He almost ran into his mother as he barrelled through the door, her pink robe flared out as she spun.
“Watch it, young man! I’m not as steady as I used to be,” she said, grabbing onto the edge of the kitchen table. She shook her walking stick at him in mock anger.
“Sorry, mother,” he said leaning down and giving her a chaste kiss on the cheek. She smiled, the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes deepening as she did. She tucked a wisp of stray grey hair and tried to pat it down, and make it behave. Her hair was monochrome rainbow of greys, black and silver. She grabbed his sleeve. “Why are you in such a hurry, dear?”
He shook his head and turned away. “It’s...hard to explain.”
The smile wavered and then disappeared. “Okay, maybe later, then. Your friends are waiting for you in your room. Are you sure you’re okay?” She patted his arm sympathetically. “I know this is a difficult day for you, with William and everything.”
He turned his face away, ashamed of his tears. “I’m fine,” he said huskily.
He found Trevan and Eleanor in his room. Trevan had made himself at home in the simple wooden chair at his desk and Eleanor was perched uncomfortably on the edge of his bed.
Trevan swung his boots off Silas’ desk. Eleanor jumped up from the bed. “You’re okay!” She ran to him and threw her arms about his neck, and a moment later backed away, her face turning crimson. Trevan shook a sheaf of papers at him. “Before we get this stuff tattooed on you, let’s first go over it so you know what it says. You’re going to need to know it to use it.”
Silas nodded, “That’s sensible.”
Thoughts came unbidden. The fountain of youth. The village full of children he hadn’t known about. William. His mother.
Trevan cleared his throat and shook the paper dramatically. “Okay, repeat after me.”
Silas did the best he could, parroting the words as Trevan held the paper in front of him, and ran a finger along underneath each word as he read them aloud. He felt silly, and his face burned with embarrassment as he stumbled over the words. Youth. How funny it was that people strived to stay young, to shy away from adulthood, and experience. He thought of his mother, and how she had looked young up until his father had left. The next day it was as if she had been instantly robbed of her youth and she suddenly looked old, haggard, tired. He noticed the wrinkles at her eyes, and around her mouth. He remembered when he had first seen the grey streaking her hair at her temples, thick and wiry, so different from her other hair which was dark and soft and full of life. She seemed to even move more slowly than before. He couldn’t remember when she had first started using the walking stick. It was years now. At least it felt like that. She wasn’t all that old, he mused, as he worked his tongue around the words trying to focus on the squiggles and shapes of the writing on the paper. Trying to remember what each word that Trevan pointed out was, what random pen marks it represented. But the face of his mother kept catching him off guard, making him stop and refocus on what Trevan was saying. It seemed like he had been speaking forever.
finger stopped at the last word on the bottom of the third page.
“Forever,” he repeated, and then collapsed down onto the bed, spent. “That took a lot out of me,” he said with a laugh. “It’ll take me a bit to remember it all,” he admitted. “I haven’t had lot of reason to read before in my line of work.”
“Daniel?” a girl’s voice called out from somewhere in the house. A moment later a young girl appeared in the doorway. “Oh, I’m sorry!” she exclaimed, startled. “I didn’t think anyone was in here. I was looking for my brother Daniel.” She looked around, confused. “Who are you, and why are you in his room?”
“Pardon? I don’t know what you’re talking about, this is my bedroom.” The girl looked familiar. She was a few years younger than Silas, late teens, he gathered. “I don’t know anyone named Dani-”. He stopped. He did know a Daniel. His uncle. His mother’s brother. The one who had been trampled by a horse a few years back. He looked at the girl, her skin was creamy against her long dark hair that flowed down her back. She was wearing a simple white dress, that was too big for her, and an even larger pink rob. “Are you…” he began, then stopped. He wasn’t sure if he could continue. This was crazy. It couldn’t be! “Are you Elizabeth?”
The girl beamed and her eyes sparkled! “Yes!” and then she looked puzzled. “Do I know you? I don’t think we’ve met. Yes, I’m Elizabeth Montrose. And you are?”
For a moment Silas couldn’t speak. The room had stopped existing and it was just her. The young woman standing in her simple plain house dress covered by an oversized pink dressing robe. Her brown eyes were wide and expressive and didn’t hide her apprehensiveness. Everything else went black and the distance between him and Elizabeth grew until it felt like the next words he spoke he was shouting down a long and empty corridor. His ears buzzed loudly, and he shook his head. It was as if he were reading words again, he could barely get them out. “I’m your son.”
you know who I am?”
The girl shook her head. “No, how can I have a son? You’re older than me! I’m only nineteen!”
“Well at least we know it works,” Trevan said wryly.
“Don’t you remember who you were?”
Elizabeth shook her head again.
Silas choked on tears. “So you don’t even remember father? Has everything been erased?”
Elizabeth’s face became stricken. “No, I don’t remember anything. Are you telling me I’ve lived a whole life-”
“Sixty seven years!”
“And I don’t remember any of it?” She shook her head in disbelief and then burst into tears.
Silas didn’t have any brothers or sisters. He was an only child, and hadn’t had much experience with girls of any sort, so stood there dumbfounded, not sure what to do.
Eleanor ran and put an arm around her shoulders. “Shhh, it’ll be okay.”
It’ll be okay, why didn’t he think to say that? He sighed. “This is ridiculous! What’s the point of being able to give people their youth back when they don’t remember anything from their life? They’re just repeating their life over again!”
This time Trevan put an arm around Silas’ shoulders. “I don’t know, son, but it must be good for something.”
“Really? Because I don’t see the benefit. My mother is just a girl. A girl whose brother had a chance to grow old, live his life, and d-” He caught himself when he saw Elizabeth watching him from tear filled eyes. “And learn things. And now my mother is just back at the beginning. She’s young, but doesn’t know anything.”
He could see Elizabeth bristle at that. “I do too know things!”
“I mean you haven’t had the experiences that make up your life – your old life – yet. Meeting and marrying father and…” he trailed off, not wanting to get into her life that was no longer hers anymore.
He stormed past his mother out of the room. Trevan followed. “Maybe that’s the point of this gift. You can give it to people who want a second chance at life. Who want to do things over again. People with regrets, who would like to change the path they took in life,” he looked down. “God knows I have regrets, things I’ve done that I’d like to undo. Maybe that’s the positive thing with this.” He shrugged.
“Maybe. Maybe you’re right,” said Silas. “But now I’m left without a mother, and instead have to raise my mother like my younger sister!”
Trevan said nothing and squeezed Silas’ shoulder sympathetically.