This is Part 5 of a series.
Girl was full of holes. It took time, but she had developed more and more of them as, every day when she came home, she hugged Mother and Father. Every chance she got, as she got older, she’d hug them, and blood would pool on the floor and they’d clean it up, and she’d go up to room happily and do her homework. Every hug would heal over, but it always left a bigger depression than the time before. Every time, it went deeper.
And although it pained Mother and Father to see Girl like this, they didn’t have brains, and so they didn’t realize that it was their spikes that had caused her holes. In fact, they had forgotten they even had spikes (which made them much happier, for they no longer saw themselves as abnormal). And so when Girl hugged them and bled to the floor, they thought to themselves: “What a weird Girl that she bleeds when she hugs. And where did those holes come from?”
But then Girl grew older. She went to high school. And Girl became Young Woman, and things began to change.
She was sitting in the park with Friend, lazily staring up at the clouds. They reminded her of the way clay skin wrapped around people, making them soft and round.
Friend and Young Woman had only grown closer over the years, and they told each other everything. They told each other their secrets, and their dreams, and their fears. They were in love in only the way best friends can be in love.
When they were young, Friend had not thought much of the holes slowly appearing on Girl’s skin. But as they both became young women, Friend became more and more concerned with Young Woman. Young Woman was so full of love, so giving, Friend wondered how this sensitive, sweet Young Woman had developed holes on her body.
Then came the day when Friend had seen Young Woman hug her parents. And seen the blood pool on the ground, the holes deepen, the clay heal over, but leave a mark. And she suddenly understood why Young Woman was covered in holes, and why when she was younger she never had hugged her parents, and what it meant to be a child to spiked parents.
Friend had heard of spiked people before, but she had never seen them. Or maybe she had, but she didn’t know it, for it was common knowledge that the spiked people of the world would try their best to hide their spikes. All she knew was that seeing the holes in Young Woman had broken her heart, and so she promised herself that from that moment on, she would take care of Young Woman.
And that’s why they were at the park.
Young Woman was still gazing at the clouds. And Friend gazed over at her, looking sadly at the holes all over Young Woman, Young Woman who had never questioned her holes, who had only worried about giving love, who worried about others before herself, and who would never grow spikes because of that nature.
Instead of saying anything, Friend laid down next to Young Woman and looked at the clouds with her. They laid in silence, staring up as the brown clouds moved slowly across the grey sky.
Young Woman’s chest rose and fell, and Friend looked over to see her eyes widening with wonder at each passing cloud, at the way she followed each one until it went over the horizon, as if she was afraid of losing it.
Friend wanted to cry.
Instead, she put her hand on Young Woman’s hand.
For a moment, Young Woman jumped, pulling her hand back. Young Woman had never touched another person, for she wanted only to share her love with her parents. If love hurt, then it should be saved for only those one cared about most.
Friend just whispered quietly, “I promise you will be okay.”
Young Woman had trouble believing that. Love was pain, and she loved Friend, but she didn’t need this kind of love. Not the kind that hurt.
But then Friend tried again to put her hand on Young Woman’s.
And instead of the sharp, searing cold bite of metal striking into her soft clay skin followed by the warmth of clay and blood, Young Woman felt only the warmth. And only the warmth of clay touching clay. Of clay that had never felt the bite of spikes, which made it softer than any clay she had ever touched in her life.
Young Woman’s eyes watered. Her body relaxed. Her clay softened. The holes on her hands where Friend touched her started to heal.
Friend looked at all of this, and she smiled. Young Woman had never felt true love from another, had only given it. And as she saw felt the holes on Young Woman heal, she knew what she had to do.
She rolled over and wrapped her arm around Young Woman, holding her close, embracing her with gentility and as much warmth as she could make emanate from her body.
Young Woman was at first shocked, but the beauty of the feeling she had felt on her hand was now wrapped around her body, and she felt like she was in a cocoon of love, and although she kept waiting for her body to start bleeding, holes to start appearing, the exact opposite happened.
Young Woman put her hand on Friend’s arm, the one wrapped over her body. She nuzzled against Friend, letting Friend’s head warm her cheek, healing the holes there.
They laid like that for an hour, and the whole time, Young Woman cried quietly to herself.
They walked home together, holding hands. Young Woman knew that from then on, she had at least one person who could give her love, a hug, an embrace, a hand, without it cutting holes into her body.
They laughed and smiled, joking the whole way to Young Woman’s home, where Friend was dropping her off.
As they arrived, Young Woman looked up and saw Mother. Mother, who had grown large with all the soft clay wrapped around her, made of her heart and her brain. Who was empty inside, and cracking, and who didn’t even know she had spikes. Mother, who loved Young Woman, but was now depending on that love just to keep her insides from turning to stone.
Young Woman let go of Friend’s hand and smiled at her. She mouthed the words, “Thank you,” to Friend. Friend forced herself to smile as she looked at Young Woman whose Mother was looming behind her, her shadow falling over Young Woman, as if she were a cloud hanging over her child.
Young Woman turned to Mother. Mother looked at Friend suspiciously, angrily, not knowing why there was something inside of her that made her resent Friend, only knowing that the sight of the two holding hands had turned her entire insides to cracked, dry, hardly-clay.
But, bravely, she wiped away those feelings and smiled at Young Woman.
“Come give your Mother a hug,” she said.
And she held out her arms.