Alan Dale Dalby
One life; a little gleam of time between two eternities; no
second chance for us forever more.
- Thomas Carlyle
Julian might never have known that his little spot by the stream
did not lend him solitude had he not heard that fateful mousy
sneeze.He sat on his stump, his favorite spot-for to him it was
magical that some of the beauty surrounding him took so long to
die and left corpses that seemed to never rot-there he sat and he
listened to the water trickle past him and watched it carry the
abandoned leaves of amber and gold to some unknown
destination.This was his peace and his sole escape from cruelty
and suffering.Junior high was taking its toll on his body and
mind and leaving him struggling to find good cause just to get
out of bed each morning.This was the beginning of his second year
and yet he was still recovering from the first.The sneeze
startled him out of his blank meditation and sent him spinning as
he leapt from his stump and searched the secluded hideaway for
the person or persons who were seemingly trying to steal it away.
There was a rustling and the sound of clumsiness that could only
have come from a flesh and blood human.Julian squinted and
sniffled in the thickness of the afternoon.Transitions were all
around him.He could appreciate the turning of the leaves as fall
crept in and kissed the lushness of the green summer goodbye for
another nine month stretch.He tried not to think of himself
turning from boy into man, not for fear of the final result but
the awkwardness of the journey.And he had not a single thought in
his head about the girl that stood so close by watching him and
breathing in his second-hand serenity.
She watched him as he brushed past her and left her to hold his
place by the creek and even to dare sit upon his stump while he
took his leave back to reality.The way he pushed his glasses up
his nose and struggled to hoist his overstuffed backpack further
onto his shoulder were so his own, that is what the girl saw in
him.That is what she had always seen in him.Their eyes had never
met but she knew what color his were, a deep brown maple that
blended perfectly with his choice surroundings of protective
He had not seen her that day, had not noticed the girl who had
accidently allowed herself to let her presence be known.He did
not know what she saw in him because he could not see her
standing right before his eyes.This girl that did not exist in
Julian's world admired him from afar as she let him pass with
mere inches dividing them.She felt his warmth touch her skin, let
it give rise to goose bumps that raised the tiny silken hairs on
her arms before evaporating away as if it had never been there.
He would head home as he did every afternoon and do whatever it
was he did when he got there.The girl did not know of him outside
of their special place on the edge of the park, the place where
magic existed and horrors faded away.She herself was fading
away.She knew of her fate and wished it away as often as she
breathed in or out but could not avoid it any more than she could
Her name was Nona and she would soon fade completely away.There
would be no whisperings of her name in the halls of the
school.Her voice would not return to Julian as he lay awake in
bed on his restless nights for he had yet to hear it.Very few
would mourn her for very few knew that they should.
Nona sat down on Julian's stump and put one foot into the
impression his tennis shoe had left behind in the loose dirt.The
water spoke to her as it had many times in the past and as always
she listened.A single tear fell into the creek and left with the
forgotten leaves, now all changed in color and homeless in the
wild.Nona gently picked one up and felt it between her finger and
thumb.Together they were no longer lonely and they watched as the
night fell and listened as the world outside of their own took to
its collective beds.
"Goodnight."She said softly.
Julian felt the familiar sting of his flesh scraping against the
grass as his delicate frame was thrown to the ground.The other
boys laughed and continued on with their game of soccer as Julian
nursed his aching elbow.His socks had green stains set into them
as did the scrapes on his bare leg. The gym teacher clapped his
hands and yelled unsympathetically for him to get up and walk it
In the locker room he suffered the same torture from the same
bully that had set his sites on Julian from the very first day
they walked into the same hallway of the junior high
school.Julian remembered the feel of the air being forced from
his lungs as he was shoved into the closed steel door of his
locker and then plummeted to the slick hard floor onto his
back.He had been too afraid to tell his teachers or his parents
the truth about the wound on his forehead.He still preferred
never to speak his enemy's name out loud for it may well summon
his presence and give way to another unprovoked attack.
The sound of the bell ringing was not a relief to Julian until he
was a safe distance from the school and heading down an opposite
route from the path that the bully and his posse traveled each
afternoon.Soon he would be back at the park, back to where he
wanted to be.He had not anticipated an intruder and was clenching
his fists tightly as he repeated the same thought over and over
again-Please don't be there today.
