I've seen him without his shirt on. And his body could probably make any girl swoon. I've felt his hands on my face. And they're big and strong, but soft and gentle. I've gazed into his eyes. And they are so deep that most girls would get lost in them. What girl wouldn't want this guy? Who wouldn't fall for him, with his manliness and his sensitive side? And especially if they were meant to be together?
Well, I never could do anything right...
It's important to never get attached. Never let anyone get too close. If you feel for a person you are just going to be vulnerable to them. We can't have that. No one can know, do you understand that?
I nodded. It was the same thing all over again. I'd gotten too close. Let too many questions be asked. Made a friend. Gotten invited to a party. All of which was against the rules. So we were moving again.
So goodbye Mrs. Miller. She gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. We'd read it that year in reading class. Sometimes I knew just how Kat felt...
So goodbye Deana. I can't go to your party. She gave me a party favor anyway.
And then we were on the road again. Yes, I'll be more careful. You're right, I don't need anyone but you. No, I feel no emotions at leaving, that would be a weakness, and I am strong.
But he knew I was lying. Because I stared out the window as the scenery went by, never saying a word. Because I looked at my book too long and held my party favor too tightly. He knew. He knew I was lonely. Because I stared at the laughing kids at the rest stop. Because I looked down at my hands in my lap. He knew.
That's when the story started. The story about them. The people who would take away my loneliness. And I could be myself with them. Because they were like me. He told me the story for the first time that night on the road.
Two years later it was ritual. He told me the story when he thought I was getting restless or lonely. Even his lectures turned into the story. Like when he told me I must never let a boy kiss or touch me, I must save myself for the one. The one who I was meant to be with. I could be with no other. I must be pure for him.
Or when I brought home a bad grade in geometry he said I must sharpen my mind, I must be smart if I am to stand beside the one and help him to lead his people. And when I failed to use my powers correctly, I must hone my skills, I must be worthy of him, him with the greatest skill. How will I be of any use if I can't perform this simple task, I must not embarrass the one. When I put on a few pounds that winter, I must be the picture of perfection for the one, for he is perfection, he must be able to proudly take my hand.
I tried to make myself perfect for him, for the one. I excelled in school. I excelled in my powers. I paid careful attention to how I looked so I would be beautiful enough for the one. Everything was in anticipation of my man, who was smart and strong and powerful and talented and caring and giving and a leader and handsome beyond measure.
In my mind I saw him. I spoke with him. We talked and laughed and kissed and everything was perfect.
Michelle shook her head and said nothing's perfect. I said why not, we are perfect best friends. She said if we were perfect I wouldn't have a crazy strict dad who wouldn't ever let me hang out.
She was right of course. So maybe we weren't perfect, but I just knew that things with me and the one would be. She was right of course, because if everything were perfect, Michelle would know my secret. But I knew things with me and him would be.
What did she know anyway? She may have been my best friend, but she was only human after all. And humans were weak. And I had to be strong. So, of course things weren't perfect with us, how could they be? She was human. But when I met the others, the ones like me, now that would be perfect.
So instead of telling her that she was right I told her that she just didn't understand. It was different. She said she didn't understand. She didn't understand why I lived in a fantasy world. Why I didn't notice how Bill looked at me, why I only thought of this one guy, who didn't even exist. She said that she and Bill were reality and that other girl and the "one" were just a story, when was I going to realize that. And I told her she was wrong, they were real, they were what mattered.
And I told her she was right, things with us weren't perfect, because she didn't understand me at all.
With that I turned and left. When I got outside, he was there, waiting. What were you doing he asked me. Nothing I shot back. But he saw. He saw me with her. He knew. He knew she was with my friend. That night we packed.
I didn't get to say goodbye. My last words to her had been spoken in anger. Now, as we drove down the dark road, he watched me carefully and I fought back hot tears as I silently cursed myself.
He was right. Emotions were a weakness. I'd let my emotions get the better of me. I'd cared for a human. A human. And now I was paying for it with the ache in my chest, the lump in my throat. I vowed not to make that mistake again.
I put down no roots. I knew we might leave at any time. I made no friends. But I wasn't lonely. No, I didn't want to be friends with these people. These people, these humans, who would make me weak. I had to be ready at all times. Ready to run. Ready to hide. I couldn't afford to make friends. But I wasn't lonely. Not when I had my thoughts of them. My thoughts of him. No, I wasn't lonely.
And finally they were not just a dream. Not just a fantasy. Not just a story. He had found them.
For the sixth time in my life we packed.
Max. Max Evans. Max. I turned his name over and over in my thoughts. He had never had a name in my mind. He had only been "the one." Max. Max Evans. It was a beautiful name. A beautiful name for the most perfect man in the world. My man.
I knew as soon as I saw her. She radiated it. Power, grace and beauty, she radiated them all. There was no doubt in my mind who she was. She was like me, the first person I'd ever met that was like me. I felt a rush of emotions as I sat down with her and a big smile spread across my face. I had been alone for so many years, waiting. Waiting to meet her. Finally, after all these years...
We clicked immediately. She could feel our connection too. I knew she could feel it. She was drawn to me the same as I was to her. I could tell by the big smile across her face, by the way she was so eager to be friends with me. I could feel the story coming to life, everything dropping into place. I had known it would be perfect, and it was.
But it wasn't. Liz. Liz Parker. Liz. Her name tossed around in my mind. She was with Max. Max, my man, my perfect man. My whole life. All I'd ever thought about was Max and how he'd love me. But she was with Max. And Max didn't love me. Max loved her.
And he wasn't happy. Why hasn't Max fallen for you yet? You are destined to be with him, he is rightfully yours, let no obstacle stand in your way, what have I taught you Tess?
