Chapter Three: The stranger
As Gina screamed the stranger walking out from behind the painting stopped suddenly. He raised his hands above his head to show that he was unarmed. It was dark in the studio because Gina had not yet turned on the light but very suddenly a bright light began to shine and it seemed to be coming from the hands of the stranger. She blinked hard to make sure this was not a dream, it wasn’t. The man came closer and Gina was unable to move. She felt frozen to this very spot just inside the door and pulled almost magnetically to walk closer to the man.
Now that she had the chance to breathe and calm down a moment she wasn’t scared at all. She felt a sense of peace and a warm buzz swept over her entire body as if her blood pulsed with electricity.
As he approached, a voice so soft and clear and familiar reached out to her, “I see that you found my gift. I’ve been waiting for you to come home.”
She moved quickly now into his arms. Into the warm embrace she had missed these past years. The one she knew she would never feel again. Could it really be true, could he really be here?
“Max, is it really you?” she had to ask. She needed to break her silence to be sure she could trust herself to believe he was standing here. “How…when did you get here?” she asked in a whisper afraid he wouldn’t answer because maybe he wasn’t really there.
“I swam and then walked,” he said with a slight chuckle, “I only just arrived today.” With that he pulled her close and kissed her with such emotion she thought that she might faint on the spot. He was gentle, holding her closely kissing, now whispering in her ear about lost love and ocean voyages, then more kissing and all the while the white-blue glow emitting from him setting a surreal scene in her little studio.
Abruptly Gina pulled away pushing him in the opposite direction. It was too much. She felt too alive, too sensitive. Images were flashing in her brain of tumultuous seas and sinking ships, of love gone missing, of years of grieving, of best friends and crashing school dances, of winters alone on the beach waiting or wishing, of the agony of knowing that he was gone. How could he be here? He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was lost at sea. Who was this glowing man, grown and different, yet enough like Max to confuse her? Dolores always said he would come back one day.
“Don’t give up hope Gina, he’ll be back against all odds. I know it,” was one of the last things Dolores had said to her. That was over a year ago.
It was still too much, she dropped the shell, her head felt dizzy and the light…the light was so brilliant, too brilliant. She fell suddenly into his arms and he caught her.