Finding Eden

Page 7


A knock sounded at my door, startling me slightly. I snapped my laptop closed. No one would understand this—certainly not my mother. Molly peeked in and smiled at me, closing the door behind her.
"You know what you need?" she asked.
I breathed out a laugh as I sat my laptop aside. "So many things, I don't even know where to begin."
She laughed a soft laugh, too. "No really. You need a night out."
I shook my head, leaning back on the pillows behind me where I sat on my bed. "Oh no, no. I don't do bars. And I don't even have an ID anyway."
"I'm not going to a bar. I'm meeting a couple friends from school and we're going to see this local artist who’s been getting a ton of buzz here."
I picked up my laptop and stood up to put it on my desk under the window. "An artist?" Molly was a junior at The Art Institute and studied Fashion Marketing and she had plans with her classmates often.
She nodded, plopping herself down on my bed. "Yeah. It's his opening night, but my friend Ava got into a sneak peak for students and so she gave me her two tickets for tonight. She said he's hot as sin, too." Her face went serious. "Not that you're up for looking at guys or anything, but, you know."
I laughed a quiet laugh. "It's okay, Molly."
I walked to my mirror where I sighed at what I looked like. My hair was a mess and I hadn't put any makeup on. I picked up a brush and attempted to tame my bangs at least. Molly came up behind me and gathered up my hair and started twisting it into an up-do. I tossed the brush down, grateful for the help.
"I just think this might be a safe thing to do, you know, to practice being social." She looked at me in the mirror a little nervously.
I stared back at her for a minute, thankful to have found a female friend my age. She understood so much more about life than I. "I guess it's obvious I need practice." I looked down.
Molly picked up a pin and stuck it in my hair. She smiled gently at me. "That's only natural, Eden. And after what you've been through . . . well, it's going to be a process, you know? And I completely understand that you need to start out slowly. I've been looking for an opportunity to help you get out and I think this is perfect." She put another pin in my hair.
I couldn't help but to appreciate Molly's thoughtfulness. I'd never had a girlfriend before and I supposed I still needed practice in that regard, too. I was so thankful that Molly made it easy. She started pulling some strands loose around my face. "There. Perfection. Put on something that makes you feel pretty and meet me downstairs in a half hour."
"I don't know. I'm kind of just wanting to curl up with my laptop tonight. Plus, Carolyn has that big garden party planned for tomorrow. I think that will be enough social practice right there."
"But they're not your peers, they're your mom's friends. It's not the same." She put her hands on her hips. "And curl up with your laptop?" She frowned. "Now that's just sad. And isn't that what you've been doing all day?" She met my eyes in the mirror. "What do you do on there anyway?" She raised a brow.
"Oh, just, you know, trying to catch up. Everything is so different in the outside world."
Molly studied me, a sympathetic look softening her expression. "I can only imagine. You don't have to navigate it alone though, Eden. I can help."
Warmth filled my chest and I smiled at her. "Thank you, Molly." I walked over to my desk and started organizing the papers I'd printed out earlier that day.
"So then," she continued, "I'm not taking no for an answer about tonight. You need to see the desert spring guy. His paintings are full of so much light! And that's only from the brochure."
I turned toward her, smiling a confused smile and creasing my brow. "Desert spring?" Of course, I had never told her, or anyone, about Calder's and my spring. I tilted my head, slightly jarred by the description after we'd just been talking about Calder recently. "What?" I asked.
Molly nodded. "Yeah. He paints these pictures of this perfect spring with towering rocks on all sides of it. It looks like some sort of paradise, or the Garden of Eden, and this girl—just the back of her, over and over, but," she gazed up dreamily, "they're so real, and so romantic. He's truly gifted, I'm telling you."
An artist . . . an artist?
My blood ran cold and everything inside of me surged forward at once. I heard my own voice as if it was coming from outside of myself. "A girl?" I swallowed heavily. "Tell me more," I demanded.
