Note: Another drabble of sorts akin to Yeesha's in "Reflections"; this time from Atrus's point of view. Constructive criticism is more than welcome!
Disclaimer: As always, I own none of these characters or backdrops.
I cannot do this alone.
I sit, head in hands, listening to the angered cries of my only daughter as she wails out her injustices, and though my head murmurs that this is the right thing to do, my heart throbs painfully. Though I try to dredge up Catherine's advice in dealing with this situation, or memories of tantrums, all my mind can focus on is the cries of my little girl. Is it possible to see clearly now? No, my mind laughs at me. No, you can't think logically. Best to get it over with.
With a deep breath that is meant to steady both body and mind, I rise from my chair and cross the room in three strides to stand before my daughter. She sits in the middle of the study floor, pounding her fists and heels against the hardwood, her face creased in what she thinks to be agony. Her mother was gone for the afternoon to Tay, leaving me to look after our child…and suddenly, the afternoon seems as though it will stretch forever.
"You cannot go to Tay." I mean for my voice to be steady yet gentle, but it comes out shaken and unsure of itself.
Yeesha, her round face streaked with tears and eyes narrowed angrily, clambers to her feet and stomps the ground. "Why?! I want to go!"
Once, I could have handled her cries. When she was just a baby, hardly larger than any of my books and certainly lighter, I knew that she meant no harm. She could not feed herself, nor could she survive without the patient hands of Catherine and I, and such cries were there only to grab our attention for her needs. Now, however…
Now, her cries sting like nails into my heart, and it is all that I can do to face this little child instead of retreating back to my books. How can Catherine cope with this? With disciplining her? Each word now is not meant for her needs, but for her wants. She means for them to sting, even if she is only five years old and incapable of considering the magnitude of the pain of others. Yeesha knows nothing of how her words and actions affect me so, though she does know that they must hurt in some form or another. Had they not hurt, she would not have been hurling them at me.
"Yeesha, are you going to speak like a big girl?"
She shakes her head stubbornly, her face growing (if possible) redder by the moment.
"I will not speak to you until you can calm down."
Her large, dark eyes dart around the room (too late, I remember the book lying open on my desk), but she makes no move to do anything. Instead, Yeesha clenches her hands into fists at her sides so that her skirt bunches up in her fingers. Her lips wobble.
"I want Mama!" She tells me firmly, imitating my tone of voice. Powerful in a way, behind the anger that is bubbling, because here is a power that she knows nothing of. I feel shaken at these words, that my daughter has chosen sides or, more likely, that she wants to just hurt me with the words. Possibly both, though I cannot decipher what is moving through her mind.
Deep in my heart, where the thoughts that I have no wish to visit live, I know that this will be the diverging path. Once I stood on the same pathway with Achenar and Sirrus, two little boys who I believed to be completely innocent and too young to take on the burdens of the idea of humanity. I had ignored or indulged their petulant, selfish cries, and the cries in turn became cruel and unconcerned with other living things. Was this where it had started? Had they turned out so because I had never disciplined them or gently called to light their flaws, even as little ones?
I cannot blame Catherine, or Anna, for this had been my responsibility. They had, after all, done their best to steer the boys down the correct path, but my presence had been a step backwards to every step forward taken. The boys had seen, to my shame, my overestimation of them. Of how I thought indulgently of them as the children of gods, too pure to be tempted. Though I had once seen my father mistake himself for a god, so too did I mistake my children for such beings. I believed them impossible to be corrupted, being part of my own well-meaning flesh, and I had blinded myself to their doings until it had been too late.
I could not do the same to Yeesha.
And to my surprise, Yeesha stops. She stops, one last angry howl trailing off abruptly at the hard word, and for a long moment we stare at one another. My daughter sniffs long and hard, clearly unsure of this firm man who had somehow replaced her father.
"Mama is in Tay." Yeesha nods curtly, once, her mouth still wobbling. "There is an emergency, and she could not take you with her." It was obviously something that the child hadn't considered, because her eyebrows wrinkle in a thoughtful manner. I don't give her the chance to mull it over for much longer. "If you scream more, you will sit in the corner by yourself." Her eyes flicker to the lonely corner of the study, where a single little stepstool was the only thing present. "Do you understand me?"
She gulps. "Yes, Papa." Her streaming eyes are no longer on the corner, but on my own. I want to squirm and fold now, and take her in my arms and promise her sweets and pretty dresses, but there is no turning back even at the end.
"It is quiet time now. Go to Mama's garden and sit on the bench."
Yeesha nods again and, trembling faintly, turns and moves out of the study. The moment she is gone I slump down into the nearest chair, trembling if possible even more than my daughter. I study my hands blankly, searching for answers, wondering what Anna or Catherine would say. Soon I will take Yeesha on my lap again, bouncing her up and down like a little doll and soothing her worries, but in the back of my mind she can no longer be perfect.
Somehow, though, the face of perfection is no longer what I want for Yeesha, and taking comfort in this thought, I take up pen and paper again and begin to write.