(I'm sorry this is so late – technical difficulties.)
And here we are. End of the road. The season finale. The dénouement (ish).
Again, thank you all so, so much for your lovely reviews. I adore them. Some people write for themselves; I write, act, sing, dance, etc. for other people. So when I hear that they like whatever I've given them, I'm kind of over the moon about it.
Now then, tissues out for this one, folks. And please, review at the end. This is your last chance. By which I mean my last chance, but you know how it goes.
One last thing: In case you haven't noticed, I inhale poetry. I usually try to use it more subtly…but I'm on a weird Mary Oliver kick, and I felt like the two poem segments I included in this chapter really added to Norm and Trudy's story. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope it's not overkill. But I'm fairly certain that it isn't, because they're beautifully true.
Clearly she is blind, and clearly
she can't rise, but they lift her, like a child,
and lead her away, across the graves, as though,
as old as anything could ever be, she was, finally,
perfectly finished, perfectly heartbroken, perfectly wild.
ONE YEAR LATER
"Dr. Norm Spellman here. Location: Hell's Gate. Time: oh nine hundred hours. Thursday the fifteenth.
"I know I haven't done a video log in a really, really long time. But there's been a lot to do. Anyway, things now are going really well. The Omaticaya relocated to a new tree a few months ago, and from what Jake tells me they've really settled in. Of course they can't ever forget what happened, forget the tragedy of the death – but it's easier for them to get over that then it is for humans. They mourn what they've lost, but they also realize they haven't really lost it. They have incredible, beautiful ways to remember their loved ones. Their ancestors, their friends, still live.
"Furthermore, Max is a saint. He fixed up my avatar. Took him a while, but he managed it. Mo'at helped out some too – now there's a potent combination. Medicine woman meets chief scientist. She actually likes him, though, in that sort of optimistic, you don't know anything, stupid inferior life form kind of way. They're constantly vying for credit for my recovery. But never mind who saved the avatar, the point is that it's alive. I'm out in it almost every day, working in the new Hometree – the Na'vi word for the place loosely translates as "sanctuary" – and, of course, still collecting samples. We understand the magnificent ways that every living thing in the forest can connect to every other living thing, and it's so interesting, and beautiful. There's still so much to do here, though.
"Speaking of having a lot to do, Jake's taken on his two most difficult roles ever: clan leader, and new father. Neytiri had a baby about a month ago. They named her Atan'ite. Light daughter. She's beautiful; quite, sleepy, and of course I'm her favorite "uncle". She's the most adorable little thing on the planet, and when she looks at you it's like you're the most important perosn in the world. I wish…" Norm swallowed, and looked down at his scarred hands. "I wish I had something like that." He looked up quickly as someone entered the room, and then smiled. "Oh. Hey, Max. I was just talking about you."
"Hopefully all good things." Max waved halfheartedly at the camera. "Hey, future generations. Keep it real."
Norm rolled his eyes. "Can I help you?"
"Actually, I had something for you. We finally got around to going through the wreckage of base 26."
Recognition dawned on Norm. "The base in the Hallelujah Mountains I lived in forever ago."
Max nodded. "Yeah. We're still going through a lot of it, but there's something we found there, and I thought…I thought you might want it." He handed Norm a small disc. "We haven't looked at it yet," he said. "We don't even know what's on it, but it seems in working condition, and…I thought you'd appreciate it."
Norm took the disk. In faded Sharpie were a few words scribbled on it: For Norm, from Trudy. His heart thudded unevenly in his chest. "Thanks, Max," he said finally. "I…this is great. Yes, thank you." He stood to shake the doctor's hand.
"Don't mention it." Something beeped and Max dejectedly pulled out his pager. "Aw, crap. Look, I've got to go, but, uh," he waved at the camera again, "Stay in school. Don't smoke on airplanes. Major in xenobiology." He smiled at Norm. "Bye Norm."
Max turned and left, the door clicking shut behind him. Norm sat down in a chair. "Sorry," he said halfheartedly to the camera. "I know the whole watching a screen on a screen thing is a little obnoxious, but…" he shrugged, and popped it into his laptop, in sight of his camera.