The coast seemed clear as Julian ducked under the hanging tree
branches that blocked his special spot from the view of the other
children at the park.People walked their dogs along the dirt path
just on the other side of those branches but did not venture down
to the small sliver of stream that was Julian's and Julian's
alone.The older kids from the high school sat in their cars at
the far end of the park and smoked cigarettes, made out, and did
other things that Julian was just beginning to understand the
desire for but still felt perfectly happy not taking part in any
Nona watched him as he looked for her and wondered if he had any
thoughts as to whom he was trying to find.He tossed his heavy
backpack down and sat on his favorite stump.He had often tried to
read his assigned books or concentrate on math problems while he
let the torments of the day fall behind him but he had never had
any luck with any of it.He had decided the year before that
homework was for home.Nothing had any place in his little
sheltered hideaway but his own thoughts and the things that
existed there naturally.A bee broke the silence as it buzzed
loudly into Julian's ear.He froze for a moment and hoped his
heart would not fly from his chest as it seemed to be trying to
beat its way out.The bee hovered and danced around Julian with no
apparent desire to leave him alone anytime soon.Julian jumped up
and fled from his stump.
He did not know what to think as he heard Nona hit the ground.He
could not have been more certain that he had just slammed into a
human being, felt their mass against him and echoed their pain as
the two of them collided.He was stunned and frightened as he
stood gape-jawed and watched the ground where she had fallen.The
dry leaves crackled beneath her palms as she balanced
herself.Handprints appeared in the dirt as she pushed against it
and lifted herself up.Unthinkingly Julian extended his arm and
offered an open hand to her.He pulled his hand away as he felt
her cold fingers touch against his.They left behind a bit of
earth that he rubbed between his fingertips and watched fall back
to where it came from.
"I didn't mean to startle you."Nona felt badly for Julian as the
frightened look on his face intensified.She was standing in front
of him now and let him know that.
"Are you a ghost?"Julian felt this question to be very silly but
it was the only one that popped into his head as he listened to
thin air apologizing to him.
"No. I'm Nona."
Julian scratched his head and adjusted his thick glasses before
finally breaking free of the pose he had struck as soon as he had
accidently struck Nona.
"Why can't I see you if you are not a ghost?"
"I have a condition."Nona said softly."It is extremely rare.I am
the only person who has ever had it in the entire world.At least
that is what the doctors told my parents."
"I don't understand at all."Julian's eyes told Nona that he was
not lying but she would have been shocked if he had been.
"Nobody ever does."Nona said."Do you want to sit down on your
"I think I would like to sit down yes."Julian stumbled a bit as
he found his way back to his favorite seat.
"May I sit down next to you?"
"You can if you want to."
"I would like to very much thanks."Nona had waited so long for
this moment and savored it properly as she slowly stepped over to
Julian's side and lowered herself down onto the stump next to
where he was perched."I have always liked this spot."
"Me too."Said Julian."I sort of think of it as my own personal
spot but I guess I was wrong all of this time."
"I am sorry.Did you want me to leave?"
"No."The word flew from his lips and surprised him."How long have
you been coming here?"
"As long as you have been."Nona said."At least I think so, but
maybe you were coming here before I started to follow you."
"Why do you follow me here?"
"I don't know.Why do you come here?"
"I come here because it is the only place I feel safe.This is the
only place in the entire world where I can be happy."
"I like that answer."Nona said."I think that would have been a
good answer for me as well."
The bee returned to Julian and began to hover very close to his
face.He froze again and wished as hard as he could that the bee
would simply go away.
"You shouldn't be afraid of it you know."Nona said."They can
smell fear.Bees have a phenomenal sense of smell."The bee finally
gave up on Julian and flew off.
"They must be related to some kids I know at school."
"Do you get picked on every day?"
"It must be obvious I guess, otherwise you wouldn't be asking me
that.I don't think I have ever talked to myself."Julian looked
down at the red and green scrapes on his leg.He felt a cool
gentle hand brush against his wounds and flinched.
