Stand By You
"She’s sick,” he said.
The red Aisha’s ears wilted in response. “H-how sick is she, Mason?”
The brown Ixi gazed upon the aging white Eyrie. “Your mother is weak, Sarah. Her skin is nearly cold to the touch. I’m afraid she needs a proper doctor. How long has she been coughing?”
Sarah bowed her head in thought. “It began a week and a half ago? But the last three days… they’ve been rough. She’s been in decline ever since.”
Mason nodded. “She needs to be taken to Neopia Central. They have much more advanced medicine than Meridell can provide.”
Sarah’s eyes began to tear up. “We can’t afford that. I just began work cleaning Meridell Castle. To pay for an Eyrie Taxi there, plus food and lodging, and hospital bills? That is far more than my wages can provide.”
Sarah and her mother, Myra, had grown up on the family farm in Meri-Acres. Sarah’s father had left to fight in the war against Darigan many years ago and never returned. With the lasting drought plaguing the land, Meridell’s farms had taken a heavy hit, scarcely able to produce a crop. Their friends and neighbours abandoned their farms to move with family elsewhere until the conditions in Meridell improved. As a result of all this, Sarah and her mother had to make the heavy decision to sell the farm and move closer to the castle in search of work.
“Bring your concerns to King Skarl,” Mason replied. “You work at the castle now, surely that can give you a chance?”
Sarah scoffed in response. “Skarl has barred entry from peasants. Word amongst the cleaning staff is that the nobles are taking much of his time with their concerns about the drought. Supposedly he has no energy left for the likes of us.
“Can you talk to him when you clean the throne room? Maybe there you could steal a second of his time?”
“No, Mason, you don’t understand. Three servants have already lost their jobs that way. I was fortunate enough to take one of their jobs. I’ll be thrown into the moat or fed to the Crokabeks.”
Myra stirred in her bed and began another severe coughing spell. Sarah ran to the kitchen to fill a glass with water, and quickly returned to the bedroom.
“Drink, Mother. Your throat cannot be dry,” the Aisha pleaded. As Myra took a few sips of water, Sarah looked up at Mason. “What can I do? How can I heal her?”
“I’m not a doctor, Sarah.”
“I know, but you’re the best person I know. You’re the closest friend I have here. What is she sick with? What can I do to fix her?”
He touched Myra’s forehead. “It could be NeoMonia, or perhaps Kikoughela.”
She gasped, and sat on the chair next to her mother. “Kikoughela hasn’t been around Meridell in years, Mason! The local stores don’t even sell the syrup here anymore!”
“Look, I understand this is tough-“
“No!” Sarah screamed, grabbing bunches of her dress’s fabric with her fists. “You don’t understand! I lost my father already, I can’t lose my mother too! I can’t do anything to help her, I can only watch her deteriorate!”
“You’re able to look after her, feed her and provide her with water and make her as comfortable as possible,” Mason spoke softly as Myra began to cough once again.
“But… but the Kikoughela epidemic, Mason. It wiped out half of Meri-Acres half a century ago.”
Mason walked towards the bedroom door. “You’re doing the best you can,” he replied, before walking out.
Sarah cried as put another blanket over her mother to keep her shaking to a minimum. “Please, mum. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.”
Two days had passed. Myra’s condition continued to worsen: her coughing spells became more frequent and she was unable to eat. Sarah found it difficult to eat as well; she was overcome with worry and fear. She was exhausted from the constant care her mother required from her and she was in denial of the toll it was taking on her.
Sarah returned from her shift at Meridell Castle one afternoon and immediately brought a tray of glasses of water into her mother’s bedroom.
“Hello?” she asked.
Her mother responded with a fit of coughs.
“Mother, I’ve returned! I’m home for the evening now. You won’t believe what… oh dear, when did this blanket fall? You must be so cold!” Sarah retrieved the blue blanket off the floor and put it around Myra. Her mother nodded in thanks.
“Alright, as I was saying. Mason spoke to me on my way home, the dear Ixi. He said he found some herbs I can put in your water that should help soothe your throat and ease your coughing. He found in a journal they used it during the epidemic many years ago.”
She dropped some of the herbs in a glass and stirred it with a spoon. “Here, this should help,” she said as she fed her mother with a spoonful of water. “I hope he’s right. If we can get you even a little bit better, then I can spend some more time working to get you to Neopia Central. I’m going to get you there, you know.”
Her mother made another noise.
“Look, word has it that King Skarl is saying Brightvale might be sending aid to us. It sent all of us servants with a flurry of hope. Perhaps our fortunes will change and we can find something to make you better!”
Myra tried to speak but could only make a raspy noise.
“Mother, your throat is so very sore, you don’t need to speak. Here, take another spoonful,” the Aisha raised the spoon to her mother’s beak.
There was a period of silence.
“I’m… I’m sorry it’s just you and I,” Sarah began. “I’m sorry everyone left us. I’m sorry Father never came back home. I can’t imagine how hard that was on you, I know it was hard on me and I was just a little girl. But you did such a wonderful job raising me, and doing the best you could with so little. You always stuck by me, through the thick and thin, and I thank you so much for that.”
She took a deep breath. “And I will do the same for you. I know this is not easy for you, but I will make you well again. Every day I keep looking for a cure. From what I hear from the castle, a few other Neopets have come down with a cough and symptoms like yours. It might not be so long now! We just need to hold on together, you and I, as we always have done. And then soon you will be better, and you can work. I’m sorry, finding a job is probably not what you want to hear right now. But our life can improve, and maybe we can feast a bit more like King Skarl instead of all this Sausage and Pea Soup and Flat Bread from Merifoods.”
Myra gazed at her daughter adoringly.
“I know people have left us,” Sarah spoke as she sat on the bed. “I know we only have each other. But I promise to always stand by you, Mother. I won’t be like Farmer Jenkins when he said he was going to help us with this season’s crops only to leave us high and dry. Or like the Neddler family when they said they would help fix up our house and gave us a meagre ten nails and said good luck. No, I am and will be here for you and taking care of you.”
“You never know,” Sarah said, her eyes sparkling with hope. “Tomorrow could be the day that changes everything.”