This story should have been shared on the Tale last week, or at least that was sort of the plan. But things conspired against me, and so it’s appearing one week late. Or rather, it will be shared one week late, but still appear to be on the right day and time otherwise. Time is, after all, an illusion—some would say lunchtime is doubly so *winks* —but, perhaps, sometimes there are good things to be found …
The day had arrived.
The day arrived when, as always, she’d asked for nothing special, for that was her way; a day in which she didn’t see the point of everyone making a fuss, going out of their way. Gifts weren’t needed—they weren’t what was important, after all. She understood what did matter, this year more than ever, it seemed, all things considered.
The birthday wishes came; really, they were what she cherished most of all: to know—but she always did—that she was remembered and loved, for she loved them all so very much.
Except, this year, other things changed. Those changes happened … afterwards.
The day after Tera’s birthday was a day she spent alone. It was a tradition of hers, one that had started a long time ago. It’s hard to lose one’s mother when you are but a child. One tends to grow up very quickly afterwards. There’s an emptiness that begins to form, one that simmers and bides its time. There’s little that can be done to hold it back, or lessen what comes from that emptiness.
Except where there was a mother that knew of that emptiness, of what it brought.
The day after Tera’s birthday always, but always, arrived with a single sealed envelope. Addressed very simply in a hand that was unmistakable, but then the hand of one’s mother is unmistakable.
Except, afterwards, on this birthday … there were two.
If the hand that wrote upon the first envelope was unmistakeable, then the writing upon the second was even more so. The hand was that of her Eternal’s mother, the addressing upon that letter quite clear.
Having a second mother—one that guided you through the trials of being an adult, was there to share in the love, laughter and joys of becoming part of a family—was a gift. Being loved by a mother, called daughter, cherished as much as her memories remember she’d been when she was young, was a gift for always. It was a gift through the good and the not so much so. Now, in the afterwards, a gift from a mother was joined by a gift from … a mother.
She’d always opened the single letter alone, not sharing what it said with anyone else. The words were, after all, meant for her. But now, afterwards, that wasn’t the thing to do. Her Eternal needed to be there.
He’d always respected her time alone, and this year he expected the day after Tera’s birthday to be the same. But in the afterwards of Tera calling to him, asking him to sit with her, he found himself looking at a card, addressed in a familiar hand …
… addressed to him.
They opened their letters, read them in silence. Afterwards Tera placed hers on the table, and he followed. Then she picked up his, and Keith did the same.
The words from the past met with the words of the here and now. One spoke of the hopes held for her daughter, the other the prayers for her son. Both spoke of their love for them both, one not ever having met him, the other grateful for having been there for both of them. Both mothers told of them being there, not leaving. They both understood that the words would be read in the afterwards of their being called by Goddess.
Neither of them worried about themselves.
They wrote of the afterwards, the days of longing, the emptiness within. But also was told of the joy of family, of the hope they had that in the afterwards there was something better to be found. Something they hoped would, in time, help with the afterwards.
In the afterwards, the two Eternals talked about what came … afterwards.
At the end of the day that followed Tera’s birthday, she’d always taken the letter from her mother for that year and carried it to the place where she’d placed every letter from every year since her mother’s passing. A bundle of cards, bound by an old red ribbon, one that had once held a ponytail in place a long time ago.
In the afterwards, that ribbon never was used to bind a mane of ebon hair again. It found its place in binding together the words of a mother to a daughter. Now, in the new afterwards, the ribbon held that multitude of cards … and one more: a card from a mother to her son; a card that spoke of hope in what would come next, a promise made to a son and, through that promise, one for a daughter as well.
Afterwards, things did get better.
And, in every afterwards to come, it would be a little more so.