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A life I hadn’t seen in her eyes in so long.

“I’m okay, Levi.” Within seconds I was beside her, holding her hands and hugging her tight as she held me back. “I’m okay,” she said again.

I held on tighter.

* * *

“She seems good,” I said as Denise and I stepped out of the hospital room.

“She is good. They have her on some new medicines that seem to be working well for her, besides this incident.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a hair brush and started running it through her locks. She then proceeded to apply lip gloss and mascara. Only she would be worried about looking put together in the hallways of a hospital. “You’ll stay with me and Brian for a while until she finishes up the next few weeks at St. John’s. I’ll help you with your homeschooling and everything until your mom’s back. Then if things are going well, she’ll be an outpatient with three appointments a week for the next few months, but she’ll be home with you.”


I’d missed home.

She excused herself to go find a decent cup of coffee.

I looked back into the room to see Mom staring my way with a smile. Within seconds, I was by her side again. “How’s your father?”

“Not too good.” I walked over to her and sat in the chair beside her.

Her fingers ran across my forehead as she moved my hair back. “I’m so sorry, honey. When do you go back?”

“I’m not going back. I’m staying with Denise for homeschooling until you come back home.”

She sat up in her bed. “That wasn’t part of the plan. Denise said you were just coming back to visit for a little while.”

“No. I’m staying.”

Shaking her head, she took my hands into hers. “You have to go back and stay with your father, Levi.”

“I’m here now, Mom. You wanted me to come home, and now I’m here.”

She frowned. “I wasn’t in my right mindset. You should have this time with your father.”

“He doesn’t want me.” I sat back in my chair and released a heavy sigh. “He told me he didn’t want me.”

“That’s a lie. He always wanted you. This is my fault,” she whispered, fidgeting with her fingers.

It didn’t matter anymore. He’d made his choice, and I’d made mine.

* * *

Later that night I had Denise drop me off at the cabin. I wanted to finally sleep in my own bed. She tried to talk me out of it, but she agreed after dropping off some groceries and things.

When I glanced at my cell phone, I saw new messages from Aria and opened them.

Aria: I wish I could’ve explained what you saw with James. He means nothing to me. I just want you to know that. You mean everything. I’m so sorry, Levi.

I knew that, and I knew Aria, but a part of me thought it would be easier to walk away than face the reasoning. I wouldn’t be back to Wisconsin any time soon, and it wasn’t really fair to ask her to wait around for me. Plus, she obviously had things to work out with James, and I was probably just getting in the way of that.

The distance was better for us, for her.

I was only clouding her judgment.

It was about time I awakened from the dream of Aria and me.

Aria: I – noun, often capitalized, often attributive \'i\ : Aria Lauren Watson.

Aria: Miss – verb \'mis\ : To feel the absence of.

Aria: You – pronoun | [yoo; unstressed yoo, yuh] : Levi Wesley Myers.

Miss you, too, Aria Lauren Watson.

But I couldn’t tell her that, even though it was true.

41 Aria

I texted Levi and waited. I took a shower, stared at my growing stomach, and I checked my phone. I practiced the air guitar, and then I checked my phone. I spoke to Mom and Dad about James, and then I checked my phone. I ate dinner, and then I checked my phone.

Over and over again, I checked my phone.

Over and over again, there was nothing to see.

My mind started wondering how much of Levi had been nothing more than a dream.

All I wanted to do was fall back asleep and find him again.

* * *

Thursday was my last visit to Dr. Ward before the New Year, and I really needed to sit across from him and talk about art. I hadn’t spoken to James since Christmas. I wasn’t even sure where to start. Mom told me I shouldn’t say anything to Keira and Paul until James and I spoke to one another.

Dr. Ward’s candy bowl was filled with red and green chocolate M&Ms, and I ate all of them within the first ten minutes.

“So what’s on your mind, Aria?”

It was funny how I’d come to love those words.

“Gustave Courbet. He was a French painter who pretty much led the beginning of the realism movement. When he was asked to paint angels, his response was, ‘I have never seen angels. Show me an angel, and I will paint one.’ Mr. Courbet and I had very different views when it came to art. He believed that one should only paint what they could see with their eyes, and I believed that art should be from the heart and soul.”

“Believed? Do you not believe that anymore?”

“I want to, but each passing day realism is showing me its appeal. It represents life truthfully, without hidden meanings, without doubt and questions being seen from any angle. It’s just real. It’s exactly what it needs to be. It makes me embarrassed a little that I’ve only focused on abstract. Maybe Gustave Courbet was right.”

“Bullshit,” Dr. Ward said, narrowing his eyes. “I’m calling bullshit.”


“Why does it have to be one or the other? The opposite of real isn’t abstract. The opposite of real is fake. Abstract can be real, and it can hold more truth in it than anything else. You taught me that. Abstract art can be as true as realistic art, as long as it finds the courage to speak its colors into the world with genuine honesty.”