The anonymous donations kept coming, always enough to meet the rent and the basic needs.
But where was Sylvia?
After she collected the original amount, she quit university and hired herself out as a model and a call girl. It was the only way she could see to raise money in sufficient amounts, consistently and quickly enough to meet her sister’s obligations. Her sociable ways, confidence, physical beauty and intelligence soon made her the number one choice companion in the “underworld.”
She changed her identity and had a false address. She took the name Folie Delacroix. She had one rule only: no entertaining in her place. She rented a run-down basement suite in the old part of town, among the poorer segments of society. Some she even directed to her sister’s hospice. Every dollar she made not needed for immediate personal necessities she put in her sister’s “Hope Fund” as they now called it.
Every Christmas, as they had promised each other, Sylvia came to visit her sister. When pressed about her doings in the world, she remained evasive, explaining that getting her degree had been put on hold due to more immediate commitments. She spoke of trips to Europe as assistant secretary to the CEO of some software company. She made up stories of exciting times on the Riviera and other places. She was determined to keep her deepest and, to her, most shameful secret.
At the end of their yearly visit, they would hold each other and say nothing. Moments that brought back so many happy times for Sylvia and gave so much hope to Ariana.
The anonymous donor was faithful. The money was always there, sometimes more than expected. Then on the tenth anniversary of their vow, as they met for another Christmas, Ariana noticed her sister looked pale and thin. The luster in her eyes was dulled.
“Syl, what’s wrong?”
“Don’t do that,” admonished her sister, “I’m a trained practical nurse and I handle sick people everyday. I can read the signs. What’s with you?”
Sylvia began to cry… “I’m sick, Ari. I’m… I’m dying. I’m being punished.”
“What are you saying? What have you done?”
Sylvia sat crying for a long time without saying a word. Ariana waited, holding her, sensing her fear and confusion. Finally, Sylvia unburdened herself and told the story of the last ten years.
Ariana was shocked. She kept staring at her sick sister and finally exploded:
“You foolish, foolish woman. What have you done? Why? You gave away everything you had, everything you were, including your reputation, to give me this hospice? You sacrificed all that meant anything to you so I could have what I wanted? You gave away your life for me. Syl… I never knew until now what love is. You… you did this — for me, so I could fulfill my dream…
She stopped. Sylvia continued to sob, their tears mixing as they held and kissed each other.
Ariana held her sister’s hand in a tight clasp, looking deep into the sad blue eyes. She said: “Listen to me very, very carefully, Syl. Few people could do what you have done. Let me never hear you speak of punishment. What awaits you, sister, is not terror but joy. You have demonstrated once again that love given freely, unconditionally, to another –which is the same as saying “to God” is the greatest gift of all – it’s the gift of the Magi.”
“Say no more. You will remain here. I will look after you from now on. No more work,” and in a gentle whisper, “Please say you will stay?” “Please!” “For me?”
Sylvia protests: “But how will you meet your expenses if the money stops?”
“Remember what you said to me once? ‘Has God ever failed either of us sister?’ The money won’t stop. For some time now, the overall donations have exceeded those of the one we called “God’s Agent”. The Church has, shall we say, adopted this hospice and it will be regularly funded. You have done your part, now let me do mine and let us do ours.”
Too weak to protest and fully aware that life as “Folie” was over, Sylvia stayed at the Sisters’ hospice. Despite her sister’s dearest hope and prayers her health did not improve. But while she could still work, she helped with the chores and her singing voice often echoed in the rooms where she worked.