Monday, January 30, 2017

November 19

I guess things are getting better. Mom has been calm since her crying jag. She’s pleasant to all, her jabs at even Kini downright friendly rather than verbal attacks. Again, fairly typical behavior from her after a depressive episode. The one thing that’s different is how much quieter she tends to be. She’s thinking hard about things. What specific things, I can’t imagine. Or maybe I can and just don’t want to.

It feels as if fate is holding its breath before unleashing its next storm on our heads. I know I’m being paranoid, but hey, I’m Shalia Monroe. I think I’ve earned the right to be paranoid when things quiet down.

I still regret having her undergo the surgery. I’ve toyed with the idea of having Meyso remove the regulator in her brain. If Mom isn’t going to change and if she feels worse because she no longer recognizes herself, what’s the point of this at all? Yet Kini is ecstatic over what he feels has been a major breakthrough, and I know he’ll argue vehemently against making her Eve one-point-oh again. He may even resort to legal means to prevent it from happening. I figure if we give it a few weeks and she doesn’t improve, I’ll have more of a case for undoing the wrong. So now it’s wait and see.

More not-so-great news came today. Elwa and her clan are going home to the capital city tomorrow.

“It’s time,” she told me when I saw her at the clinic today. “Eve has turned a corner. I think the worst is behind you all. And you desperately need more time with Clan Aslada without extra people looking over your shoulder. Theirs is a worthy clan. You four along with Anrel need the opportunity to explore all facets of your relationship.”

“I don’t think I would have survived these last few weeks without you,” I said, not exaggerating in the least. “I’m going to miss having you around.”

“I’m as close as your com,” Elwa insisted, hugging me to her side. “When you return to the Matara Complex, we’ll practically be neighbors. That standing date to have dinner every other week still applies when you get back, by the way. No excuses, young lady.”

Clan Aslada showed their gratitude for all Elwa had done by giving her and her clan a grand dinner celebration tonight. The great cavernous dining hall was dressed to the nines, with fine tableware and festive decorations. Each dish served was exquisite, made by some celebrity chef from the other continent. I don’t think any king in a palace filled with lords and ladies ever had a more sumptuous and rich banquet. It was over the top, but the room was filled with laughter and stories. I was able to forget the distress connected to Mom’s recovery in those hours during which we toasted each other and made Anrel giggle as she was passed around from one adoring fan to the next.

I hate to see Clan Serndi leave, but they have their own lives to lead. That they came at all means a lot to me. And it turns out, they weren’t just there so Elwa could lend support to me and Mom. Quiet asides with Serndi, Hilon, and Alfra revealed they’d been keeping an eye on how I was treated by Clan Aslada.

Dramok Serndi summed up their appraisal best. “A worthy clan, Shalia. You have a few issues to work out with them, as any woman embarking on a new relationship would. We don’t feel there is anything that can’t be overcome with patience and understanding and time. If love should spark in your heart for these men, then you should answer its call and join Aslada’s clan. They’ll do right by you and Anrel.”

A resounding endorsement, and one I trust. Once I can settle my mind about Mom, I’m going to do my best to concentrate on discovering if I do have a future with Clan Aslada.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

November 18

I was shaken awake before sunrise by the clan. I was sleeping in their room after a romp-a-licious night of fun. I had a hard time rousing. “What? Wassat?” I mumbled.

“Get up, Shalia,” Meyso said, his voice still thick with sleep. “A call came in from Kini. Matara Eve is hysterical and they can’t calm her down. They don’t want to sedate her until they find out what’s wrong. She’s demanding you come right away.”

Good morning, life. I bet it’s Monday back on Earth.

If we’d slept more than an hour, I’ll kiss a Tragoom. I was reminded Kalquorians need a lot less sleep than Earthers did by how quickly the clan became alert. Particularly Jaon, who looked as ready to rumble as ever.

Even Meyso, who had been almost as out of it as I was when I woke, had his shit together within seconds. “I’ve commed the medical staff, and all her numbers are in normal range,” he reported as he helped me pull clothes on and untangle my hair. “This seems to be a purely emotional issue, nothing else. She’s in no physical danger.”

“Okay,” I said sluggishly, staggering around in circles as he finished getting me ready. “I’ll go see if I can calm her down. Can I borrow a shuttle?” Thank goodness Aslada had started teaching me to fly the Kalquorian version of a personal craft. I could handle his pretty well by now.

Bless those men, the whole clan came with me despite my protestations that they didn’t need to. Jaon piloted while Aslada and Meyso made sure I had coffee to pour down my throat so I’d wake up. By the time we reached the clinic, my head still felt like it weighed a ton, but my eyes were open.

