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All is Forgiven
All is Forgiven
I stood in the hospital room looking down at the beautiful woman on the bed, same blue eyes and dark hair as my own. I could hear every sound in the room, the slow repeated beeping of the machines, the rain hitting the roof of the building, my heart beating uncontrollably in my chest. She tried to tell me something, frustration lighting up her face. She attempted a sentence and I could just make out what she said.
“Alycia, take care of your sister and be strong,” she mumbled.
I understood now, she was saying her goodbyes. This isn’t supposed to happen. Everything was supposed to be okay.
She whispered, “I love you,” barely even audible, and then I heard the long strung out beeping of the machine.
I snapped back into reality, sitting on the big branch of the oak in my backyard. My father’s voice boomed across the yard from the porch.
“Hey girl, make yourself useful and get me a sandwich.”
I reluctantly jumped down from the tree and trudged across the dead grass. I could tell he was drunk even from this distance. I walked up the squeaky steps of our back porch and through the door, not even looking in my father’s direction. I went straight into the kitchen as if I was in a trance and began getting out the foods needed to make a sandwich. Stale bread, one piece of ham and about a spoonful of mayonnaise was all we had left to make a sandwich. Other than that we didn’t have much else to eat in the house. I quickly made the sandwich and took it back outside to him. He snatched the sandwich from my grip and I immediately turned around and went back inside. I walked down the hall to my sister’s door and gently knocked.
“How’s that homework coming, Elaine?” I asked through the closed door. I heard her light footsteps coming to unlock it and let me in. She opened the door and went back to sit on the wooden floors where her papers and pencils were lying.
“Not so great,” she said. “Can you help me? I can’t figure out the answer to this math problem. It’s subtraction. I hate subtraction.”
My little sister was seven years old and in the second grade. She can’t stand math which was one of my favorite subjects, besides English. After my mom died three years ago everything slowly went downhill. My father couldn’t keep a job for more than two months, we were running out of money, and our car broke down multiple times. I quit school to take care of the house and be here for my sister whenever my father was too drunk to take her to school. My father began drinking more than usual and was being ruder than he used to be, and slowly our family fell apart.
“Yeah sweetie,” I replied and began explaining the problem to her.
I love my sister more than anything else. She’s surprisingly mature for her age; I wish she didn’t have to be. Sometimes we go out into the woods and play spies or I read my books to her. I love to read and she loves to listen. Reading was my mother’s favorite thing to do. She read us stories every night and had so many books that are now mine. Her favorite genre was fantasy and she also loved Greek mythology. In fact, she loved Greek mythology so much that she gave my sister and me both Greek middle names, Alycia Calypso and Elaine Phaedra.
“I’m hungry,” Elaine said after she finished her homework. “Do we have anything to eat?”
“I’m sorry but we don’t have much,” I said, “but I am really trying to find a job and I promise we’ll have food tomorrow.”
Elaine sighed quietly. “Okay. That’s fine,” she said, though I could tell it wasn’t.
“If you can just hold out until tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to sell some of my stuff while you’re at school and then go to the store,” I told her.
“Hey!” I heard my father calling from the porch again. “Come here girl!”
“I’ll be back in a minute to tuck you in for bed,” I said to Elaine. I ran out of the room and back out to the porch. “Yes?” I asked him, wishing he would stop being lazy and leave me alone, or get a job, or stop drinking, or actually be nice and love me.
“Make me another sandwich,” the pig demanded.
“We don’t have any food left to eat,” I said trying to stay calm.
“You two have been eating extra meals haven’t you?” He said his voice getting louder. “I don’t know why I even keep you here in my house and –,”
“YOU’RE THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN EATING ALL OF THE FOOD WHILE MY SISTER AND I STARVE! MAYBE IF YOU DIDN’T GAMBLE WITH WHAT MONEY YOU DO MAKE WE WOULD HAVE FOOD.” I vehemently screamed at him. “AND THIS IS NOT ‘YOUR HOUSE.’ THIS IS MY MOTHER’S HOUSE!”
“Do you see your mother here?” He replied snidely. “No. I didn’t think so. Go to your room.”
I stormed back inside down the hall and into my bedroom across from my sisters. I slammed and locked the door behind me and fell onto my bed. I needed to calm down and just relax. I grabbed a book from my nightstand and began reading.
I woke up the next day, sprawled across my bed the book on the floor. How long did I stay up reading last night? I thought sleepily as I crawled out of the bed and began getting dressed. I rummaged through my cardboard jewelry box my sister made me for my birthday last year and pulled out some of my mom’s old jewelry. I had already sold all of mine so I had to start selling hers. I picked out the two necklaces I disliked most and decided to sell those and a couple books to get enough food until I get a job and paycheck.
