My Mother
by the March Hare

Mel Jones had always been there for her daughter. She had held her when she scuffed her knee, when she fell from her bike, when she cracked her head and had to get stitches. Their bond had been strained, especially when they had first moved here, but despite their differences they had always been mother and daughter. There were times; her husband would say at dinner parties, that the two of them were more alike than they would admit to; strong, stubborn, and active.

Which is why Mel was surprised when she peeked into Coraline's room to find her daughter sitting on a window during a cloudy day, but her normal feline companion was not on her lap. Her stick-legs hung out in the air, but they did not swing back and forth in boredom. The day air was chilled and the land was covered in a fog, but she did not wear a coat, shoes, or even socks. Her head was against the window, but she was not sleeping. She was looking out onto the cold world, her face pale as if stricken.

Mel gently placed the laundry basket down and slowly walked into the room. Coraline did not stir, nor did she even seem to realize that her mother was in the room.

Mel reached out to her daughter.

"Yes… Mother." Those words were lifeless, as if responding itself was a trial. The shock forced Mel to pull back in fear.

"Oh, Mel, stop it!" the mother said to herself. Logical thoughts prevailed, but somehow fear was still there. "Coraline," she said as she placed her hand on her daughter's arm. It was freezing, and what bone she felt was as like cold steel. "What's the matter?"

Coraline laughed, and it was a cold, sad thing, like a bitter animal left alone to die. "I'm cold, Mom." She nearly whimpered, and finally she shivered. For some reason, she felt warmer now, and her bone suddenly became warmer, like a human.

"Put something on then," Mel almost scolded her, but she controlled her voice for fear of only pushing Coraline further.

She did not respond. Sighing, Mel sat down on the seat connected to the windows and took her shoes off. A long workday had left her feet sore, so, she reasoned, a little cold could do them good.

For a while, silence hung like a man from the gallows, and Time took its time like it always did with a gently nod of its hat as it passed by.

In truth, Mel did not like waiting, nor did she not like having to sit here and watch as her daughter suffered under some impossible burden. She wanted to know, to understand; but prying answers out of her daughter was like drawing water from a rock. It rarely worked and it usually hurt both parties. Her mind began searched through the labyrinth of possibilities, with a stream of thought, into the forests of inventions. In the labyrinth she found she found a tucked-away star, in the stream she washed the dust off of it, and in the forest she grew it to be the tallest tree in the land.

"Coraline, do you remember how you got your name?" Mel inquired with a curious lilt in her voice. After inquiring this, she found her feet still hurt. She chose to be odd and removed her socks, placing her feet on the wood floor. A refreshing wave of cold ran through them.

Coraline's blank face puckered in concentration. "I remember," she said, slowly, "that you told me once, but I…" she stopped there, as if the memory had skittered away to some dark hole tucked away in her mind at the last second.

Mel feared the worst for daughter. Mental illness ran in both her and Charlie's family, and something at school could have set it off…or something she said. Still, she decided that telling a little about Coraline's past might help; a sort of pick-up that might life her spirits back to life if depression was only the matter.

Looking around at the room she took in the toys that her baby played with, the bed she laid her head on, the clothes she dressed herself in, and with this build-up of memories and maternal energy, she began.

"When you were born, I was just exhausted. Your father was there holding my hand, and I had just finished apologizing for all I had said to him while I was delivering you. Your father was naturally frightened, but at had least now he had a reason for it. You were born about 15 weeks early, so everyone was panicking, except the doctor who was just sitting there like a baseball catcher waiting for you to pop out. Anyway, your father was panicking, and I was just done for the day. You were being carted off for NICU, and I had just started sleeping, leaving your poor father just hanging there. Then a nurse comes up and says to him 'What do you want to name her?' Now, we had decided on 'Caroline' because we were both Neil Diamond fans and our song, as you know, has always been 'Sweet Caroline'. Well, she handed him your birth certificate and a pen and he tried to scribble 'Caroline' down, and don't you know he switched the 'a' and the 'o' up!" she laughed.

"We did not know that until we finally picked up the certificate. I chewed him up and down and said we should change it to 'Caroline' but he said that he had himself a special girl so she deserved a special name. So that argument went on till you were 5, when we realized that no one ever called you 'Coraline' anyway so it did not matter." She took a deep breath after all this, and a wave of pent-up emotion came rolling out of her chest. "And so we took you home and raised you and have loved you ever since, even when you have walked through the house with your muddy boots on."

She looked up to Coraline, and found herself amazed. Her daughter's beautiful brown eyes were filled with tears, and the color in her flesh had returned. She looked at her mother and all the love that was in her heart just came pouring out of her. With a gigantic sob, she fell into her mother's arms and cried and cried and cried. Mel enveloped her arms around her daughter and rocked her back and forth just like she had done years ago.

"I'm so sorry, Mom," moaned Coraline through the tears. "I've just…not felt like myself lately."

Stroking her child's hair, Mel replied, "People change, Coraline, for better or for worse, but no matter what happens you will always be my baby."

And there they stayed, loving and caressing their souls out as the Sun busted through the heavens and onto the little, weird family of the Jones.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the idea.

Thanks as always for reading and reviewing. Special thanks to Woodswolf for telling me about her theory. We shall see if it is correct…

P.S. The next chapter, hint…tooth-tooth and claw-claw