From the moment she found out she was pregnant, Marisa knew she would fail. Having a child was not in her plans, especially a child that was the result of her romance with Asriel. Now she was in another world, away from Asriel, the Magisterium, and with a woman who made her feel like the smartest person in quantum physics.
Marisa even tried to hide her pregnancy from Mary for fear that the scientist would not accept to continue working with her; incredibly this new world allowed women to continue their work and studies even if they were expecting a life. The young woman felt confused at first, some things were too different and even caused a certain panic in Marisa - not that she wanted to stop her studies, but part of her was afraid of how it would affect the little child.
It was very hard for Marisa to have Lyra in the new world; no one could know that the girl was born with a daemon or what a daemon was. The only person who knew about it was Mary, no one else. Marisa didn't trust anyone enough to share something so personal: her origin.
When Lyra was born, the College was in bliss. The scholars noted Marisa's efforts to remain steadfast in her research to complete her master's degree; they noted that she continued to stand out among the scholars, even though she was pregnant and more tired than usual. They also noted Mary's day-by-day concern for Marisa's health. The scientist seemed more excited about the possibility of a new child coming into the world than Marisa herself.
Although the name Lyra reminded Marisa of her history with Asriel, she could not see a more fitting name for the child that rested in her arms. Mary watched the scene fascinated, the scientist could see how scared and magnificent Marisa looked - she was obviously in love with the younger woman.
"You're a mother now." Mary's words echoed in Marisa's mind as she read the letter she received from the University of Paris. The offer was too good to refuse, but Marisa was a mother. The golden monkey spun Marisa around impatiently at the indecision that was taking both the woman and him; for the first time, they were unsure of what decision to make.
Lyra was playing video games in the living room, which had never bothered Marisa until that moment. The mother didn't want to hear a single noise. The mere sound of a few shots being fired on the screen made the golden monkey want to jump in Pan - it had never happened before and they both knew he would only engage in that kind of behavior if he was very frustrated. Lyra wasn't to blame for their frustration, Marisa was saying to her daemon.
"Lyra, turn that off. Please." Marisa asked with little patience. As much as she knew she shouldn't take anything out on her daughter, she needed quiet to think and didn't want to go to the home office where she would be constantly reminded of the proposal she received.
"But I'm almost going to another level. Look, Mom!" Lyra replied without taking her eyes off the television. The noises continued.
"Lyra." Marisa used a harsher tone.
"Just a minute!" Lyra still didn't budge from the screen, which was enough to ignite Marisa's anger.
The girl ignored her mother and continued playing enthusiastically, it was noticeable because Pan kept changing shape.
Marisa unplugged the video game, ending her daughter's gameplay. A drastic attitude.
The girl looked at her indignantly, not understanding why her mother was being so radical - Marisa had never done this before, she was strict, but not that strict.
"I lost everything! I was almost there!"
"Lyra, keep your voice down." The golden monkey began to circle Pan, as a warning sign for the young daemon and the girl to get a grip.
"You screwed it! I was going to win the game." Lyra grumbled.
"Lyra, you know I don't like this game and I asked you to turn it off, haven't I?" Marisa said exasperated.
The girl looked at her mother outraged, she knew Marisa didn't like her choice of games, she said it wasn't suitable for girls. But Mary let her choose whatever game she wanted last Christmas, so it was fine. Lyra stood with Pan in her arms, trying to keep him away from the golden monkey - she knew her mother was one step away from giving the signal to the daemon.
"You don't have to blame me because you're angry. Something has upset you, I know that, I've seen it before." Lyra's voice came out shakily.
Lyra left the room in frustration and went to her room without even looking at Marisa. The act would have been reprimanded, but the woman made a sign preventing the daemon from moving forward and going after the child and Pan. She would not attack Lyra, she could not blame her for a problem that was hers and hers alone.
A terrible mother, that's how she felt at that moment.
The woman didn't want to argue with her daughter, that was all she didn't want. But it seemed unavoidable. She shouldn't have taken her own frustrations out on Lyra, but Lyra was part of the problem - she was her daughter - which had never been a barrier to anything in her studies and research so far. Until the moment. Until the University of Paris invited her to give a series of lectures at the university on Mother's Day. Marisa knew that Mary didn't understand the dimension that day had for her, not even Lyra was capable of understanding. In the other world, there was no day set aside for that, for motherhood. In other world being a mother was an obligation and nothing more than a woman's duty, here it was a matter of choice.
Marisa chose to be Lyra's mother, she chose the girl. She did everything she could to ensure that nothing was missing from the little child she took into her arms after hours and hours of labor - one that she only had Mary's help. Although she knew this day was more of a commercial date, it had another dimension to it. Mother's Day showed the opportunity she had, something she would never have had if she had remained in the other world; she might not even have been able to keep Lyra - that kind of thought haunted Marisa.
