The Woman in White

A young woman sat on the side of her bed with empty pill bottles scattered on her right. In her left hand, she continuously kneaded a half-empty pill bottle. A moment later, she dumped three more white pills into her mouth, unaware of her young son watching her from her bedroom door. Once she heard a faint knock, she instantly spun around and met her son's curious blue eyes.

"Roxas," she said quietly.

"What are you doing?" As he walked to his mother, his hands fidgeted–an anxious habit that was the same as his late father.

She dropped the empty bottle along with the rest. "Nothing, love." With both hands, she picked him up and sat him on her lap. "I thought you were supposed to be asleep."

Roxas looked at his mother in the eyes and whispered, "I couldn't sleep."

"Do you want to sleep with me tonight?"

The young boy nodded eagerly. Smiling, Roxas crawled on the bed and made himself comfortable underneath the sheets. However, his innocent grin vanished as his eyes caught a figure standing at his mother's doorway. His mother glanced in the same direction, and her eyes widened. She stood up instantly, causing some empty bottles to drop to the floor.

A woman in an elegant white dress stood with her hands clasped behind her back. Her fair blonde hair reached just past her shoulders, and her face was hidden underneath a white silk hat with a broad brim. Only her small, mischievous smile was visible.

Before Roxas's mother could speak, the woman in white lifted her head; her eyes were a brilliant blue, shining even in the dim glow of the room. Her defined cheekbones and fair complexion took Roxas's mother by surprise.

"It's true…" the young woman said softly.

"For only some people." The woman in white's silvery voice caught Roxas's attention. He quickly looked away, instantly intimidated by her icy stare.

"Roxas, go to sleep."

"Where are you–"

But his mother had already left the room before he could finish. His eyes met the woman in white, and he watched with worry as the door mysteriously closed.

As the young woman bit the tip of her thumbnail, she turned around and saw the woman in white staring at her, her elegant posture unchanged. "How could it be true?"

"You're wasting my time if you keep talking to yourself." Roxas's mother stiffened at the indifferent tone.

A few weeks ago, Roxas's mother had visited a small temple with strange superstitious beliefs for centuries, which involved ridding your most traumatic memories. It sounded absurd. But when she caught wind of a young mother-to-be who had suddenly overcome the depression of her unexpected miscarriage, Roxas's mother thought to give it a shot. But days later, that young woman had passed away.

"You have a lot of questions," the woman in white observed. "But you're not sure where to start."

"What… what does this mean?"

The woman in white approached her slowly, and when she stood, only an arms reach away, she said in the same indifferent tone, "You're going to die soon." Roxas's mother slowly stepped back, her lips trembling. "Why are you so surprised? You should know better than me that with your current lifestyle, this was inevitable."

The young woman knew that with her current mental state, she wouldn't be surprised if death had taken her the next day. But to directly hear it in such an indifferent manner felt like a stab to the chest. Roxas's mother stared at the woman in white with evident fear in her eyes. "Do you…? Did you…?"

"No, I do not take lives," the woman in white answered, then met her eyes. "So, I did not take that woman's life."

"...Then why did you come?"

"To grant your last wish," the woman in white had a sardonic grin. "You wished to forget your husband's death. You wished to forget about your depression, simultaneously overcoming it." A pause. "You wished your child would forget how your marriage fell apart."

The young woman was on the verge of tears. "I… I can't escape it, can I?"

"To cheat death is like a death wish itself." The woman in white took a step toward her, to which the other woman took a step back. She was frightened by the other woman's intimidating stare. "Facing reality will ease your suffering."

At this, the young woman burst into tears. From the small crack in the door, Roxas watched his mother drop to her knees and sob uncontrollably. He was trembling, a mix of anger and sadness dangerously simmering within him.

"I know you're watching." Roxas froze upon hearing the woman in white. She hadn't turned around. But when she glanced over her right shoulder, his eyes met hers, and he felt compelled to shut the door. But instead, he ran out of the room to his mother's side. The woman in white watched in amusement as the young blonde boy wrapped protective arms around his mother. "How cute."

Roxas's mother stood with a hand on her son's back. "...I can forget anything?" The woman in white dipped her head once. The young woman glanced down at her son. "...Then, can he forget anything too?"

The woman in white chuckled, though there was no joy reflected in her eyes. "That depends," she said. "What are you willing to give me?"

The young woman stared at her in horror. "What do you mean?"

"Usually people only think about themselves. But right now, you're asking me to do something that's a little outside of my typical responsibilities. So..." the woman in white's gaze went from Roxas to his mother. "I'm asking what you're willing to give me if I grant your wish."

"...What do you want?" The woman in white glanced at the young boy, who was tightly clutching her mother's nightgown. Upon noticing this evident hint, Roxas's mother pushed Roxas behind her and asked in shock, "You want my son?"

"Your son is blessed," the woman in white said calmly, now looking at the other woman. Roxas's mother's eyes widened. "He'll go on to do great things. But he'll forever blame himself." When the young woman said nothing, the woman in white glanced at her, "For not being able to save his mother."

Roxas felt his mother's grip tighten around him. "R-really? He can live a happy life?"

The woman in white dipped her head once, smiling, but it didn't reach her eyes. "After twenty years…" her light voice trailed off, and her icy stare met the young woman's hopeful gaze. "Do we have a deal?"

The woman in white didn't need an answer from the final look in the other woman's eyes.

Days later.

Roxas laid in his bed, listening to the rain pattering against the window of his new home. His aunt and uncle had just tucked him into bed and wished him a good night. But lately, Roxas found his nights unbearable, and it wasn't only because he was haunted by this mother's death.

He was also afraid of seeing a woman, a fair woman dressed in white who occasionally appeared in his dreams. She was breathtakingly beautiful, but the piercing stare he always saw frightened and angered him. As the rain subsided, the young boy's eyes began to close, and his fidgeting hands slowly stopped.

Moments later, he was asleep, and the night was quiet.

Three soft chimes echoed throughout the house. And when the final chime rang, the woman in white stood by the boy's side with her hands clasped behind her back. There was no hint of emotion on her face. She reached for the boy and stopped just short of touching his face. After a swift and elegant wave, she watched the boy shift comfortably in his bed, his expression visibly softened.

The rain began again. Starting out as a drizzle to a downpour in a matter of minutes. The woman in white glanced at the storm over her shoulder. She had fulfilled her end of the deal. And it was time to get her reimbursement. Slowly, but gradually. Her gaze fell on the sleeping young boy again; she wouldn't let him forget. Not now. Not ever.

Seconds later, the rain subsided. By then, the woman in white had vanished.