“Give me the key to the medicine cabinet.” I held my hand out. Renee dug in her black skirt and produced a key ring, but couldn’t seem to focus on which key it was.
“It’s fine. I got it.” I went to the armoire, unlocked it, and swung it open. Two syringes were loaded and ready to go, but Mom was calm now, so I didn’t bother. I grabbed up some alcohol and bandages. I handed some to Lucius and then took the rest over to Mom.
I worked on her feet, dabbing the alcohol on each small cut. It had to sting, but she didn’t react at all, remaining perfectly still. I’d done this only days before on a different woman, one I hoped wouldn’t end up as damaged as the woman who lay before me. Once I’d bandaged her, I checked Lucius’ work on Renee. He’d done well, the wound clean and Renee comfortable. I sat next to him and we wiped the blood from our feet.
“This is fucked up.” Lucius glanced to Mom. “Keeping her up here like this.”
“If there was a better way, I’d do it.”
“I just wish we could get her some sort of care.”
“There’s no care for what’s wrong with her.” Renee had looked like hell even before Mom clocked her. But she wouldn’t leave Mom’s side, no matter how many times I asked her to get some rest, to go downstairs, to visit Stella. Tired eyes, gaunt cheeks, and sallow skin were her reward.
When Mom was like this, the only person she could tolerate was Renee. And now she’d attacked her.
“She’s fine now,” Renee said. “I’ll stay with her. She wore herself out with that little episode.” She tried to gain her feet, but wobbled before Lucius caught her and helped her stand.
“No. You need to go and get some rest.”
“But Mr. Sincl—”
“Go!” I pointed to the door. “I’ll stay with her for a while. Lucius, take Renee to her room and have Laura sit with her tonight.”
He paused like he was going to challenge me, but seemed to think better of it. Taking Renee’s arm, he said, “Come on. Sin’s right. You’re beat. In every way.” He gave her a smile that she didn’t return before walking her out.
At the door she turned. “Rebecca, I’ll be back to see you tomorrow. I’m okay. Don’t worry about what happened. You didn’t hurt me.” Her pleading voice broke on the last few words, as if she were injured more by having to lie to her lover than by the bloody wound along her scalp.
Mom made no move, just kept staring at the ceiling, her mouth slightly open. Lucius closed the door and I scrubbed my hand down my jaw. This was her worst episode yet. It was as if her memories grew stronger every day, the fear gripping her more tightly and turning each of her thoughts dark.
I moved her slender body up the bed so her head rested on a pillow. After pulling the sheet and blanket over her, I sat on the edge of her bed. I took her cold hand, the back pale, each vein a blue ridge leading to her bony wrist. The small crisscross of raised scars was still there, a matching set on my right hand.
I sandwiched her hand between both of mine, trying to instill some warmth in her. I knew I couldn’t. She’d never given me enough to start with, so I had none to give back.
“Mom. Come back.” How many times had I made the same request? Countless. More so when I’d been a child. But the words were empty. The Mom I’d known before her Acquisition had long been gone. Only Renee still encountered her from time to time. Never me, or Lucius, or Teddy. To us, she remained the strict matriarch, ensuring we maintained our dominance over the other families by coercion, deceit, or force.
Her breathing was even, but her eyes remained open and unseeing. A knock sounded at the door, and Farns shuffled in.
“How is she?” He’d known my mother longer than anyone. His eyes swam with sadness as he contemplated her expressionless face.
“She’s coming down. I’m going to give her something to help her sleep.” I stood and returned to the armoire, pulling out a syringe before locking it up and pocketing the key.
Farns walked over and took my spot on the bed, patting her hand. “Everything’s going to be all right. The boys are fine. Everyone’s fine. We just have to get you well again.”
She would never be well again. There was no cure for the regret that had blackened her heart and eaten away at her mind. There was only management. Farns held her wrist as I pushed the needle into a vein on the back of her hand and depressed the plunger. After a few moments, her eyes finally closed.