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
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 wilderness.
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 prevent
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
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 of it.
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 stump?”
“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 you.”
“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 anymore.”
“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 history book.
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 into sleep.
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 gym.
“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 again.
“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 long enough.”
“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 fully visible.
“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 go.”
“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 whistle.
“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 Julian.
“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 my lesson.”
“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 to me.”
“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
“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 shortly.”
“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 own emotions.
“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 be safe.”
“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 what?”
“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 girlfriend
“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.”
© Copyright 2016 Alan Dale Dalby. All rights reserved.