Molly's smile faltered slightly as she tilted her head and studied me.
"What's his name?" I practically shouted, my lips trembling. It couldn't be. No way. It couldn't be. Stop even thinking this, Eden. The thought alone is going to destroy you. There are lots of artists in this world . . . surely more than a few paint springs. But desert springs? And a girl . . .?
"Eden, what's wrong?" Molly asked, a look of concern coming over her face.
I grabbed her upper arms and shook her slightly. "What's his name?" I demanded again.
Molly's frown deepened. "Storm. He calls himself Storm. Just that. A made-up name I'm sure, and it kind of sounds like a stripper," she laughed nervously, "but I wouldn't mind him taking some of his clothes—"
"Where's the brochure?" I asked. "I need to see the brochure."
"Eden—" Molly frowned.
I breathed out, calming myself. "Please, Molly, just show me the brochure."
"I'm sorry, I don't have it here. I looked at Ava's at school, but I didn't take it with me."
My body jerked and I let go of her and took off the robe I'd been wearing all day. I grabbed some jeans lying at the end of my bed and pulled them on. My whole entire body was shaking and I felt like I was at risk of having a seizure of some sort.
I reached into my closet and grabbed the first shirt I laid eyes on, something navy blue, or black. Dark anyway. It took me a couple tries to get my head through the neck hole and I started crying with the overwhelming emotion, paired with the frustration of trying to get dressed. In the background Molly was saying something and when I finally pulled the shirt over my head, her words registered.
"You're scaring me. What's going on? Is it the guy? Storm? I—"
Pulling the shirt over my head had made my hair fall out of the up-do Molly had just done and so I ran my hands through it quickly, all of it tumbling down my back again. I took several deep breaths, but the shaking continued. "I need you to get me down to that gallery," I said shakily. "I need you to drive me there right this minute."
Molly's face was a study of confusion and worry. "Okay, whatever you need. Let's go."
I nodded jerkily and slipped on some flip-flops. It was far too cool outside for flip-flops, but I hardly cared. Don't think. Just don't think until you get there. You might be crazy. If you are, it's okay. It's okay. You'll be okay.
I practically ran down the large staircase and flung the front door open. I heard my mom's voice behind us as I ran out the door. "We're going to that art thing!" Molly yelled back at her.
"Oh well, okay. Bring her right back—" Carolyn's voice was cut off as Molly slammed the door behind us.
I jogged down the short set of stairs to the garage on the side of the house and waited at the passenger side until Molly clicked it.
Once Molly had backed the car out and pulled onto the street, she turned toward me. "Do you want to tell me—"
"No, Molly, I'm sorry. I will once we get there. But right now I feel like I might throw up. Please, I just need to sit here." It felt as if my heart flipped over in my chest.
Molly nodded and turned back to the road.
Fifteen minutes later, we were downtown. As we drove past the gallery where the showing was, I turned, watching the huge line formed outside. I saw a flash of green in the paintings in the window and squinted to make sense of them, but we were too far away, and people lined up were mostly blocking my view.
"There should be parking in a garage right around the corner," Molly said.
"Let me out here, please. I need to get out here." I put my hand on the door.
"Whoa. No jumping out of the car while it's moving! I want to go in with you anyway, Eden. I'm worried about you."
I shook my head, trying to get control of my breathing. It felt like every surface of my skin was hot and prickly and I couldn't feel my extremities. "I'm okay, I promise. I just really need to get out here. Please. At the next red light, I'll hop out."
Molly pursed her lips. "All right, fine. But I'll be about five minutes behind you, okay?"
I nodded my head. "Okay, thank you." I let out another big exhale, clenching my hands in my lap to stop the shaking. I swallowed the bile trying to make its way up my throat and practiced the breathing I'd gotten so good at right after I'd left Acadia and needed to control my emotions enough to function.
