You Don't Know

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Visitors come and go these days like dandelion seeds on the wind. I've forgotten this one's name before he even reaches the door.

"I'm sorry to waste—"

"Alright, get out," I sigh. Another dead end. "Send in whoever's waiting."

He leaves. Another disappointment. Another stranger claiming to know my son or, worse, hoping to trick me into believing they are him, aged by five years. As if I wouldn't recognise my own boy!

In the time it takes for my tired lungs to fill and empty, the door swings open again and a young woman in a well-tailored suit strides into my office. She stops almost out of reach of my fading eyesight.

Looking at her exhausts me.

"Ma'am, I know you were expecting a man—"

"Let me stop you," I breathe, summoning the energy to pour myself another splash of gin. "Unless you're here to tell me you've married my son and are carrying his unborn child, I want nothing to do with you."

She smiles and folds her hands across her flat stomach, where a baby might be growing. I sit up.

"I know exactly where your son is, my lady. He's safe."

How many times have I heard this? How many times have young people come to my house, enticed by the promise of a reward, and lied to my face?

"Much has changed. He worried the shock after all these years—"

"Get out, girl," I growl. "You don't know him. Nothing could stop me loving my son and he knows that."

"I know he wants to believe that."

"Then come back with him." I drain my glass, sneer at the woman, and hesitate. There's something about the way she stands that's stopping me from meeting her gaze. "You protect your womb. Have you lost a child?"

She shakes her head with a small, sad smile on her painted lips. "I haven't been blessed with one, ma'am."

"Then you couldn't possibly know how cruel this is," I mutter, slumping backwards again. "Leave."

"What are you searching for?" She asks, stepping towards my desk. "Do you think your son is going to walk in here and things will be exactly as they were when he ran away?"

My fingers tense around the glass.

"People change, my lady. How do you know he hasn't already been to see you, but left again when he disappointed you? What makes you—?"

I throw my empty glass against the desk, sending a warning blast of shards towards her young body. Instead of backing away and escaping, like visitors usually do, she sweeps the debris away with the palm of her hand and perches on the edge of my desk. Late afternoon light from the window behind me highlights the familiar curves and angles of her face and I gasp.

"I know him, mother, because I was him."

I see her as perfectly as day and smile. "I've missed you, darling."

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