"I'm sorry."Nona said."I just feel so badly for what they do to
"It's not your fault."Julian quickly closed himself off.Nona
could tell that he was embarrassed by the conversation and by the
gentle touch of the girl sitting beside him."I guess I should
probably go home now."
"Oh, okay."Nona was certain now that she had made a
mistake.Julian had never left after such a short stay by the
creek."Do you mind me being here?If you do I won't come back
"No, it's cool."Julian hopped off of the stump and grabbed his
backpack.He pushed his glasses up his nose after he slung the
pack over his shoulder."I'll see you tomorrow."
As he left Julian realized his wording may not have been exactly
tactful but Nona did not share in his feeling.She smiled as she
found herself all alone once again.The creek whispered to her.He
will see you it said.
"You're home early."Julian's mother said as he attempted to fly
past her unnoticed.He cursed her keen senses and slowed down his
steps slightly so as not to seem rude.
"I guess so."
"Well dinner will be a little late tonight.I'll let you know when
it is ready."
"Okay?"She walked out of the kitchen and caught sight of her son
just as his feet disappeared at the top of the stairs."I guess
'thank you' would be too much to ask."Julian did not hear her
last remark.He was in the process of shutting the door to his
bedroom as she spoke it.His mother sighed and looked around at
the otherwise empty house.She wondered if her son would ever
return to the boy he once had been but just as quickly realized
that he would not.He was growing up behind her back and she
wished that he would let some cracks show in his pubescent shell
so that she could play at least a small role in this awkward
phase in his life.
Behind the closed door Julian sat on the edge of his bed and
pondered his new acquaintance.He thought on the tales of children
with imaginary friends who carry those apparitions with them into
ages far too advanced for such nonsense.He had never had one of
these kinds of friends before.Julian had always been content to
have very few friends or-as he now counted them-seemingly none at
all.So he had not brought Nona with him from his childhood.Why
did she choose to come into his world now?Did she choose to do so
or had he invented her out of necessity, out of desperate
loneliness?Julian decided to let go of this troubling train of
thought and focus on some homework instead.He unzipped the heavy
backpack weighing down the bed next to him and pulled out his
He took a quick break halfway through his studies to wolf down
his dinner and leave the table without giving any compliments to
the chef.His mother remained at the table and stared at the empty
chair that Julian had left pulled slightly out from under it,
then to the place setting that had gone untouched since Julian's
father had abandoned them a few years prior.She did as she did
every night and concentrated hard in order to fight back her
temptation to hate the man she had once been so in love with.She
slowly finished her own meal and cleared the table save for her
missing husband's place.She felt a few drops of salty tears
trickle down her sunken cheeks as she washed off the plates and
flatware.Sometimes she found herself glad that Julian stayed up
in his room all night long.She would never want him to see her in
such a state.
Little did she know that up in his room Julian too was letting go
of his emotions as he shoved his books back into his pack and
tossed the heavy pack into the corner of his room.He dumped his
clothes into his hamper and slipped into bed.He had too many
things going on in his mind, too many thoughts and too many
emotions crashing against each other to focus on any single
one.As he closed his eyes tightly he settled on the recent memory
of a sound.He let Nona's soothing voice replace all of the
screaming dread that facing the next day of school brought.He
replayed her words over and over like sheep jumping a fence
inside of a thought bubble and soon found them carrying him off
Gym class came around once again and Julian prepared himself for
some fresh bruises.His bully did not ignore his daily punishment,
laying him out on the soccer field once again.After class Julian
sat in the locker room and waited for it to clear out before he
changed back into his regular clothes.The gym teacher blocked him
on his way out.
"Julian isn't it?"
"Yes sir."Julian said meekly.
"Shouldn't you be in your next class by now?"
"Oh, yes I guess you're right.Sorry."
"Is everything okay son?"These words did not seem to sync
properly with the movement of this gruff man's jaw.He smacked the
gum he was chewing and made a loud popping noise with it in the
corner of his mouth.What was even more unsettling was that he
sounded genuinely interested and even concerned about Julian.
"I'm okay sir.Thank you."
