What do you really want?
It’s not a trick question.
“Your friend said you can heal me,” the girl asked as she walked up to Charlie on the beach. She didn’t offer her hand or a greeting or say her name or anything.
Rather than speak and a much better idea than to deny or deflect or defer, Charlie pointed with a finger towards an empty part of the beach.
The girl seemed to quickly get the picture and started walking.
“Who told you I could heal you?” Charlie asked.
“He,” she paused every so slightly, “or she,” and she put up a little finger in the air to emphasize her point, “asked me not to say.”
“But you’re going to tell me anyway, aren’t you?”
The girl looked a little confused, stumbled a little with her words, but then said, “No.” and then as if to make sure she was serious, added “I’m not.”
Charlie said nothing but smiled.
“That was the first test.”
“Did I pass?”
“What’s the next test?”
“If I told you then you’d be prepared.”
The girl nodded and continued walking. She was a fast learner.
Charlie looked back to the group they had just left. It was a large party, maybe 50 people. The girl’s parents were probably there somewhere. He tried to place her and thought she might be the younger sister of a friend of his oldest son, but wasn’t sure.
“Do you want to know my name?” she asked.
“Yes,” Charlie answered, a bit taken aback at the question.
“But you didn’t ask me.”
“I hadn’t yet, no.”
They walked in silence a few more steps. He wasn’t going to ask her now that she was offering. It was clear there was a game going on, a tug-of-war to see who could ask questions and who was in control of the situation. So far, she was winning.
Charlie wanted her to win. She needed to win for him to be able to help her.
Charlie smiled and said nothing for another few steps.
“It’s nice to meet you, Fleur.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Charlie.”
“Fleur, we’re going to play a little game over the next 100 steps we walk on this beach. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” she answered without thinking, blinking, or even taking a breath.
Charlie said nothing.
Fleur said nothing.
Charlie counted the steps in his head.
Fleur counted the steps in her head.
At 50 steps Fleur had the feeling her count was off of his by one, but she didn’t know which way. She also had no idea how she thought this but wasn’t about to bring it up. She was smart enough to know not to ask any questions.
She watched her feet and watched his feet. She briefly lost track of her steps but somehow rewound time in her mind, caught up, and was back to the current number. She paid more attention to the number and said them aloud in her head.
Around 75 she was again lost and couldn’t figure out why she kept losing track of the count. She terribly wanted to ask him where he was, why she couldn’t keep track, and what this game was all about. It was both boring and frustrating. She wanted to talk.
Around 83, or at least what she thought was 83, she decided to give in. She stopped counting with her mind and instead of looking at her feet, felt each bare footstep in the sand ripple through her ankle up past her knee, vibrating her entire leg, half of her body, up to her heart and finally to her throat.
She had a great urge to say the number 87, but restrained herself. This was a test, she reminded herself, or a game or some kind of a test game or game test and although she hadn’t the faintest idea of why, it was important.
In the late 90’s, she caught up with the count. She knew it was 97, 98, 99, and then 100. She stopped. He stopped not before her, not after her, but at the same time.
He turned to her.
She turned to him.
He laughed. Just a little laugh, a giggly sort of laugh like he knew a secret.
She couldn’t hold back. If part of the game was to be serious, she was about to lose. She smiled, too, and said a word that she didn’t place there.
“Eighty-seven,” she said.
Charlie pushed his left hand across his body towards her left side. As if to shake hands, but it was the left hand. Obliging, she clasped his left hand with her left hand.
He then took his right arm and put it over his left arm and extended it to her.
She also took hold of his right hand with her right hand.
Their hands and arms formed a square or a diamond in between them.
Fleur couldn’t help but look into it, as if her eyes were being pulled down by a magnetic force to look there.
The square became blurry as if a film of sketching paper went from each side to the other. She felt moisture in her eyes, but not tears, more just like when she woke up in the morning. She blinked but the film was still there. She blinked harder. The film became something of a screen and something was trying to come through.
“What do you want, Fleur?” Charlie asked in a voice that seemed to come from under the film, but of course it only came from him standing in front of her.
She shook her head quickly as if to snap out of a trance, as if to wake up in the morning because she was late for school and needed to be on her bike within the next minute.
But she wasn’t late for school, it wasn’t morning, and she was wide, wide awake.
“To heal my condition,” she said.
“What do you want, Fleur?” he repeated.
“To … “ she trailed off. She knew better to say the same thing again even though that’s exactly what she wanted to say.
“To be normal.”
“What do you want, Fleur?”
“To be extraordinary.”
“Is that a word you use often?”
“Never,” she said quickly as she didn’t have to think about it.
“Does an extraordinary person care if she has some medical condition?”
Fleur did have to think about this one for a moment.
“No,” she said, but was torn because although an extraordinary version of herself wouldn’t care, she still preferred not to have it.
“Could you be extraordinary if you had the condition?”
“Yes,” she said with confidence.
Charlie whispered, “But you’d rather not have it, right?”
Fleur wondered if this were a trick question but decided to go with her gut. “Right. I’d rather not have it.”
“So let’s decide that the extraordinary Fleur isn’t going to have this condition.”
“I’m good with that.”
“Are you good with that?”
Another test, she thought.
“I’m perfect with that. I’m extraordinary with that. I’m exactly that. I’m Fleur without a medical condition.”
“I’m Charlie, nice to meet you, extraordinary Fleur.”
“I’m Fleur, it’s nice to meet you, Charlie.”
“Do you have a medical condition, Fleur?”
“Does it matter if I do or I don’t?”
“Not to me.”
“Then it doesn’t to me either.”
Fleur felt in her arms that were connected to the man’s something like she thought a spinning magnet might feel. A turning, a churning, energy rotating and wanting to do something, to escape.
The film that was in the diamond disappeared and within seconds the only things she could see there were Charlie’s feet and sand.
He loosened his grip on her hands and she let them fall away.
He looked at her as if waiting for a question or multiple questions but somehow the look also expected no questions, no talk, no words.
She did her best adult self, which was still many years ahead, and said nothing.
Charlie pointed back towards the other end of the beach where the group was. She looked that way, looked back to him, and started walking.