Friday, November 27, 2015

Without Hope

Oct. 7, 2015

The bed was soft, heaped with pillows and puffy comforters of various sizes and colors. It looked like a patchwork cloud - silly and yet so inviting. Hope shook his head and smiled.

"You didn't have to do this," he said, and then smothered a cough.

"I wanted you to be comfortable, and that is hard to find these days," said Death, who toddled into the room, her silver hair done up in a prim braid and she carried a black iron teapot in her hands, using a towel to keep from burning her palms. She poured the steaming liquid into a porcelain cup that rested next to the bed.

Hope sighed, knowing it was useless to argue. He took his shoes off - ragged things with holes in the bottom - and placed them neatly by the night table. Death helped him remove his jacket, which was hardly more than ragged tatters, and she tsked over its condition.

Hope settled onto the edge of the bed, sinking into the blankets and pillows and he felt tears spring to his eyes. It was far more comfortable than it looked.

Death had shuffled into the kitchen and he could hear her clinking and shuffling things around. She returned bearing her own cup of tea in one hand, and a plate of small cakes in the other.

"Take your pick, dear," she said.

Hope chose the middle cake, it was round and drenched in honey and he could smell coffee and spices, and see the raisins and nuts that speckled it. Death picked the smallest cake and bit into it, making a noise that indicated she was satisfied with her work, but not overly impressed.

Hope ate in silence, tears spilling over his cheeks as he chewed and swallowed. When he finished, he sucked his fingers clean, and went searching for stray crumbs on his shabby pants. Death leaned over and picked up his teacup and pressed it into his hands. He could hardly feel its warmth, despite the steam curling from the surface.

He sipped it and tasted orange peel and cloves. Flavors that he hadn't tasted in eons.

"I miss them all so much," he said and his shoulders shook. Death reached out a wrinkled hand, and ran it through his hair that had long ago turned the color of dust and cobwebs.

"I know, dear, I know. I miss them too," she said. She took the empty cup and placed it on the nightstand. With touches as gentle as a breeze, she nudged him into bed, and wrapped him in blankets. She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.

"Goodbye, love. you always were my favorite," she said.

Hope faded into nothing. Death shook her head, wiped her eyes on the hem of her apron and then went back into the kitchen to clean up.

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