New Found Soul

N2020

New Zealand

“Being true to yourself really means being true to all the complexities of the human spirit.” ~ Rita Dove

Christina gave Ashley a milkshake as she sat down beside him on the patio, her own drink in hand. “That year in high school,” she started, looking at him out of the corner of her eye, “what exactly happened that fall?”

He looked off into the distance, silent and still. After a moment, he spoke in almost a whisper. “Do you mean how did I know whom to introduce her to and why?”

Christina faced him properly and waited for him to do the same. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to finally find the line not to cr-.”

He kept his focus afar but raised his voice ever so slightly. “You ever read Janet Frame’s works? Vivian Gates introduced me to them. Brought up a lot of memories I thought I buried. I know why I write, why I love it. I’m talking forward and you’re asking past.

“The unofficial counseling sessions were what helped keep me somewhat sane. Of course, they were never called that; benefit of finding a hero with an alter ego of violin teacher. Anyhow, after… If Stringfellow was safe for me, then it would be safe for…”

Ashley turned to look Christina in the eye. “I haven’t for-.”

“You have nothing to forgive yourself for. What happened wasn’t your fault.”

“I haven’t forgotten her,” he finished. “She’s there, in that treasured place of memory alongside my grandparents. And one of these days, I’m going to make it to New Zealand, just like she wanted to go. Still have the map and itinerary, too.”

Christina’s eyes widened. “You’re serious?”

He nodded. “I was going to say, if you have a current passport, or few, we could make it quite a family adventure.”

She smiled. “Exploring someplace new could be fun, and healthy. You set the date, I’ll get the reservations.”

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