The funeral was over. The will was read. Now was when I was meant to find peace with losing Jill, to return to my art and let life go on.
Some things are easy to say and impossible to do.
I walked into the workshop where we had both practised the stone-shifter’s art. A vast block of granite stood at her end of the room, bathed in sunshine from the skylight above. The material for her next project, now never to be completed.
Grief rushed through me, as hot and raw as on that last night in the hospital, when her hand had lain in mine, going cold and still. It was as if all the crying and all the counselling had been for nothing, my pain still smouldering inside me.
I laid my hand on the cold rock. Perhaps there was a way to let my grief out. I closed my eyes, tears running down my cheeks, and reached out with the stone-shifter’s art. I began imagining the shapes I wanted the stone to take, one final work of hers. As power flowed from my fingers, the stone rippled, then fell still.
I opened my eyes. Nothing had changed. The stone was as Jill had left it.
This wasn’t how it should be. Stone did not resist the shifter’s art. It did our bidding, following the flow of our power, became the vision in the heart of the artist.
Was I losing my touch? Surely not. Emotion empowered art, not hindered it. This was my chance to make something truly breathtaking. A work that would unleash my grief and allow others to share in that sensation of loss.
I thought back to the tricks they had used to train us at art college. Placing my hands against one side of Jill’s stone, I focused on that small area. It shifted beneath my fingers, finally beginning to take form. I drew out points of granite, sharp expressions of my loss and rage at the world. My heart beat harder as the sorrow flowed out of me and into my work.
I stepped back. So far so good. The beginnings of something good, perhaps even great.
Then the spikes drooped and began to curl, forming curves I had never intended. I snatched at them, but they kept moving, becoming something that bore no relation to me, to my loss, to my need.
My scream echoed around the workshop. I thrust my hands at the heart of the stone. Power poured from me, made all the stronger by my grief. Wave after wave pulsed into the rock, more power than I had ever let loose in a single work, all the power and passion of a man bereft.
The stone trembled. All form gave way and it collapsed like an ice sculpture before an inferno, becoming a grey puddle on the floor.
I stared. It had been a beautiful block of stone, perfect for Jill’s project. None of its strength and solidity remained.
I sank to the ground, hands sinking into the mess that I had made. There were no tears anymore, just a desperate emptiness. She had left me something wonderful and I had destroyed it.
The stone in front of me stirred. Again, it formed into curves, gentle shapes full of hope and comfort. At last, I recognised the style, that of Jill’s early works. Piece by piece, the stone came together, forming the beginning of a sculpture. Nothing angular and angry such as I had wanted. Something worthy of her.
For the first time in weeks, I smiled.
Jill was still with me.
* * *
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