Septemus 54

A Time for Di7cipline

Septeen1802

I’m going to have to rethink my whole approach to being. I can’t just let everything fly out of me anymore. I’ve got to develop my intention.

I’ve noticed that the universe has a knack for pointing out the next lesson, and sometimes, its finger isn’t subtle.

I was jogging after Lucas left, just to clear my head.

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It feels good at night, when it’s silent out to settle into the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. I was just finding my cadence when I heard Panda’s voice, loud and clear:

“Sept? I’m sorry I bit your not-friend. He made you sad and angry. He hurt you, so I hurt him. Is he ok? It was only a bite, honest. I didn’t eat him.”

So that’s what happened to Lucas. My sister bit him? No wonder I flashed on Panda when Lucas was rubbing his arm.

This is so not right, on so many levels.

Panda picked up my feelings, even though I wasn’t sending to her. I’ve been like some rogue broadcasting tower that hasn’t figured out frequencies yet, spilling all my emotional junk to the pagotogo.

This is not OK. They’ve got their own stuff to deal with. Plus, this is my, like, my personal stuff.  I really, really don’t want to share my private angsty teenage garbage with all my siblings. They’re just kids; I’m a hot mess. This is so not right.

Yobaska. I am so embarrassed.

I’m glad Pops was there to talk after I finished my run and got out of the shower. I told him the kids were picking up everything I felt–I left out the part about Panda exacting my revenge on Stupid Nose.

“I’m just going to have to shut myself down,” I told Pops, “like a switched-off robot.”

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“I don’t think that’s the answer, son,” he said. “You’ve got a gift. It’s not right to turn off your natural form of communication.”

“But it’s like a data dump,” I said. “That’s not communication. That’s spillage.”

Septeen1903

He listened. I explained.

I have to get this under control. I’ve decided to stop for a while. I will keep on communicating telepathically with him, and with my baby brother inside of him, because we live together in the same physical space, and I can’t shut off my feelings at home. But until I figure out how to get control over this, I’m not going to be broadcasting to the pagotogo. Not even songs.

“Not even if they need you?” Pops asked.

Oh. Why does it have to be so difficult to do the best thing always?

“OK,” I replied. “If they need me, yes. I will practice sending to them directly, just the song, with just that specific information. The rest of the stuff, I shut off.”

Septeen1902

So now that I’ve decided the best thing to do, I’ve got to figure out how to do it. I’m going to work some meditation time into my day. And yoga. And I think I’ll read those Buddha books Pops got out for me. And also the Bhagavad Gita. And maybe Walden. And Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I think I will visualize a cone of crystalline light around me–energy passes in through the top and down into the earth below my feet, but nothing escapes out the side.

Later on, once I’ve got this under control, I can experiment with lifting the cone when I’ve got a specific message to send out to a specific person. Or maybe I bore a hole through it, so the message comes out in a laser point. But that’s going to come much, much later. I’m entering preschool, and lasers are college.

But that still leaves Panda and the consequences of a bite on the arm. Biting someone is not OK, even if she is awesome for wanting to stick up for me.

I decided that I would write her an actual, physical letter and mail it to her. It’s a chance for me to practice discipline: communicating the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way, when just sending it out there would be so much easier.

Septeen1805

Dear Panda,

I got your message, and I’ve got lots to say:

Firstly, you are one bad-ass sister! You are most awesome. Thank you for sticking up for me.

Secondly, thanks for telling me the truth about it. That’s just one more way you’re awesome.

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Thirdly, it’s really not OK to bite somebody. I mean, if you need to protect your life or someone else’s, maybe you can bite–for protection. But not for revenge. For one thing, revenge is hardly ever needed. For another, there’s almost always another way to make things right. Or at least acceptable.

Fourthly, Lucas really didn’t do anything wrong. He just chose somebody else over me. He’s free to do that. And besides, I never told him how I felt in actual spoken words. Pops says spoken or written words are important here. We can’t always rely on transmitted feelings without them.

That’s why I’m writing you instead of communicating the other way.

I’ve decided I won’t be sending thought-messages for a while. Not until I figure out how to do this better. But I will keep listening. I’ll always listen. And if you need me, for anything, or if you even just want to say, “Hi,” I will always hear you. You’re my little sister!

