march 25, 2016 • the beginning.
"isla laurel castiel, i was wondering when you'd show your face around these parts again."
the taunting tone could only belong to one person, and that person was her mother. isla's eyes narrowed as her head tilted, breath hitching in her throat as she looked upon the face of her mother.
"you've grown up so beautiful," her mother said, reaching out to brush her hair behind her daughters ear. isla flinched, unsure of whether or not she was comfortable being so close to her mother after all this time. they had so much bad blood and distance between them that she wasn't sure of the proper way to react.
"mom, i--" isla's words cut off, not by being interrupted, but because she wasn't really sure what she was supposed to say. she was sorry? she missed her? she wished they talked more? she wasn't sure how much of it was true, if any at all. she closed her eyes, clenching them shut and her eventually the feeling of her mothers hand fell away. she breathed a sigh of relief and opened her eyes.
"i'm still here," her mother cooed, as if placating a nervous child.
looking down, isla looked at her hand, as if to check to see if she were really a child or not. she wasn't. everything was normal. looking back up, the look of a bitter woman now filled the features of her mother.
"you look just like your father, you know. you're the mirror image of him. maybe that's why i never cared for you much, because i see none of myself in you. you're all him, and i resent that. how can i love you knowing you're the reason he's gone? how can i look into the eyes of the child that killed her own father?"
"what are you talking about? mom, i wasn't even born. i never even knew him." her eyes stung with the threat of tears, but she didn't cry. she refused. for years, isla lived with the weight of this accusation, and for years she blamed herself. but she was right, how could she have been to blame when he died before she was even born? as a child, she was more susceptible to this idea, but now she knew it was nothing but false accusation and martyrdom.
her mother reached up and touched her cheek, tears forming in the corner of her eyes. "why does everything you love die?" she whispered, fingers spiraling through her hair. she looked at her with such sincerity that isla began to feel her stomach churn.
"no," she whispered, confusion riddling the expression spreading across her face, her own hands reaching up to cover her mouth as she struggled to keep the threatening tears from spilling. "please don't say that. you can't really believe that," she muttered, this time trying to convince herself and her mother equally.
her mother laughed, a dry, humorless laugh. "mm, it's true though," she said, smiling as she continued to comb her fingers through isla's hair. "and i do wish you'd wear your hair differently. you're so pretty, but hardly a lady." fingers curled through her hair again. "i never understood why you always acted like such a boy. it's no wonder you can't keep one around. you're too much like them. too much like your father to be a woman." as if she were reaching to find every hurtful thing to use against her daughter, lorene continued, leaving isla feeling scolded like an errant child.
"where's your daughter, isla?" she asked, hands now dropping from her face at the sight of her daughters tears. "you've never even introduced me to her. you never even told me about her. why are you trying to hide her away? what are you so scared of?"
the question stung and isla's breath hitched in her throat. "i never hid her from you. i've never hid her from anyone," isla cried, trying to pull away from her mother, only to find there was nowhere to go. "she's at school."
the woman in front of her laughed, the tone of which came across as too maniacal for comfort. "you're no mother," the older woman said, scolding her daugther. "you don't have a single selfless bone in your body. maybe that's where our similarities are. you took all of the things i loved most about your father, and all of the things he hated most in me. you could never raise a child. you're weak and selfish," she pushed, now approaching isla as she leaned in to whisper. "and that's why you've never been able to have a child of your own. that's why you had to buy one to love you, because a higher power knows you're too much of a selfish bitch to care for one of your own."
she was walking through the thick air of vietnam, swatting bugs away from the side of her head as she came upon an orphanage. she felt a tug at her hand and looked down to see cyn looking up at her.
a frown took hold of her features and isla knelt down in front of cyn, both hands now holding the hands of her young daughter. "what's the matter?" she asked, searching the face of the child for any hint. cyn looked away, then at the ground as she kicked the dirt. "suong, tell me?"
it's rare she uses her daughters full name, as they've both become so accustomed to her nickname. cyn didn't look up at her, but instead loosened the hold on her hands and began to walk away. "cyn?" she called, but the little girl never looked back.
when she stood, eyes following the trail her daughter took, there was screaming coming from all directions. panicked, isla ran after her, calling cyn's name frantically as she searched for any sign of her daughter. she heard a faint cry and followed the sound, closer to the source of the smoke, a burning orphanage. the orphanage cyn was adopted from nearly six years prior.
another faint cry led isla straight to her daughter, trapped beneath the rubble. she fought to get the girl free, tearing away at the bricks and promising over and over again that it would be alright, that they were going to get out of there.
one of the girls tiny hands reached up and cupped isla's wet cheek, blackened with soot but smeared by tears. "sister?" she spoke, her own soot stained face looking tired as she coughed.
"i'm here, baby," she spoke, her hand resting on top of cyn's as they stopped to look at one another for a brief second.
"why did you abandon me?"
when the words registered to isla, she panicked, still tearing away at the rubble, though it never seemed to end. the more she ripped at the stone, the more there was and before she knew it, cyn was completely buried and she was left there alone in the burning, destroyed building.
sobs wracked her body, shoulders heaving as she cried over the pile of stone. she fell back against her feet and buried her head in her hands, hoping that when she opened her eyes, it would all be gone. she took a few deep breaths, trying to console herself and talk herself into opening her eyes, but when she did, they were still in the same place.
she let out an ear shattering wail.