Promises to Keep

Title: Promises to Keep
Time Period: November 25, 134
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Correspondence across the years and miles between a mother and son ends with a request to return home that Beisdean cannot deny.

From a letter dated July 129:

…warmed my heart to receive your letter. I always knew deep inside that you were somewhere still in this world. A mother would know, I like to think, if her only child had died; even one as bad as me. Your letter says you don’t blame me for not doing better by you, but I blame myself. I should have been able to help you or at least find the right help, but I didn’t know. I was young. I don’t mean it as an excuse, Beisdean; there’s no excuse, but I suppose I thought simply loving you would be enough to chase all those bad things away. I’m so sorry it wasn’t. believe me when I say that I don’t blame you for leaving, I only wish you had sent word sooner. Seven years is such a long time to make up…

From a letter dated January 130:

…not be returning to Dornie, Mother. The travel is too long, and I have a life here that is as good of one as I can hope for. The work I do I find enjoyable and important — what better to create than books? Even if I am not the author, I feel a sense of ownership in each one I print or bind or translate. I am a part of the creative process; perhaps not the soul and essence of the work itself, but some integral part that is necessary for it to live. The work is often solitary and it allows me the room I need at times, given my uninvited companions. The owner of the shop, Lionel, might know what I am, given that his cousin recommended me to the position, but he has never said as much, and as long as I do good work…

From a letter dated October 131:

…I’ll never forget holding you that night, the midwife whispering that you would have dà shealladh. I didn’t think anything of it until you began to speak to things that weren’t there, things that no one could see. I still feel so sad for the little boy you were. You deserved a better mother, a better home, but I was nothing more than a child myself. I did the best I knew. On this, your birthday, I feel so proud of the man you’ve become, and then I feel regret and shame for not being a part of it. You don’t owe it to me, Beisdean. If anything, what you are today is in spite of me. And yet, I feel proud…

From a letter dated March 132:

…nor any prospects, either. If you’re counting on being a grandam, I suggest you have another yourself. You’re young enough yet, I think, and while it’s possible I may accidentally do so, I don’t plan on bringing any bairns into the world. There’s plenty of pretty girls here, but the ones I fancy are smart enough not to want me for anything long term. They don’t know what I am, but they know something isn’t quite right. Don’t be sorry for me. I prefer it this way…

From a letter dated January 133:

…always bring a smile to my face, but I wish I could see you now that you are fully grown. You must be so tall and handsome. You were already so tall when you left. Sometimes I wonder if I would recognize you if you were to visit but then I think that a mother would always know her child, especially her only one. I wonder sometimes if the face I remember is quite right, and of course my imagining of what you look like now is just that… imagining. I am sure I’d be wrong in some important detail, but still I can’t help but try to picture you walking into Dornie. It’s a sweet daydream, and I will hold it dear even if it will never happen…

November 25, 134

He does not have to hear the three gongs of the grandfather clock in the hall to know the time, nor see the hands of any clock face pointing in that telltale ninety-degree angle. He knows before he opens his eyes, thanks to the sudden drop in temperature that only he ever feels… the whispers of those clustered around his bed that only he ever hears.

Beisdean’s eyes stay closed while he listens to the murmurs, counting the voices, listening for any familiar tones in the cacophony of what he counts as at least a dozen spirits talking at once, over one another, each seeking his attention, his company, his help.

He doesn’t want to open his eyes to see the brackish blood and pale skin of what seem like fresh corpses; he can already feel their cold fingers as they claw at him, though they will leave no marks on his bare skin. He doesn’t want to see the tiny girl who has found him every night for the past week at this haunted hour, the one he suspects was drowned given the rivulets of water that seem to stream from her sodden clothes and hair, only to disappear into the wood instantly.

Focusing, he imagines a light growing dim, dimmer, dimmest… almost, but not quite, burnt out. An ember where there was once a crackling fire.

The voices diminish. The room seems to grow warmer.

He opens his eyes, reaching for the matchbook on the bedside table, to light a candle which throws its flickering glow across the small room. Shadows dance and jump as Beisdean’s movements create a draft that makes the flame waver.

He picks up the letter that he received earlier that day and unfolds it, reading it for the tenth time tonight:

I work with your mother at the Dovetail. I’m so sorry to tell you she passed on tonight. She slipped on the steps, breaking her neck among other injuries. She wasn’t in pain, at least and lasted a few hours. We were able to say our goodbyes, at least. We’ll be having a service for her this week but she wanted me to write to you and ask you to return here to what she considered your home, to say your goodbyes and visit her grave. She didn’t have much in this world, but all she had she left to you. Perhaps it has some sentimental value. As Sláinte’s friend, I hope you come — it was her dying wish…

Refolding the letter, Beisdean rises.

He cannot sleep. There is much to do if he is to leave for Dornie in the morning.