I put on a t-shirt, jeans, and my old sneakers, unlocked my door and walked into the hallway. I peeped into my sister’s room but she had already been taken to school by my father. As I walked out the front door the items in a sack over my shoulder I pushed my bike out from behind the rosebush in my yard. I placed the sack in the basket up front and headed off towards town.
It was a cloudy early morning, the ground still wet with dew. I let out a yawn and continued pedaling. After an uneventful ride of about thirty minutes I could see the small buildings of Lehighton, Pennsylvania. I left my bike outside of the market; Mrs. Annette might be interested in some of my belongings and she usually tries to help me out. She was my mother’s best friend.
“Hey Alycia, how’s everything going?” Mrs. Annette asked me.
“The usual,” I replied. “I have some books and jewelry to sell you if you want it.” I dumped the contents of the sack onto the table between us.
Mrs. Annette glanced at the objects and then asked, “How much do you want for it all?”
I thought for a moment and then told her, “Ten dollars.”
She put the stuff back into the sack, pushed it aside, and pulled out her wallet. She handed me thirty dollars and my mouth gaped open. My sack of junk I threw together was not worth thirty dollars. I tried to hand the money back to her and to protest but she refused to take it.
“Thanks,” was all I could manage to say as I stared down at the money in my hands. I bought a gallon of milk, one box of cereal, bread, more ham, mayonnaise, a small pizza, and sherbet ice cream! Elaine is going to be ecstatic, I thought. I took my groceries to my bike and put them in my basket. Then I notice a sign on the window of the market.
“Help Wanted.” I walk toward it and read the fine print. It was a job as a maid for the rich ladies that lived on Maple Lane. This would be a great job! I bet they paid pretty well, better than nothing. I ripped the sign down to take home so I could call the phone number on it. I raced home as fast as I could and picked up the landline as soon as I sat the groceries down. I pounded the numbers and listened to the buzzing, waiting for someone to answer.
“Hello?” a ladies cool voice said on the other line.
“Hi, my name is Alycia Calypso Dayton. I am eleven years old and I am calling about a job as a maid,” I told the lady.
“Oh, yes. Each of my neighbors and I, because we are very busy people, need a maid to work Monday through Friday, one day for each person of residence. Can you start tomorrow morning at 8:00?” she asked me in a rush.
I was surprised by how quickly she gave me the job without an interview or anything. “Yes. Yes I’ll be there,” I told her. I hung up the phone, relieved. I actually got the job, I thought as I began putting up the groceries. I swept the kitchen, washed the dishes, and put the pizza in the oven while I waited for my father and Elaine to get home.
They came through the door just as I finished cutting the pizza into eights, two for me, two for my sister, and four for my father. After we ate my sister and I went into her room and I began helping her with her math homework again.
“You never came back,” she said as she finished the first problem.
“What are you talking about?” I asked her.
“Last night, you said you would come back to tuck me in and you didn’t. You forgot about me,” she said to me.
“Oh Elaine, I’m sorry. I had a lot on my mind. You have to understand. Forgive me?” I said trying to stay calm. Sometimes it is so hard not to get angry with her.
“All is forgiven,” she told me with a small giggle and we continued with her homework. She laid down in her bed after we finished and I began to read to her. She fell asleep in no more than five minutes. I walked into the hallway, glancing at my father passed out on the sofa in the living room, and walked into my room. I climbed into my bed reached down for the book on the floor and started reading it once again.
I had been working for about a week and was starting to learn a little bit about the people I cleaned for. Mr. and Mrs. Jones argued all the time and Mrs. Chloe was a widow. Mrs. Janet’s mother was home from the hospital. She mumbled a lot. It was scary. Mrs. Angie only worried about what she was going to bake for church the next Sunday. What a life.
I woke up the one morning still extremely tired. I was about to lay back down again when I remembered my job. What time is it? I thought as I jumped out of the bed and ran into the living room to look at the clock. 7:26. I had about five minutes to get ready if I wanted to make it in time. I ran down the hall about to go into my room when I heard the swing of a door behind me. I turned around and there was my sister standing there in her pajamas.
“What are you doing here?” I asked her.
“Dad never took me to school,” she replied bluntly. “He went out. What’s the problem?”
“You are going to have to stay here by yourself. I have to be at work in thirty minutes,” I told her as I went into my room quickly putting on my clothes.