I could hear Mom sobbing from the hub of the rehab area where she was kept these days. Her voice broken with grief, she kept pleading, “Where’s Sha-Sha-Shalia? I nuh-need Shalia.”

I rushed into her room. “I’m here, Mom.”

She exploded into tears. Her desperate entreaties became, “Don’t hate me, baby. I’m so sorry. Don’t hate me.”

The relief on Dr. Kini’s face was palpable. He’d seen Mom enraged and spiteful, but he’d never witnessed her in the throes of a major depressive episode. Which was what it looked like she was having. I’d seen this before.

I sat on the side of her bed and used her bedsheet as a tissue, wiping the streaming tears off her cheeks. “I don’t hate you, Mom. I get mad, the same as you do, but I don’t hate you.”

“I had a dream. You were screaming you hated me, and you would make Anrel hate me too.” She was inconsolable.

Yep, this was exactly as I’d seen her throughout my life. I looked at Meyso. “This is a massive depression attack. I thought the surgery was going to fix it so she didn’t have lows like this anymore.”

He was consulting a computer screen on the other side of Mom’s bed. “The chemical regulation is normal, love. Sometimes depression is simply depression. Not part of something else.”

Kini, looking like he’d been waken in the middle of the night the same as us, smoothed his ruffled hair. “That’s true. Matara Eve has been under tremendous stress. All the same issues that made her angry are now feeding this reaction. It’s the same thing, just a different emotion.”

Maybe they thought it was normal for her to be bawling in the middle of the night, but it felt like the same shit we’d always known. Damn it, why couldn’t there be a magic cure-all for my mother? I felt angry and knew why. Despite all the warnings Meyso, Tep, Feru, and all the other medical professionals I’d consulted with for Mom, I guess some part of me had still expected a miracle. It hadn’t happened, and she continued to suffer. Maybe worse than before.

Why had we even bothered? Nothing had really changed, except for the setting. I thought maybe I had made a mistake in trying to ‘cure’ Mom. I’d played God with her life, and God laughed at me.

Mom broke into my hopeless thoughts. “Make them go away, Shalia. Make the rest of them go away.”

I sighed and waved them all towards the door. “This may take a while, so go nap or something.”

Aslada came over first, brushing a consoling kiss across my lips. “We’ll be close. If you need anything at all, call to us.”

Jaon and Meyso also kissed me and murmured encouragement. Kini said he’d be nearby. I knew he’d hover outside the door, listening in and gathering information on the latest Eve meltdown in the hopes of making her brain nice and pretty for society.

When it was just her and me, I smiled gently at her, trying to soothe her as I had so often in the years I’d been her daughter. “Now, as for that dream. It was only a nightmare. Not real. Didn’t I bring Anrel to see you these last two days? I’m not taking her from her mimi who loves her so much.”

“I wish I was dead.” Mom’s breath hitched as she looked away from me. At least she was no longer sobbing. “I have no place here. I have no life. You should have left me on Earth to die with it.”

“You know I couldn’t do any such thing. I love you. You drive me nuts, to the point where I could strangle you, but I do love you.”

Mom shook her head, her lined face creasing with torment. “But what am I supposed to do with my life? My body is weak. I’m too old to be of any good to anyone. I don’t have skills that anyone around here can use. Have you seen this technology? We didn’t have half this stuff on Earth.”

“Mom, no one expects you to work. I’ll take care of you. The clans who have asked to court me have already said you’d be welcome in their home if I am compatible enough to be their Matara.”

She crooked a brow at me. “Al, Jay, and Mikey said that? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I winked. “They said it before they met you, but they haven’t rescinded the offer so far. I think it’s still good.”

She shook her head. “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”

“Of course you do. You have to be somewhere, right?”

A few more tears leaked from her eyes. “How can I? I’m not even myself anymore. I don’t know this person in my head.” She blinked at me, fear bleeding into her expression. “It isn’t me. I keep trying to find myself and be myself, but it’s like another person has taken me over. I feel like I’ve been erased.”

Oh God. It was exactly what I’d feared when I decided to let them treat the bipolar disorder. She’d lost herself. She acted like the mother I’d known, but she was saying that person was gone. Mom was fighting not me or the doctors. She was fighting this unknown person who had assumed her identity.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Mom, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean this to happen to you. I only wanted you to be happy.”

“So what do I do?” she whispered back, as frightened as a child. “What do I do with this person who isn’t me?”

I had no answer to give her.

Mom finally calmed down enough to sleep. Kini told me that this disclosure of Mom’s feelings was a step in the right direction.

Sure it is. It isn’t his mind that’s been usurped by a clinically sound but foreign personality. He’s not the one who signed off on it. I did.

I have fucked up plenty of times, but this might be the most colossal of them all. Prophets forgive me.

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.