I wanted to please him, and yes, more than anything I wanted to be with Max. I would have done anything...but Liz. Her hair. It was the same as Michelle's. Everytime I looked at her I saw my old abandoned best friend, who I couldn't bear to hurt again.
I cursed Liz in my mind. For having my man. For ruining my story. For making me remember what I'd tried to forget these past two years, how to feel. For making me too weak, too human. For making me unable to do anything to get my man like he wanted me to. Oh, I tried. I smiled my best smile and shot him flirtatious glances. I could feel how he was drawn to me and that he couldn't resist staring back even as Liz looked on. But I couldn't do what I needed to do, what I had been told to do. I was to break them up, make Max accept his destiny. But I just couldn't do it. And so I cursed Liz in my mind.
But as it turned out, I didn't have to do anything...Liz did it for me. Things didn't go as planned and for a while I thought the story, my whole life, had all been a lie...but somehow or another it was the four of us like it should be. Liz had let Max follow his destiny. Even though it was killing her. I felt sad as I watched her go, watched her hair fly out behind her. And in my mind I thanked her. Because of her the story would come true. My life hadn't been a lie. Finally I was with them and things could finally be perfect and the fantasy I'd lived for the past four years of my life could finally be a reality. I had a family now. And my man, my perfect man.
My perfect man who I had seen in my mind, and we had talked and laughed and everything was perfect. But the man in my mind was not the man in front of me.
We talked. But laughed? No. We never laughed. When I had pictured Max I had always thought he'd have a sense of humor that would keep me beaming, something I never did in my old life of hiding and trying to be perfect. If I had smiled it would have just been a sign to Nasedo that it was time to leave and there was never a reason to smile like that anyway. And there was no reason to here with Max either.
When I had first seen Isabel, that was the first real smile I'd smiled in years. It had been the happiest moment of my life, finding her. And so I had grinned at her. I still smiled at her like that. We would have so much fun, laughing and talking. And everyday I grinned at her just like that first day. I was still so happy to have found her. Just being with her made me smile. Why couldn't Max, my perfect man, make me smile that way?
And my perfect man, who was smart and strong and powerful and talented and caring and giving and a leader and handsome beyond measure. That was the man in my mind. The man in front of me was a leader, yes...yes he was a leader. He bossed me like I was a child. Like I had no thoughts of my own. No say or opinion that mattered. Like Nasedo always had. All my life I'd been told what to do, how to act. It was no different now. Max never listened to me. Everything had to be his way. Forget that I had years of living on my own, working on my powers, learning about us. After all this time together he still didn't fully trust me. So yes, he was a leader all right. But he didn't rule by popular demand...at least not by my demand. And I was tired of being told what to do. When did I get a say?
I got my say with Isabel. She understood. Max and Michael had done that to her for years. She knew what it was like. She had watched Max and Michael butt heads without any consideration for her. And so she never did that to me. With Isabel, for the first time, I wasn't a little girl. I didn't need to be protected or told what to do. She knew I was strong. She knew I had my own ideas. With her, I could say anything. She'd listen. She respected me. Max didn't respect me.
He didn't respect me. Sometimes I didn't even think he liked me. But sometimes I didn't even like him either.
But my story. My perfect story. How could this be? All my life, I'd heard of them and how it would be when I was finally reunited with them. It was supposed to be perfect with them. It was not perfect.
Well, it was perfect with Isabel. Isabel, who was smart and strong and powerful and talented and caring and giving and a leader but also a listener and beautiful beyond measure. Isabel was perfect.
Why? Why was the name Nasedo brought home for me Max? Why couldn't it have been Isabel? If only it had been Isabel instead. Isabel who listened. Isabel who made me laugh. Isabel who loved me. For Isabel I would have been perfect. I would be perfect for her.
And in my mind I started to see her. And we talked and laughed and kissed and everything was perfect. But it was just a fantasy and the story was reality...a reality I no longer wanted.
We sat up in her room talking and laughing as usual. Because Isabel made me happy. Max did not. I knew I made her happy. Did Michael make her happy, I asked.
He is my destiny she said. I asked her if she wished he wasn't. She looked scared. I took her hand to show her it was ok and told her that I wished Max wasn't my destiny. That all my life I'd thought he was one thing, when really he was another. And what he was, was not what I wanted. She nodded and told me that Michael did not make her happy and that sometimes she was a little scared of him and she was so glad I understood, because she could always run to me when things were too intense with Michael and what would she do without me, I was just about the only thing that made her smile these days.
Again I cursed Nasedo for bringing me the news of Max when it should have been Isabel. It should have been her. Not just for me. For her. I would do anything for Isabel. I would make her happy. So hearing her say those words, telling me that Michael was not the one for her either, and that I made her happy, hearing her say it made all my hardness break down inside and I felt the hot tears welling up in my eyes.
She saw and quickly pulled me in a tight hug. She understood, I knew she did. Because she lovingly stroked my back. Because I could feel her cheek against my hair. And I knew then that she was the one. She really was that perfect one for me. Because my hands were in her hair and they belonged there. Because I felt at home in her arms. And I knew that she felt the same way. Because she pulled back from me a little bit and let her smooth cheek rest against mine ever so lightly. Because I could hear her breathing as our faces touched. Because we stayed that way for the longest couple of seconds...
She was the one, not Max. The story was right, it was, it had just been cast wrong. So I began to rewrite, to recast the story. The story of my perfect one, Isabel. I turned my head towards her and our lips met in a kiss. A soft kiss. A gentle kiss. A loving kiss. A kiss that was perfect. A kiss that was everything I'd dreamed of and waited for my entire life.