I laid in the med-center, staring up at the top bunk. I was sore, and tired. The wounds had healed up enough to move, though slowly, and not very much at a time. So the med-center remained my prison, this Hallow’s Eve night, while the rest were out for Amara’s yearly send-off. How I wished to attend! But… no, I was not well enough. Not physically, nor mentally, nor emotionally, certainly. It was far too soon. So I laid there in silence. Light… silence. How long had it been since I had known the word? Even the whispers, now, quiet and solemn. As if they had been shocked into submission by my actions, the night before.
Well, good. The last thing I needed was their incessant nagging and questions. Not when I had lost… oh, the baby. My entire body shuddered, and my chest heaved. Simply thinking of it was too much. Had it been the right thing..? To hinge the entirety of thwarting Lachlainn on the loss of a potential life? I could recall, now, how some of the others had called me foolhardy, the night before. Had said it was a stupid thing to do… and maybe they were right. If I had taken the time to talk it over, maybe we could have come up with another plan. Maybe, just maybe, we could have stopped him without having to make that sacrifice.
But “maybe” wasn’t good enough.
I was dragged from my thoughts, suddenly, by an unfamiliar voice. “...Maureen? Is that you, in the corner there?” My head turned, though not out of any particular choice to look. Just out of habit. My eyes were greeted with a man I did not know, but was oddly familiar. His hair was short and neatly parted to the side, though receding a ways, certainly, and his facial hair was just as neatly trimmed. Both were… burgundy, faded to grey and silver in patches. And his eyes- green and brown with lacing of gold, mirroring my own so perfectly. He smiled, but there was an unbearable sadness behind it. Like a man who had known nothing but loss. It only took moments to register who he was.
He nodded, stepping closer. “Yes, child. It is me. I… know we had planned to meet, today, at last. But… one of the faculty told me you were unwell. Is this a bad time..?” He peered at me, his expression flickering. I didn’t respond, turning my face back to the bunk above. He sighed, advancing to my side and lowering down to the floor. His hand touched my forearm, and I jerked it away. “...today was her birthday, you know. She’d be fifty-two by now… and just as much of a spitfire as she always was, no doubt.” He chuckled, but he didn’t press any further.
We sat there for a while, in silence. Mourning what was, and what could have been, together. Eventually, he broke the emptiness, with words that broke me. “You look just like her, you know. Even now, in your pain… that’s the way she would stare at the ceiling every night, feeling trapped within the house we shared with our parents.” I felt myself shudder and heave, the tears springing readily to my eyes, like they had been waiting just under the surface all along. I turned and reached out, grasping his hand tightly within my own. He blinked down at the gesture, but he held it firmly, running a comforting thumb over my hand.
When the tears ceased, and my sobbing breaths had diminished, he spoke again. “But you know something about Rose? I may have been the intelligence between us, but she was the clever one. She could scheme, and plot, and it was her, inevitably, who escaped the drudgery of our lives. Rose did what she had to do, to live the life she needed. Where she could thrive, and bloom brilliantly, like the flower she was.”
“I don’t want to bloom.” My voice cracked as I responded, hoarse and dry. “I want to live normally, and survive, and be happy.” I clenched my teeth, slamming my free hand on the bed beneath me. “Why is that so hard?!”
My uncle paused, thinking about this a moment. He squeezed my hand. “Happy… sometimes, sweet niece of mine. We weren’t built to be happy forever. If we were always content, we could never press forward or progress. We’d still be living in caves, now. But… being happy only sometimes means we can see the flaws in our world and be driven to fix them.” He moved to sit on the edge of the bed. “I know it’s not perfect. But nothing is.”
I slowly, carefully sat up. Once I was stable, I looked at him. “Can you tell me more…? About her?” I hadn’t forgotten Mama. Light, I could never dream of forgetting Mama and Papa. They were my whole world. They still are. My hand clutched at that locket around my neck as I waited, toying with it carefully.
He eyed the locket. Aldur’s hand hovered over his pocket a moment, before retrieving… a pocket-watch. Etched in the same fashion as my locket-- no, Mama’s locket. His voice was quiet and fragile, when he finally spoke. “...of course, little bird. Let me tell you more about your mother and I, growing up.”