Seeing her suddenly in front of him, as easy as that…it was shocking. Norm jumped slightly, eyes widening. She was leaning forward, cursing under her breath as she fiddled with the camera. He lifted his hand to touch the screen – to touch her, she was so close – but at the last minute balled it into a fist and put it down. Trudy looked into the camera.
"Hm. Okay, let's pretend this is on." She sat down. "Well…Trudy Chacon here. I'm the one you don't know. Usually it's Grace, or Jake, or Norm doing these things, but they're a little busy right now, with trying to save Grace's life and all. So it's just me here now."
"And" she continued, "I guess this is it." She leaned back in her chair, spun around in it a few times absentmindedly. "You know, it's funny. I probably should be angry. After all, this didn't have to be the end. This didn't have to be my battle." She shrugged. "But I'm not mad. I had a pretty good run of it. I mean, I flew, I laughed, I cried, I fell in love. More than most people get to do. So I guess I'm one of the lucky ones." She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on them. "Still though, it does kind of suck. Ugh, who am I kidding, it sucks a lot."
A small smile tugged at the corner of Norm's lip. He glanced at his own camera, opened his mouth to say something, and then closed it and looked back at the screen. That was so Trudy. Telling it like it was. They were at war, and…frankly, it had sucked.
"But I can't complain. For one thing…I owe it to Eywa, or the Omaticaya, or at least to myself to be here. I didn't do anything to stop things from getting this far. I'm gonna have to make up for that one in a big way. So martyrdom should cover it.
"Don't get me wrong. I don't want to die." Her shoulders sagged. "Heaven knows I don't want to die," she said quietly, staring into nothing in particular. She suddenly looked back up. "Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, as I was saying, it doesn't much matter what I want. I don't think I'm going to survive this one, but…that's going to be okay. Because at least I'm here. And that's what matters, right?" She sighed, and reached into her pocket, and pulled out two folded pieces of paper.
"This," she said, holding up the first, "is a letter for Izzy. It's not that important, and it's not for you. But this…" She held up the second paper, smaller and crisper than the first. "Do you have any idea what it is?" She unfolded it, and held it to the camera. "It's a boarding pass. I was going to leave tonight.
Norm's eyebrows came together and he frowned. That…that couldn't be right. The Trudy he knew was not afraid to face anything. She wouldn't – couldn't – be able to run away in the middle of a fight.
"I bought it this morning. Didn't come cheap either, but I was desperate. Norm – cause I assume it's Norm who's watching this – the things you said to me, the other morning…they really, really hurt. And I'm not going to pretend that I'm okay with it, because I'm not. And I never will be. There are something things that, once they're out in the open, can't be taken back."
He had picked a fight with her mere days before she had sacrificed herself to a cause that wasn't hers. How could he have been so stupid? He had called her self-serving, egotistical, ignorant – perhaps not in so many words, but close enough. The message was the same. He had told her she was a horrible person. She hadn't died to prove him wrong, had she? No…no, of course not. First of all, she had obviously sacrificed herself because it had been her cause. She was truly willing to die for what she believed was right. And secondly…Norm had to believe that. If he ever allowed himself to think, even for a moment, that perhaps he had caused her death… It would kill him.
Trudy's eyes were sad and wise beyond her years. "See kid, here's the difference between you and me…we're crazy about each other. But when you look at me, your head hurts. And when I look at you…" she trailed off, and stared at the floor for a moment before looking back up at the camera. "I look at you and my heart hurts, Norm. That's why I'm no good for you. So I put on a brave face, and tried to imagine you with the woman who is everything I couldn't be. I even finished packing. And it would break my heart, but…I always…I don't know…I thought we'd always have Paris," she quoted with a grim smile.
"But Norm, I don't want Paris. I want the whole damn planet. I want you."
Norm's eyes widened. "I want you too," he muttered unknowingly to the camera. And it was true. He wanted her so much it hurt. It had hurt for the past year. And it would hurt for many years to come.
