[When Love Dies] Chapter 1 Part 2

“Not that I’m aware of.” She grimaced. “Youth won’t talk to me, Curiosity just asks me questions, Excitement won’t sit still long enough to have a conversation with, and Dreams can only communicate through metaphors.”

“How did this happen?”

Patience and I were hovering outside the hospital room where Kindness lay, so quiet and still. A bird flew between us — I caught it before it could hit the window and turned it loose in the opposite direction. On the other side of the plate glass window, I thought I saw Kindness’ fingers twitch.

I stared at the young girl on the hospital bed, trying to reconcile the image before me with the Kindness of my memories. Trying — and failing.

The last time I saw Joy’s older sister, Kindness’ black hair had been down to her ankles. She complained so much about tripping over it all the time, but would never let us cut it for her. Now the overhead lights reflected off of her bald head. Patience had spent the past half hour assuring me that Kindness was in the best possible hands, but all I could see were the tubes snaking from her tiny arms and the way the hospital gown hung on her gaunt frame.

“I do not know, My Lord.” Patience sighed. She turned away from the window to watch the traffic below us. “She woke up one day, and she cried, My Lord. Scared the daylights out of Joy and me. When I asked her what was the matter, she said ‘I don’t know, Millie.’ She has never called me by my human name, You know that.”

I did know. I also know that the only time she calls a person by anything other than their real name is when she does not want her power to affect them. Kindness is one of the most giving of the gods – she has never withheld her gift for no reason.

“When did it start?”

“About four hundred years ago. We were in Europe at the time.”

“Why didn’t you call for me?”

“I did,” Patience snapped. I heard her take a deep breath before continuing. “I did, My Lord. Several times. Joy and I both did. You never answered.”

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

“For years I tried to figure out what was happening to her.” Patience turned back to the window. “I even tried all of the so-called remedies the human doctors suggested. Then Joy came down with the same thing and I couldn’t wait any longer. I thought, maybe it was because of all the wars and famines. Despair and Desperation lived just down the road from us, so when the humans discovered the western continent and began moving settlers there, I packed up the house and Your Relic and followed them.” She sank down until she was sitting on her heels. “Joy seemed to recover almost immediately. She started smiling again. She danced with the other children on the ship.” Patience laughed softly. “She would’ve danced down the gangplank if the sailors had let her. Once we were on the new land, Kindness gained strength for a little while.”

“And then she got sick again?”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“War broke out again. England claimed their new colonies weren’t paying enough taxes. The colonists disagreed. So they decided to go their own way. It was messy, of course.”

I made a face. “War has always been a bit of slob and it’s never affected Kindness before.” I frowned and shook my head. “There has to be something else.”

“I don’t know what else it could be, My Lord.” Patience leaned her head back against the window. “The world has been at war, in one form or another, since you left. With so much violence in the world, there just hasn’t been much time for Kindness, I guess.” She hugged herself. “Right now, the only thing I can think to do is to try and keep Joy happy.”

“That’s why you let her decorate the house,” I realized. “An act of kindness.”

Patience nodded.

For the major gods, like myself, gathering strength is like breathing – we do it without thinking. Unless we do something, like create a new galaxy or reshape the universe, our energy level stays about the same. When we do use an immense amount of power, we do like what I did with my garden. For us, it’s no different than when a human sits down and relaxes after a sprint or a hard workout.

Minor gods like Joy and Kindness though, draw their strength from the actions of the humans around them. When people are happy, Joy’s strength grows and she’s able to spread her gift, which creates more happiness, more growth, and so on. Kindness’ gift is a bit more complex. It can be anything from giving up your seat on a bus, to putting a suffering animal out of its misery – or letting a hyperactive child goddess decorate a house in an array of eye smarting colors.

“I spread it out over time.” Patience sounded tired. “I would let her decorate a room, make it seem like it was a one time deal. Waited a couple months, then suddenly ‘changed my mind’ and let her do another. I thought it was working. Then one day, her and Joy were outside playing, and she fell on her leg wrong, or something, I don’t know. But her leg, I heard it snap. She was screaming, Joy was crying, and I— ” She swallowed hard. “I couldn’t fix it.”

“How long has she been like this?”

“Two years.”

“Are any of the other god children ill?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” She grimaced. “Youth won’t talk to me, Curiosity just asks me questions, Excitement won’t sit still long enough to have a conversation with, and Dreams can only communicate through metaphors.”

“Did any of them seem sick?” I pressed. “Or different?”

“No, My Lord.”

“Have you talked to Love?”

“We were on his front step when we felt you arrive.” Patience pulled something out of her pocket and held it out for me to take.

“‘No visitors allowed’?” I looked at Patience. “Where-?”

“Taped to his front door.” Patience stared straight ahead, but I could see her hands ball up into fists. “I walked around the building, pounding on all of the doors and windows of the house every day since they diagnosed Kindness.”

“Is it possible he wasn’t there?”

“I saw him. Through one of the windows. He closed the blinds in my face, My Lord.”

“This doesn’t make any sense.” I pushed myself away from the window to pace. “We don’t get sick and Love doesn’t desert people.”

“But Love does change.”

“Not like this, Patience.” Movement in the room caught my eye. A nurse bustled in, leading a plump older woman I recognized immediately.

The goddess of Comfort flitted around the room, denim skirt swishing as she went plumping pillows and untucking the blankets from around Kindness where they were too tight. Finally settling into the chair next to the bed, she took one of Kindness’ hands, and held it against her chest — the girl’s skin stark white against the dark blue of Comfort’s button down blouse. Bowing her head, power suddenly radiated from around her like someone had just flipped a light switch. As it reached Kindness, I saw her head turn towards Comfort, a smile on her lips. Comfort squeezed her hand, and Kindness sighed.

“She comes here a lot,” Patience remarked quietly. “Never stays long, though. Too many kids to visit.”

“It’d probably be better if she didn’t visit at all,” I said without thinking.

Patience appeared in front of me, face twisted in a snarl. “How can you even say that?” She demanded. “Kindness is suffering just as much as those human children!”

“Giving comfort is a kindness, Patience,” I pointed out. “The more comfort Comfort spreads, the better it is for Kindness.”

Patience snapped her mouth shut and looked away. “I’m-”

“Don’t.” I closed my eyes. “Don’t apologize. Not now.” I tugged Patience to me, wrapping my arms around her shoulders in a loose hug. “This is what we’re going to do. First, we’re gonna figure out a name for me to go by now. Then I am going to go pay Love a visit. There has to be a way to fix this, and we are going to find it, okay?”

“What if we can’t?” Patience’s hands came up to grip the back of my shirt. “We don’t even know how she got sick! How are we supposed to find a way to fix her when we don’t even know what’s wrong with her?”

“The humans are saying they think she has some form of cancer, right?” I felt her nod. “Then we find out what cancer is, how it works, and then start thinking of what might have the same effect on one of us.” I swayed us back and forth, a gentle soothing motion. “We’ll figure it out, Patience.” We rocked in silence for a few moments, and then:  

“‘Tamara’.”

I stopped rocking us. “What?”

“A nurse at the first hospital we went to. She was very…kind.”

“‘Tamara’, huh?” I smiled. “I like it.”

Chapter 1 – Part 1    |    Chapter 2 – Part 1

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