by Charlotte Dovey

John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As a young woman, Dora was very pretty.  It also happened that she was endowed with a sweet disposition.  She was captivating to many people, but at twenty years old she married the boy who lived next door, another mild-mannered person, named Mathias.  Within the space of their youth, they parented what seemed innumerable children. 

The first of these children they named Aloysius.  He was a difficult little boy who bullied the children who came after.  The second child was a little girl, whom they named Constance, due to her unwaveringly sweet and mild nature.  Chauncy was next, followed by Carl and Kevin.  There probably were others as well, but rather like the old story of the old lady in the shoe, the couple seemed to lose track of them all, except the most notable of these children, the youngest, Hope.  She was a comfort to all, and even Aloysius was loath to harm her but rather took on a protective attitude that he did not otherwise exhibit.

Mathias worked as the floor manager of a warehouse that distributed beverages and snacks, including alcohol, soda, chips, and candy.  He was a genial father who preferred to leave the child-rearing to his wife. Whilst Dora was sweet she was perhaps too permissive and the household soon became chaotic.  Mathias, then, made a habit of stopping at a quiet, if somewhat dog-eared and dingy local bar with his friends on the way home.  Often, he drank far too much and arrived home in a sorry state.  He did, however, always manage to bring home lovely treats for his wife and children.  Since Dora had very little in the way of self-discipline, she quickly gained quite a lot of weight and began to suffer health problems.  Constance, as the eldest girl and first-born who was willing to be helpful, soon took on many of Dora’s household responsibilities.  And Hope was always there to give Constance untold comfort. 

One thing that Constance could not do, however, was leave the house.  She had what seemed similar to incurable agoraphobia, except that it was not fear that kept her in.  She simply refused to leave and could not be budged.  This created a problem for running household errands.  Carl was too lazy, Chauncy spent his free time playing craps, billiards, and other games with his friends, Kevin did not want to be seen doing work that was beneath his dignity (women’s work), and Aloysius could not be told what to do about anything.  In the end, Hope fetched and carried, did the shopping. 

Both parents became increasingly ill.  By the time that they were both dying, the boys had grown and left home.  Constance cared for them uncomplainingly, and Hope kept the household operating. 

When Aloysius’s wife divorced him, after only a few (but what she thought were long) years of marriage, he returned home, depressed and dejected, even homeless now.  Hope welcomed him in.  Within a short time, he began to fly into violent rages once more, frightening everyone.  Then Chauncy returned, in debt and afraid for his safety in light of pursuing creditors.  He promised Hope that he would quit gambling altogether if she would just convince the family to come to his aid.  She did.  Like his elder brother, he returned to his own particular vices as soon as he felt safe again. 

Then it was Hope herself who fell ill.  In fact, Hope was dying.  She was soon hospitalized and the family left to fend for themselves.  They visited her often, except for her beloved sister, Constance.  Hope kept sending messages to her, encouraging her to overcome her reluctance, please to come to her.

Hope waited for her beloved Constance to come, every day, despite her discomfort and pain and seemingly endless hours that dragged on.  She watched the sky out of the hospital window, the days distinguished merely by the brightening and darkening sky, the variable periods of rain, cloud, and sun, then varying phases of the moon.  Always she waited uncomplainingly. 

But Constance still would not leave the house.

After all the waiting, it was Death who finally came to Hope, a genuine constant.

When the news reaches her family, they were disconsolate, except Constance, who maintained her placid equanimity throughout.

© Copyright 2019, Metamorphorica

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