Time passed, and Baby grew into Girl, and as Girl grew into herself, Mother and Father did all they could not to hurt Baby, not to turn her into a little version of themselves.
When she was still Baby, they had hired a nanny to watch over her, afraid they might make the same mistake that had happened on that horrible night.
But as she grew old enough to walk on her own, to not be held, they decided they had to take their commitment to her to another level.
They each decided to reach into their hearts (in every clay person’s heart is an extra reservoir of clay hidden away for emergencies) and pull out all the extra clay they could find. They cried and screamed as they pulled it out, but they knew that it would be better for them to go through this than for their daughter to think she was raised by freaks.
And as they took the clay was removed, they slowly took deep breaths, feeling the emptiness of the removal of the inside of them, hollower than they’d ever felt. But then they took that extra clay and started rubbing it over themselves, covering their spikes carefully, adding a whole extra layer to their bodies, one that would hide who they were underneath a smooth, soft coat of extra skin.
They looked at each other after they were done, each naked and standing in front of each other, each hollowed out on the inside but looking normal on the outside for the first time in their lives. They knew that they still couldn’t hold and play with Girl as much as they hoped because clay from the heart is soft, and it is not like the hard outer clay of a normal clay person. It can only hide, it cannot truly protect those who come close enough.
And even if it did, they knew that what happened with the gloves could happen again. Their spikes could grow out of the soft clay, and stab someone. So they would still have to be careful.
But they knew it was for the best, it was the only way that Girl could live a normal life. They had been outsiders their whole lives, and they could not bear the same for their girl. She had to be normal, she had to be.
And so, for the rest of their lives, Father and Mother hid their spikes underneath their spread out hearts, making them delicate and hollow underneath.
But Girl would be normal. Girl would be normal.
One day, Girl was at school, and talking with Friend during recess. All the kids were running around and jumping, and enjoying themselves. But Girl was quiet. She had always been quiet, always been a bit hidden. But she had Friend, and Friend was such good friend, so full of warmth and care.
Today, Friend had a question for her.
“Why don’t your parents hug you?” Friend asked.
Girl looked up in curiosity. “Hug?”
“Yeah, you know… like, when my parents drop me off at school, they give me a big hug. Wrap their arms around me. Like the other parents.”
And Friend went over to Girl and gave her a hug to show Girl what a hug was. As she wrapped her arms around friend, she felt a sort of fuzz rub against her, the feeling of thousands of imperceptible spikes touching her skin, but didn’t think anything of it.
Girl felt a warmth suddenly wash over her. A deep warmth, the kind of warmth she felt in some hidden part of her memory that was associated with a nanny who hugged and loved her before she had memories. And even deeper underneath that was the memory of kisses her parents gave her when they created her from their own bodies.
Their clay melded for a moment, and then separated. And for Friend, this was just a way to explain what she was saying, but for Girl, it was a moment she would never forget.
“So, that is a hug,” Friend said, “And all the parents give them when they drop off and pick up their kids. Except yours.”
Girl looked up at Friend and rubbed her eye with her fingers, trying to hide the water falling onto her face.
“I wonder why they don’t give you any? Do they give you any at home?”
“No,” Girl said quietly.
“Oh. Okay. Well… would you like me to give you hugs sometimes?”
Girl looked at Friend, who asked the question like it was nothing, like it cost her nothing, and Girl nodded as quickly as she could, afraid Friend might change her mind, afraid she might never get that feeling again.
And that was how Girl discovered Warmth and Love, and how she learned to find it in people who weren’t Mother and Father.