"You're sure about that?"The gym teacher's muscles expanded as he
crossed his arms and lowered his head.His eyes did not seem to
believe that everything was okay.Julian simply nodded and hoisted
his sagging backpack further up on his shoulder."Well you just
let me know if any of these guys are giving you too hard of a
time out there okay son?"
"Okay."Julian did not smile or even look this man in the eyes.He
did not know how to react.The gym teacher remained standing there
with his arms crossed and watched as Julian rushed out of the
"How was your day?"Nona asked as Julian threw down his pack and
took his usual seat on the stump by the creek.
"It wasn't that bad I guess."He could not see Nona nodding but he
could feel her presence next to him."So if you're not a ghost
what are you?"
"I told you before, I'm Nona."
"I know your name but that isn't what I was asking."
"What do you think I am?"
"I don't really know I guess."Julian kicked at the dirt and
stared at the rippling water in the stream.He watched the
floating leaves and let the calm of the afternoon sooth him."I
never met anyone who I couldn't see before."
"Not in person anyway."Nona said.
"That's what I meant."
"I said I have a condition that is very rare and in fact is
singular.It has only ever happened to me."
"So what is it?"
"It's something I was born with."
"I don't mean to stick my nose into your business.I'm just
curious is all."
"Don't worry about it."Nona said."I could pinch you if you need
more convincing that I am a real live girl."Nona was glad to see
that she had caused Julian to smile for a change.
"How old are you?"
"Me too.How come you don't go to school with us?"
"Who is 'us'?"Nona asked."You got a mouse in your pocket?"
"You know what I mean.I've never seen you at school."
"You aren't really seeing me now you know."Nona kicked up some
dirt.It was odd for Julian to see inanimate things moving about
as if on their own.
"Don't you go to school at all?"
"I am home schooled.My parents decided early on that it wouldn't
be safe for me to go to public school.They worried about what
would happen once my condition reached this point."
"What point?"Julian asked.
"I wasn't always this bad.I started fading when I was younger and
just within the past few years turned completely transparent."
"So what happens next?"Julian was the one who felt he had touched
on a sore spot this time.There was a long silence from Nona.The
only thing letting him know she was still there next to him were
her feet still pushing the dirt around."Do you wear clothes?"
"What?"Nona broke into laughter and it became contagious rather
quickly.Julian was catching his breath when Nona started to speak
"I don't run around starkers if that's what you think."She
said."My condition affects things that are close to my skin for
"How long does it take?"
"Just a minute or so."
"How long does it last?"
"You are one curious guy aren't you?"Nona chuckled and Julian
shrugged."It isn't permanent if that's what you are asking.Watch
this."He heard one of her shoes flop onto the ground."Just keep
watching."Julian did as he was told.Slowly he saw the outline of
the shoe form, then the bulk of it filled in and soon it was
"That's really cool!"Julian said.
"I guess."Nona was very accustomed to this event that had just
completely blown Julian's mind.She dropped down and put her shoe
back on.Julian watched as it faded out of sight once more, down
to the outline and then back to nothingness.
"I didn't eat my cookie today."Julian blurted the words out."You
can have it if you want it."
"What kind of cookie?"
"It's a snickerdoodle."
"Ooh, give it!"Nona accepted the sweet offering that Julian
produced for her.He was curious to see her eat but decided to be
polite and let his eyes rest upon the view of the stream.Nona
happily crunched her snickerdoodle, finishing it quickly."Thanks
for the cookie."She said after another stint of silence.
"Sure."Julian noticed the sun drawing closer to the mountains in
the west and realized that it was getting late."I guess I should
"So will you be here tomorrow?"
"Good."Julian said."I'll talk to you then."
"Okay."Nona said.Julian grabbed his pack and headed up through
the thick tree branches out into the world outside of his special
spot in the park.As he headed home he smiled wide at the
realization that it was not his spot now, it was their spot.Nona
had the same thought as she headed home for the night.Both went
to sleep with thoughts of their time together warming them.
