When I wake, Cat is standing right next to the barrier, looking angry. She sees me stir and asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“That it would make the barrier visible. Maybe I ruined things with Lena and now there’s this shimmer between you and me and I hate it.”
“Wait! You can see the barrier?”
“Yes!— You can’t?”
“Nope, not a thing.”
“So what gives? You told Kate and you could see stuff, but not the barrier and I told Lena and I can see the barrier.”
“Can you see the sigils?”
She looks down and then back at me. “Yeah, both of them. Both here and there.”
“Then I don’t know.”
“And now I can’t even see you properly. This is so—”
He makes a move like he’s hitting the barrier with his fist, then stops, looking astonished. Wiggles his fingers. “George…”
“Can you touch my fingers?”
I get out of bed and walk over and feel and… I feel warm skin. I’m touching him! I grab the hand and he squeezes back. “Oh my God. You can get through!”
“Let’s see how far this goes.” He’s got a wide grin now. He slowly pushes his arm towards my side. The sleeve of the bathrobe rides up his arm.
“OK,” he says, “There’s resistance; it’s a little like pushing through jelly, except it doesn’t stick. And the bathrobe won’t go.”
I push against the barrier, but there’s no give whatsoever. If that’s jelly, it’s been frozen solid or something. Damn. Should have known, I still can’t see it, but damn. Anyway, even just one of us is a big thing already. “You could visit?”
“I’m going to try.”
He gets rid of the bathrobe and puts his hand on the barrier again, slowly pushes the entire arm through, then a leg. He hesitates a moment, then closes his eyes and pushes his head through and then slowly steps forward, ending on my side.
No more barrier!
We look at each other with big grins on our faces, then Cat hesitates and says, “Maybe we’d better put on some clothes before we start hugging.”
Oops. Completely forgot about that. I grab my bathrobe and ask, “Is there anything in here that will fit you? — This is probably the only thing, right?”
“I guess so.”
And I guess I kinda spoiled the mood with that reminder. I hand the bathrobe over and grab a T-shirt and shorts for myself.
She puts on the bathrobe and looks at herself in the mirror and snorts. It does look silly on her.
“Alright,” she says, “That does it. You’re going to have to learn to come over to my side, just so I can avoid having to wear this thing.”
“Happy to, but how?”
“When I was complaining earlier, I didn’t realize how big this change was. I thought the shimmer was just a side effect of telling Lena. But that doesn’t make sense now – getting through is huge. So it had to be something else and I think— I did— I followed your advice.”
Followed my adv— Oh.
“OK, but why would that be such a big thing?”
“Maybe not so much what I did as what I thought. That if we are to stay like this, it’s time to take ownership of this body.”
If we are— She’s right. But that hurts. Big threshold — is there even a way back once you cross?
That’s why it counts.
She hugs me. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have been that blunt.”
I hug her back. “It’s OK.”
“So now you know your homework.”
I— I guess I do. I nod. “No freakouts this time?” Do we at least get to enjoy it?
“No. It’s annoying you have to clean up afterward, but it wasn’t freaky at all. I don’t get the difference, but it’s huge.”
“Good for you.”
“Yeah. It was. Good, I mean.”
“Right. Let me make some coffee and then I want to know how and what you ruined.”
I start fiddling with the coffeemaker as Cat tells me how she told Lena and the reaction she got.
“I have a suggestion. It’s going to be awkward, but…”
“This morning, Kate said she could see us when she touched me as I was sleeping. That would be the direct evidence that Lena wants.”
“You’re right, that is awkward.”
“You think the dream would still work if you went to bed with the door open?”
“I don’t know, but I guess that might be worth suggesting.”
I hand him a cup and touch his shoulder. “Hang in there.”