Monday, January 23, 2017

November 17



I dragged myself into the clinic this morning, not really wanting to be there. Who knew what drama Mom would spring on me today?

She’d been on her best behavior yesterday afternoon when I brought Anrel in for a visit. As sweet as honey, she’d played with the baby until they were both bubbling with giggles. To me, she was cordial though distant. She said not one word to Clan Aslada, who also visited. They may as well have not been there.

I had Anrel with me this morning, hoping that the buffer of baby would keep things on an even keel once more. The guys were doing other things like checking in with their work. Even though they’d taken leave to be with me, they’re important enough that they can’t stay completely out of the loop.

Just me and Anrel and my worries over whether Mom would continue to be on her best behavior.

It was no wonder I was delighted to see Matara Elwa hovering outside Mom’s door, waiting for us. Mom seems to respect Elwa. With Betra’s mom around, she had more incentive to be nice.

Elwa came right up to me and gave me a hug. Anrel got a kiss. I was startled when Elwa steered us away from Mom’s room.

“Let’s go out to the flower garden. I want to have a talk with you,” she said.

“Please tell me it’s going to be a pleasant conversation,” I begged as I fell into step with her. We headed for the nearby exit that would take us out to the clinic’s popular serenity garden. “I’ve had all the ugly I can take.”

“So I’ve heard.” Elwa’s arm circled my waist, and she pressed a gentle kiss to my temple. “Eve is struggling and taking it out on you. You’ve both got me worried.”

We stepped outside. Elwa’s confident leading let me know she’d set up our private talk well ahead of my arrival. The cloth mat laying on the circle of grass on the far side of the garden, perfect for Anrel to play on, proved that. I put the baby on her tummy along with a few toys while Elwa folded herself elegantly on a seating cushion. I sat on the other cushion close by.

Elwa took my hands. I looked at her fingers, noting they were kind of thick and blocky. Strong hands. Hands as capable as the woman they belonged to.

“Poor Shalia,” Elwa sighed. “You’ve done your best to be a good daughter, but it’s not been enough, has it?”

I shook my head. “I can handle her rages. I have all my life. But I will not allow her to upset Anrel. That is non-negotiable.”

“People will come along you can’t protect your daughter from.”

“I know. I’m not so na├»ve that I don’t realize the real world will deliver its share of nastiness. My issue is that Anrel shouldn’t be exposed to it by her own flesh and blood. Family is sacred. She should be safe around her grandmother.”

Elwa nodded. “I see your point. I agree with it. The question is, is Eve capable of offering that safety?”

“That’s the root of the problem,” I said. I looked Elwa in the eye. “I don’t want to cut them off from each other. I really don’t. But I’m Anrel’s last line of defense. I can’t toss her in the arena unprotected.”

“You must do what you think is best for your child,” Elwa said. “That’s a mother’s chief duty. We don’t always succeed. In fact, we sometimes trip ourselves up and make terrible mistakes. But we do what seems right at the time.”

I squeezed her hands. “I wish I could have these kinds of conversations with Mom. Why couldn’t she have been more like you?”

Elwa chuckled. “That was not her destiny, I suppose. Thank you for the compliment, Shalia. If it helps any, I would have loved to have had a daughter like you.”

It did help. Being regarded that highly by Elwa made me feel like I wasn’t such a lost cause after all.

Elwa turned serious. “Shalia, Eve is who she is. She’s who you have. Trust me when I tell you, you will miss her when you don’t have her any longer, when there’s no hope of reconciliation.”

“I know that. I thought about it plenty of times over the last few months. But she’s making it so hard to keep that in mind.”

Elwa stroked my hair, caring for me, again being the mother I wanted Eve Monroe to be. “You’re tired of being beat up on. Taking a step back is fine. Essential during this trying time, for both your sakes. But you can’t say the relationship is done until she’s passed on.”

“I can if her presence is damaging to Anrel.”

“It won’t be. Eve loves that child.” Elwa smiled at the gurgling baby, chewing on a soft ring. She turned back to me and regarded me for several seconds, as if weighing something in her mind. “Damn it. I hate it when I have to betray a confidence.”

I gazed at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“I promised Eve I wouldn’t tell you what she shared with me. But I think it’s something you need to hear, because I believe it’s part of what’s fueling her attacks.”

I blinked. What could Mom have told Elwa in confidence?

She blew out a breath. “Yes, you have to know. Shalia, she loves you so much. Every bit as much as you love Anrel, and that’s the truth. She knows the mistakes she made as your mother. She knows how her mental challenges made your relationship as troubled as it is. The guilt she feels is devastating.”

Was that all? “She’s told me during her depressed periods how sorry she is about all that. I know she puts a lot of blame on herself.”

“You know, but you don’t know. Especially now that she’s living with a clearer head. Part of what she hates about having the bipolar and dementia issues cured is that she can no longer hide behind them. She sees who she’s been and doesn’t like it. Especially when it comes to you.” Elwa swiped at a tear that leaked down her cheek. “She thinks she failed you at every turn. She hates herself for that. It’s eating her up.”

“Then why is she still treating me this way?” I wanted to shout in my frustration.

“Because she thinks she doesn’t merit a relationship with you. Or Anrel. She wants it more than anything, but she feels she doesn’t deserve it. So she’s driving you away.”

I stared at Elwa. Was that it? Was that the reason behind Mom’s vicious behavior with me? Not because I’d made her get treatment or because I had sex with Kalquorians. But because she thought she’d ruined her right to having a daughter and granddaughter?

Elwa nodded, seeing the knowledge dawning on me. “She’s inflicted much damage, but perhaps she herself is her biggest victim. I’m not saying you should excuse the way she’s treating you, but maybe you can at least understand it?”

I shook my head, as if that would make my brain piece together the ramifications of what Elwa suggested. I couldn’t seem to come to grips with it.

She hugged me hard. “Eve has not been the perfect mother. Maybe she wasn’t even a good mother. But she’s still your mother, one you must have been grateful for at one time or another. That makes her worthwhile. That makes her worth fighting for even as she’s fighting against you.”

Spoken like a true mom.

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