Molly's car came to a slow stop at the red light several blocks from the gallery and I reached over and squeezed her shoulder. I hopped out of the car, making my way across the street to the sidewalk.
And then I must have run although I don't remember. Suddenly I was at the end of the line of people waiting for the gallery show to start, and I was hot and breathing heavily.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
It couldn't be. It couldn't be. It's all a strange coincidence. It has to be.
I started weaving through the waiting people, some shooting me dirty looks, a few telling me to get back to the end. I ignored them. I needed to get to the front window.
I had to see. Oh, God, I had to see.
Several people were leaned back against the glass of the front display window and I stood on my tiptoes to see above them, but wasn't tall enough. "Excuse me, I'm sorry, I need to see in there," I said, my voice quivering. The four people looked at me curiously, but all began moving out of the way, like a curtain opening.
I held my breath and fisted my hands.
And there it was. Our spring. In vibrant. Living. Color.
I gasped out a loud sob and reeled, my hand coming up to my mouth and tears springing to my eyes. The world grew bright around me, and adrenaline exploded through my body.
Yes, it was our spring. I recognized every rock, every shrub, every blade of grass.
And I recognized myself.
I was standing tall and proud, powerful and sure in front of a huge snake looming at me from our rock domain. My head was held high, my shoulders back, my hair cascading down my back and covering my nakedness with only the backs of my shoulders and legs on display. My face wasn't visible, but it was me.
My eyes moved down to the small plaque beneath it to the title of the painting. "The Snake Wrangler." I laughed out a strangled sob and then brought both hands up to my mouth and simply stood crying for several minutes until I was in control enough to move away from the window and through the people to the front of the line.
No one tried to stop me, no one told me to get to the back of the line. They just parted and let me through, shooting me looks of confusion and surprise. I was crying outright now, not even attempting to hide my tears.
I couldn't have if I'd tried.
He's here. I can feel him.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
When I made it to the front of the line, a guy in a black suit looked at me with wide eyes, his gaze sweeping down my jean-clad body. "I need to get in there," I said, drying my tears quickly with the sleeve of my shirt, my voice still coming from somewhere outside of me. I thought it sounded strong though, unwavering.
"I'm sorry. You need a ticket. All these people have tickets." He inclined his head to the line formed behind us.
"Here you go," Molly said, suddenly appearing beside me and holding something out toward the man. "Two pre-entry tickets." He took them, his eyes moving back and forth between us. He glanced down at the tickets quickly and nodded his head toward the gallery.
I rushed to the glass door and pulled it open, scanning the surroundings. As I took in the art hanging on every square inch of the gallery walls—our spring, morning glories, and me—over and over, everywhere, always the back of me, or a very slight profile, but always me. Excitement, fear, adrenalin and extreme anxiety coursed through me. But mostly awe. I felt as though my heart was beating right out of my chest. I looked around wildly.
Where is he? Where is he?
Molly's hand clamped down on my arm and I gratefully leaned in to her for support. "Come on," she said quietly. "He's gotta be close."
"Yes," I squeaked out, my blood pressure skyrocketing.
He has to be close. There's a spring. I'll wait for you. I'll be there.
We walked around a wall of art and when we came out on the other side, there he was. The whole world faded away and it was just him. Calder. My Calder.
He was alive. He was alive.
I felt the tears coursing down my cheeks again and all I could do for a full minute was stare, drink him in, allow my mind to try to make sense of the reality right in front of me.
He was standing and talking to a small group of people and as he turned his head to me, a small smile on his lips, his eyes blinked and widened, his face draining of all color. A glass he was holding in his hand went crashing to the floor as the people around him gasped. His expression was a mixture of confusion, shock, and disbelief. Suddenly his face went dreamy and he tilted his head, his eyes fixed on my face. He started walking toward me, the people around him stumbling out of the way as he merely bumped them aside with his movement, his feet crunching over the glass on the floor. I couldn't move. I was rooted to the spot.