I guess I've gained ground enough that I've proven the relative success of the experiment. It's six months after the initial injections, and I've been moved into my own apartment. My literacy is supposedly at college-level; I can do advanced calculus, and quote Francis Bacon and I have an affinity for spatial-puzzles.
Kincaid is back with the program. He treats me better, but there's a seething under-current of resentment. He didn't want the project to succeed. In his head, he still sees me as a little boy, hampered by a lack of development. I was someone he could dominate easily. Now... Now, I don't think he knows what to do with me.
I should pity him. He's forgotten how strict his father was when he was a child. The feel of leather lashing across his back is a memory he can't permit. So, he gives it other contexts. He wants to be mastered, to be beaten into submission. It's how he understands power. That, coupled with a repressed homosexual interest, has him seeking an outlet in exotic displays of sado-masochismic dominance. He says he came back because the project is too important. But all he thinks about when he's here is Ms. Cameron. He's almost obssessed with Joanne.
Joanne, for her part, remains uncomfortable with him. She is too pure for him. She is such a giving person that she can't see how much he watches her. She think only the best of everyone, gives even the meanest people the benefit of the doubt. That's just the way she is. Generous, forgiving, thoughtful.
Today, she came by after the movers left. I really don't have that many things, so it didn't take them long to get me set up. She brought me a book: Gödel, Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. She said it was about exploring the origins of sentience. I accepted it and gave her a hug, smiling the entire time. Even her hugs feel like the lazy warmth of a summer day.
"Hofstatder won a Pulitzer prize for it." Joanne said. "And it was his first book. It's very dense reading... but you're already reading well beyond my comprehension level. Now, with you having moved out, I wanted you to have something I loved." She made a curious gesture, sort of self-deprecating, and I noticed there were tears on her cheek.. Her pictures inside were sad: me on a boat, her on the shore, and a widening gulf between us.
"Shhhh." I hushed her, stood in close and shut the door behind her. "It's okay." I said. "You've done so much for me, I can't imagine you not being there for me." I wrapped my arms around her again.
She stiffened slightly, but when I took no action, she relaxed and took a shaky breath. "I'll be here for you. I just..." She wiped at the wetness on her cheek, her face reddened. "don't want you to..."
I felt a wetness on my own cheeks as I looked down at Joanne. "I couldn't." I said, shocked at her thoughts. "How could I ever forget you? You're everything to me. I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for you. God, you've no idea how I feel about you..."
There was a small pause as I realize what I'd said and, more importantly, what she hadn't said. Months of never quite coming out and saying it, and now I'd made it clear... But Joanne's thoughts were brightening, caught on the other half of my response.
I felt my own cheeks redden as she took my face in both her hands, tenderly. Joanne gazed at me for a long time, as if searching for something. But her pictures were confusing, blurry and loud with an orchestral music I didn't recognize...
Then she leaned forward, stood on her toes, and our lips met for the first time.