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The Center of My World
From when I could remember things, Mother had always been the center of my world.
Perhaps it was because I felt that she was the ‘only’ family member I had in my life. Although my primary care was left to the maids typical to the noble families, Mother was always there in my life, giving her guidance.
Father wasn’t as involved as Mother.
Clyde and his mother… I never could see them as my ‘family’, especially because of what Mother taught me since I was young.
Though she was still distant, she was undoubtedly the closest figure to me that was always there since my birth.
Thus, I wanted to make her happy.
”You’re the only child I have, Reinst. A mother’s value rises with the child. I believe you can make me proud.”
“If you can be better than that woman’s child, Father will look at you and me. Wouldn’t that make you happy?”
The young me thought that as long as I could be the good girl, better than Clyde, better than the other children, Mother would be very happy to have me.
My simple mind didn’t understand that Mother’s love to me was conditional.
Not until Domi’s birth.
Even after Domi was there, I was in denial for some time and still wanted to try.
No, more like this time… I wanted to be excellent so Mother would… so she would look at me.
And perhaps I wanted to be seen as excellent so people would look at me with envious eyes, thinking I had such a perfect life, when in fact… I was the one who was envious to most other children. I wanted to feel superior in any way compared to other children, to make up for the love I never got from my family.
It was pathetic, now that I think about it…
But it was the only way I could bear living as Reinst. The only way of living that I knew at that time, too.
After transforming into Reinst, Fenrir worked to prepare the ‘stage’ we agreed on.
Thus, I was now staring at the nostalgic room. The room where I spent the thirteen years of my life as Reinst. My safe haven. The room that witnessed my many stages of life.
My old room in the Grabberton residence.
Sitting on the bed, I continued to stare around the room. It felt so real, and this might as well be the very last time I could see my old room like this.
Strangely, rather than feeling warm and all familiar, I felt this room was rather strange. Perhaps it was because I was more used and grown attached to my room as Lyra already.
Not going to lie, the door slam really surprised me, although I was expecting a guest to come around this time… Because it was so, so unlike her.
When I turned to look at the door, I saw Mother who looked a little bit hasty.
And when she saw me, she looked somehow relieved and I was a bit happy thinking about it.
She quickly walked to me and put her hands on my cheeks, examining my face closely.
“Dear me, Reinst! I just had a really realistic dream where you were gone due to an unfortunate accident!”
This was part of the plan.
People often had a dream where they saw someone who was already dead, but their brain at that time couldn’t even tell if something was wrong with it or not. Thus, we created this setting.
Apparently, I was in for yet another surprise as I widened my eyes at Mother’s next words.
“I’m so glad that it was just a dream and that you’re still alive.”
At least she didn’t think of me as a someone whose existence didn’t even matter, from her words that she was ‘glad I am still alive’.
Though those words were enough had it not been the setting we were in, I knew I had to dig deeper.
“Why?” I asked.
Then, Mother’s face was half-surprised, half-confused as she answered, “Of course, you’re my daughter, isn’t that natural? There are so many designs in your life that you have yet to fulfil.”
I could feel my heart droop at her words.
Without thinking, I quietly asked, “Mother, what if I can’t… or don’t want to fulfil those designs you have for me?”
And I saw another surprised expression on Mother’s face.
Yes, this was the first time I said such words to her. No wonder she was this surprised.
“Don’t be silly. I know you can do it. You’re my daughter. And I know what’s best for you. You might not understand it now, but I guarantee you’ll be grateful in the future,” she said with certainty.
Even after all these years, she hadn’t changed.
I guess it’s true that it’s really hard to change old people’s mindset.
Back then, I was so afraid to ask her such questions.
Now that I was no longer her daughter, I was still scared, but I had to ask.
“If I don’t follow that and end up being mediocre, will that be okay?”
All my life, I was afraid of being discarded if I couldn’t fulfil her expectations. Although I never asked about what would happen if I really couldn’t fulfil her expectations. Now’s the time to ask and hear the answer from the person herself.
Today might as well be the only day I could see Mother’s usually calm expression to look so surprised.
“What are you saying? Reinst, what happened to you? That’s so unlike you!” She said, with a slightly raised voice.
When she raised her voice, I would just drop everything and try to make her happy. But not this time.
I could feel my legs slightly tremble, but I made a fist with both hands and tried so hard to speak without my voice shaking.
“Answer me first,” I said.
Thankfully, she didn’t resort to scold me and answered me… with a dumbfounded expression and tone, “…What? Wouldn’t that be the same if my dream were true and that you were gone, should you choose that disappointing path?”
My heart hurt so much in that instant.
I knew that my value was based on how excellent I was to my previous life’s parents, but hearing such blunt words coming from her own mouth indeed… hurt.
While it was still hurting, I guess it’s better to just end it all quickly.
“Would it be better for you if I were born as a boy?” I asked.
“Well, we have your little brother now, so it’s all good,” she said, pausing before she continued, “But yes, it would have been better if you were born a boy. If you are in my position, you’d feel the same.”
It has always been about my value, and merit to her. To the family.
Her love has always been conditional.
Even to Domi, I think her love is conditional too.
Because Domi was born with the quality Mother was looking for, he was adored.
And when he grew up, he could be moulded into the son Mother expected.
Was Domi trying hard and managed to turn out this way because he could feel that Mother’s love was conditional too?
Aah, as expected… I feel disappointed and kind of hurt because of her answers.
Though I didn’t feel surprised at all.
However… I don’t feel as if the world is ending, like I thought I would feel if I were to hear those words from Mother.
Perhaps the years I spent as Lyra had actually made me stronger and the time I spent processing everything helped me in accepting this cold, harsh fact.
The miracle of 0.1% that Mother would say otherwise didn’t happen as expected and I was just confirming everything I had guessed so far. Even so, it felt somehow liberating?
For I no longer had the ‘what if’s thought in my mind.
It crushed all my wishful thinking, for the better.
“…I get it, Mother,” I muttered.
Mother was facing me away as she walked around and continued to lecture me.
I felt really nostalgic looking at her back.
The back that I grew up watching all my life, hoping she would turn around with such a warm smile… and that back—
It overlapped with my current mom’s back as she turned around and I could see Mom smiling and calling out my name lovingly.
I closed my eyes, trying to feel the emotions mixing in my heart.
I wasn’t hurt as much as I expected it would be, because my heart was already filled up with my current family’s love.
The only thing left for me to do…
I stopped thinking and decided to just act what I wanted to do.
I ran up to Mother and hugged her from behind.
God knows when was the last time I hugged her like this. Perhaps it was some time after I started school…? We rarely hugged each other to begin with.
After I needed to act sensible and mature, I never tried to hug her anymore.
But this time… It’s going to be my last one for real.
“Reinst, what’s with this?” Mother asked, clearly confused.
“…Thanks,” I muttered.
“No need for that. As a mother, it’s my job to remind you,” Mother said.
The ‘thanks’ wasn’t for that.
It was my thanks for everything she had done for me when I was Reinst.
Be as it may, she had tried her best to guide me towards the best future she could think of, just like Father.
Although the values we sought didn’t match.
I let Mother go as she continued her usual lecture.
“You have to practice after this, okay? Do your best, I’ll be going first,” Mother finally said.
I smiled wryly as I answered, “I will.”
She then went away further and further, as per Fenrir’s influence.
As she did, my surrounding grew more abstract until the room I grew up as Reinst disappeared. Then, Mother’s back became very small until I couldn’t see her anymore.
“…Goodbye, Mother,” I said with a soft voice.
My question in regard to how my family and closest friend thought about me had been answered.
So now, it’s time to close this chapter in my life.