So every year Marisa would invent something different to do with Lyra and Mary on Mother's Day, she would order everything Lyra would most like to eat for breakfast, they would watch Lyra's favorite movies together. As much as the day was for Marisa, she made it for Lyra, for their relationship. The family routine was always very full of commitments, no matter the week, something always came up for Marisa and Mary to solve at college, whether it was a lecture or a problem with some student under their guidance.
While loving the special day, Marisa was afraid she would let the chance of a lifetime pass her by if she denied the Univerity's proposal. They wanted her to speak right on Mother's Day weekend, they wanted her to talk about quantum physics. They praised her work with dark matter and claimed she was highly recommended by the college. They wanted her.
Marisa knew she would eventually be recognized for her work with dark matter, but she didn't expect it to be this fast. It was actually 12 years, but who was counting? She wouldn't have that opportunity in the other world. Marisa knew she shouldn't think about the other world, but when motherhood coincided with work and her efforts to unravel dark matter, she felt like the most messed up person in the world, the most divided and incapable. She didn't want to let Lyra down.
And she had just done.
The golden monkey paced the room impatiently, he expected some kind of reaction from Marisa - and wished deep down that she wouldn't hurt him to vent her anger. The habit of self-punishment was a characteristic of the woman with the golden monkey; they punished themselves when they blamed themselves for something. It was not often that this happened.
All afternoon Marisa was unable to concentrate on a piece of paperwork, nor able to write a line of the essay she was putting together on the impacts of theology on the scientific environment - if in the other world she would have followed a devout life, in this one she was doing her best to make sure the two areas didn't mix. She didn't know whether to give her daughter more time, probably hurt by her outburst. Such a stupid fight.
Marisa decided she needed to talk to Lyra and as a sign of understanding her privacy, she knocked on her daughter's bedroom door - usually, Marisa didn't do that, she didn't even like the girl closing the door. It was Mary's idea that Lyra could keep the door closed, as a token that they trusted the girl and understood that she needed privacy - a ridiculous idea, according to Marisa.
"Lyra, I need to talk to you." Marisa used her sweetest tone.
The girl didn't respond, which the woman interpreted as a positive sign. Upon entering the room, Marisa noticed that the girl was sleeping with the young daemon wrapped in her arms.
Marisa remembered that sometimes when she fought with her mother, she would go to sleep from exhaustion from the argument, unable to stay awake thinking about what was said. The fight with Lyra had been nothing compared to what she had faced before, but her daughter was not used to that kind of treatment. Her daughter knew the sweeter, more understanding, and responsible version of her - even though the woman had to ground her sometimes.
At that moment Marisa felt she was failing as a mother once again. For a few seconds, Marisa felt herself again in the other world, where everyone expected her to fail, as mother, wife, daughter...
"Lyra..." Marisa gently woke her daughter.
The golden monkey approached the sleepy young daemon, picked him up in his arms, and began to cuddle him. The daemon's approach seemed easier than the humans.
"You threatened me with him." Lyra was exasperated when she saw that her daemon was betraying her, as he was very comfortable with the golden monkey. The girl understood that when the golden monkey surrounded Pan that morning it was a pre-sign of attack; sometimes if Marisa lost her temper, she used the daemon to generate good behavior in the girl.
"That was unfortunate... I want to talk to you, darling."
"Are you going to talk to me or take your anger out on me?" Lyra asked as she moved a little away from her mother's presence.
"Lyra." Marisa was exasperated.
The golden monkey was tense with the direction of the conversation and Pan felt a little apprehensive since he was right in the daemon's arms. Pan asked Lyra to calm down, but the girl was irritated by Pan's betrayal.
"I took my anger out on you. I let it get the best of me and I apologize. I didn't mean to upset you." Marisa brought one of her hands towards her daughter's cheek.
"I received an offer, to give a lecture at the University of Paris." Marisa didn't hide her academic commitments from Lyra, she always told her everything about them because her daughter found it interesting. When it was possible, the girl always accompanied her, Lyra said she was very proud of her mother's stance when she lectured.
"What? That's great, Mom! Why did you get angry then?" Lyra was very happy with the news, she knew how much her mother dreamed of lecturing at that university, how much that could change her whole career in dark matter.
"It's on Mother's Day."
Lyra understood everything at that moment, her mother didn't want to miss spending Mother's Day with her, but she had to. She needed to put her career first now. Lyra wasn't going to mind not spending a Mother's day with her, she wasn't going to.
"Mum, you can go... We've celebrated many a Mother's day and it's just a commercial date, you know." Lyra tried.
"It's not just a date for me and you know it." Marisa looked into Lyra's eyes.
