Hollowed Memories, chapter 6, part 3

October 26, 2014

He tried to put thoughts of vengeance out of his mind when he paid the visit to his mother.  She always made an effort to be his friend and tried not to pass judgement on his decisions.  Rahelle realized that every interaction between them had a context that she had forgotten, and it was too easy to wound him unintentionally.

Yarec went to talk to his mother shortly before noon.  He walked down to the weather station—not along the beach this time, but following the paved base road.  There was a large placard over the building’s double door, stating the building’s function and its code number, “ME023.”  The doors were unguarded, which meant they were kept locked, so Yarec pressed the call bell located in the center of the right-hand door.  He thought he could hear a mechanical buzzing coming from inside the building, but it might have been his imagination or a truck engine off in the distance.  Nearly a minute passed, and nothing had happened, so Yarec touched the bell panel again.  His sweaty skin scraped against the worn metal square, and moments later, he heard a pair of heavy clicks.  The door swung inward, and Yarec saw his mother’s worn face peering anxiously around it.

“Oh, Yarec!” she cried enthusiastically.  Rahelle opened the door the rest of the way and stepped out to greet him.  She raised her arms to give him a hug, then stopped, unsure whether to proceed.  However, it seemed like a complete natural gesture to Yarec; one of the facets of his mother’s personality that seemed to have partially survived was her body language, including her eager affection.  Rahelle embraced easily when she was among close friends.  Yarec was not sure how close he and his mother really were now, but she seemed to have no doubt that they were still family.

“Hi, mom,” he said, stepping forward to return the proffered hug.  The embrace was quick; she felt small and frail in his freshly muscled arms.

“C’mon back, son,” Rahelle said.  She motioned Yarec inside and led the way back to the weather officers’ tiny canteen.  They talked a little on the way.

“Oh, how are you?” she asked.  “You look very handsome this time.  I love the way they did-ah your hair.”

“Thanks, mom.”

“I haven’t gotten used to you looking different every time I see you,” she told him.  “I asked the medical officers to send me a picture of you each time you change.”

“R-really?” Yarec stammered.  It seemed like a rather odd thing to do, although he could not quite say why.

“Oh yes.  I’ve made an album,” she beamed.  “Do you want to see?”

At this point, they had reached the dining area, without seeing anyone else.  The only sound other than the pair’s voices and footsteps was the soft hum of the air conditioning system, which the meteorologists were very particular about keeping at the right temperature.

Yarec paused at the door and asked, “Where is everyone?”

“Oh, they’re gone,” she told him.  “The whole corps was deployed to the Central Pacific.  Downstream development models indicated the possibility of another super-storm.  So Garth decided to send everyone out to monitor the weather conditions”

“Ah,” Yarec murmurred.

“The data should tell us a lot about large storm system mergers,” Rahelle went on.  “It’ll help us prepare for the flooding when another one occurs near the mainland.”

“Slick,” Yarec said with a nod.

“Oh, sorry son,” she said.  “I shouldn’t bore you.  Sit down.  I  made-ah some tea.”

She ushered him into the lunchroom, and they sat down in red wireframe chairs beside a small round table.  The plastic mesh that formed the chairs’ seats and their angled backs was supposed to be flexible, but age and salty air had rendered the webwork stiff and crunchy.  There was a medium-sized ceramic pitcher on the table, in which Rahelle had dissolved some dehydrated beverage crystals in almost-boiling water.  The crystals had come from a half-empty plastic sack, which was resting beside the pitcher, with the top folded over to keep the powdered flavoring from spilling out.  Yarec picked the sack up and read the label, while his mother located a pair of pitted mugs and poured out drinks for both of them.  The tea was supposed to be “an energetic blend of jasmine and Copper’s Black,” plus “other flavors” written in very small type.  Yarec took a sip and decided it wasn’t bad, but he only managed to finish about half his serving.

“So, really, how are you?” Rahelle asked, after she had taken a couple of sips herself.

“I’m in a weird situation, mom,” he said, setting his mug down.

“Do-ah you… uh… want to tell me about it?”

Yarec picked the tea up again, then laid it down again without taking another drink.  “Yeah, I do,” he said.  “That’s why I came.”  Rahelle’s face brightened a little, as he tried to fill her in on what had happened.  “I’ve gotten myself into a really slick pickle,” he began.

Yarec’s story went on for a long time.  Rahelle just poured herself more tea and listened.  She didn’t ask any questions, but Yarec knew that she understood.  Her face was full of concern, like a mother’s face should be, and when Yarec’s story ended—rather abruptly, it felt—she did not say anything for quite a while.  Yarec stared down at the remainder of his lukewarm tea, and his mother watched him, deep in consideration, until eventually she spoke.

“Listen, son,” Rahelle said softly.  “You have an opportunity I never got.  I can barely remember your father.  I’ve got-ah pictures of him all around, and I still dream about him sometimes.”  She sighed, then continued, “But I don’t remember what he was really like.”

“I’m sorry, mom,” Yarec said and patted her hand.  “I miss him too.”

“I wish I could miss him,” she said.  Two little tears ran down from her right eye.  “I kept all his things for a while.  I hoped they would remind me of him, somehow—like one of his antique cocktail rings would catch my eye, and it would bring back a memory of him wearing it.”

“I know, mom,” Yarec said.  He reached to brush away the twin teardrops.  “I wish you could remember him too.  He was a good father.  I wish I’d had more time with him, at least to say ‘bye.’”

Rahelle shook her head side to side, as if to throw off the remaining moisture of her tears.  It was a movement Yarec recognized—his mother’s old way of getting herself to stop crying.  He smiled a little, grateful for the memory.

“Oh, Yarec,” she said, no longer crying.  “You have a chance that I didn’t get.  I had a whole life with Hyman, but I forgot it all.  You forgot all about your wife, Mrissa—but then you got it all back!  Oh, I would kill to get my husband back, son.”  After a moment of hesitation she added.  “I don’t meant kill you, of course.  It’s just a figure of speech.”

“I know, mom,” Yarec said with a laugh, although behind the smile, he wondered who he might end up having to kill if he was going to get Mrissa back.

“I’m jealous, son,” Rahelle said.  “That sounds so petty, but it’s true.”

“No, mom, I get it.  You’ve had it a lot worse than me.”

She made an artificially composed face and said, in a jokingly prissy voice, “That is no excuse for being jealous of my own offspring.”  She broke character and giggled, then said, “I really want you to be happy, and so I hope you find your wife.  And from what I’ve heard about you, son, that shouldn’t be too hard.  They say you can do pretty much anything.”

“Thanks, mom,” he whispered.  Yarec didn’t say anything else.  He just laid his hand on his mother’s shoulder.  She patted his forearm with her left hand and sipped the rest of her tea with the right.

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