“Mom. I can’t keep doing this.” Cadet 1st Class John Quigley punctuated his words by dragging a hand tiredly down his face. “I graduate in three weeks. I’ll be shipping out for Advanced Tactical Training. I’ll be light years away. I can’t transport home every time you do this to yourself.”
Lynn Quigley looked up at her twenty-three-year-old son with nearly the same piercing blue eyes he saw in his own bathroom mirror every day … but hers were tired and bloodshot, the result of yet another ‘accidental’ overdose of sedatives, sedatives that had not mixed well with the half-bottle of alien liquor and three glasses of wine she had also consumed that evening. It was a miracle she hadn’t stopped breathing. Then again, she never did.
Almost killing herself, but not quite – this was her routine. She always managed to call for medical help just in the nick of time. The routine had escalated in frequency the past few months. John suspected it was her way of trying to hold on to the little control she had left over him as his graduation day rapidly approached. He spent his days half-expecting the final call to come – We’re sorry, Cadet Quigley… Instead, it was always this. Your mother is here at the hospital again. Would you like to have her transferred to Starfleet Medical? You might be better able to supervise her care …
The sad fact was, John didn’t want to supervise her care. He had done that his entire childhood, and to what effect? She was worse off than ever since he’d left for the Academy, but what was he supposed to do? Spend the best years of his life babysitting a woman who had every help available to her, yet refused to take any of it? How much could he reasonably be expected to sacrifice for a woman who had spent his entire lifetime doing her level best to destroy him? He knew it wasn’t entirely her fault. Yes, she had given him birth and a few sweet memories. But mostly, there had been pain. Unnecessary pain, pain that she had inflicted – albeit mostly on herself. It was times like this John wished he had a sibling to share the burden with.
Concerned about what would become of her once he did graduate, he had once looked into having her committed. It was hopeless. We understand your concerns, Mr. Quigley, but she isn’t harming anyone but herself. Under the circumstances, there’s very little we can do.
John had reacted with a silent, bitter smile to that. How tempting it had been to tell them everything – tell them all about his childhood, the countless abuses. She hadn’t just hurt herself. She had hurt him, badly … along with the father he barely remembered and the stepfather he so desperately missed. Only, they were gone now, and he wasn’t a child anymore. So the social workers were right. She was only hurting herself. But if that was true, why did John’s own stomach hurt more and more as he thought about his impending departure from this planet – from the difficult life he’d once shared with the sad, sick woman lying in the biobed beside him?
He was finally escaping. It was everything he had dreamed of since his stepfather had finally left when he was ten years old. He had worked his ass off for this – an uphill battle that had at times seemed insurmountable. But he had persevered, and now, three weeks before it was finally going to happen for real, he was having second thoughts, just because she’d pulled yet another one of her stupid, selfish stunts.
It filled him with rage.
Looking up at him with those tired blue eyes, she was now making excuse after excuse for her behavior, laying on the guilt trips, begging him to stay a while, but John wasn’t listening. When she paused – to breathe, to think – John wasn’t really sure, as he had stopped paying attention – he stood up with an air of finality. “Take care of yourself, Mom,” he said sadly. It felt like ‘goodbye.’ “Graduation is June 13 at eleven hundred hours. I’ll leave tickets with the hospital staff.”
He knew she wouldn’t show. Part of him ached at that certainty, but the pain was fleeting. He was mostly relieved. Most of his friends at the Academy had no idea what a disaster his home life was, and he preferred to keep it that way. Ten years ago, maybe she could have put on a good show for the day – seemed like a normal, caring mother, at least to outsiders. Not anymore. These days, her wrecked body, vacant expression and odd mannerisms told the story on sight – she was weak, unwell, an addict. An oddity in these modern times, for sure, but that oddity had been his entire world for so many years that it still surprised him sometimes to see healthy, loving families.
As he left the hospital, John left the graduation tickets with the administrative staff. For an instant, he was struck by a hopeful feeling – maybe this time she really would clean up her act, maybe she would actually be there and be proud of him and it would all be okay. The feeling left as quickly as it came.
In three weeks, he would escape.
He wondered if he would ever see her again.