And thanks for asking after Lucas. He is OK. His arm is just a little stiff is all. I don’t think I’ll be seeing him much anymore. But that’s OK, too. Or it will be. Eventually. When I grow a new heart. Just kidding. Not really, but it will all be OK for sure.

You know why? My pops is going to have a baby, and I’m going to be one busy bagoto! I will mail you a picture once the little guy is born. Oh–good news! The baby’s extra-terrestrial, too!

Stay cool, my paPandagoto!

Your brother (and your biggest fan),

Sept

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Author’s note: Many thanks to Thymeless for sending Panda’s message! Follow Pandora’s Box to keep up with Panda and Harmony’s thoughts and lives.

Wonder 23

Mae

2304

Another birthday. Dad would always ask me on my birthday, “What did you learn this year, baby girl?”

What did I learn, this year? Oh, so much! And it’s what I’ve known all along. Family is more than those under the same roof: family is made of those individuals we move through time with, sharing affection the way we share meals, jokes, stories, and songs.

Berry spent the afternoon learning to play “Happy Birthday” on the guitar.

“It ain’t easy!” she said. “This song is so dang complicated. Let’s sing Frere Jacques instead! I got that one down. Or Down in the Valley.

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As soon as Charlie got home, he texted all our friends to let them know the party was starting.

“By the way, Mae,” he said, “Grades are in, and I got an A!” Even more reason to celebrate!

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Charlie’s grandparents came from the island. We didn’t get a chance to visit much. Carlo spent most of his time out in side garden with his neighbors from the island.

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Every birthday, my dad would also ask me, “What did you give this year?”

What did I give? It doesn’t even feel like giving when it just comes out naturally.

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I gave Charlie a lot of time.

Berry and I have stuck by our original decision to let him pursue his interests. He’s become a musician. We gave him so many days and nights when he could practice all day. Now he’s composing. Given a choice, he’ll always turn to his violin.

When I hear his talent, it would be so easy to pressure him to be a professional musician, but Berry and I have both decided that we’ll just support him in going the direction that he wants to go.

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My dad’s third birthday question was, “What do you dream for the coming year?”

I dream of warmth. This love inside me–I’m not damming it up. This year, I dream of letting this warmth spread like sunshine, wherever it wants to go.

2303

I watched Berry meander through the party crowds, gathering the dirty dishes. When she’s helping, she’s happy. That’s one way  of spreading the warmth.

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Paolo’s mom made a side comment to me in the kitchen. “Seems to be an abundance of young single men here, mãe de meu neto.”

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I guess she didn’t like to see her son, the father of her grandson, there with our other single guy friends.

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“To my sister!” Berry called as the party was winding down. Everyone cheered, and I felt, suddenly and surprisingly, shy. I’m usually one to just laugh and deflect the attention. But feeling all eyes on me, including the eyes of Paolo’s parents, made me feel like a five-year-old again, and I darted off to the bedroom, hoping for a few moments alone to collect myself.

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I ran into Paolo instead–or rather, into his arms.

“Mae,” he whispered, “you are to me always meu Mae.”

“Can you stay awhile?” I asked Paolo. Suddenly, I had this wish for us to be a family, and I could hardly wait for the guests to leave, so it would just be Charlie, Paolo, Berry, and me.

2308

Paolo and Charlie talked about music–not futebol, but Berlioz.

I love to watch Charlie talk with his dad. I enjoy tracing the genetic patterns, seeing my dad’s nose on a face shaped like Paolo’s. But even more, I love the warmth in Charlie’s eyes.

2315

Charlie’s stayed best friends with his dad. I wonder if they’d be this close if Paolo had lived with us during Charlie’s childhood, instead of just down the street. Because Paolo had his own home and his own life, separate from ours, I sensed a respect and a tenderness that existed between the two that the pressures of daily life never had a chance to erode.

2314

And that same tenderness exists between me and Paolo, too. When I don’t have years of resentment built up over piles of dirty laundry, or morning breath, or forgotten bills, all I have instead for the father of our son is gratitude and love. Feeling this is the best birthday gift.

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas, pt. 3

The wishing well heard the thrush welcome dawn with a bright song. Over the bay, clouds settled, spreading sweet whispers of mist into the meadows. Some mornings were made for benevolence.

rethree20

Tomas had wanted to surprise Redbud with his return to life. He harbored a wish to come home solid and real and embrace her in warm arms. But Cathy’s message from onezero’s thousand mothers about the power of two caused him to rethink this. Some wishes need to be shared.