“No,” she whined, “I don’t want to. It’ll be boring and scary here by myself.”
“Well, I have to leave. I need money so I can buy more food and so we don’t starve again,” I said sternly.
“Why don’t you tell Dad to get another job? Just because Mom is gone doesn’t mean you have to do exactly what she did!” she said yelling at me. “She should have never married Dad. It was the biggest mistake anyone could make. Look what happened. She died and left us here to rot with him. She was so stupid—”
“SHUT UP!” I yelled at her. “Our mother was anything but stupid! So she made some mistakes, but she tried her best! You have no right to talk about her like that. You don’t even remember her, at least not as much as I do. You weren’t there when it all happened. You didn’t have to watch her die! You have no responsibilities and no respect for what I do. All you do is whine like a little baby. If anyone is stupid it’s you!”
Elaine and I stood there staring at each other. She dropped her gaze and I saw the tears streaming down her face before she turned around and ran into her room. She slammed the door in my face and I immediately felt guilty. I had no time to apologize, so I ran out of the house hopped onto my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to Maple Street. Today I was cleaning Mrs. Chloe’s house. I arrived and knocked on her door still feeling tremendously awful about what I said to Elaine.
“Good morning Alycia,” Mrs. Chloe said sorrowfully as she opened the door, still in her night gown. The death of her husband has really hit her hard. She rarely says anything to me. She just lies in her room all day.
“Hello, sorry I’m late,” I said to her as I walked inside wondering about what all Mrs. Chloe has been through with the loss of her husband leaving her completely and utterly alone. It sounds like a terrible way to live; no one to share your feelings with and no one to look forward to. Nobody.
I didn’t have that much to clean because I had scrubbed just about everything down the week before. I finished quickly and asked Mrs. Chloe if I could go ahead and leave.
“Sure. Have a nice afternoon,” she said.
“You too,” I told her.
“I’ll try,” she said in a sodden tone.
I began riding home still thinking about the argument I had with Elaine. It was freezing cold outside and the street was iced over; my bike slipped about as I rode. I needed to apologize to her. I felt really bad about what I had said to her. It was really mean. Even though she did insult mom, I shouldn’t have said those things. She is all I have. I didn’t want or need her to be angry with me. It had been a tough time the past few years and we needed to stick together.
Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll apologize and she’ll forgive me. After all, we are best friends, I thought as I steered into the driveway. I parked my bike behind the now dead rose bush and slowly across my yard to the front door. I walked into the kitchen and called Elaine’s name but received no response.
“I know you are mad but I didn’t mean what I said. I’m really sorry. Can we talk about it?” I said.
“Seriously Elaine, please come and talk to me,” I pleaded. I began walking through the house but saw her nowhere. I walked through the living room towards the hallway.
I bet she is in her room, giving me the silent treatment, I thought as I walked down the hall to her room. I open the door, prepared to give Elaine a thorough apology, and let out an earsplitting scream.
Pointless words fleeted through my mind. This can’t be happening. No, no, no. My heart stopped and I felt as if my entire body was made of jelly. I ran to the rope, untied it from my little sister’s fragile neck, and laid her down on the floor. I checked for her pulse, tears streaming down my cheeks.
With another shaky sob I checked again and again, hoping something would stir inside her, and that she would wake up and smile at me and everything would be okay.
I stood up, took two steps toward the bedroom door, and then collapsed again, an emotional wreck. Who wouldn’t be? I had just lost the last person I cared for.
I heard the creaking of the front door and footsteps echoing down the hall. My father appeared in the doorway his mouth open, prepared to demand for something. His eyes flickered from my reddened face to Elaine’s limp body. His facial expression changed from irritated to shocked, and then heartbroken. He kneeled down beside my sister’s body and the glanced up at the rope and down at the chair on the floor. He looked at me his face colorless and hands shaking. Then he began to cry. It was the first time I had ever witnessed my father crying. He gathered my sister into his arms and cried for the longest time. And then I was crying with him. He looked at me his eyes red and watery. For while we just stared at each other and then he spoke in a whisper.
“I am so sorry,” he choked out. He looked back down at my sister letting out another sob. He crawled over to me and put his arms around me. “I was a terrible, terrible person. I shouldn’t have acted how I did and I know I can’t change the past,” he paused taking a breath, “but I want you to know that I love you and if you let me, I’ll be better. I promise.”
I sat on the floor motionless. I was struck by everything that had just happened. My sister dead. My father crying. His apology. His hug. His words.
I thought I knew my father, but I didn’t. He had a heart and my sister was there to help show it.