of pain.”

Lose her?

Laughing. Then nothing.

Two Heartbeats

“Maybe it’s nothing,” I say as I stare at the gray wall in front of me.

“Maybe it is.”

I gently trace my fingers over his knuckles and give his hand a protective squeeze. “It’ll be okay, you know. I’m here. We’ll be okay.”

He awkwardly shifts his weight to his other leg and jams his hands in his pocket. “Yeah.”

We are enveloped by sounds. A gentle humming seems to emanate from the flickering overhead light while the constant pitter-patter of human steps reverberates through the floor under our feet. Every few minutes a telephone rings, interrupted soon after by gruff mutterings rendered unintelligible by the general chaos in the air. I notice a low rhythmic pounding and realize rather uneasily that I am noticing the sound of my own heart. Or maybe his. Or both.

Sometimes, in the moments right before sleep overtakes us, I wait for our heartbeats to converge. Resting my cheek on the cavity of his chest, I let the thumping echo through my body until every nerve ending signals my own system to follow. For a few moments, the blood pumping through his veins flows through mine, too. We are linked by something so simple, so primal, that no power in the universe can tear us apart.

The first time he ever slept in my bed, he passed out while laying on my left arm, and I woke up with the horrifying sensation that I’d lost a limb. When I woke him up (begrudgingly) to ask him if he could please move, he laughed, this deep, rich, beautiful laugh, a laugh I fell in love with over and over and over again. He kissed the fingers of my limp, dead hand and held it tightly. “When you start to feel again, I want the first thing you feel to be me.” And it was, oh, it was.

I hear his name and snap to attention. Someone walks by with a manila folder, deeply absorbed in its contents. Someone bumps into someone else and spills her coffee, resulting in a myriad of hasty apologies and a promise of penitence. Someone stands in front of us, frowning, one thumb resting nonchalantly under the loop of his suspenders. It is he who speaks, tersely and emotionlessly, those precious few words that bring us closer and closer to the moment of truth.

“We will see you now,” he says with finality.

The one person I am sure I love walks away from me. I wait for him to turn around and look into my eyes and tell me not to be scared, to take my hand and let his pulse surge through me so I can believe that everything will be okay. But he doesn’t. The sound of his footsteps fades slowly with the distance, echoing less and less through the darkened hallway, and I am struck once more with that same startling and horrifying sense of loss.

I want to tell him that when this nightmare is over, when he finally starts to feel again, the first thing he feels will be me. Until then, I won’t let go.

Inspiration

The soft sunlight shines warmly through the windowpane, illuminating her tired, worn face. A frown tugs at the corners of her lips; the skin between her eyebrows furrows as her gaze narrows and fixates on the words in front of her. The world has stopped for her. The laughter and chatter echoing from the walls of the tiny coffee shop fall on deaf ears.

The waitress who brings her cup after cup of coffee is acknowledged with a faint grunt and a couple of dollar bills thrown sloppily onto the table. Their eyes do not meet. They have danced this dance before, their lives bumping clumsily together like windchimes that never find their melody.

Her restless fingers tap drumbeats on the tabletop while her pencil scratches short, frantic letters across the page. Sometimes, the scratching is as ambient as the sound of the steaming espresso machine. Once in a while, it stops altogether. In those moments, her eyes shift slowly toward the light coming in through the window and the startlingly blue sky, as her daydreams draw her to a place wholly separate from the little shop in which she sits.

She traces the rim of her cup with her index finger as a smile slowly creeps into the wrinkled corners of her eyes. Lifting it to her lips, she sips the bitter brew that gives her life. Her eager mouth drinks in the hot, strong coffee. Her heavy-lidded eyes drink in the stories of the world.

Her pencil scratches the paper. And it begins again.

This is it.

I have decided to write a book.

Yes, by the end of the year 2013, I am going to have a 50,000-word novel. It might be good, it might be okay, it might be utter crap. Whatever it is, it’ll be mine. Frankly, I don’t care if anyone besides me ever reads it – although I probably will share it – I’m just doing this for me.

I’ve only ever tried to write in a linear fashion, just putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and going until I can’t go any further. But seeing as the most I’ve ever written that way has been a measly two or three pages in Microsoft Word, I’m trying a technique called The Snowflake Method. Basically, I started with one sentence that told my entire story, and I’m slowly filling in from there. It’s interesting, because it’s giving me a chance to really get to know my characters before I immortalize them in the plot. I’m already very attached to my protagonist and excited about the wonderful people that are going to enter her life during the course of these 50,000 words.

I’ll probably be expressing some of my joys and frustrations here during the writing process, because I’ll need someplace to dump them all and document my own adventures. Hopefully this is just another step in the creation of the new, empowered, passionate me. But even if it isn’t, it’ll give me something else to write about, right?

