My Mother's Spirits
At that moment in time, everything was warm. The image of his father and his sisters faded away. All that he saw was his mother pouring syrup.
He traced his fingers along the mildly singed counters, collecting ash on his fingertips. He wiped the ash onto his trousers and kept going.
The dining room held the worst memories. Every night, the family would sit together. Nicholas, his Mother, his Father, Becky, Rose. Eventually, Nicholas’ mother held both of them back, leaving his father and sisters to talk. Sometimes, Nicholas would sit in the living room, just out of sight, and listen.
He never heard anything pleasant.
“I don’t feel safe with her.”
“She’s crazy—she says there’s ghosts in the home. Old beings.”
“I caught her opening all the cabinets and closing them again, to scare the spirits away. Breaking grandma’s plates.”
Nicholas did not understand what was wrong with his mother. He still doesn’t understand how those things could be bad.
His bedroom was right at the end of the hallway. He remembered his melted mirror, his burnt blue blankets.
When he was twelve, he came down with a nasty cold. His mother rocked him in her arms. Nicholas had nearly nodded off to bed, when he saw a white flash, and an ethereal booming clap echoed throughout the room. Nicholas’ mother bound up and slammed the window shut. Nicholas began crying. He hated lightning. His mother sat down at the end of his bed, and hushed him. “That wasn’t lightning, love. Those were spirits.”
Nicholas sobbed harder. She crawled next to him. “No, no, no. Don’t be afraid of them. They’re kind, they just spook you sometimes.” She smiled. “I hear them talk to me.”
Nicholas spent most of his hours with his mother, listening intently to her. She told him all kinds of stories and taught him about the world. She told him about the spirits. She loved those spirits.
“Stay with me and I’ll tell you all about it, you’ll feel like you’re out there.”
“The outside is too dangerous, Nicholas.” she said to him, “Stay with me and I’ll tell you all about it, you’ll feel like you’re out there.”
And when he asked, “What about when I grow up?” She hushed him and told him he would never have to leave. He never wanted to leave. He loved this house; he loved his mother. His soul belonged here, with his soulmate. In his home he was free.
His mother’s bedroom took most of the damage. The room was destroyed. Nothing was recognizable. Windows were shattered, wood was burnt beyond repair. He reached out to touch a beam of wood and heard the structure of the room shiver under his gentle touch.
He had so many great memories with his mother. She taught him so much. She taught him about how awful his father and sisters are. How Becky loved three men. How Rose vowed to never love anyone, or have any children, dishonoring the entire family. How his father (may he rot in hell,) thought his mother was crazy.
He remembered how, on his last day of school (around his 6th year?), she had walked to the school. She looked exhausted from the walk, but when she picked up Nicholas, she was smiling. She told him that he’d never have to go to school again. She pulled him out, so he could stay with her. She took his hand and walked him the 10 miles home. They arrived home around nightfall. His mother almost fainted at the door, and he had to carry her to her bed.
She did that often. She would walk for hours with Nicholas, and return home late, forcing him to care for her. She would stay up for days, and pass out in the bathtub. Nicholas was always there to put her to bed.
He looked around the room. His last memory of her was her holding him to her chest. He was seventeen. She hugged Nicholas, and said, “You’re old enough, now. You don’t need me.”
Nicholas said, “I’ll always need you, mom.”
“My job was to raise you, love,” she whispered, “Now, my job is done. You are raised. Your job was to grow up, and my job was to watch. Now we are both done. At first, I thought I could delay the inevitable, I could hold onto our relationship until we both die of age, but now that I think about it, that isn’t possible.”
“But I can still stay here with you?” Nicholas asked.
“As long as we’re together, we’ll live in this house.” She picked up a candlestick, which was illuminating the dark room. The light was flickering out. She held it up to her face. Nicholas remembered how his heart pounded out of his chest when she did this. The light illuminated her face in just the right way, making her serene expression look dastardly. His heart is pounding now, reliving the scene.
For a second, young Nicholas thought she would drop the candle. But she didn’t. The candle almost slipped out of her hands, but she caught it. Nicholas could see the flames spreading down the blanket, up the curtains. He could almost see his mother’s face engulfed in them. But that did not happen. She caught the candle. It didn’t happen that way.
Nicholas sat down in the ashy room. A cloud of dust flew up into the air, surrounding him. He pulled a matchbook out from his jacket pocket. He lit a match. He watched as the fire slowly crept its way down the matchstick.
After that talk with his mother, Nicholas was worried for her—she told him to leave the room. He went to his room, and the fire started to engulf the home. The spirits knocked over the candlestick. It was the spirits.