I Promise

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“Mom?”

Oliver stood in the doorway to his parents’ bedroom, looking into the darkness expectantly, awaiting for the hollow response from his mother that had become so regular in the past couple years. Oliver loved his mother, he really did. And the fact that her mind was becoming decayed and useless from the DNA they shared meant nothing to him; she raised him as best as she could early on, and at the young age of sixteen he was determined to repay the favor.

His mother, Inky Darcell, used to be one of the strongest people he had the ability of meeting. She was powerful, lived through everything life threw at her. She seemed immortal to him, and until that fateful day his other mother, Cooper, died, he was certain that death was more an idea and much less an event.

His mother was different after that.

She had scooped him up in fear that night, whisking them off to a women’s shelter and returning the next morning to sweep up the ashes, burying them in a shallow grave in the woods. Oliver could recall watching Inky pat down the hungry earth, identifying the site with a single rose that held next to no significance to Oliver, but all of it to her. And then she picked herself up, dusting herself off, swiping at her nose, and returning home. And after that, her warm body never left.

But her mind did.

Slowly.

It fled like a leaf in the wind, useless against the forces that would eventually prevail. Oliver would never blame her for stopping her maternal care; she was simply unable. And that fact became more and more apparent when she stopped caring for herself, lending her shell of a form to her teenage son to protect and care for for fear of losing someone else he loved. He would never allow himself to let Inky fade away like Cooper, even if it cost him his life. He didn’t want to be alone, for he knew the stifling silence would consume him like it consumed Cooper’s final breath.

It’s subjects like these that cast a shadow under Oliver’s grey eyes. The past, he realized quickly, was like a lingering ghost, and even though you may not always be able to see it, it’s there, and it will never leave you.

But Oliver was honest with himself, and he would much rather let the silence take him then let go of the past.

“… Mom? It’s time to wake up. I’m making breakfast soon,” Oliver said once more, slinking into the room and reaching out to where he knew his mother was in the darkness. He would bring her from sleep, allow her to blink her way back to a reality without nightmares, and then turn on the light. There would be light soon, when the sun rose, but that wasn’t for a good while.

Oliver’s hand did eventually touch something… but it was a cold mattress clad in hardly disturbed sheets. This confused him as he flipped on the light regardless. Within seconds the sight of Inky’s absence, which he felt has lasted long enough to be bad, caused a pang in his abdomen that fueled a numbing in his veins. Before he could realize what he was doing, he bolted from the room, running to the living room and finally the kitchen where he was almost gratefully assaulted with the sight of his mother gazing through the black window in a dimly lit room.

Oliver almost ran to hug her when one detail stopped him: the curving knife Cooper had loved so dearly was pressed between the countertop Inky was leaning against and her palm. Her fingers twitched restlessly and almost with a violent fervor, like she was waiting for something to happen and it wasn’t occurring fast enough for her liking.

Fear struck Oliver’s heart, and he stepped forward cautiously so as not to frighten his mother. “Mom, leave the knife and come here.”

Inky stiffened for a moment, her shoulders tensing into a knot around the base of her wings before falling limp. She turned around - slowly, slowly - and looked up at him, the knife hilt in her hand and tears in her eyes. Dripping down her cheeks. She never forgave herself for the death of the one she loved, and it was something Oliver knew very well. He just never knew that in her hollowed state it would take control as profoundly as it had this morning.

“Mom, put it down. Put mom’s knife down, okay? I’ll make breakfast. We can go to the library. You like the library, right? I’ll checkout a few books and we can read them together, just like we did when I was little.” Oliver was pleading, he realized, with the Grim Reaper. He just never knew Death took the form of his role model. His protector.

His mother.

“You don’t get it, Ollie,” Inky finally said. It was more words than she’d mustered in months, but this breakthrough was anything but joyous. It was far from it, in fact, and this only served to terrify Oliver into a state of frozen horror. “You just don’t get it. She died. She died and I killed her and it’s never going to be the same. I deserved the pain. I know I did. I deserved all of it. I deserve it now and she isn’t here so I have… I have t-to…”

“Mom,” Oliver squeaked, taking a step forward. Inky leaned back, shifting the knife closer, and Oliver realized that any step closer would prove drastic. “Accidents happen, you know this. Remember when I was five and I burned your cookies by accident because I forgot to set the timer?” He asked, hopeful appealing to their shared memories would ground her from leaving the Earth and floating into an uncertain end. But Inky just shook her head, slowly at first, and then rapidly, picking up speed as she started to shake with primal sobs.

“I loved her, you know. i loved her and I killed her. What if i kill you next? I love you, Ollie. I can’t… I can’t just keep going on like this! I’m not a mother if you have to take care of me because of something stupid I did!” Screaming now, Inky moved the knife once more, positioning it over her torso. Her pupils, constricted to pinpricks and yet filled with the pain of her years, swam with misty tears. They were begging for something. Anything. And Oliver didn’t even know what that was.

With a lunge, he grabbed Inky’s wrists, hopeful to pull the knife free and return to the pattern they’d assumed for years. To keep his mother alive as long as he could.

But fate is cruel, and his plan did not follow through. His strength was met by that of his mother’s determined and trained form years of physical exertion. She fought with him, her grip never relenting as she cried, trying to push him away without committing the one transgression she hoped to avoid: hurting what piece of Cooper she had left.

Both Vlucht were well matched, and it seemed that Inky was finally weakening as she began to drown in the emotions she had managed to swim in before.

And then Oliver’s palms, clammy from adrenaline, slipped. The knife plunged into Inky’s abdomen with a squelching sound, a little gasp escaping her lips as her puffy eyelids widened. She looked up from the wound to Oliver, her lower lip quivering as the light caught her canines.

Oliver, unable to comprehend the recent events he’d witnessed, watched his dying mother through a film of tears.

He’d failed.

But Inky had succeeded. And with a small smile, she fell to her knees, coughing up a splatter of blood onto the kitchen floor. Oliver sank down next to her, trying to think and finding himself unable.

“Mom, I-“

“Shh,” Inky whispered, cupping the side of his face in her hand. “It’s okay, Ollie. It’s all gonna be okay, I promise.”

I promise.

That phrase was such a bitter one to Oliver, especially now. She promised they’d come home. She promised they’d be okay. She promised she’d be okay.

She wasn’t okay.

“Ollie,” Inky began again, her eyes blurring. “There’s an envelope in my drawer next to my bed, okay? It’s yours now. I need you to go get it. My will is in there-“

“Mom, no,” Oliver cried, hugging her as her blood stained his thighs. “You’re gonna be okay, I’m gonna… gonna heal you. I’ll fix you! Just let me…”

“Oliver, there’s no fixing me,” Inky slurred, dragging his gaze back to her. Fearfully, Oliver looked into her haunted eyes for the first time. They couldn’t focus anymore, but she still tried. “I was broken the moment I was born. But you’re different, sweetie. You have hope. I can see it in you everyday,” she said, her voice growing quiet. She wouldn’t last much longer, and Oliver knew it. “I love you, Ollie. Promise me you won’t forget that.”

“I… promise,” Oliver croaked, hardly able to speak as his mother’s body grew weak and started to slump forward. “I promise, mom.”

“Thank you, Ollie…” Inky whispered, smiling weakly one last time. “I love you. I always have,” she said, her eyes closing.

“And I always will.”

~

Oliver never viewed sunrises the same way again.






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