Here’s my first insight into the writing process. It’s a haiku.

I’m way too obsessed –
This must be the honeymoon
Get me off this couch

Wish me luck!

Paper Boats: Written January 3, 2008

It wasn’t like it was my first time walking that way.  Everything seemed friendly and familiar, from the crunching of the dry, papery leaves underneath my feet as I walked to the wind crackling through the barren tree branches.  I recognized almost every empty, disintegrating cigarette carton and jagged glass beer bottle that was strewn about on the crooked, thin dirt pathway.  But it was strange to be walking there by myself.  I remembered hours of adventure in those woods with Paige, jumping rocks over the creek, hearts pounding with pure adrenaline when we managed to hop the fence that led to the small, dilapidated dam.  I remembered being terrified the first time we saw someone else “stealing our woods,” smoking by our beloved log fort.  All these adventures, but I’d never been in our woods without her.  It seemed strangely empty, the ghost of Paige’s laughter evident in the quick whistle of the wind.  The times of our woods were gone with the advance of various high school activities and the slow collapse of our friendship.  I felt like I was home, walking along that path, but also strangely like I’d outgrown it, like the vivid memories were only drawing me backward.

The last time I’d walked that path was almost two years ago, and little had changed.  The familiarity was astounding, the rough initials carved into tree branches, the tall, spindly elm that grew out of the ground completely sideways.  Every turn brought to mind a flashback that made me smile.  The deep silence made it easier to concentrate and lose myself in the phantoms the woods held.

SPLASH.  I came out of my reverie.  I certainly recognized where I was, two turns and I’d reach the pond.  The pond was always my favorite part of our woods, the place where I could think freely.  It held the peace Paige never seemed to understand.  She would always run ahead looking for new settings or new phenomena, but I would pause for a minute in front of the water.  It stayed icy cold and bright blue year round, matching the vibrancy of the rest of the woods in the summer but contrasting it completely in the winter.  To me, it seemed magical.  I set off at a curious pace, eager to see what had caused the disturbance in the quiet.  It had been a distinctively heavy splash, but had sounded pretty concentrated, like a brick.  My legs seemed to take themselves to my destination with little guidance from my brain.  I stood on the very tips of my toes as I rounded the final corner, trying to silence my steps so they couldn’t be heard by anyone if they were in the vicinity.

The water was rippling like the smooth surface had only just been broken, but there wasn’t anyone or anything around that I could see.  I crawled onto the top of a tall, rather sharp boulder on the edge of the pond and looked down into it.  I could see things people must have lost a long time ago – a single shoe, a rusty silver and purple necklace, even an old menorah.  I wondered if the people who lost them knew that they lost them, or if they lost them on purpose, or even if they cared at all.

“Careful. You look like you’re about to fall.”

I jerked my head around, nearly toppling off my pedestal.  Someone was walking towards me.  It was a boy, maybe fifteen or sixteen, a year or so older than me, but I’d never seen him before.  He looked a little bit dirty and rough, like maybe he hadn’t showered or changed his clothes in a few days.  He was dressed appropriately for the cold day, in a sweater, jeans, and a skullcap, but one of his beat-up sneakers had a huge hole in the toe.  The oddest thing about him, though, was that in his left hand he carried a package of printer paper like the kind you pick up at Staples or Office Max.

“Thanks for the concern.”  I climbed down from the top of my rock.  He didn’t appear fazed at all by my presence; he just hopped the rock shelf and sat down with his feet dangling inches over the water, which rippled furiously as the wind picked up again.

“Do you come here a lot?” I asked him as he shifted aside an old broken fishing rod to make room to set down his printer paper.  Really, what I wanted to ask him was, “Why are you sitting on the rock ledge with an unopened package of printer paper, who are you, and just in general what are you doing?” but that seemed inappropriate at the moment.  He looked at me for a minute before answering.

“Yeah, sometimes.”

He busied himself tearing open the package of paper, first with his bare hands, and then when it refused to rip, his teeth.  Then he took a pencil from underneath his cap and began to scribble a few words on every paper.  This process took an extremely long time.  I didn’t disturb him; he seemed to be lost in whatever he was jotting down on these pieces of printer paper.  I just sort of stood behind him.  I didn’t get distracted, either, though.  My body and mind seemed to be pulled toward him in rapt attention, waiting for the next thing he would do.  I watched his long, thin fingers fly over the pages holding the chewed yellow pencil, observing everything from the funny way he held it between two fingers and curled them around it to the broken scrawl that touched the pages.  I could tell that his writing slanted to the right and looped together, like a mutant form of cursive, though I couldn’t read exactly what he was writing.  I watched the back of his head shake with his wrist movement, noticed every blond streak in his shaggy, curly brown hair.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, he looked up from his work.

