Do not find peace. Find passion. Find something you want to die for more than something you want to live for. If it is your children, then fight not just for your own but for orphans who have no one else. If it is for medicine, then do not just seek out a cure for cancer but search for a cure for AIDS as well. Fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Speak for them. Scream for them. Live and die for them. Your life will not always be a happy one, but it will have meaning.
I love you. I believe in you. More than you will ever, ever know.
P.S. when you find someone to fight with, give her or him this.
I WATCHED NOAH WALK OUT of the room as he read his letters. I didn’t stop him. He deserved privacy. I owed him that.
I opened my letter instead. As I began to read, I pictured the professor in his office, my mind filling in details from memories that weren’t mine.
When I first caught sight of you in Miami, I did not know who you were. I was expecting someone Gifted to walk into the botanica that day, but you? You were quite a surprise.
You have been wondering who I am and what I want from you, but you should have been wondering who you are. I had hoped you would discover yourself on your own; knowledge acquired on your own means that you are responsible for it, no one else. What you know determines what you do and I cannot afford to change you. It has taken me centuries to learn it, but I have no power to change anything.
You do, though, and you have. Your will has cleansed the world of some people it is better off without, and others who have harmed no one, not even you. I will not patronize you by absolving you of responsibility—we are responsible for everything we do and do not do. But I will say that you belong to a legacy of others who have faced similar challenges.
Euhemerus wrote that the gods of ancient myths were simply people with greater abilities than most, deified by those around them. Then came Jung, and we, the Gifted, became archetypes. Normal men became gods. Plain women, monsters. We are none of those things. We are simply people, blessed and cursed.
Our abilities could not be explained by science. But these abilities weren’t without a cost. We harm ourselves. Ignore wisdom. Throw ourselves into danger. Attempt and commit suicide. We have no greater enemies than ourselves. For most of our history we did not know what was wrong with us, or right—why some of us manifested painfully, others without consequence, why some were ignorant of their origins while others relived moments we had never personally experienced. I have spent more than one lifetime trying to answer these questions and many others, and I am not sure whether my answers have done more harm than good. Without my work the boy you call Jude would never have been polluted. But the boy you love, Noah, would also never have been born.
I believe that every person has a responsibility to leave the world a better place than he found it. My particular Gift allows me to draft a vision for that better world—but my curse is that I lack the tools to build it. I have tried and failed to alter the course of history myself, and have learned that my Gift is useless on its own. And so I have found others to help me, your grandmother among them.
Noah was destined for greatness, until you were born. I had hoped that the manner of his birth would prevent the cycle from perpetuating—the eternal conflict between Hero and Shadow, the curses attendant to Tricksters, Mothers, Wise Women and Men. I had hoped that with my knowledge, I could end our madness. You are never too old to be susceptible to pride. The universe demands balance, and three months after Noah was conceived, you were conceived as well.
Noah’s Gift is that he could live forever and help others to as well, but his curse is that he only wants to die. You, Mara, are Gifted with the ability to protect those you love, but only in a way that hurts them and others. You can reward with life, but you must punish to do it.
It has been said that there must be a villain for every hero, a demon for every angel, a monster for every god. Despite what we are, I do not believe this. I have seen the villainous act heroic, and men called heroes act villainous. The ability to heal does not make one good any more than the ability to kill makes one evil. Kill the right people, and you become a hero. Heal the wrong ones, and you become a villain. It is our choices that define us, not our abilities.
Do you know why it is that, even today, women are counseled to scream “fire” instead of “rape”? Because the fundamental truth about humanity is that most people would rather look away.
Whatever your faults—and you have many, Mara, challenges no one else will ever face—you have never looked away. When evil smiles at you, you smile back.
The pendant your grandmother left you represents two symbols of justice—the feather and the sword. Those of us who choose to make a difference in the world have adopted it as a way to recognize one another. Your grandmother wore it. Noah’s mother wore it. Whatever you decide will not be the end for you but a new beginning. I encourage you to think carefully; you need not decide today. But do know that it is an irrevocable choice, and it can lead to a lonely life.
Whatever you choose, as time passes, you will grow in strength and conviction, and apart from you, Noah will as well. My hope for him, his mother’s hope for him, was that he would help create a better world. Without you, he can.
So even though I already know what your choice will be, I cannot help but implore you one last time. You will love Noah Shaw to ruins, unless you let him go. Whether it is fate or chance, coincidence or destiny, I have seen his death a thousand ways in a thousand dreams over a thousand nights, and the only one who can prevent it is you.
Should you choose to wear your grandmother’s pendant, I will know of your decision. But no matter what, we will see each other again.
I looked up as soon as I’d finished reading. Jamie was staring at me.
“What did yours say?”
My hope for him, his mother’s hope for him, was that he would help create a better world. Without you, he can.
“Stuff,” I said slowly. “About me. Yours?”
“Me too. Stuff.” He paused. “Do you believe him?”
Without you, he can.
“I don’t know,” I lied. My mind was crowded with words I hadn’t written, thoughts I didn’t think, memories I’d never experienced, and I couldn’t untangle them yet. “Do you?”
“I want to,” Jamie said. And then he bowed his head and clasped his necklace around his neck before I could say another word. He half-smiled and shrugged one shoulder. “The freaks shall inherit the earth.”