The Sundered Become Whole
Published on / 1 Chapter(s) / 2 Review(s)
A modern fantasy story with four-year-old Ash and his mother Aelwyn living out their daily lives... until a long-lost man arrives at their house
Aelwyn looked up from stirring the spaghetti on the stove when she felt a small hand tug her sweater. She glanced down. Her four-year-old son was smiling up at her. He had something hidden behind his back, emerald eyes bright with excitement.
“Look, Mommy!” He held up a small picture frame crafted from green foam. “I made this for you in school,” he said proudly. There was a photo of the two of them inside and he’d decorated the frame as well. Colorful stickers and foam shapes adorned its sides along with the words “Mommy and Ash” written in a child’s clumsy hand. His bright smile faltered as he saw the all-too familiar tears welling up in her eyes.
She blinked the moisture away as she knelt in front of him. “Thank you, darling.” She took the frame from him. He’d chosen a picture from the day she took him to the zoo. He’d loved seeing all the animals and she’d asked a man to take a picture of them outside the fox exhibit. She was holding Ash’s hand in the photo, both of them smiling at the camera. Her heart constricted as she looked at her face. She’d done her best to be happy for Ash’s sake that day but she would never be able to hide the sorrow etched into her features.
She inhaled a shallow breath and forced herself not to let the tears return. She couldn’t let her son see how much this picture affected her, how much any picture of the two of them made her heart ache. For it was a cruel reminder that there was no husband for her, and no father for Ash. Had Rimé not been killed four months before their son was born their broken family of two would be a complete family of three.
Ash misread her thoughtful silence as disapproval. “You don’t like it,” he whispered. His thin shoulders slumped and he turned his head away from her.
“No! I love it,” Aelwyn insisted. She set the frame next to her and pulled her son into her arms. His small frame was tense in her embrace and she drew him closer, humming one of the songs that always comforted him.
“No you don’t. It made you cry.”
She winced and tenderly turned his face up to hers. She hated herself for making him believe she hadn’t liked his gift. “My tears weren’t because I don’t like the frame, Ash. I was sad that Rimé isn’t with us. He should have held your other hand that day. He should be with us in every picture,” she sighed, brushing a lock of black hair behind his ear.
Ash still looked skeptical. She picked up the frame again and rose to her feet. “Let’s hang this up on the wall,” she suggested.
“No. You don’t like it.” The four-year-old crossed his arms and looked at his socks again. Another wave of self-hatred surged through Aelwyn. She was a poor excuse for a mother for making him feel like this.
Aelwyn knelt in front of him once more. She kissed his forehead, taking his face in her hands. “I love the frame because it came from you, Ash. I’ll love anything you make me because I love you so much.” He still didn’t look convinced but allowed her to lead him by the hand over to the wall. She hung her son’s frame on one of the empty hooks and smiled down at him. He offered a tentative one in return and laced his small fingers with hers.
“Is dinner almost ready?” he asked quietly.
“Almost, love. Give it another five minutes.” She sat him down at the table and went to fetch their plates. Ash slid off his chair and returned with cups and silverware. He helped her set the table and returned to his chair when everything was ready.
“Thank you,” she said, kissing the top of his head.
“You’re welcome, Mommy.”
The timer beeped loudly and she returned to the stove. She turned the switch to ‘off’ and brought the spaghetti to the table. She spooned out generous portions for herself and her son then set it on the table in case Ash wanted more.
Aelwyn went to the fridge with their cups. “What would you like to drink?” she asked.
She took out a carton of 2% milk and filled their cups. She put the milk away and returned to Ash, setting the cups by their plates before claiming the seat next to him.
* * *
When they finished their dinner Aelwyn shooed Ash out into the living room so she could take care of the dishes. The four-year-old was now sprawled on his stomach near the fireplace. The coloring book Mommy had bought lay in front of him. A big box of crayons was within reach and he held a green one in his hand. He hummed to himself as he colored the trees and bushes in the picture.
A knock on the door surprised him and he looked up. He waited for Mommy to leave the kitchen and open the door, but she didn’t. Curious, he set down his crayon and got up. Mommy always said he wasn’t supposed to answer the door but he walked towards it anyway. Mommy was busy cleaning and he didn’t want to risk disturbing her.
Ash wasn’t tall enough to reach the handle on his own. He stretched as high as he could go, small fingers closing over the knob. He pulled the door open, releasing it and stepping away as a gust of wind blew snow into his face.
Standing on the doorstep was a man Ash had never seen. He wore a long, heavy brown coat, jeans, and old boots. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked very tired. Ash was surprised to see that this man had the same jet-black hair and pale skin as his own. His hair was much longer though.
A weary smile crossed the man’s face as his blue eyes met the child’s green. He knelt in front of him so they were at eye level then laid his cold hands on the four-year-old’s shoulders. “Hello, Ash Rimé.”
He jumped at hearing his full name coming from a stranger. He stared at the man for a few moments before slowly reaching out one hand. “Daddy…?” he asked, voice shaking a little. This man looked just like the one in Mommy’s photo albums. But Mommy had said Daddy was gone forever…
Rimé’s tired face lit up and he swept his startled son into his arms. He hugged Ash against his chest, pressing his face against the child’s hair. “Yes, Ash. Your father is here at last,” he whispered, voice muffled against the black strands.
“Ash?” he heard Mommy’s footsteps coming from the kitchen. “Ash, what are you doing? Why is the door…?” she trailed off. He looked over his shoulder, watching her turn white as a sheet.
“Look, Mommy! Daddy’s home!” Ash said happily. He looked at his father again who had raised his head so his eyes met Aelwyn’s.
“Rimé?” she whispered. Her voice broke on the name and tears swam in her green eyes. Ash flinched at the sight and pressed his face into his father’s collarbone. As he did so he realized something shocking: Daddy didn’t have a heartbeat. His chest was completely still.
“It’s me,” Rimé promised. Keeping Ash against him with one arm, he shut the door and extended his free hand towards Aelwyn. The four-year-old clutched his father’s shirtfront to steady himself and watched as his mother slowly approached.
“Rimé?” she echoed again.
“I am truly here, love.”
Aelwyn paused in front of him. Her eyes searched his face as her fingers laced with his. “Rimé, what happened to you?” she whispered. Her free hand brushed his cheek in a caress as she stepped closer to him. “Darling, where have you been all these years I thought you dead?”
Agony flashed across his features. “The death you saw was an illusion created by the Zodiac. They arrested me and I have spent the last four and a half years imprisoned in their dungeon. I broke the laws I swore to uphold, Aelwyn. I cannot blame them for recognizing my crimes.”
Aelwyn tangled her fingers in his coat. “How are you here with us if it was them who arrested you?” she whispered.
“It has taken four years for me to regain my credibility. Ever since I was imprisoned I have been doing everything in my power to convince the Zodiac to set me free. Finally, they consented a week ago and established the conditions for my freedom. Only after I swore a binding oath did they allow me to find you and Ash. Should I ever break my word, I will lose my freedom again.”
Aelwyn gasped and Ash tightened his grip on his father’s coat as if he feared a Zodiac would come and take his father away. “Daddy,” he whispered.
Rimé’s face softened as he looked at his family. “Please forgive me. I was too reckless last time. Had I been more careful, I would have been there for the both of you. Now that I am here at last, I will never let myself be imprisoned ever again, for to live a life without my family is not to live at all.”
“Promise, Daddy?” Ash asked, still clutching his father.
“I promise,” Rimé vowed.
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