A Special Gift

        Many times being special can be a burden.  Too few truly special people come around and when they do, never appreciated for who they are.   

 

        There’s irony in our own uniqueness, because we’re all unique, we’re all the same. We try to separate ourselves from the masses and do what we can to have our voice heard, but at the end of the day there are millions of people exactly the same as you. James Nash was an exception.  In fact, he was on an entirely different playing field.  He seemed to break all the shackles of normalcy. 

         James’ special situation was his cross to bear and it was overwhelming.  But James had cause to carry insurmountable weight on his shoulders.  His crusade was for others.  You see, James Nash could feel.  Don’t dilute this to simple emotion.  He felt everything.  Feeling that could magnify itself in his soul and tear at his heartstrings.  With one touch he can see a person’s worst pain and suffering and alleviate that sadness.  He could give peace in ways people would have never thought possible. It comes at a cost to himself to feel such things.  It seizes him up, doubles him over, and incapacitates him. 

         He was small for a sixteen year old boy.  He seemed, at times, to be frail and sickly as if the wind would topple him right over.  But no one could possibly see inside at just how strong he was. 

       It was the summer going into his junior year of high school.  His mother, who was a single mother, could not deal with him anymore.  He was prone to getting into physical altercations.  It happened when he felt one emotion in particular from people.  It dealt with satisfaction, but not of the normal kind.  It was a sadistic kind of satisfaction rooted mostly in over-sized males that liked to revel in their own power over others. 

       He felt this atrocity times ten and it made him sick to his stomach.  James had the ability to turn his own disgust and while keeping contact, make them see themselves as the monsters they were.  They could sense it flowing from him and it would make them snarl in fury.  They would break his bones, bust his face, but never break his spirit. 

       His mother could not deal with the hospital visits and police cars showing up with James and his apologetic grin.  She was too busy to see what was really going on and so he was shipped off to her sister’s farm.  It was up to her to straighten out her nephew, but she quickly grew to see the problem was not with him.   Ruth could see his love for all things.  The way he saw beauty in everything, and treated things thus was unparalleled.  He even did her a favor by eradicating the pain left by the abandonment of her father.  She only had an inkling of his ability, and kept it to herself.

       Someone who was as small as James was not quite suited for the farm lifestyle.  Everything was too heavy or took too much of a physical toll on the boy.  She began having him do more clerical work for her.  These chores involved going into town with her truck to deliver things, pickup from the general store, and pay certain bills to the bank.  It was on one of these visits when James met her. 

       He exited the general store with his Aunt’s credit paid off along with medication for one of the horses, Venus.  That was when he saw the girl who stopped his heart.  She was tall with long brown hair that fell in waves.  Her blue eyes sweetly touched his face when she met his gaze.  Her neckline was punctuated by collarbones that whispered seduction to any boy or man.  Her legs went for days in short jean shorts and she had quite the rest of her figure to match.  This beautiful girl smiled brightly and that was the way James always pictured her, the first time he saw her.  The way she was meant to be. 

      She was walking hand in hand with a boy.  He was stocky and built, and every bit as tall as she was.  His face looked like a square stone, even his cheeks muscular.  A brown tan that stopped short of his shoulders, giving the impression he was a farmer.  Everything about him seemed brutal and intense, with eyes brooding and anyone could have seen the strong grip he held onto her with.  James was conflicted by his hold on her, as if she couldn’t get away from him even if she tried. 

      Jimmy was loading stuff in the truck with his peripherals still locked on his beauty and he saw it all unfold.  That smile laced with perfection turned abruptly to sadness.  She was saying something, pleading maybe and his grip tightened as his forearms rippled.  She tried to resist, but he kept hold while looking around to see if anyone was watching.  He believed to be alone and raised his hand to strike. 

      Before Jim consciously knew what was happening, he was walking across the street.  “No!”

      The guy stopped short and stared at Nash, a transfixed snarl directed at the much smaller individual. 

       “Leave her be!”  He yelled again.

      A malicious grin snaked across the block like face of the other boy as he began to move towards James. 

       “Owen, no…stop, look everything’s fine.”  She begged, trying to put on a smile.  Her voice was everything Jim thought it would be, a voice worth fighting for.  She grabbed him by the shoulder and some sort of animal like growl emitted from him.  He pulled hard and cocked his elbow back catching her right in the temple. 

      Jim absolutely lost his mind when he saw her crumple to the ground.  He ran at the bigger boy, reminiscent of David and Goliath, only this altercation would prove to end badly.  The larger guy immediately grabbed James by the shirt and savagely tossed him to the ground.  Nash held his arms up to defend himself but was rocked by blow after blow to the face.  Five fists later and the boy decided that was enough.  As he got up and looked around at a few people looking on in horror, Jim grabbed his ankle. 

       “Moron, you’ll learn.”  He turned around and poised his foot to strike. 

       Jim’s eyes were hazy and spinning until he met her eyes which seemed to level him.  They shot wide and she soundlessly screamed, and that was the last thing James saw. 

       When his eyes opened up minutes later, he was looking up at her.  Her tears fell on him as he rested against her, her own back against a wall.  Her tears fell on him, willing him to be okay.  As she touched his face, he began to feel and know her.  His body instantly grimaced in more pain as they fell in waves.  James’ body spasmed as he felt the darkness only known to her.  It worked itself backwards and he was able to see more men like Owen and the pain the tolls had taken.  He couldn’t take the brunt of it and out came a guttural yell and he rolled off her lap until it stopped. 

