“Are you saying it doesn’t matter who I choose?” Salix asked Aspen’s spirit late one night.
“Not exactly,” said Aspen. “You don’t want to choose someone who yells at you or belittles you or criticizes you or who, in any way, limits your true development and expression of your best self. I’m just saying that, as long as you choose someone with whom you can thrive and be the Salix you want to be, then it doesn’t matter.”
Salix still wasn’t sure she understood.
“I guess I’m trying to say that what’s important is not so much who you love, as that you love,” Aspen continued, “as long as you choose someone with whom you can thrive.”
“Really? So you mean… it’s not such a big deal?”
“Oh, it’s a big deal, all right,” said Aspen, “but the big deal is more in the loving, and in what that does inside of you, rather than in the choosing and who it is you choose.”
Salix thought a long while about her mom’s words. She’d always thought that her mom had chosen her dad because he was “the one,” and now, she was beginning to understand that it wasn’t so much that he was “the one” as in “the only one,” it was more that he was “the one” in that he was the one whom her mom had chosen.
In other words, Salix was beginning to realize that she had options, and not in that debilitating way that one has options when one goes to an ice cream store with 131 flavors, but more in the way that one could simply make a choice, any choice that one was happy with, and then live with it and grow from it and learn from it. It’s like this: rule out the flavors you hate, like licorice or pimento, and then, no matter which other flavor you choose, you know you’re going to have a delicious ice cream cone. It doesn’t have to be “the best,” because you know it’s going to be delicious anyway, even if you think later you might have liked cookie-dough-crumble better.
After she finished running on the treadmill, Salix headed down to Rattlesnake Juice Bar to see if any of her friends were there. Chandler, one of Sugar’s friends was there. He’s a little bit cute, she thinks.
And Milan Self was there. Very cute in his own way, and when he began to glow with a happy green, Salix discovered that he was an alien! Rather than feeling frightened or upset, she felt very confident and interested, for Salix is an alienophile–aliens are neat!
Her mom’s words were still settling with her, so Salix didn’t feel like making any choices that night. She was still looking, considering options.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep–always the best thing for integrating any new understanding–Salix met Ted walking along their street. He seemed a little down.
They chatted, he started to perk up, and then, Salix began flirting with him, autonomously. He kissed her hands. She blew him a kiss. I was too amazed to take any photos. I was busy picking up my jaw.
“I’ve been thinking, Ted,” she said. “I’ve known you for a long time. You’ve always been one of my closest friends. You’ve always treated me like I was, I don’t know… You’ve treated me really well. Like I was special. I like the way I feel with you.”
I kept thinking about the age difference. If she’d chosen him before he’d become an elder, we could have had a cup of youth potion on hand. Perhaps I was being ageist. Ted is a great guy. If Salix hadn’t had that cup of her own youth potion, the age gap between the two wouldn’t be so vast.
He treats her well, she likes him, she chose to flirt, and that’s what matters.
They scheduled a date that afternoon.
“I’m glad you could come over,” Salix said. “I know it’s just a home date, but I really didn’t feel like going anywhere. Is that ok?”
They sat together at the bar, enjoying the view.
“Aw, Sal,” he said. “I’m just a funny old guy in glasses. You’re the one who’s cute. And more. As in amazing.”
“My dad had glasses,” Salix said. “And you’ve got nice eyes.”
Salix has had a “first kiss” whim that’s been rolling around for a while. The date seemed like the perfect occasion to use it.
“You’ve always been such a good friend, Ted,” Salix said. “I’m kinda happy we’re exploring what more there might be, too.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Ted, “for sure!”
Sugar joined them and wrapped her sister in a big bear hug of her own.
“Sal! Good go!” she whispered. They both knew what being heir entailed, and Sugar was happy to see a little progress being made in the direction of family.
It was a bronze medal date–nothing fancy. But it meant so much more than the medal it earned. It meant that Salix was starting to become a little more serious about fulfilling her obligations as heir, and it meant that she was starting to explore a type of love that offered support, rather than hurt.
About the same time that Salix started showing an interest in Ted, we decided to ask Miracle to move in, maybe just for a while, or maybe for longer. She’s been such a good friend to Sugar ever since Sugar was a little kid, and with so many other family friends becoming elders, we thought Miracle might postpone elderhood for a while, so she can be around for Shug a little longer. We’ve got a cup of youth potion waiting for her to drink on her birthday, two days from now.
Late one night when Sugar was the only one up, Niko dropped by to check in and see how everything was going. They sat together on the love seat and Sugar filled him in.
“You’re doing fine,” Niko said. “I knew you would. You’re a smart girl with a good head. You keep it up, ok? Salix sometimes gets carried away with funny notions. She’s not got your practical sense. You keep making sure everything’s going in the right direction. Think you can do that, Sugar Pie?”
I think Sugar can do that. She’s got this under control.