The days turned to weeks.Weekends had always been the one thing
that Julian could look forward to and now he had Nona to sweeten
the deal.They would share talks and games and dreams of what the
future might bring.Nona's parents were happy to know that their
daughter had found a friend who understood and accepted
her.Julian knew his mother would have him committed if he told
her he met an invisible girl at the park and so he lied to her,
saying that he had joined a weekend chess group at school.The
full days at the park that were shared on the weekends filled
Julian and Nona with enough joy to see them through the rest of
the week, getting their nightly fix of togetherness once Sunday
was behind them and Saturday once again lay ahead.
Nona was careful never to spoil their time by bringing up the one
thing about her condition that she felt Julian did not need to be
bothered with.He was old enough to have experienced loss before
and she knew from the story of his father walking out on him and
his mother that he indeed had.The end was in sight for her but
she had known that for a number of years.Her parents were firm
believers in not keeping children in the dark when it came to the
truth, especially when the truth was terrifying.
And so life went on for the two good friends.Nona with her lonely
days of being at home with her father teaching her Shakespeare
and Julian dealing with the recurring violence inflicted upon him
by his own personal bully.He found strength when he was with
Nona, and that strength continuously grew until one fateful day
when Julian did the unthinkable; he stood up to his bully.
It all began very normally.The winter days had come and the boys
were kept inside of the gym playing basketball.As the snow
decorated the fantastical winter world outside Julian's bully was
waiting to strike.Julian found himself holding the ball and this
caught him very off guard.It had been passed to him by his bully
to one end alone.That end came as Julian made his move for the
basket.He had a strange feeling of enjoyment as he dribbled the
ball towards the open target and prepared to throw it through the
hoop.He was in mid-throw when the bully's tennis shoe slammed
into Julian's exposed shin.He felt the harsh pain burn quickly
through his leg as the ball dropped and the teacher blew his
"Let's keep it clean out there gentlemen!"He shouted.
"Wuss."The bully said as he looked down at Julian.Something
snapped inside and Julian grabbed onto the bully's leg, yanking
hard and causing the much larger boy to fall flat on his
face.Shock filled Julian as he realized what he had just done.He
felt a small twinge of pride before the dread erased it.His bully
sat up and Julian saw the blood underneath his nose.The bully
touched his hand to his upper lip and looked at his red sticky
fingers, and then he set his sights on Julian."You're dead."He
said with a small hint of a pleased grin.
Julian picked up his glasses and ran out of the gym.He quickly
changed clothes and escaped before the bell rang.He spent the
rest of the day fretting the end that he could see coming.The
final bell saw that end and sent Julian running through the snow
towards the park as fast as his feet would carry him.He was met
with terror as he reached the park to find the bully waiting
there for him with two of his goons.
"Let's get the freak!"The three larger boys took off after Julian
who fled into the now barren trees and down to the frozen creek.
"Nona!"He cried out in desperation.
"What's wrong?"Her question was quickly answered as the three
tormentors invaded their secret spot by the creek.Nona took
Julian's hand and pulled herself into him.Their lips were locked
before either of them knew what was happening.Nona closed her
eyes as she noticed that Julian was returning her offering of a
kiss.He melted into it and forgot about his predicament with the
bullies.The three of them looked around but could not spot
"Where did he go?"One of them asked.
"I don't know."Another said.They searched the area for a while
before giving up and retreating back to the open space of the
main park.Long after they had gone the unseen kiss ended.Julian
opened his eyes to find that he too was invisible.
"Tell me about it."Nona's voice betrayed her intoxication.
"That was amazing.You saved my life just now."
"Oh."Nona said."You're welcome."She backed away from Julian and
he began to reappear.
"Did I say something wrong?"
"No."Nona said as her footprints in the snow headed away from
Julian.She said nothing else.Julian found himself alone in their
secret corner of the world, struck by the realization of how
foolish he had been.
Nona did not show up the next day.She was not there to see the
aftermath of the beating Julian had received.The bully and his
goons had finally caught up with Julian.He knew it was going to
happen but that fact did not do anything to soften the
blows.Julian waited for nearly an hour before heading home.He
tried to sneak by his mother but she managed to nab him.
"Oh my god sweetie what happened to you?"She asked with heavy
concern in her voice as she looked her son over.
