Nikko Farkas knelt by his mother’s bedside. Bowing his head down, he blinked away the tears which kept refused to stay away. The harder he fought them, the more they stung his eyelids.
Silently, he prayed that her suffering wound soon end. He squeezed her hand, unable to speak any words. His voice was silenced, stifled behind the gut wrenching emotion which was boiling up inside of him.
Why her? Of all of the people in this world, why her?
He’d asked the questions to himself a thousand times before, but no answers ever came. He wasn’t even sure who he was asking anymore. He’d long since given up hope than anyone was listening. There was a time, when he was younger, before his mother became ill, that he’d believed in a higher power. That seemed like a distant memory now as he bit his lower lip, trying to keep the cries from betraying him and showing her his weakness.
He refused to break in front of her, refused to show her the extent of his pain. All he cared for was her comfort. Her relief. Her peace.
Corrine Farkas wasn’t just his mother. She was a legend. An elder in their pack, and one who had done so much for their kind over the years, her illness hadn’t just affected him. He knew full well that there was an entire community of their kind who would feel her loss.
No matter how much he tried to understand how important she had been to so many, all he could think was that she was his mother. The woman who had been there to kiss his cuts and scrapes when he was a mischievous young boy, the woman who continuously nagged him for not settling down and giving her grandchildren. She was the woman, the only woman, who he ever loved.
His mother’s quiet and shaky voice surprised him. Looking up, he stared into the most caring eyes he’d ever known.
“Mama. Shh… you shouldn’t try to speak. Save your strength to –.”
“Hush now, my love. I need…” her voice trailed off. She sat silently for a long moment before taking a deep breath and continuing, “Nikko, my sweet boy. Do you know how proud I am of the man you’ve become?”
He gently brushed at her cheek. “Thank you, mama. But really, you must rest. The doctor said so.”
She coughed, the depths of her illness echoing through the raspy sounds which emanated from such a gentle woman.
“I know I’ve nagged you, Nikko. But, I’d like you to promise me something.”
“Find someone, my son. Don’t continue with the way you’ve been. Go out there, find the kind of love that your father and I had.”
She coughed once more. A drop of blood escaped her mouth and landed on his shirt.
“I will. Someday I will.”
Shaking her head she persisted. “No, my love. You have no idea how precious life is. How quickly it can be taken away. Your father was taken from you when you were so young, too young. You don’t know what it is that you’re missing.”
“Okay, mama. Okay.”
He tried to reassure her, but he would’ve promised her the stars and the moon above if she’d asked. Anything, if it meant keeping her calm and free from her constant discomfort.
“No, Nikko. Promise me. Promise me you’ll stop living this life of solitude. Find someone, fine…” she choked on her words.
Blinding tears filled his eyes. He saw how strong she was trying to be, but he knew. He knew how much she pain she was in.
He got up and leaned over her. Wrapping his free arm around her head he gently brushed at her silver hair and kissed her forehead.
“I promise, mama. I swear. I’ll find someone. I’ll make you so proud of me.”
“I am proud of you, son.”
“I love you, mama. I love you so much.”
His last word came out in a howl of wrenching pain. The hairs began prickling his arms as he felt his wolf self begin to shift. He had never felt so weak and out of control. He’d always been able to control how his body reacted to emotion. But looming over his mother, seeing the strongest woman he’d ever known look up at him with such proud and loving eyes was his true undoing.
“I will always be with you, Nikko. Always…” Just as she spoke the last word her body stilled.
He watched in relief as a veil of peace washed over her. “I love you, mama.”
Unable to control his emotions, he allowed his wolf self to take form. His limbs shrunk and his body morphed down to half its normal size. He stretched into his fur, his tail protruding out through the base of his spine as he nestled on the bed next to her.
Whimpering he nuzzled his nose against her neck and cried. Tears streaked down his grey coat as he laid his body on her chest. He prayed, hoped that he would hear the beating of her heart, but nothing came.
She was gone.
Gone from their pack.
Gone from this world.
Gone from him.
He raised his head up, and howled into the silent night, wondering if she finally was without pain. Hoping that she was finally free.