"We're still going to have many more mothers' days together, Mum. One year doesn't make a difference and neither does it make you a bad mother."
That afternoon mother and daughter spoke no more on the subject, not until Mary arrived. The scientist found it odd that Lyra was playing video games until after the time arranged by Marisa, they probably should have had a fight and the woman felt guilty enough to allow the girl to get the best of her.
As she talked to Marisa, she understood everything.
"I don't know what to do."
"I think you do, dear. That only depends on you."
"But Mother's Day...
"You know what? Lyra's right. You always spend it together and you still will for many more years to come, but an opportunity like this is one in a lifetime. They want you, Marisa and I'm so proud of you." Mary passed her arms around the other woman, wrapping her in a tight, affection-filled hug.
"I feel like a terrible mother... I’m failing her, Mary." Marisa whispered.
"Believe me, you're not. Lyra knows that. I know that."
A solitary tear ran down Marisa's cheek, Lyra noticed it from across the room - she didn't want to eavesdrop on the mother's conversation, but it was inevitable. The girl knew how hard it was for her mother to cry, she herself could barely remember when it was the last time. Perhaps she really did get it all wrong of what the Mother's Day date meant to Marisa.
Heartbroken, Marisa accepted the invitation to Paris and made plans to go for the weekend. The woman still tried in the days that followed to include Mary and Lyra in the trip, perhaps they would be able to accompany her, but Mary had monitoring for the students she tutored and Lyra could not be without Mary at the event.
"Lyra, obey Mary. Don't play video games late, don't eat sweets before dinner and...."
"And do your homework." Lyra completed in exasperation.
"That's right, that’s my girl." Marisa brought her fingers to Lyra's chin, lifting it so that mother and daughter were looking deep into each other's eyes.
"I love you, Mum. Have a good trip" Lyra hugged her tight.
"I love you too, darling. See you in a few days." Marisa kissed Lyra on the forehead and a kiss on Mary before boarding.
Marisa boarded the plane to Paris leaving her family behind. It was not unusual for Marisa to travel alone, but she hated the feeling that this time she was leaving her family on an important holiday. She feared that one day Lyra would rebel against her for the absence of her presence on the date, which was absurd according to the golden monkey.
"...everyone here understands the importance of talking about dark matter and why we cannot associate it with any kind of theology. Once we do that, the autonomy of the research is restricted to precepts drawn up many years ago here, precepts that cannot govern a world today taken over by technology and science. Everything has changed and our world has kept up with every single change. There is no place for faith and science united in one cause, especially if this cause is dark matter." Marisa's lecture concluded with a crowd of scholars applauding.
The scholars who attended the weekend of lectures were enraptured by the amount of knowledge the woman held, she was very good at what she did and spoke very well. Some were enchanted by her beauty, others by the brilliant brain she had. By the end of Mother's Day, everyone was dazzled by Marisa and the woman couldn't have been happier, she was able to fill an auditorium just by announcing her presence every day of the event.
People wanted to listen to her and that made the weekend more comforting for Marisa.
"It is a privilege to have you lecturing with us, you have one of the brightest brains of this century." One of the scholars went over to congratulate Marisa.
The crowd was beginning to disperse.
"I know, she's very good at everything she does." That voice. Marisa knew that voice.
It was Lyra's.
Marisa looked back and saw her wife and daughter with a rose in their hand.
"Happy Mother's Day, mom." Lyra lunged at Marisa. The woman knew how big and weighed the little girl was, but she did her best to lift her off the ground, if only for a little while.
Tears were coming out of Marisa's eyes without her being able to control them.
"She is brilliant in every way." Mary said to the scholar.
"How did you come to be here? Didn't you have to give guidance?" Marisa was confused for a moment.
"You know how it is... Once Lyra gets something into her head, nothing and no one can change it, and this little girl here didn't want to go a Mother's Day without you. I can’t imagine where this determination came from." Mary laughed, happy with the scene that was unfolding in front of her.
"Mom... You're suffocating me." Lyra tried to pull herself free from Marisa's arms.
Marisa gave a silent signal to Lyra and continued hugging her, which caused a laugh in both the scholar and Mary.
The family celebrated Mother's Day differently, it was completely improvised to Marisa's dismay, but it couldn't have been more perfect. Lyra made sure they ordered McDonald's, she knew her mother wouldn't let her order that kind of food if she wasn't really happy, so she took advantage of the moment.
Marisa had the best surprise in years, her wife and daughter there the moment she gave her last lecture, at the university, she coveted, with a rose and the assurance that they would spend their last hours in Paris with her.
Mary and Lyra were everything.
The golden monkey looked at the scene of the family eating McDonald's and thought how privileged they were to come out of that other world, where they could have everything and today had been the biggest proof. They could have academic success and a family. They were happy.