273 Adjusting the image

“Hi guys,” Jack greeted in general and then kissed Carly.

“Any news?”

Jack sat down in front of Holden, shaking his head.

“Not much, I’m afraid. The authorities have checked flights and hotels, but apart from our party, no links to Oakdale or towns nearby. So that feels like a dead end. But I’m here to find Tim. He filmed the wedding and we want to look at that…maybe there’s a clue on there.”

“Tim doesn’t join the family meals, because he doesn’t want to intrude,” Kim said, “but he’s still here. We originally planned he would take an earlier flight home after the wedding, but he sent the footage online and asked me if he could take a few days off. I guess he’s enjoying Vegas more than he expected.”

“Who can blame him,” Katie smiled. “It’s an exciting town.”

“Well, I guess he’s exploring that excitement right now, because he wasn’t in his room,” Jack smiled at Kim. “Could you ask your team in Oakdale to put the footage online, so we can watch it?”

After Kim nodded and took out her phone, Jack looked at Lucinda.

“Are you ready to help us out with the stuff we’ve discussed?”

Lucinda was already on her feet. A million was a lot of money for her too, but she knew the drill by now. If everybody did their job right, she wouldn’t lose a penny.

“Very ready. Let’s do this.”

After Jack left with Lucinda and Kim, the tense and grim atmosphere was back and Luke had to take a deep breath to get some oxygen.

“So…now what?”

“Good question,” Seth smiled at Luke. “We don’t need to stay here. We all have cell phones, so I guess we could go out…”

“…and have some fun?” Holden sneered.

“Of course not,” Seth gave his brother a calm smile, “We’re all worried, Holden.”

“I know,” Holden lowered his head. “I’m going crazy.”

“Only natural,” Emma tapped Holden’s hand. “And not being able to help is the worst thing. That we have to sit back and wait…”

“We’ve been through this several times, but it’s clearly not something you ever get used to,” Seth nodded.

“You’ve experienced most of it from a distance, though,” Holden was back to his sneering.

“The fact that I wasn’t physically present, doesn’t mean I didn’t care, Holden.” Seth sounded annoyed now too. “Aaron couldn’t make it to your wedding. Do you now think your son doesn’t love you?”

The fact that Holden didn’t answer, made Emma frown.

“Holden…you can’t be seriously thinking that.”

Holden shrugged. “I know he had good reasons for not coming, but I can’t help thinking that he would be here if he really loved me.”

“That’s sad,” Emma whispered, “I know for a fact that that boy loves you very much.”

Holden shrugged again.

“A part of me knows you’re right, but I can’t help…”

“Yes, you can…” Reid interrupted him, ignoring Holden’s irritation. “They’re your thoughts. Of course you have influence on that. The brain is amazing, but not autonomous. You’re not its puppet. The fact that that thought is there, means you concluded somewhere along the way how people should act if they really love you. And the moment they don’t meet your expectation, your finding is clear: that person doesn’t love you enough.”

“And that’s a judgment,” Bob backed Reid up with a calm smile.

“Exactly,” Reid gave his mentor a quick smile, “It’s your thought, so it’s telling you something about you. Nothing about…” Reid frowned.

“Aaron,” Zoë, still close to his chest, whispered.

“Aaron,” Reid repeated, caressing the girl’s curls in a silent thanks.

“That judgment stuff is fascinating,” Katie was visibly in awe, looking at her ‘brother’.

“It is when you don’t judge it and start exploring it,” Luke laughed. “As you know I have frequent sessions with Dr. Michaels and now this is one of my favourite subjects, but that took a while because I didn’t want to perceive myself as being judgmental in the first place.”

He smiled when he saw several nods.

“But after I accepted it as a part of me, I could play with it and that freed me. I was always very sensitive about the opinion of others. I wanted everyone to like me. Well,” Luke grinned at Reid, “I still want that, but not at all costs, anymore. Not if I have to efface myself.”

Luke took Emma’s hand and continued, “My wise grandmother once told me to trust the love. Best advice ever. Because I do recognize those thoughts,” Luke smiled at the man who’d raised him as his own son, “but I just replace them with that one sentence. Trust the love. Remember the moments when the connection was strong. When you felt that love for Aaron and you know Aaron felt that love for you. Go there. To that place in your brain. To that memory. And go sit in it. Let it embrace you. Trust the love and you’ll feel it.”

“Don’t shut people out because they don’t comply with your view on love,” Molly whispered, moving her chair as close as possible. “If people are only capable of loving you when you meet all their requirements, it’s not love.”

“What she said,” Reid held up his cup of coffee as a toast and winked at Molly. She grinned.

“For a long time I thought life was hard,” Luke said, kissing Danny’s blond hair, “and sure, some very tough things can happen. But I’m also discovering that we add a lot of that weight by creating all these images of how life should look like and then forcing ourselves and others to live up to that image. And if someone has a different image, we classify that as better or worse than our own image. But it’s just different. Life gets a lot more fun if you look at it that way.”

“I fully agree,” Bob’s smile was filled with respect. “I’ve shared that with many patients. Understandably they’re upset when a disease or accident happens. They call it unfair, because it wasn’t the image they had about how life should look like. So I always told them that if they would stay focused on the illness or even disability not ‘fitting the image’, they’d always feel discontent and abnormal. But if they would adjust their picture and make the illness or disability part of it, they would find a way to deal with it.”

“That’s powerful,” Emma smiled.

“It is,” Bob nodded. “And if this message made at least one life easier, I’ll die a happy man.”

“Don’t even think about dying, you…” Kim had returned without anyone noticing and she kissed her husband on the cheek.

“Any news?”

Kim smiled at Holden and shook her head.

“I’m afraid not. The police are now watching the tape of the wedding. Tim did a marvellous job,” she winked at Molly, “It’s a wonderful video. If you want, we can watch it?”

After a quick scan of Holden’s face, Molly nodded.

“I’d love to.”

“Me too,” Holden gave Molly a quick kiss. “We could use some distraction…”

It was the green-light for the group to split up and they all went their separate ways. Not aware of the pair of eyes, watching them leave.