         The last thing he felt was her own want to heal his pain, despite everything that had been done to her.  He had never felt that sort of remorse from someone and to him it was very gratifying.  He looked at her shining eyes and mustered a soft, “thank you,” allowing a smile of hers to lighten the moment.  Her name was Caroline.  That day she became his friend, hero, and much more. 

        After she drove him back to Ruth’s in the truck he drove over she tried to explain things using terms like “nice guy” and “defensive nature”.  Ruth didn’t buy any of it and eventually his abusive nature came tumbling out of her lips.  It started with her own father and then a string of guys exactly like him, inflicting all kinds of damage.  She couldn’t save her father from his alcoholism and abuse, and subconsciously tried to help other guys like her.  She truly believed they loved her and she could change them by force of will, a good force of nature in their lives.  Jim was asleep but already knew all of this from that one touch. 

         He was up the next day and fully functioning the day after, bruised face and all.  Caroline had left her phone and he called her up to talk and they decided to meet up for lunch. 

        She intrigued Jimmy.  After feeling such swallowing darkness, he could not believe it coming from such a sweet smile.  Her smile is what captivated him most, earning its namesake, “sweet memories in lips expression”.  They began to see each other frequently and with each subtle touch he saw the unrepairable damage in her.  He could not begin to comprehend how to help her.  Worse yet, he fell for her in the worst way that summer and it killed him to see such pain.  She was the one person he couldn’t save. 

        They would go to movies, look at the stars, and be together all day long.  Jim adored her, but the feeling was not quite the same.  Nash was two years younger and she had never thought of him in the way he did her.  As much as he was so much more than just a friend, he would never captivate her heart. 

       Not that Caroline’s now ex, Own, saw it this way.  Jim took a few more beatings that summer, though never as bad as the first one.  She apologized up and down for his behavior, blaming it on his own father, alcohol, and pure jealousy but those things never stuck.  James wanted more than anything to protect and in taking the beatings himself, he feel that he was saving her from his hand. 

       People around town who knew about Caroline’s plight came to respect Jim for his brash, albeit stupid acts of heroism.  In fact, they seemed to be pilling for the two to actually become an item. 

        Jim pulled no advances with her when they were together.  Truth was, he was afraid to feel all of her, that it may consume him and never let go.  And every time he stopped the flow of it, he cringed more at his own cowardice. 

        The more he came to know and love Caroline, the more of the sadness he saw behind a mask of laughter.  It was inhumane, the way she lived her life.  Always in fear. She thought her destiny revolved around a father that could never truly love her, or anyone else for that matter…least of all himself.  So she seemed to find that same thing in her male counterparts, and they were always the same. 

        As time went on he brought more and more of the black, vile pain into his body.  The already fragile James suffered more and more each time.  With this he saw Caroline begin to transform.  Her skin radiated even more so than it had and her mind seemed eager to rip away from this brutal existence.  Her smile grew in genuine proportion and her eyes lit up in the sunlight, sending gold flakes to mix in with the blue. 

        Then the world showed itself to Jim.  Destiny, fate, and free will combined in a trifecta of courage.  He saw it when he looked at her and couldn’t find a better way to use his gift.  He asked Caroline out that night for dinner at one of their favorite spots.  At Ruth’s farm, in the middle of a field, an old and beautiful willow tree stood tall.  The night sky shone in brilliant color and spoke intelligent design.  The grass breathed in the wind and dew wet their ankles as they ran toward the ancient tree. 

       Jim had set up lights in all the branches and they shone gloriously.  There was a blanket and even a bottle of wine present.  Ruth was more than happy to oblige with anything that concerned Caroline.  And then the girl began to see what she thought his intentions were.

        “Jim, I don’t think…” 

        “No Care, it’s not like that.  I just wanted to say goodbye the right way. I have to go back home.”

        “No, you can’t leave.  You just got here, what about going to school here and everything we talked about?” 

His eyes dropped lower and she continued.

        “Jim, you can’t leave me alone.  You make me feel good about everything, and happy.  Please.” 

        “Caroline, you can be happy.  Without me here.  Look in the mirror, how beautiful you are.  How good you are.  Break free of this town and everyone who hurt you.  You’re so strong, you just don’t know it yet.  But you will.” 

       The tears in her eyes spoke volumes as she took his hand.  The darkness welled up inside of James, and he let it through.  Jim looked at Caroline with every ounce of love he commanded. 

        “I have to go Caroline. It’s the only way.  I love you.”

        With that he kissed her, tears streaming down her face.  In that one moment, she was finally his.  Even with all the pain in the world taking over his body, Jim held on for her and pushed back.  They kissed until Jim took every bad memory that left a scar with him.  His legs buckled and Caroline was confused at first, until she saw his half grin and lifeless eyes. 

       She screamed and cried for hours, even after he was declared dead of a weak heart that just gave out.  She knew the truth as did his aunt.  He had given his life for her, and his heart proved to be bigger than anyone else’s.  They found letters he had written to his loved ones before this, explaining that he had to do this, or at least try.  Caroline moved out the next week to live with Ruth.  She would not waste his gift. 

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