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Rated: E · Short Story · Emotional · #2316617
A final decision helps a family reconnect.
          There was still a char over the license. My finger pad ran over the edges of it, touching the charcoal. The actions of a pissed off adult who was still emotionally no older than an angry teenager, screaming at the world. Anger justifying his own pain and fear. Hackles raised to ensure this could never happen again. If I let no one close, I couldn't be hurt now, could I?

         "I can't believe she rescued it," I muttered, my tail whipping left and right, betraying my emotion. I knew my ears were flat. I was holding it in, but the tears were soon to come.

         "Yeah, your mom wasn't always there," dad said, the sunlight chasing gold through the silver of his own fur. "But she had her moments. She wanted to; you know. She wanted to stay home, raise you kids, bake cookies for you in the evenings."

         I chuffed a bark of laughter. It covered the pain I felt. "Yeah," I muttered, shaking my head. "Can you imagine mom the Little Suzie Homemaker edition? hah."

         Dad smiled, his left ear tipping in that way it always did instead of both tipping up. "Actually, yes I can," he said. "Your mom, back before well," he waved a hand, his claws cutting out the painful parts of the past. The cheating on both sides, the accusations, the heartache. The years spent being torn in two by parents who knew better but couldn't help themselves to try and use their kids as daggers to cut their enemy.

         "She was sweet then. I forced her to continue in college. She didn't want to. I forced her during those few semesters while I took a break, taking care of you and your sister." He smiled at the memory. "She wanted to stay home and raise you two, to do the cleaning and cooking." He smiled at the conversation, his eye getting misty for a moment as we walked down the old path. Our feet making soft crunches against the gravel.

         "Why? Why did you twist her tail," I asked, looking at dad. He didn't turn around. The sunlight cast his image like an outline of shadow. He looked much more like the feral cougar than the elderly feline man he was.
"Because," he sighed. "Being a homemaker wasn't in her plans or dreams. Not really. She'd grow to hate herself. Hate her house. Hate Karen. You."

         I grabbed dad's shoulder and spun him around. "So, you'd rather her hate you instead," I asked.
He looked down at the ground. It was manipulative. It was spiteful. It was done in the best of intentions. It was dad. A thought flashed through my mind. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. I barely spoke to dad. Karen didn't talk to him. Mom only spoke to dad at the end through her lawyer, and then it was a summons of some kind. No one knew of the cancer until the letter came. Until we got the urn. Until I got my license back. The one thing that I lit on fire in front of her as I stormed out of the house ten years ago, saying the last words I ever said.

         I ear-tipped a sad smile to dad, my tail picking up the twitch of pain I felt. "You wanted me to love her and the last thing I can remember ever saying to mom is 'if we never talk again, life my life will be perfect.'"

         There was no second guessing in his part. He embraced me, hard. Harder than I had ever been embraced by my father. That powerful embrace broke through layers of ice built up by years of stilted conversations. Years of texting instead of talking. Years of arguments over emails and messengers on holidays instead of face-to-face conversations. The pain splintered, then cracked. Became bitter mews, and half melted chunks. It liquified and ran down my cheeks from my eyes, down the sides of my muzzle and onto the shoulder of my father.

         He patted my back, the pain in him splintering as well, liquifying and running down his own cheeks. "I'm sorry," he huffed. "I'm sorry. I tried so hard," he huffed again, breathing into my shoulder.

         It was some time before we opened the gate on the rusted chain-link fence. The perfect asphalt sat in the middle of the overgrown field, lines painted down it, giving each one of the beauties that sat side by side room to breathe. To roam. Giving them space to sprint before the breath of life above their wings could pull them into the skies above, the place they were built to soar, to roam. To be free.

         "Last time I did this," I said to dad, "I was up there with her."

         "I know," he said, holding the urn out to me. "That's why she wanted you to take her up. One last time."

         She was so strong and powerful when I had last seen her, last spoke to her. Now, she was less then ten pounds of ash in a brass urn in my arms. I swallowed hard, looking down on it. "She always loved to go flying," I said. "It's what inspired me to get my own pilot's license."

         "That fateful night" dad said, tilting an ear towards me, "she actually called me, can you believe it? No lawyer, no messenger, no summons. Just her own natural voice on the phone. We spoke for three hours. Neither one of us threatening, or screaming. I don't remember everything we said, but the one thing that stands out was she told me was how proud of the both of you she was."

         I smiled, the smile going from my muzzle, up to my ears and down my spine to my tail. "Classic mom," I said. "That's the closest she probably ever came to saying it, huh?"

         Dad clapped me on the shoulder. "Yeah," he said. "The closest she ever came to saying how much she loved you."

         The bridges we had built towards each other had become so charred they crumbled beneath our very feet over the years. I barely spoke to dad, mom didn't talk to us at all, and I hadn't bothered calling or texting my sister in six years. What's more, she didn't bother the same either. I know, we'd both blame life, blame circumstances, blame being pulled in a thousand directions. But the truth is, we just didn't want to speak to one another. To feel the emotions again that none of us wanted to deal with when we're in each other's presence.

         As I approached the tiny Cessna that she had reserved at the edge of the runway, our conversations turned from mom onto other things. Who I was dating now. How I was doing. The things I was doing in my own life. The conversation was the first planks. More conversations where had after that day. They became boards. Nails. Heavy talks and advice became thick pile-ons driven into the bedrock below the mighty river that had grown between us. Above the char, we built a new bridge. First from me to dad, then from dad to Karen, then from me to Karen. New bridges built into our lives that to this day keep us connected.

         Out of the millions of dollars that mom had made, the properties she bought and sold, going through multi-million dollar houses the way some people went through shoes, the decisions she had done to move and shake entire industries, the charities she had ran and donated to, that act of getting us to finally talk again, to build real bridges over the char was the greatest act she had done.

         The rumble of the twin engines pulled me down the runway, and up towards the sky. Dad was there to guide me along, his pilot's license not having been burnt or lapsed due to not keeping up with flight hours and training. The ground dipped from below us as the clouds embraced mom's smallest but most favorite plane one last time.

         It's strange, but in those skies, as I stared up at the blue, where the horizon just touched the water, I felt her next to me. Dad was in the back, spreading her ashes across the Pacific and mom was by my side in the pilot's seat as always, the smile on her muzzle, in her ears, her tail. Staring out into the dawn like she always done. It was the smile she held for flight, her true smile. The one she reserved for when she was truly free; in the skies above, beyond the paltry chains and concerns of the Earth below. After dad returned, empty urn in hand, he took his seat and I felt a warmth run through me. Neither of us spoke then. Neither of us needed to. As dad took the controls, I understood. For the first time in her existence, mom was now home. She was free.

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