The silver light danced across the white tiles of the empty hall. I was brooding, my hand clenched around a jar of clay, my gaze fixated unseeingly upon the unfinished mural before me.
I had not set foot in this room for seven years, and apparently, neither had anyone else. The dust lay heavy upon the floor mixed with dirt and stone dust, and cobwebs of lonely spiders straggled the corners of the mighty pillars.
Ever since running out on her last night, since retreating from that starlit fantasy of a man I might be, my mind would not leave me alone. In unending parade, memories of my mother marched across my vision, refusing to cease their haunting. At last, desperate to escape, I fled to the one place around which they all centered, and found myself here, leaning against a makeshift scaffold, free of the ghosts but now brooding over this haunt like a ghost myself.
The mural was large and beautiful, an outdoor scene of a meadow that my mother and I both loved. It was in this meadow that she met my father, and it was to this meadow that she would bring me and my childhood friend when we were young and unaffected. The three of us decided to recreate our own paradise in the giant hall of my mother’s castle, a castle that was old, crumbling, and unassociated with any monarchy; a hall that served to remind us of decay and loss, but we decided to transform to a spring of hope and renewal.
I was a master sculptor, my mother an inspired painter, and my young friend a genius gardener. But in the prime of her life, in the midst of her greatest masterpiece, in the very process of raising a son into manhood, God took her in his infinite providence. Two weeks later, in his unending Mercy, God inspired my best friend’s father to send her abroad for an education. Away from my corrupting society, away from our paradise, away from the memory of pain and anguish. If she got to escape the devastation of my life, I decided then, then so will I. And so without a second thought, seeped in my bitterness, I shut up the hall and transformed my home from a sanctuary into a place of revelry, just to defy God. But I kept it respectable on the outside, just to defy society – they would never have another excuse to exclude me from their company. And for the next seven years, I was a carefree, untamed, debonair scoundrel, just to defy my own pain.
But the pain was there, it was buried deep, and I had not forgotten. And love was there, though I’d never known it. When I saw her again last night, my heart tightened into a knot, for the moment she saw me, I knew she never stopped loving me. But I was so accustomed to shutting myself off, so used to being dashing, that I masked my true self, and lied to her all night.
All night, until the moonlight. And then I couldn’t.
And I did love her. I looked at the mural, full of untamed flowers, birds, and wind. I looked at the dead potted plants all around me – one of the roses had dried on it’s stem. I looked at the half-formed clay statue of a mother with two children, and then words from last night swam to my consciousness, “She must be my love, you know. For now.” My mother had always been our love, our guide, and now my friend had a new mother to love, but I only had the old. Rough as it was, the stone revealed my mother’s features – she had had such hope for us.
“I will make you proud, mother,” I whispered to her for the first time since her death, breathing the words through clenched teeth. “I will fulfill your hope for me.”
Then I leapt to my feet and left my home, my village, forever. I descended to the seaport docks, hired myself as a sailor, and departed on a schooner to the wide world.