Characters: Elmyra Gainsborough
Word Count: 598
They had told her in person, face to face. Marlene’s father, Tifa Lockheart and Cloud Strife. They felt she deserved that much. She hadn’t told them at the time, probably never would, that Shinra had brought the news to her first.
“My condolences, Ma’am,” the man had said. He might have said more but she did not remember it. The first thing she had done was hug Marlene and take the child out into the little patch of a garden they were trying to get going in their new safe place in Kalm. She had hoped her daughter would come back and help them with it. Even under the full sun and rain, the lilies drooped, the tulips refused to open, and all her own hopes for them seemed pointless.
The sky lit ablaze one night and stayed that way for days on end. The lilies wilted under the reddened sky, and she had sipped her tea and let them go. A better caretaker awaited. Any anger she might have felt at SOLDIER, at Avalanche, had faded to its proper shade by the time Marlene’s father came to take her away again. She was sad to see the child go, but there were worse partings to be had. And Marlene would grow up a normal child in a better world and never bear the burdens that her own daughter had. Would never need to take those risks.
At nights early on, she had walked the floor in the dark, wondering if there was something she could have done to keep her child close by her, safe, always. But even without Shinra threatening to take her away, there wasn’t much to be done if the girl herself wanted to go.
At nights, even now, she walked the floor in the dark, the emptiness of the house weighing heavily on her soul. Her daughter had gone too far to return. But even that journey didn’t mean parting forever, so the old ways said. That there was no return did not matter, because in the end, everyone followed. All that was left was to wait.
So the lump in an old mother’s chest grew as she waited, and at first she brushed it off as the knot of her grief, gone hard and tight from being coiled up and put away with too much calm acceptance. But it grew steadily larger and pulled at her skin, and she began to grow pale. By the time she knew what truly lay within her, there was nothing to be done.
It hardly mattered. In the world before the ruins, when such things could have been cured, the methods would still have been beyond her reach. So she walked at night and waited for it to consume her.
She grew thin and weak and cold, and she struggled at night to reach the window, to look out on the Kalm garden that had begun to flourish without her care. She suspected Cloud Strife could have told her for sure, when he came to collect her bouquet, but he wasn’t the type to speak of it. Rumor said he still heard things in the old church her daughter had loved so well. Rumor said he had seen her.
An old woman had no need for rumor. She pulled her robe tight around herself and leaned against the cold glass of the window. “How much longer?” Her breath frosted the window.
‘Not long now,’ came the reply from the still darkness, in the voice she had waited to hear.
Elmyra closed her eyes and was content.