Chapter 19: A Reunion of Strangers

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Doctors. Occupational therapy. Tutors. More doctors. Raising a child with autism took up nearly every moment of Ahio’s life on land. He accepted fewer and fewer gigs, and at last, decided it best to leave his career as an illusionist. He sold most of their belongings, then he packed up what was left and took Tane to live in a small, run-down beach house on a quiet side of the island.

He hired a local babysitter to watch Tane during the times when he had to be in the sea, and began to scour the newspaper, searching for work. Unfortunately, there were not many available jobs for unskilled ex-magicians or drummers. But one day, he was explaining the situation to Dr. Wu, who had stopped by the beach house to check on Tane.

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“I may be able to assist you,” said Dr. Wu. “One of my patients will be checking out from the hospital this week. She has rented a house, but she is in need of a live-in personal assistant. I’m not sure how she would feel about having a toddler around.” He cast a dubious glance at Tane, who was busy stuffing a handful of sand in his mouth. “But if you like, I can ask her.”

“Yes, that’d be great!” Tane shook the doctor’s hand. Dr. Wu called back the next day with good news. And by the end of that week, Ahio and Tane packed up their things yet again, and went to the house of the disabled patient. The patient still hadn’t arrived by the time they got there, so Ahio let himself in with the key and got Tane settled down to sleep. Shortly after, he heard noises coming from outside the door. He stepped out to investigate, then stopped still. There was the patient, a few yards away. She was seated in her wheelchair, looking out toward the ocean. Reunion (24)Reunion (25)

Ahio spoke gently as he approached the wheelchair. “Hello there. Don’t want to startle you. I’m your new assistant.” The patient didn’t turn to look at him. Ahio stopped just behind her chair. There was something so familiar about this woman – the curve of her shoulders, her long, slender neck. But it couldn’t be…could it?

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Heart hammering, he walked around to the front of the chair. Then, it was as though the sky, sea, and earth had all collided, and he was falling, falling through space, with no ground to land on. How? How was it possible that Puaura was here? After all these years, she was right in front of him – and in a wheelchair! How?

“Puaura!” He sank to the floor and buried his face in her lap. “I can’t believe it’s really you!” He lifted his face to look at her. Then he froze. Puaura was staring back at him with wide-eyed confusion.

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“Oh no,” he said. He rose to his feet, cheeks flaming. He had forgotten. Of course she did not recognize him – not in this body.

“I don’t…think I know you.” Puaura’s voice was soft, apologetic. “I’m sorry. Some of my memories are still fuzzy.”

“No, no, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…” Ahio’s voice caught in his throat. He turned away from Puaura and took a deep breath.

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“What’s your name?” asked Puaura.

Ahio forced himself to turn around and face her again. Even in a wheelchair, she was so beautiful, the way her dark eyes caught the moonlight and reflected it back. Ahio, I’m Ahio! He wanted to say. But he wasn’t Ahio anymore. At least, he wasn’t the Ahio she knew. He was like a stranger. “You can call me Ahomana,” he said, “and I am at your service.” Wiping the sadness from his face, he gave the sweeping bow of a magician.

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