“You’re still here,” he commented.

“I’m still wondering why you are.”

He laughed.  Although I could tell his face was sunken, his smile brought a sort of brightness that almost made me forget how terrible he looked.  “Touché.”

He turned back to his handiwork, but before he could start whatever he was doing next, I finally wrought the courage to ask, “What are you doing?”

He grinned again.  “I was actually wondering when you’d ask that.”  He motioned for me to join him on the rock ledge, clearing away a few other brambles and pieces of litter that were in the way.  I sat down next to him.  The thought suddenly occurred to me that he could be a creep and I might be in danger, but pure instinct told me that thought was wrong.  He picked up one of the pieces of paper and showed it to me.  It had only two words on it, written rather illegibly.  I had to squint to read the word “Kat.”

“Kat?” I asked him.

“My sister.  Here, that was a bad example.”  He grabbed another from the stack.  “Mom’s dealer.”

“That’s awful.”

“Yeah, but you understand that one.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“So here.  I take these papers and I write down things.  Things that bother me, things that are wrong, things that make me want to give up. Everything and anything that I want to let go of, I write them on these papers.”

I processed that information.  It seemed odd to me that this boy, this unkempt and troubled boy, had come to our woods to write things on paper.  So I asked the next obvious question.  “Why?”

He threw back his head and gave another laugh, but a free one, one that had a chilling but comforting sense of being completely legitimate.  “I wonder that, too.”

He took both the paper he first gave me and the one I was still holding and began to fold them, faster than I’d ever seen anyone fold anything.  It was like he was doing origami, but he didn’t seem to even be thinking about what he was doing.  In a minute he was holding the most beautiful and elaborate paper boat I had ever seen in my life.  Kat’s name was nested in the very bottom of the boat, and the mast rose from it.  It was astounding and terrifying.  He handed the boat to me.

“I let this go.”

I looked at him and with a nod of encouragement, set the boat gently onto the water.  I didn’t even know there was any sort of current in the pond, but it drifted rather quickly, doing a few loops before setting off down the creek.

“Where does it go?”

“I don’t know, and frankly, it doesn’t matter.” He folded the next one and this time let it go himself, giving it a gentle push towards the creek.

“But I still don’t understand why.”

“Do you really not?”  He looked at me again, and I sort of did understand.  Watching something float away, something beautiful held in a paper boat, was like letting it go.  It was like saying that it was now the world’s to take care of completely.  I smiled at him to show that I understood.

“Yeah,” he sighed.  “I don’t really believe in God, I don’t think he’s here anywhere.  But I’ve gotta believe in something.  This entire stack of papers is filled with things that are wrong.  But someone’s gotta be able to fix them, you know?  There’s no way we’ve just been left here with our own mess.  And I think maybe it’s enough sometimes just to let them go.  If it’s that easy, I gotta believe in something.  I dunno,” he finished, shrugging.  “I probably sound stupid.”

“I think,” I replied, “you just said one of the smartest things I ever heard.”

We sat there for a long time.  I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I don’t think I cared.  He folded each paper, pausing sometimes to reflect on whatever message was hidden in the boat.  Then he handed each one to me.  I’d read the message, “Failed again” or “Let her walk away.”  Every boat he made was unique, and each was more beautiful than the one before.  And one by one I’d let each boat go, watching it wave down the creek, getting caught on stones and spun around.  Finally, they had all been set free.  But I noticed one small one that had gotten stuck between the rocks underneath us.  I picked it up gently and looked at it.

“I’m scared I might be okay,” I read aloud.

“Out of all the ones that could have been left behind!” he exclaimed.  “It’s like something out of a cheesy magazine story, you know, like the world wants that to be worked out all on its own.”

“I’m not going to lie,” I said to him, “this whole thing is like something out of a cheesy magazine story.”

He pulled out one more piece of paper and the chewed up pencil and handed them to me.  I wrote something on it and gave it back, watching him fold it up into the most exquisite of every boat he had made.  We let it go like it was the most important one.  And it was gone.  And he was gone, without saying another word.  Every phantom that had chased me through our woods was gone, too, my grab into the past had turned into nothing more than good memories.  I felt at home again, without the awkwardness of one who was no longer welcome.

Our woods, the woods that I’d shared leg-scraping, time-traveling adventures with long ago, had bled into our new woods, the woods where a boy I never saw again taught me more about life than a thousand exciting adventures ever could.  The ghosts were gone, I knew Paige was gone, my log fort would never again be a princess’s castle.  But I knew things would always be okay, because they had been cast to the cares of the world, floating away in one wonderful paper boat.