They should never have called her Hope, destined, as she was, to travel through life like a doomed fairy.
Asked years later why they did it her dad explained, ‘We were just so excited about her birth. There she was all shiny and pink and new. It seemed to us like there was just a whole world of possibilities.’
But Hope saw none of this optimism. ‘They came just short of naming me after a Star Wars movie,’ she said.
At school, although bright, she did badly. She was teased by kids because of her name, starting with ‘No Hope’ and moving through ‘Hopeless’ to ‘Abandon Hope’ in merciless and quick succession.
She stole from an early age. It started with the school work that the other kids had done and piled on the teacher’s desk. She would remove a whole bunch of the neatly stacked papers, like a malevolent gust of wind, and dispose of them in the yard somewhere. She was not stealing their knowledge but their time, the fruitless hours they had spent painstakingly completing the assignment and now to no avail.
She found as a rule, she had more of a talent for kicking over sandcastles than for building them.
She later moved on to more ambitious theft. Not valuable things, but things that she wanted, things of weight and substance; books or pot plants, ceramic figures – as if they could somehow lend her the heft and substance that her weightless name denied her.
She drank too: dirty brown liquor that left a woody taste in her mouth. A mouth she used to move through a succession of men who were as useless to her failing morale as her first name was.
‘You know what they are going to put on my gravestone?’ she used to ask to no one as she sat against the bar and ordered another drink.
‘We do not know and we do not care, Hope’ responded the barman, wearily each time.
But Hope would continue unrepentant:
‘Here lies Hope. She had none.
Middle name, Luck.
Then laugh till a coughing fit took over.
She left town one evening without warning, telling nobody of her plans. Some say she took off with a travelling salesman who had been passing through, but there was another rumour that she had moved away to start a new life.
She left all her old clothes in her rented apartment, paid up to the end of the month and in it, they found a number of items that had been reported missing, including a park bench that had disappeared from the main square several years ago, but she never came back for them. At first folks were worried that she had fallen foul of someone. The river was searched, but no body was found. Then the stories started, usually passed on from friends of friends, or by someone who knew someone with a cousin that had heard she was doing well in a town far away.
The story was always the same, so they figured it must be true: that she had fallen on her feet and was doing well, making some money. She had turned her life around and had a new name now: Destiny.