"I tried to stick up for myself."Julian said."I guess I learned
"Sit down."She ordered before pulling out a chair for him at the
kitchen table.Julian hesitated.He simply wanted to head upstairs
and take a long hot bath but he could see the resolve in his
mother's face.She was not going to let him pass until he took a
seat and so he did.She sat down across the table from him."Talk
"Oh I don't know, maybe we could start with 'hello'."
"Mom, I really just want to go upstairs."
"Tough."She said."You are such a stranger to me anymore and I
can't take it."She shook her head and broke into tears."I just
want to be a mother to my son, you know?I don't see what is so
terrible about that."
"There isn't anything terrible about that."Julian let his guard
down as he watched his normally unsinkable mother crash into an
ocean of tears.It rarely if ever occurred to him that her life
had been very hard ever since his father left.Julian was caught
in the world of his teenage troubles and self-awareness and he
was too far in to see what she was going through.He was too far
in to truly see what Nona was going through either.
"I'm sorry Julian."His mother sniffled."I didn't mean to lose it
in front of you.I am just concerned about you is all."
"I know that mom."Julian got up and made a rare move.He wrapped
his arms around her and gave her a hug.
"What is this?"His mother chuckled.
"It's called a hug.I thought you could use one."
"You are a good kid, most of the time."
"Thanks."Julian smirked as he walked over to grab his backpack
off of the floor.
"I thought we could order pizza tonight, maybe rent a movie.What
do you say kiddo?"
"Sure."Julian nodded.He headed upstairs to draw himself a hot
bath and figure out what to do about Nona.
She was not at the creek the next afternoon, nor was she there
the afternoon after that. Julian waited for her each day.He even
braved the cold to wait for her on Saturday, then again on
Sunday; but she never came.He thought all hope seemed lost until
he reached home on Sunday night.
"Do you know a girl named Nona?"His mother asked him.
"Yes."Julian was glad to hear these words yet wary of the tone
they were wrapped in.
"Her mother called a couple of hours ago kiddo."She tilted her
head and pushed the corner of her mouth up."She's in the ICU."
"I have to go."Julian felt his heart rate increase.
"I'll get my coat."His mother followed him out to the car and
drove him to the hospital.
"You must be Julian."A pleasant woman about the age of Julian's
own mother greeted him with tears in her eyes as he entered the
waiting room for the ICU.
"Are you Nona's mother?"He asked.She nodded and sniffled."Can I
see her?You know what I mean I guess."He looked at his feet
quickly but found some leftover courage and moved his focus back
to Nona's mother's face.
"Her father is in with her right now but you can see her
"Okay."Julian sat down after she did.His own mother waved at him
from down the hall.She wanted to allow him to have some time with
Nona's mother without her intrusion.Once he had gone she would go
"Nona has told us all about you."The woman sitting near him
smiled."I'm so glad that you two met.Nona has some obvious
difficulties making friends."
"She's great."Julian felt he should have been able to think up
something better to say but he was trying hard to fight back his
"We get so worried about her but the park is right in our back
yard and we thought if she stayed away from the street she would
"What happened to her?" Julian cleared his throat after asking
this in a froggy voice.
"Oh it's nothing like that, I was just thinking out loud."She
weaved her fingers together and put her hands up to her
mouth."It's the disease.They say she is in the final stages."She
lost control of her facial tics and sobbed into her hands.A man
emerged from the large metal door leading into the room beyond, a
room full of people struggling simply to live.
"She is in good spirits."He said as he approached Nona's
mother."Hello there son."He nodded at Julian who stood and
extended his hand.Nona's father accepted the gesture before
sitting down and putting his arms around his wife."Go ahead in
Julian.She has been asking for you."
Julian simply nodded and bit his lip then rushed over to the
thick ICU door and mashed his palm against the large button that
opened it.He looked around as he passed from bed to bed and
examined the human beings hooked up to so many machines they
seemed to be something else now.It was not hard to find Nona.She
was the only set of machines that were hooked up to a girl who
did not seem to be there.Julian was surprised to find that the
bed and the devices were fully visible.Nona could see what he was
thinking as she looked at his face.
"I guess I'm too weak to spread the magic."She said.Her voice was
very strained and dim.
