Mother's Day

by nostalgia [Reviews - 6]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, General

She is in love with an alien.

He tells her this on a warm summer's night, pointing at the sky, showing her his home. It is ridiculous, there is no such thing as life on other worlds. The star he points to seems weak and feeble, he tells her it is two stars, orbiting each other. They are massive, orange, impossibly old. He is probably lying, he is almost certainly toying with her.

Susan Smith believes him.

Her husband is an alien.

The wedding is a quiet affair, done in the manner of his people. He ties a strip of cloth around their hands, asks her absent parents for permission, kisses her until her hands move of their own accord and she feels the beating of his hearts.

She loves him. He loves her. They love each other. Nothing shall ever tear them apart.

He vanishes in autumn, as the leaves are turning yellow. Susan wakes up one morning and her husband is gone. He does not leave a note.

She waits for three weeks, then puts his belongings into boxes. She does not cry as she piles them up in the spare room. He might be back tomorrow, a wheezing-groan in the morning air. He might never come back at all. He might turn the clocks into liars and return three days ago. She has no way of telling, so she puts her hopes to one side.

She stops bleeding and she knows. This is when she needs him, if he ever comes back she will demand that he risk paradox and help her now.

As her body swells she thinks about the future. The television and the radio speak of the threat of Communism and the risk of nuclear war. She does not want to bring a child to this, but it seems she has no choice.

It is 1963, President Kennedy has just been assassinated. She gives birth at home on a dark November evening and the boy-child screams as he enters the world. She wipes the blood from his skin, holds him to her breast for the first feeding. She gives him a name, one that he will never wear in adulthood. It is an Earth name, a normal, common name. It suits him.

Her son starts talking early, manages to walk while his peers still stumble. Sometimes she thinks she can see time bending in his tiny hands. She is proud of him and not remotely frightened. She loves him with all her heart, unquestioning.

One day, while the boy is playing, someone comes to the house. Susan opens the door to her husband, and her stomach flips right over.

It is 1968, a year of revolutions. She sits quietly, hands in her lap, as her husband explains the benefits of an otherworldly eduction. It would be best to take the boy now, he says, before others notice the coldness of his skin, the weird beating of his hearts. She can come with them, to make a new life.

Susan doesn't want to hear it, and protests that he gave them up when he left before. His moustache (his new, strange face) twitches as he argues, but time has made her strong and he backs away defeated, for now.

There are fairies at the bottom of the garden. Susan has always been wary of them, of the promises they make and the lies that they tell. Now she is desperate, and they are her only allies.

She slips an iron key onto a string and ties it round her son's neck. She asks for seven years, and is given five. Something happens in the garden, something that twists space and time together to keep the alien away.

The price will be high, but Susan doesn't care.

In 1972 her son is six. She takes him out for ice-cream and tells him that she loves him very much. He is too intent on sugar to listen, too innocent to worry when she blinks back tears. She buys him a book about the solar system, with large, bright pictures of the planets. He is fascinated by the photograph of Earth from the Moon, taken just a few short years before.

Susan tries to tell him about the future, but he doesn't want to listen and she does not wish to speak.

There is one year left.

In June of 1973 there is a solar eclipse and her husband arrives at totality. Susan brings her son to the bottom of the garden, carries his suitcase to the door of the alien ship. She glances inside, sees that it stretches to eternity. Her husband has never lied to her.

She tells the boy that he is going to visit his father for an unspecified length of time. There will be red grass and silver leaves. He will start school and he can have a pet, if he promises to care for it. She slips a bag of Jelly Babies into his coat pocket and kisses his cheek.

The fairies come to her that night as she is lying in her bed unable to close her eyes. They tell her that her son will be a murderer, that his hands will be coated in blood. He will never have a home and he will always be alone. They think that this is funny.

Susan runs a bath and takes all the pills she can find in the house.

She does not die, and she never knows what saved her. She remembers a dark-haired man and a Scottish accent like her own, but his words are forgotten when she wakes the next morning.

She does not see her son grow up, but sometimes she thinks she feels him watching. Her garden always blooms and the fairies are long-gone. When she is sick she gets better in the night, and there is always money in the bank.

One morning she finds an old iron key lying on the window-sill. There is no note.

Susan Smith dies on New Year's Eve, with grey hair and wrinkled skin. Her last conscious thought is that she thinks she knows the young man who is sitting at her bedside. He is English and she feels the brush of tweed against her hand as she closes her eyes for the last time.

She never sees the silver leaves.