So that morning, Tomas told Redbud what he hoped to accomplish through the wishing well.

“Let’s do it,” Redbud said. “Do you think it will work? I think it will! And we’ll just keep trying until it does.”

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So, early in the morning, Tomas and Redbud came to Cathy Tea’s. onezero came along. “She is my best friend, after all,” onezero said.

While Redbud and onezero sat inside with their cups of coffee, Tomas walked out to the wishing well. One look at the benevolent half-smile on the wishing well’s face, and he kept his bag of coins. Instead, he pulled out a single coin, bright with hope, and tossed it into the well.

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The light shot up white and bright.

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Rays of light arced to Tomas, lifting him and shooting through his translucent form. His fingers tingled first.

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And then a jolt shot through where his spine would be, if he had a spine.

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The pain was intense as nerve-endings formed and energy consolidated.

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But it was the type of pain that Tomas wanted to moves towards, not away from, for he knew that as he moved through that pain, he would come out the other side in his old, familiar form.

His first breath brought joy. The air was so moist–he could taste the sea! Oh, his back ached, and his pulse beat so hard his chest felt about to burst, but he was solid.

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When he held Redbud, he could feel her heart beat, he could feel her breath on his shoulder, he could feel her warmth.

“You’re so warm,” Redbud said. “I’ve missed this,” she whispered.

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Cathy busied herself in the kitchen, and onezero was upstairs at the chess board, but Florinda was fascinated by this reunion of the man who used to be a ghost with the woman who was his wife. These were Sempervirens’ grandparents, after all!

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Soon, the atmosphere became too mushy for a kid, and Florinda joined Cathy outside for a snack, leaving Tomas and Redbud alone to rediscover how they made each other feel.

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And then it was time to include the others in the celebration.

“He did it, onezero!” Redbud told her aunt.

“I knew he would,” onezero said. “Wishes are just a matter of time!”

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Cathy had baked fresh bagels and lemon bars. While Tomas carried his snack out to patio, he thought about what this new extension of life would bring. He realized that it wasn’t so much a matter of doing things as being with others.

He wanted to be with Redbud, with his grown children, with his grandchild, with old friends and new.

rethree12

“Does it feel very much different?” Redbud asked.

“Oh, yeah,” said Tomas. “I’d forgotten all of this! Hunger. That stiff crook in my neck. How hard it is to chew a bagel with these old molars!”

rethree11

“Oh, I forgot about your stiff neck,” Redbud said.

“I love it!” Tomas said. “Every single ache and pain, what my granddad used to call ‘the usual aches and pains,’ I love every one. If it means I get to feel breath in my lungs again, and to feel your warm skin, I’ll take these aches and pains!”

rethree10

“You look handsome,” Redbud said. “I mean. Wow.”

“I’m not some old bag of wrinkles?” asked Tomas.

“Oh, you’ve got wrinkles! But remember. I was there for every one. All those years I remember when I look at your face.”

rethree09

All those years! It had been a lifetime. It was easy to forget sometimes, looking at Redbud and onezero, who had chosen to remain young, that together they had lived a whole lifetime and more! That was a lot to be thankful for.

rethree08

Sparkroot joined them.

“How come you’re not a ghost anymore?” he asked Tomas.

“I wanted to breathe again,” Tomas said. “And to crunch on your mom’s bagels with these old clickers.”

rethree07

As evening fell, Tomas found himself in conversation with Florinda.

“I’m glad that Little Green gets a real grandpa,” she said. “Did you know that Sparky and I don’t have a grandpa? Or a grandma, either.”

“Well, we’re practically family, aren’t we?” Tomas said. “Why, you just live up the hill from my little grandchild. And I’ve always wanted to have a whole pack of kids to think of as grandkids. You can all me Poppa, if you want, little Flor.”

“And will you play games and tell stories?” Florinda asked.

“Of course!” said Tomas. “That’s what Poppas do!”

rethree06

Soon, it was time to head home. Redbud sought out Cathy before she, onez, and Tomas left for Cradle Rock.

“Thank you,” she said.

“I’m so happy!” said Cathy.

“Me, too,” said Redbud.

