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For The Better
There was fighting. The sound of Cooper screaming, and Inky’s cries as she sobbed, gasping for breath with every hit her pale body took. It was no different from every other night, in Oliver’s opinion. Every night Cooper got mad. And every night, Inky absorbed that anger physically. It’d been that way for years, long since Oliver came to be. And Oliver, despite his youth, knew one thing in his short life was very certain: he’d never hurt anyone if he could help it.
He loved his mothers. He loved Cooper and the way she was protective of him, and he loved Inky and the way she nurtured him. He’d never admit it to anyone, though, but he was partial to Inky, and he knew he always would be.
Burying his head under his pillow in an attempt to tune out the tragic sounds from the kitchen, he sighed. More bruises on his mother’s skin, he knew. More makeup. More lies.
Inky was strong, though. Oliver knew this like he knew the ingredients to Inky’s favorite cookies, learned from years of helping her in the kitchen. His mother was strong, and she always pulled through.
This thought calmed the child, and he sighed into his sheets, thinking of the morning and when Inky would come in to wake him up with a smile and a hug. Cooper would sit tensely on the couch, watching the two of them as she played with the hilt of the knife she always kept nearby. She used it on Inky once. Oliver knows this because there was a slice along Inky’s cheekbone she couldn’t hide with makeup. She stayed home until it had healed that time for fear her coworker would see.
Mr. Felix was nice. Oliver wasn’t sure why Inky was so scared. He’d understand, surely?
Now Oliver had confused himself, and he was busy sorting through the slew of facts his young brain couldn’t fully understand when he heard the unceremonious calamity of shattering glass. It rattled through the house, and Oliver could feel the force of it in his mattress. Now uncertain and frankly a little scared, he hugged himself in his wings, watching the door as thunderous footsteps approached. The knob turned and light streamed into the small room, revealing the form of a sobbing, sore Inky.
“O.. Ollie? Are you awake, s-sweetie?” She asked, her voice trembling and thick from crying.
Oliver nodded in the darkness, answering with a quiet, “Yes, mommy.”
“Good,” Inky croaked, rushing in and pulling him out of bed. She lifted him up despite his size and carried him out, avoiding hitting him in the door frame and rushing to the front door. Oliver looked around blearily, confused at the pile of ash in the kitchen.
“Do you need help cleaning, mommy? I… I don’t mind,” he offered, though if Inky had set him down he would have fallen on his face from exhaustion.
“No, honey. We’re… we’re coming back tomorrow, alright? You and I are staying somewhere else tonight, okay? We’ll come back tomorrow, I promise. We’ll come back.”
“You promise?” Oliver asked, hugging Inky tightly as she locked the door and took off towards town. He was confused as to why she was heading into the very place that made her so afraid, but he was starting to not care. He was tired, and just wanted to sleep at this point.
Inky nodded quietly as he drifted off, her throat vibrating with a soft, “I promise.”
Several years later, and Oliver was reflecting on the past as he gazed at a patch of disturbed ground. The pile of ash on the kitchen floor that used to take the form of his abusive mother; the fallen angel held together with nothing but fragile magic. His gentle mother who, guilt stricken that she killed the one she cared for in a fit of blind emotion, committed suicide just months before.
Oliver has been fending for himself ever since.
But now, as he remembered digging the shallow grave he now watched with misty eyes, he realized what he was to do next. It was what Inky had in place should anything render the two parents unfit to raise the boy, and despite how much he loathed the idea of leaving the grave his late mother rested in, he knew that it was her literal dying wish, and it would be cruel not to carry it out as planned.
Oliver knelt on his knees before parting, running his fingers through the sparse blades of grass. He sniffed, tears streaming down his face as he smiled limply. “I love you, mommy,” he croaked, just as his mother had all those years ago. “I’ll come back,” he said, emotion swelling in him like the currents of a lake in a storm.
Oliver knocked on the door, shuffling his feet and staring at the official note his mother had written. It had her will and the words that bound Oliver to his future he had held off as long as he could, even though it hurt to do so. Leaving his mother hurt as well, but he knew this was the right thing to do. It had to be.
A girl opened the door eventually, and Oliver flushed as he stammered over his words. “I-is… u-um… Is F… Felix home? I was sent by mo- my mom…”
The girl looked him over for a moment before speaking. It should have been a question, but came out more like a statement. “You’re Oliver.”
“Y… yes… I need to speak to Felix.”
The girl rolled her eyes and called into the house, and soon Felix came into the doorway. Oliver remembered feeling so much smaller compared to him when he was younger. That effect must have be worn away with time.
Just like his parents.
“Hi, Oliver! How’s your mom doing?” Felix asked, causing a pang in Oliver’s heart to explode through his veins.
“Hi, Mr. Fe- uh, Nikolla. My mom w… wanted me to give this to you… sorry…”
Oliver stiffly handed over the paper. He watched as realization washed over Felix’s face, and it occurred to him that tears had found their way down his cheeks again. He swiped at his face with the sleeve of his sweater, the soft, light grey material absorbing his emotions like Inky had absorbed Cooper’s.
“I’m so sorry,” Felix finally managed to say. Oliver knew he wanted to ask what happened, but Oliver didn’t want to relive the memory of trying to wrestle the knife from his mother’s hands as she screamed, sobbing and shaking and hollow.
So hollow inside.
She used to be strong, and seeing her decay hurt more than burying her corpse.
Oliver would always remember the feeling of Inky’s wrist jerking from his grip. The ripping sound of a blade against flesh, and the gasp that escaped from her lips.
He never had the heart to remove the knife from her torso.
Cooper’s knife found its home six feet under with his mother.
Before he knew it, Oliver was sobbing. His knees were weak as the past stole his breath, and he found his way into Felix’s arms.
His life felt like it over.
He knew it was over.
But sometimes, despite all of our knowledge, we know things to be true that aren’t.
And with the passing of time, we will always relearn new information.
And with knowledge, our view of the world will change, and more often than not, it’s for the better.