“You know this isn’t healthy right?” Jake asked the question without recrimination. Simply stating an indisputable fact. “The anonymous financial support of her education, the long-distance stalking of her career – these are not signs of a balanced individual, a man who’s made incredible progress in therapy. You’ve come so far. But this? Is the last chain holding you back.”
” She’s not the only one that my Fire Foundation supports. So what, it’s a crime now to do charity work?” argued Keahi.
“It is when it’s accompanied by 24 hour surveillance. When are you going to let her go? What are you afraid of?”
Keahi’s only response to that was to start attacking the kick bag. Jake raised his voice over the jarring sound of blows.
“How do you feel when you think about letting her go? Stopping all the security?”
Keahi halted his assault, battling for control of his raging emotions as Jake’s question got him thinking – against his will – of letting her go.
No more cameras. No more bodyguards. No more weekly reports. No more knowing where she was, what she was doing, if she were alright…
He swore. Loudly. Turned and kicked a chair, sent it hurtling across the room. Jake sipped at his green tea and adjusted his glasses. And waited. He was used to this.
“You didnt see the footage,” Keahi argued. “If my guy hadn’t been there she would have been mugged that first year of art school. And then that apartment she was in? A pit. A health hazard. The landlord was in violation of twelve different building codes. She couldnt stay there in those conditions. All the stuff I do? Im just looking out for an old friend.”
Jake raised a questioning eyebrow. “Is that what you call it? Buying the whole building so you could get her apartment renovated? Oh, and installing a gym and planting a martial arts instructor in the apartment block in the hopes she would take up classes? All that comes under ‘looking out for an old friend’?!”
“You make it sound like I’m a psycho.” Keahi’s shoulders slumped. “I’m not hurting her. I would never hurt her.”
“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” replied Jake. “This obsession hurts you. Your fixation prevents you from moving forward. She’s not your sister. Nothing you do can bring Mailani back or make up for what happened twenty years ago. You need to let go of the guilt or you’ll never find peace.”
“Peace is overrated,” snapped Keahi. He resumed his attack on the bag.
Sometimes Jake – with all his degrees and experience – could get it wrong. Because Keahi knew without a shadow of a doubt that Teuila was not Mailani. And nothing about her made him think of a sister.
“She’s not a chain holding me back Jake,” he said quietly. “She’s the reason I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere. Or still picking fights in seedy clubs.” He motioned with outspread arms to the opulence around them, the stunning penthouse view of the cityscape. “She’s the reason I sorted myself out and fought for all this.” A sly grin. “She’s why I got a therapist in the first place. You owe her your exorbitant fee.”
“Touche,” laughed Jake.
Keahi thought about that last session with Jake as he wandered through Teuila’s latest exhibition, coming to a halt in front of a piece fashioned of black river rock – a woman with her arms crossed around her legs, drawing them up close to her torso. Her face looked up to the heavens in supplication. Reverence. Flowing curves and contours, supple and liquid like midnight water. It was entitled;
For thou art fearfully and wonderfully made.
Critics the world over were alternately baffled and awed by Teuila’s style. She delighted in taking the toughest, most immovable of materials and fashioning sculptural and design pieces that spoke of fragility and lightness. Many had an ethereal quality about them but one that rested firmly on a foundation of strength and endurance.
One reviewer wrote: ‘In her hands, rock becomes silk, poumuli wood is butter and ore is water. One cannot detect even the hint of a chisel or the cut of a blade in them. The strength required to hew such materials, particularly in the mammoth-sized works, boggles the mind. How does she do it?
Because he had experienced Teuila’s unique gift for himself – with electrifying results – Keahi knew the answer to that question.
Teuila came up beside him and he turned to her with a cautious smile.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“Psalms 139, verse 14.”
Her face lit up. “You know it! That’s my favorite scripture and the inspiration for my key piece…”
Keahi interrupted, “In your Ragged Soul exhibition at the end of your final year at the Academy. I know.”
Confusion. “But how?”
“I went to see it on one of my trips to New York.” He shrugged at her look of incredulity. “I was there doing media stuff and I stopped by.” He could see she still didnt believe him. “Fine. I have a friend who’s an art freak, goes to all the latest shows. He knew about my connection to Samoa so he told me about this brilliant new artist from a tiny island in the South Pacific that everybody was raving about.”
It was the truth, just not the whole truth. He left out the part about Jake recognizing Teuila’s name because he’d already heard about her in his sessions with Keahi.
“You didnt want to say hi?” asked Teuila.
“I didnt want to get in the way. You had all that press around you and a bunch of stuck-up art crowd, so no, I just hung back and watched you do your thing.” A grin. “You handled that asshole critic really well, the one who was talking smack about your work while trying to look down your dress at the same time. Pretentious prick.”
She gaped. “You were there that day?!”
“Yeah. I looked at all your pieces and gotta admit I didnt understand it all.” A sheepish laugh. “But the bits I did get? Blew me away.”
She was suddenly shy. “Really?”
“Some of it scares me.”
“It’s so honest. That takes courage I dont have.” He wanted to tell her that he’d bought ten of her pieces. They were everywhere in his office and in his house. He wanted to say that he’d read every critic’s review of her work, every write-up about her in every magazine. He’d watched every interview she’d given over the last two years and even taken an online Art Appreciation class because he wanted to understand her work that continued to intrigue and challenge people everywhere.
But he didnt. He couldnt.
Because how could he explain the power she had over him – when he couldnt explain it to himself?
Its been ten years since the concluding events of The Bone Bearer. New paths have been forged, gifts unleashed in unexpected ways, everyone has made new lives for themselves. But some things are stronger than time and distance. Keahi’s tie to Teuila is one forged by shared childhood pain but is it an addiction that can be transformed into an enduring love? Or will it destroy them both? Especially when an ancient force is awakened- the Heart of Vaea – and they must subdue it before it consumes them all.
The next book in the TELESA Series is a stand-alone contemporary novel written for a mature audience. Coming July 2014.