“Me, too!” said Sparkroot.

rethree01

For Cathy, at that moment, the old wishing well seemed to have brought everything good! She forgot about her confused feelings for Brennan, the man she loved who could bring such pain, along with such joy, and she remembered only her love for Brennan, the joy their two kids brought into this wide world, and now, this gift for Redbud and Tomas and all who loved them.

That wishing well–it brought life, and with it, the complex brew of feeling and emotion that living brings.

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas, pt. 2

Tomas stood at the last grave in the long row of tombstones that lined Cradle Rock: his grave. He was the last to die here, so close to making it to the new era when time would shift. He regretted nothing: not one aspect of his long life with Redbud. But he mourned the loss of that long life.

retwo01

He spent the day wandering Cradle Rock, visiting all his favorite spots, watching Redbud as she went about her day, and then, as night fell, he returned to Cathy Tea’s.

Sparkroot greeted him.

“Where’s your mom, little bud?” Tomas asked.

“Not sure, exactly,” Sparkroot said.

retwo14

“We were playing outside after dinner, and we heard this weird whirring sound,” Sparkroot said. “You ever see one of those big lit-up frisbees in the sky? It was one of those!”

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“Ah, I see!” said Tomas. “I don’t suppose your mom headed over to check out the lights.”

“Yeah,” said Sparkroot. “That’s just what she did. She told me to go inside and wait for her, and she went out front to take a look, and then the whir noise got louder, and then by the time the noise was gone, I couldn’t find Ama! You think she’s OK?”

“Yes, I do,” said Tomas. “Not to worry. It’s happened to a lot of us. She’ll be back safe and sound and all the wiser. Where’s your sister?”

“She’s at Little Green’s home in the big meadow.”

Tomas smiled to think of his granddaughter Sempervirens playing with Cathy Tea’s child. Thinking of Little Green made him want to return to life all the more! How incredible it would be to be an actual part, not just a spiritual part, of his granddaughter’s life.

“Think I can use your Wishing Well again?” Tomas asked Sparkroot.

“Sure thing,” said Sparkroot. “Just be careful what you wish for. That’s what Ama always tells us.”

Tomas had a good feeling about his wish this time. He felt so much more sure.

He tossed in the bag of coin for his donation, and as the white light of gratitude shone up, he felt confident. His intentions were set: they were right.

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He knew this wish was for the best. Let it happen!

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Green light shone out: green, the color of life, living, and growing things. His hope grew.

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He felt the white helix surround him. The tingling was less extensive than before.

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And then it faded. No change? After all of that? After the pure setting of intention and the clarity of thought and wishing? And, nothing?

There was something. He felt a round bump in his pocket, like a pebble. When he took it out, he saw a seed in the shape of a skull. It looked like something he’d seen in an old illustrated book: the seed of the death flower.

It wasn’t what he’d wished for, but at least his wish left him something in his pocket.

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He didn’t want to leave the the children while their mother was still gone, so he found a book inside and settled down to wait.

Late at night, Florinda straggled in.

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“You’re home, I see!” he said. “And how was Little Green? How is my granddaughter?”

“You’re Little Green’s arsa’thair?” asked Florinda. “She’s my really good friend!”

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Tomas heard all about the mischief and games that Florinda and Sempervirens got into that day. While Tomas was tucking in Florinda for the night, he heard the whirring sound.

The saucer circled, then hovered over the house, sending down its beam of light.

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And Cathy Tea slid down the beam, landing without even a wobble, as if she’d done this a thousand times before.

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“How was it?” Tomas asked. “Safe trip?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “It was fine. I was just catching up with onezero’s thousand. They left a message for me. In fact… oh, forgive me. My mind’s a little groggy. All that travel. I haven’t caught up with myself yet. Let’s see. They said… Oh! They had a message for you!”

retwo04

“For me?” Tomas asked.

“Yes! For you! They said, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, don’t at first give up!’ And then they said something about the power of two and all of that. It’s a little beyond me at the moment, but there you have it!”

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas

Tomas’s ghost waited at Cathy Tea’s door. If things worked out the way he hoped, he’d walk out this door on two solid legs on the solid ground, rather than glide through air, and when he got back home, he’d wrap his wife in his arms and feel her warmth on his skin. To breathe again! Could it happen?

reone16

That morning, onezero told Tomas about Cathy’s wishing well.

“They say you can wish for anything!” she said. “Of course, wishes are limited, and they don’t always come true the way we might envision, but there is power in that well that can make the most incredible things manifest!”