"I thought I had chased you off after our kiss."Julian said as he
stopped at her bedside."I missed you."
"I missed you too."
"Why didn't you tell me?"He asked."Surely you knew."
"I didn't want to worry you."Nona strained to get the words
out."I didn't want to scare you off either."
"You should know me better than that."He reached down and felt
for her hand.He was careful not to disturb her IV as he wrapped
his fingers around hers.Nona wished that he could see her smile
at him.Even though he could not he sensed it.
"The nurses are going to kick you out soon.I wanted to tell you
that it was my first kiss.That kiss with you by the stream, you
were my first kiss Julian."
"You were my first kiss too."He smiled.
"I liked it."
"Me too."He squeezed her hand carefully.
"I'm sorry but we're going to need to scoot you out of here
buddy."A man in green scrubs said in a kind but firm voice as he
checked the screen on the plastic box hanging above Nona's bed.
"I'll be back really soon Nona."Julian promised.
"I'm glad you came."Nona said.
"So am I."
Nona's condition stabilized and she was moved to a slightly more
cheerful room with a view.It had been a scary few days and Julian
had not failed in his promise to return each afternoon.His mother
got some credit too for taking time off from work to drive him
directly from school to the hospital.Julian got to know Nona's
parents quite well, as did his mother who would sit with them in
the waiting room while Julian spent his alone time with Nona.
"I wish you could see me."She said to him one evening.
"I do see you."
"You know what I mean Julian.I just wish for a moment that you
could find me beautiful.I don't even know if I am anymore, or if
I ever was."
"You are the most beautiful person I have ever known."Julian sat
on the edge of the hospital bed and held Nona's hand.
"Inner beauty is a great concept if that is what you are going
for, but there is a desire within me that is so strong it
burns."Nona shook her hand free of his.
"I think I can help you."Julian took off his heavy glasses and
handed them to her.They began to vanish in her hand as she lifted
them up to her face."Take a look."
"Wow you must have crappy vision."Nona laughed as she looked
through the cloudy blur of his thick lenses.
"I can hardly see without them on."Julian said."So right now it
doesn't matter that you are invisible.You could be as fleshed out
as it is possible to be and I wouldn't be able to see you."
"Are you trying to make some corny point about my condition and
how it doesn't matter to you because you care about me no matter
"Something like that."
"Thanks."She said genuinely before handing his glasses back to
him.He felt the invisible frames and placed them back over his
ears before they returned to normal."So are we boyfriend and
"I'd like that."Julian said.
"Are you blushing?"Nona's voice giggled.
"I'm pretty sure I am."
Julian placed his hand on Nona's once more and together they took
in the magic of the moment.It was the last time that Julian would
be with Nona before she died.
Julian sat on his bed and fiddled with the bottom of his tie.His
mother knocked on the door and stepped into the dark that
surrounded her son.She let him know that they needed to get
going.Julian didn't understand why time mattered once someone was
gone.He couldn't see the rationale behind setting schedules for
funerals and wakes.He thought that mourning lasted for all time,
ending only when the mourners had too passed on.He thought back
on his time with Nona and realized that she was not only
different in life but also in death.There was no call for a
viewing of her body since she could not be viewed and yet there
was something that caused these people who had loved her to want
to gather together around her and bask in the silence of loss.
Julian headed into the bathroom to wash his face.He felt like
locking the door and curling up in the tub never to return to the
outside world again.He dried his hands and held up his glasses to
put them back on.The light hit the left lens just right and
caused Julian to notice something that made the tears swell back
up in his eyes.
It was a thin fingerprint that had been left behind by Nona when
she had touched his glasses.He touched his own finger to it and
examined the only piece of evidence he possessed that Nona had
been a girl who had existed in his world.The girl who had wanted
nothing more than to be seen had reached out to the boy who would
have given anything to be invisible and changed him forever.
Julian put on his glasses.Knowing that Nona's fingerprint was
with him he now felt ready to go to her funeral and be with her
parents.He could be their own fingerprint he thought, their own
evidence that their daughter had made an impact in her short time
that would last for as many years as Julian did.
"I see you Nona."Julian said softly as he turned off the
light."I've always been able to see you."