Masks and Roses: Part Two
It wasn’t hard to find her mum.
When Kat left home, she’d expected it to take ages. There would be a good amount of research involved, and heavy sleuthing. But in reality, Kat figured out her mother’s whereabouts after just a few hours. Because of this, in the back of her mind, she wondered why her father had never been successful in his own searches.
Kat had asked around the artist’s quarter, a small, relatively secluded section in the back of Faerie City. At first, no one knew of Kat’s mum, and the Wocky was growing relatively disheartened. Then she found someone who did.
It was an old red Kyrii with a matted mane and clay caked on her shirt. She had a booth towards the middle of the artist’s quarter, where she sold her handcrafted vases. Kat only had to mention her mum’s name once before the Kyrii, who introduced herself as Anne, perked up.
Anne said she was close to Kat’s mum, that sometimes they’d hunkered down and sold their work together. She described Rose just as Kat’s father always had; charming, bright, humourous. When Kat asked Anne if she knew what had happened to ‘that lovely Rose’ (as the Kyrii called her), Anne just shrugged.
“She had to leave a long while back,” the Kyrii said wistfully. “She had to stop selling her work. It was such a pity; she was so talented.”
“Do you know where she went?” Kat asked, trying not get her hopes up.
“Yes,” said the Kyrii. “A few years after she left, I was wondering where she’d ended up. I did some research and tracked her down to a small house in the outskirts of Neopia Central. I went to visit, but she was upset when I arrived. She told me never to come back because...” Anne’s voice trailed off. Then, she cautiously asked, “How did you say you know Rose?”
“I’m her daughter,” Kat whispered.
Anne’s face softened. “You haven’t seen her since she left all those years ago, have you?”
“No,” Kat said.
“You must have been just a little thing then. Such a shame. But...” She smiled at Kat then. “I could bring you to her, if you’d like. I can’t guarantee she’s still at the same house, but if she is... well, she might not want to see me, but perhaps... perhaps she’d want to see you.”
“You would take me there?” Kat asked in disbelief.
“Yes,” said Anne. “It’s the least I could do for a poor girl who has grown up without her mother. Just give me a few minutes to close up shop, and then I’ll get us an Eyrie cab.”
Kat was so dumbfounded that she didn’t even reply.
The Eyrie cab ride was long, and by the time Anne and Kat arrived in Neopia Central, the Wocky was struggling to stay awake. Her adrenaline had passed long ago, and the monotony of the travel had gotten to her.
Kat had enough money to pay the Eyrie driver after they landed, but Anne generously offered to pay the fare instead. Then, when all the fees were taken care of, the Kyrii and Wocky stepped out of the carriage.
It was a short walk to the house Anne said Kat’s mum lived in, and when they arrived, Kat could hardly make out the quaint brick building through the midnight darkness. The front walk was paved stone, dimly lit by kerosene lanterns. Kat had been waiting for this moment practically her entire life, but still, her stomach was full of butterflies, and sweat was dripping down her face. What if her mum wasn’t like she thought? What if she was horrible and cruel and turned her daughter away? Kat clenched her paws and took a deep breath. Soon, the shadow in her memories wouldn’t be a shadow anymore. It would be... real.
“Are you ready, dear?” Anne asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Kat said.
The two of them began up the front walk then, and soon, they stepped up onto the narrow brick porch. Anne buzzed the doorbell, and she and Kat waited a few moments before someone slowly began to open the door.
The occupant peeked out a bit, and Kat could only see their eyes. They were ice blue and large, just like her mum’s had been. Kat’s heart fluttered, and she inhaled sharply. She tried not to get too excited, in case it really wasn’t her mother behind the door, but the Wocky failed; excitement swirled around inside her despite her grandest efforts.
“Are you... Rose?” Kat asked, her voice cracking. The pet behind the door didn’t move, so the Wocky added, “My name is Katalynn. I’m –”
At this, the homeowner flung open the door. Kat was presented with the view of a lanky silver Wocky, wearing a shiny gold necklace and paint-splattered clothes. Kat immediately knew that it was her mum.
But her mum didn’t say anything to Kat. She simply turned towards Anne and said, “I told you not to come back here. I told you –”
“I’m sorry,” Anne interrupted, her voice fraught with guilt. “It’s just, she’s your daughter, and she seemed so desperate.”
Kat’s mum closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her feet. Kat heard wooden floorboards creaking beneath her, and the Wocky focused in on the noise as she willed away all other emotions and sounds. She was struggling not to cry when her mum said, “I’m sorry I left you, Katalynn.”
Kat stared up into her mum’s eyes, and they were ripe with emotion. The Wocky could tell her words were genuine.
Kat wanted to say a million things to her mother then, but like always, she couldn’t think of the proper words to express her feelings. So all she said was, “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too, Kat.” Kat’s mum reached out and touched her shoulder then, and Kat shuddered. Rose’s paw felt cold, her thin silver fur like ice.
“Should I leave you two?” asked Anne before Kat could say anything else.
Kat’s mum nodded. “Yes, I think that would be nice, Anne.”
“Goodbye, Rose,” said Anne, and then she gave a half-wave to Kat before slowly walking away.
Once Anne was gone, Kat’s mum invited her daughter in. Kat accepted the offer and cautiously stepped into the brick home. The wood floor was slippery beneath her shoes, and once the Wocky was fully inside, her mum shut the door.
The foyer of the brick home was bathed in brilliant candlelight, and it took a few moments for Kat’s eyes to adjust to the brightness. Once they did, she found the room to be very ordinary. It was not truly a foyer, but a living room, and its centerpiece was a battered wooden coffee table. Surrounding the table were two beat-up couches, and on the floor was a stained rug. The only thing of any beauty in the entire room was a painting, hung carefully on the lime green wall. It was a portrait, of a little pink Wocky with ribbons in her hair and dull brown eyes, playing on a swing set. It took Kat a while to realise that the little pet in the painting was her.
Kat’s mum noticed where her daughter’s eyes had gone to, and she said to her, “You were a lovely little girl, weren’t you?’
Kat shrugged. “I suppose. Did you paint that?”
Her mum smiled lovingly. “Yes, Katalynn. Just a bit before I left. I wanted to have something to... to remember you by.”
“You were planning to leave for a long while?” Kat blurted out, unable to stop herself.
Kat’s mum sighed. “I knew I might have to explain some day,” she said in a soft voice. “Come, my love, I’ll make you something hot to drink, and we can talk about it then.”
But Kat didn’t want a hot drink. She was tired, and her stomach churned. All she wanted to do was curl up in her bed, back at home in Faerieland, and sleep off the day’s events. Perhaps, when she woke up tomorrow, she would find out everything was just a silly dream. Maybe her mum had never really left; and she wasn’t a grown girl who still couldn’t fit into a pair of trousers; and that pretty dress, that one that made her feel like a queen – it wasn’t hers yet, because her mum had never gone.
“Katalynn?” Kat’s mum snapped her out of her fantasies. “Will tea do?”
“I’m... I’m not thirsty,” Kat stuttered. “Do you think I might be able to sleep? I mean, if you don’t want me here, I understand, but –”
“That would be fine, love,” Kat’s mum said. “I suppose it might be best for you to get some sleep before we talk about it. You can have my room.”
Kat really didn’t want to take over her mum’s space, but she was too tired to argue, and she really didn’t want to end up sleeping on a lumpy sofa. So she let her mother lead her down a narrow hall to the house’s only bedroom, and after bidding her goodnight, the Wocky changed into one of the nightdresses she had packed in her duffle.
Kat was asleep before her head even hit the pillow.
To be continued...