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Tomas felt grateful that he could be with his wife in spirit–he was able to watch her daily and to see that she still felt joy and that she was well.

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Some days, they were able to talk together. She still loved sharing with him her ideas for novels or specific composition challenges she was working on in her paintings.

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But he missed so much. He missed the quiet daily rhythms of living beside her, most of all: sharing a bed; finding, as they slept, that their breath had fallen into the same rhythm; the moments when her arm might brush against his; feeling her warmth.

So when onezero told him about Cathy’s wishing well, he felt a rush of hope.

“What about life?” he asked. “Do its powers extend to life?”

onezero told him about Brennan Stuckey, Cathy’s Wishing Well Man and the father of her twins.

“But you have to be careful how the wish manifests,” she said. “Sure, Cathy now has two twins, but they came at a price! Their father isn’t the most considerate or reliable man. But there’s life, sure! So, there’s that.”

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Tomas was willing to give it a try.

“I don’t have that much to lose, right?”

onezero paused. There is always so much to lose! Every choice, every action incurs loss of some sort.

“Loss isn’t anything to worry over,” she said at last. “It’s like breathing: inhale and exhale. What will you gain? That’s the question.”

reone19

So Tomas ventured to Cathy’s home at the end of the road on the hillside.

When she didn’t answer the door, he glided out back, where he found her working on a canvas.

He hadn’t counted on how beautiful it was here. He’d grown accustomed to the stark russet landscape of the desert. The soft greens and muted blues, the flowers at every turn, the sweet moist air that tickled as it blew through him–it truly was stepping into a new world.

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“I’ve heard about your well,” he said. “Can anyone use it? Can I?”

“Sure!” she said. “It’s not mine. It just happens to be here. It’s a little bit greedy. It likes donations. It’s kind of fickle, too. I’ve got mixed feelings about it, actually, Tomas. I mean, there are so many ways to make wishes come true! I’m starting to like it when I can use my own rune to bring them about.”

“I’m not sure I can do what I want on my own,” Tomas said.

“Well, it’s around back,” she said. “Have at it!”

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Tomas had brought a purse of money with him. He paused a moment. What would help wishes come true? Gratitude, surely!

He felt thankful: for his life, for his children Cypress and J. P., for his wife Redbud, for this wishing well.

He tossed the purse into the well.

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Bright light flew out of it, shining from the eyes and mouth of the well’s face.

This was auspicious!

He tossed in the coin quickly with his wish: Life! Give me back life!

A crack of granite shot from the well’s depths, and as the echoes faded, gold light seeped up through the gap.

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Tomas felt heat rise with the light.

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White light encircled him, and the energy lifted him. He felt sensations! Tingling! As if he had nerve endings that could tingle!

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Then the light faded. He was set back upon the ground. He was not solid.

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He had felt life flow through him, and it had left.

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In that moment, when he’d felt life blow through him, he had experienced such joy. All his hopes rose and gathered into possibility.

And now, they left. Every single hope.

He had died. Nothing could undo that.

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He hadn’t realized how much he had wanted to hold his wife in arms that could feel. How much he’d wanted to hear his granddaughter’s laughter. How he’d wanted to feel his two feet on solid ground.

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Cathy sat with him in the garden.

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“I hadn’t realized how much I’d wanted it,” Tomas said.

“Yeah,” replied Cathy. “The well is like that. If anything, it helps us see what we want and what we don’t, sometimes too late.”

“onezero said there’s always something to lose,” Tomas replied. “I guess I’ve lost my peaceful acceptance of being dead.”

“That’s heavy,” said Cathy. “But what did you gain? Every loss brings a gain.”

Tomas tried to lighten the mood. “You can still see through me?”

“Yeah,” Cathy joked back. “You wear the colors of your feelings!”

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“I got to spend a morning here in your garden,” Tomas said. “That’s something.”

“True.”

“I guess, really, though, I got a clearer understanding of what I want. I know I can just accept this state I’m in, but it’s not what I want. And knowing that, well, that gives me something to work towards, right? I’m not ready to give up.”

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Sparkroot came home from school as they were finishing their conversation.

“Are you a real ghost?” Sparkroot asked Tomas.

“I am at that, for now.”

“Cool!” said Sparkroot. “I’ve always wanted to meet a ghost!”

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