September 27, 2014

In Which Vera Has a Last Visit

March 15, 1187

Vera had thought it was just her. The first time her mother had come, she'd been alone. The second time, Lucien had been asleep. But she'd assumed that these visits--or whatever they were--were for her and her alone.

But her father saw her. Even if he couldn't fully believe it. Even if his blinking eyes and strained face of forced stoicism wouldn't let him. "Alina?"

"Hello, Severin." She smiled. It looked painful. "I only have a few minutes."

"But how are you here?" How she'd blurted it out this time and hadn't managed to ask last time, Vera didn't know. "You're dead."

"You brought me here, sweetie--or, you could have." Her mother stepped forward and reached for Vera's hair, tucking some behind her shoulder. Her hand was solid as that of a living woman. "There's not much separating the living and the dead, and the line between isn't impassable. Think of yourself as a gatekeeper of sorts."

"Gatekeeper?" As in... she was in charge? This was supposed to be voluntary? "But I didn't bring you here on purpose! Not that I'm not glad to see you, but..."

"I know. I know." Her mother's hand took to rubbing her shoulder, as it often had when Vera was little. Definitely solid. Definitely present. "See, you were upset about the color the first time I came to you, and you were upset about not being pregnant when Sparron showed up. Now, you were upset about telling your father about Sparron. If you're upset, a well-meaning spirit can cross if they're determined enough. The not-so-well-meaning ones are held at bay by other forces."

"But if I wanted to, I could bring someone back without being upset?"

"If they want a few more minutes--though most don't, if they don't have unfinished business. The dead aren't supposed to yearn for the land of the living."

Then what was the use, calling those who didn't want to be called? "How will I know who has unfinished business?"

"If someone wants to cross, they'll let you know. Usually in a dream or something similar. It will mainly be souls asking after people you know; you can't do much for someone whose loved ones dwell on the other side of the globe."

That made sense. She supposed. "Mother, will I see you again?"

"Not while you live, baby." Her mother pulled her into a hug, and a lengthy one at that. No--she would not have held on like that had she planned on calling again. "So, for now, be glad of every day you don't see me. You're young. You have life ahead of you yet."

"I'll miss you."

"And I you--but my place is there, and yours is still here." Her mother gave one last squeeze, then let her go, sighing and smiling all at once. "Say hello to the rest of your siblings for me, and I'll say the same to Viridis and your grandfather from you."

Vera nodded. Her siblings would believe her, even if some needed their father to vouch for it. "Yes, Mother."

"Good." Her mother stepped back. She still faced Vera, but her eyes flicked to her left--where Vera's father stood. "Severin, why are you looking at me like that?"

"I..." He blinked again--once again surprised to see that she remained. "I don't want to see you disappear again."

"I'll warn you when it's about to happen. You can turn around, or close your eyes." Her mother's head followed the lead of her eyes, and her body followed her head in turn. She took his hands in hers, her thumb stroking his knuckle. "I know I'll have to."

They stared at each other a moment, as Vera vaguely recalled them doing every now and then when her mother had been alive, but back then, such moments had been happy--joyous. Here, a thousand conflicting tensions stood between them, the old dreams and the eternal feelings and everything that had happened in the past twenty years. Her father had spent two years getting over her mother, two long drunken years of self-destructive shadow-hedonism that Vera and her siblings preferred to forget. Then he'd married Nora, who'd been a wonderful stepmother, and they'd had their five children. And one by one, Vera's siblings had married and started having children of their own, Vera herself included. Her mother hadn't even lived to see her first grandchild, Raia's Alina, so obviously named for her.

But her mother, from wherever she was, had seen it all, from afar. And she would understand by now that life would go on, with or without her, with or without any of them. That nothing her husband had done meant he no longer loved her, just that they no longer inhabited the same plane of existence. Just that letting go was the hardest thing he'd ever done.

"We won't see each other again for a very long time. Try to remember that that's a good thing?"

Lip caught in his teeth, Vera's father bowed his head. "I don't know what to say."

"Just kiss me once." Her mother drew herself into him, arms to his back. "That will be enough."



Van said...

I never noticed it before I shot the post after this one, but Oswald actually looks a lot like Holladrin.

Ekho said...

This is super sweet but also heartbreaking. I wonder how Vera is going to handle this knew position as 'Gatekeeper' and I wonder how many on the other side are in need of her assistance. I guess I'm glad Severin could have this moment with Alina, and that Alina was the one to explain it all. I just hope the ghost of his ex wife isn't going to upset his current marriage, or his mental state at least. Revisiting old demons isn't the grandest idea.

Van said...

Thanks! Vera seems to be handling the new knowledge fairly well at the moment, but we'll see how things go when she has to (knowingly) use her powers in the future. We do know that anyone who seeks her services likely wants to speak with a living loved one in Naroni.

Severin's marriage to Nora is pretty solid at this point, so I wouldn't be too worried about there. He'll tell her about this, and while he might be a little shaken up for a while, he'll bounce back pretty quickly. As for Nora, I'm sure dead former spouses get a pass in her book, and she was always fond of Alina, so I don't foresee any jealousy issues on that front.