My mother is a strong proponent of the easy way out, and that is probably why she fully understood how to help me. Still, both of us have always known our journeys were meant to be intertwined. It became even more apparent when she left my dad but kept me and my younger sister. Well, she left him, but he’s the one that had to leave. He’s three hours away now, and I miss him, but my journey does not. He even left me a magical portal—our secret—through which I could visit him in the city, but I never used it. Not until I was twenty-three years old.
My mother is never the one to leave. She’ll stay, even if she has to shift the world around her to make it work. She’d been that way as a child, jabbing at the things that hurt her, but always standing her ground. On her eighteenth birthday, she abdicated her spot in line to the throne, but she stayed right where she lived in the palace, with me and my sister by her side. She kept us in the line of succession, so we could decide for ourselves if we wanted the weight of a crown, one day. Let them figure out what to do with me, she said, because this is still my home.
There is an arrogance to the way she solves her problems, like she really was meant to rule, but only herself and not the queendom. She demands righteousness from the world around her, and she always gets it. Always, until me. Any child should’ve stopped having tantrums and meltdowns by the age of eight, but the nursemaids couldn’t get mine to ease. My father was still with us—he would be for another two years—and although he could calm me, he grew tired of doing so, and left the task to his wife. My mother took me on as a new challenge. She never called me the problem, but rather this “thing” that was affecting me. She was gently impersonal about it. Subtly judgmental. Nearing shame that she could not make this hardship be gone from her life. The problem was hers, not mine, and yet who suffered more?
She let me avoid crowds. Funerals, especially. I craved the silence of my cavernous bedroom, with fabricked ceilings mimicking the skies. Conflict set my bones abuzz, and there was no shortage of it, being the niece of the queen herself. I was envious of my mother’s coolness in the face of so much drama. How could she stand to be around disagreement? Did it not fill her blood with rage, her mind with despair, and her bones with jitters? My mother knew I felt this way. She knew, because I told her, but she could not understand it. By the time my father had been gone for four years, my emotions had not been tamed, and my mother, like my father, had now become frustrated. She loved me conditionally. During the days and hours when I when I seemed normal, I was her accomplished daughter whom she was very proud of. I would be successful and beloved. I could even be a princess one day. And then there were my episodes, which came on suddenly and completely, when she left me utterly alone, regarding me with disappointment, wishing for me to get over this “thing”, whatever it was.
She brought a doctor to me when I was seventeen, a year before I would become a full member of royal society. I was offended. I shrank away from her, my mother, who seemed to think I was ill. I refused to listen to her, or to cooperate with the doctor. I felt hurt that she’d been thinking this way about me for years, and never told me. I would have dissuaded her. Ill people are unreliable, burdensome, hopeless, marked...and that’s how she thought of her own daughter? For all the respect I had for the doctor, I wrote her off as an extension of my mother, who didn’t understand the one problem she hadn’t fixed.
The doctor was dismissed. A few months of thinking, afterward, softened my heart toward my mother, but I did not like what I had found during all that thinking. Still, I had the humility to tell her.
Image is a tough tide to fight against, but easier with someone breaking the waves in front of you. I needed her shield.
“I’m Inherent,” I told her this fearfully, because an Inherent was a type of magician that people fear. Specifically, I could sense other’s emotions, but what’s more, I found I could manipulate them. I’d done it to my sister a few times, unknowingly, when she’d gotten on my nerves. When I figured out what I’d done, I was horrified. Am horrified. When she found out, she called me a monster.
My mother played our royalty card. We would get the best, most confidential experts. I could be normal, and my powers would stay hidden. This was her purpose, now, and thank the gods we knew what was wrong with me. So, there would always be something “wrong” with me, always something to qualify my shortcomings with, always a difference, but she still thought of herself as my champion. I wished she wouldn’t emphasize to the wrongness of my condition, but she was still standing in front of me, and I could breathe easier. I was no longer drowned by every oncoming ocean wave.
And so I grew up, became stronger, felt more in control of my powers. I secretly visited my father through the portal, mending out relationship without telling my mother and sister, who wouldn't approve. I no longer cowered in my bedroom, hid from people, or experienced monsoon-like meltdowns. My bones still hummed around conflict, but not at a speed that made my blood boil. I no longer squirmed in my skin, but my mother still squirmed to be in my presence. She was always on guard, still, even into my adulthood. I was no longer exhausted for myself, but I was exhausted by constantly assuring her that I was finally well.
She could breathe easier, but she wouldn’t. So, I made her.
Guilt is something that lessens with age, as duty takes the edge off. I started to calm her nerves without telling her. By then, I'd learned the subtly of my powers from practicing on the birds and squirrels that wandered into the courtyards. She was my first consistent subject, and although she didn’t know what I was doing, she began to open up to me. She told me that a weight felt lifted, something she’d been trying to remove for years, since before my father left us. She felt blessed. I cried normal tears to hear that. I was helping my mother in my own way, like she had helped me in hers. I wasn’t a monster, like my sister said I was. Like the public would think I was, if they knew.
I was, however, just like my mother. In silently manipulating her, I’d taken the easy way out.