"I know that I would've been fine without you. But I couldn't bear it if I ever stopped myself one day, and thought of you, and realized I'd been forgotten by a person I could never forget. Frankly, I'd rather die."
Both Trudy and Norm were still for a moment perpetually stretched to eternity and back, his sad eyes glued to her downcast ones. Norm's breathing was too loud and too ragged, but he hardly noticed. He was mesmerized. Here, inches in front of him, was the one thing he had never dared hope for, the one thing he had ended up wanting more than anything, and the one thing he had not been able to hold on tight enough to.
Trudy looked up too fast, her words tripping over themselves. "So that's what I'm doing. I'm going to die. Of course, maybe some miracle will swoop down out of nowhere and save my ass. But chances are, I'm not going to make it.
"I don't want to die," she repeated, and for the first time, a tear ran down her cheek and dripped off her chin. "Norm, I'd give anything for a long, happy life with you. Anything. But that's not how it's supposed to work out. We can't expect things to end up exactly the way we want them."
"Yes it was," Norm replied, his voice hoarse. "That's exactly what I expected." A long, happy life. All it would have required was Trudy, and the beautiful Pandorian sky. Two things that could have kept him happy forever, and he had lost one.
"It's not going to be easy. Hell, it's not easy right now." The tears were rolling down her face in earnest now. "But spending the rest of my life knowing I could have done the right thing?" She shook her head. "That would be harder.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that this is how it played out – how it was always going to play out. I just…I didn't think it would hurt this much.
"But I love you, Norm. And these past months, being able to really live…that's more than worth dying for.
"Besides, I'm not gone. Not really. I'm…I'm here." She put her hand over her chest. "Right here, okay? Always." She stared at the camera, melancholy and hopeful and utterly destroyed.
"Truds, you about ready?" Jake asked over the static, making Trudy jump a little. She quickly wiped away the tears with the back of her hand and pressed the device around her neck.
"Yeah, Jake. We're all good here."
"Good. Stand by."
"Copy that." Trudy smiled wistfully. "Well babe, gotta go. Duty calls." Her smile vanished. "I love you, Norm. I love you so much and you're never even going to know." She laughed, and the sound was short and forced. "Never going to know." She shook her head, ignoring the teardrops rolling down her face, and leaned forward to click away the last time Norm would ever see her. The laptop screen faded to black.
Norm released the breath he had been holding, then turned suddenly to look straight into the camera, eyes wild. He leaned forward, and couldn't turn it off fast enough. The screen darkened.
They say that you never truly leave the people you love. Rather, you take some of them with you, and leave some of yourself behind.
This isn't another fairy tale cliché. It's not an inspirational "quote of the day", or a writing prompt, or a saying to be plastered onto "Pass It On" billboards across a dying country. It's not common knowledge, but it's no secret either. It's not pointless, and it's not overbearing. It's just the truth, plain and simple.
Norm Spellman had Trudy Chacon's heart, and had given his own to her completely. They had more than a piece of each other. They had everything.
So she never truly left. She's never truly gone. No, she is with Eywa; she's in memories; she's in the wind; she's in the face of someone who has just learned to fly; she's in the battle cry that rages down the hill; she's in the smile of every person who falls deeply into love.
And she's in the heart.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to remember that. Sometimes you have to cry, and sometimes you have to hurt, and sometimes you have to forget before you can remember. It doesn't make sense, but it's another one of those things that doesn't have to make sense, because it's dazzlingly, heartbreakingly, gloriously true.
When Norm's face appeared once more, his eyes were red and swollen, but there was not a tear on his face. His voice was low and even. "Trudy Chacon is the best thing that ever happened to me," he said slowly. "She gave me something to love, she made me a better person. She made me human. And it doesn't matter that she isn't living here today. It matters that she lived at all.
"But she's gone now, and she isn't coming back. And it's terrible, yes, but…but I'm, uh…"
Norm stared at the camera for a moment, heartbreak etched into every line of his face. He blinked a few times, cleared his throat, and nodded. "I'm fine."
I have ever learned.
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go