69 - Just Like...

The Guardian Dolphin

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She tried to step around me. I stepped in her way again.

"Clarence, please. I don't want to be a dolphin."

I grabbed her by her arms.

"You think that's what this is about? That's not what this is about."

"Let me go, Clarence."

She tried to pull away, but I held her tight.

"Just a moment." I said. "Just… This is about you living for yourself, Julie. Finding out that you can't live your mother's life for her…"

And this was the crazy, unfortunate thing. The first time I ever saw Julie stand up for herself was when she stood up to me. She looked me right in the eye, and I swear I watched her, in that half second, change from a little girl struck with hero-worship to a fellow person, capable of critiquing me.

When she spoke, the words stung.

"I don't really see the difference whether I live her life or yours."

She'd completely misunderstood. And the clock was still ticking.

"I just want you to be free."

"So does Mother. Ask her."

A wave washed over her feet. I stepped back to avoid it.

There had to be a way to get through to her.

"You don't understand. She's a wonderful mother, right?"

Julie nodded evenly.

"She is."

"And you love her."

She nodded again.

"You love her so much that you can't do anything that would cause her pain."

That gave her pause.

"All right."

"You'd do anything for her…"

She pushed past me, and started up the beach.

I called after her.

"…anything. Can't you see what's happening to you? Yes. She's wonderful. Yes, you owe her everything."

I grabbed her from behind and spun her around.

"You love her so much you'd give up your dreams before you even see them. But that's wrong, Julie. Can't you see that? She's just like, like…"

My mind went blank. Julie narrowed her eyes.

"Like who?"

I couldn't think who, but I didn't have to. An ambulance pulled into the restaurant parking lot, its sirens screaming.

Julie pulled away from me, and stared in horror.

"Oh no." she breathed. "Mom!"

She ran toward the restaurant.

She was halfway up the beach before I realized why she was running. I called after her.

"Julie! It's all right! Stop!"

She stopped and turned, puzzled.

"Your mother's fine," I shouted. "They've come for me."

The ambulance had a logo on the side, over the words "North Hills Psychiatric Hospital".

I took a step toward Julie, but my leg gave out under me, and I tumbled to the ground.

Julie rushed back, and helped me up.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I said. It's just… my leg."

She helped me walk back to the parking lot where they were waiting. By the time we got there, the pain was better, but I had one hell of a limp.

Just like Charlie.