The following is a short story I wrote to compliment a character from It Starts at Home; Rhonda Sangle, which is Johanna Pascual’s opponent for the Social Justice Representative position at school. This piece was an exercise to help me understand the bubbly and warm hearted Rhonda. Enjoy!
Rhonda spent 8 wholesome years being the baby of the family. Her parents, with what little they had, were able to afford spoiling their only child to absolute contentedness. All it costs to give love to your children is immense patience and a heart as open as the Gates of Heaven.
Where Rhonda had a Christmas list left unfulfilled, she was well compensated with nightly quality time with her parents watching TV, playing board games, and sharing their tiny little living room to read their own books in each other’s company.
And then Cedric was born.
“You’re going to have a baby brother,” Mrs. Sangle said to a young Rhonda. “Remember how you’ve always wanted a little brother or sister to play with?”
Of course, Mrs. Sangle wasn’t wrong. Rhonda did say that when she was still in kindegarten, but she got used to getting all the attention and thus felt anxious about the birth of a new baby.
For those 9 months Cedric formed in his mother’s belly, Rhonda spent every waking moment by her mother’s side in order to get all the attention she possibly could before she was, “left to the wolves and ignored forever,” as she put it one night she cried to her father.
“We’re going to love you equally,” Mr. Sangle said. “You don’t have to worry about being forgotten.”
“But what if the baby cries like nonstop and you never have a moment with me? Babies are tough work, you guys!”
“Yes they are,” her father laughed. “But there’s two of us and if one of us is with your brother, the other one can always tend to you, you know that, right?”
When Cedric was born, though, he did not cry at all. And if he did, it was a slight purr, and Rhonda relished in this fact thinking, oh so this baby won’t be as needy as I thought. Maybe my parents can and will love us equally?
Unfortunately, Mr. And Mrs. Sangle knew what this meant. That Cedric was going to be the one of the most needy children, nay, a child with extra needs, when he got older. It was soon discovered that he was diagnosed with down syndrome at birth.
On Cedric’s first day of kindergarten, as his parents were heading back to their car, he let out a high pitch wail. For several minutes, he was inconsolable and hysterically crying out something they couldn’t make out. The teacher and his parents listened carefully, and it turned out he was crying out, “Wanda! Wanda!”
Not caring about being late for work, Mr. And Mrs. Sangle insisted on pulling Rhonda out of her Grade 6 classroom. When they came to her class, she wondered what could possibly be the problem that they disturbed her class as she was getting her seat for the year assigned to her.
“Your brother needs you,” her father said.
She sighed, asked if she could be excused, and when the teacher agreed, she headed out of the portable and immediately heard Cedric’s cries from the distance.
Rhonda paced faster than her parents and headed to the kindergarten playground to see Cedric on his knees crying. She snuck up behind him, covered his eyes while simutaneously wiping his tears with her pinkie fingers.
“Guess who?” She said.
The crying eased down to light sniffles. Cedric only had to pull the hands away from his face to look at those familiar palm patterns and bony fingers that belonged to his big sister Rhonda.
“Wanda!” Cedric screamed, his wail now one of happiness instead of distress.
“Yep, I’m here buddy,” she said, kneeling down to his eye level. “You okay?”
“I need you to be a good boy, okay?” Rhonda rubbed his shoulders. “I know it’s scary to be around kids you don’t know, but trust me, you’ll like them if you just let yourself. When we get home, you can tell me all about the fun stuff you did today and all the friends you made.”
“But I don’t want to be here.”
“I know, I know. But you have to, Mom and Dad need to go to work. This is the only place you can be safe. You can think of your teacher as a second mommy.”
“Second Mommy?” Cedric parroted.
“Okay!” Cedric ran to his teacher and said, “Do you have any Lego’s, Second Mommy?”
“But don’t actually call her—” Rhonda smirked. “Okay, whatever. Have fun, pal!”
Her parents thanked her for having the magic touch with Cedric. The touch they just didn’t have, despite of having had all the patience and opened heartedness they had for Rhonda’s early childhood. Rhonda told them not to mention it and that they could always count on her to keep Cedric happy.
That only invited an over dependance on her parents part. For the next couple years, her parents had given up. They still paid attention to Cedric and engaged him from time to time, even took him to his appointments and such.
But it was Rhonda who had the main responsibility of taking care of her little brother. She knew his routines, his favourite toys and foods, and even understood his language better than her parents ever could, no matter how much she tried to educate them on it. They just couldn’t grasp it. Nor did they want to if they knew they could count on Rhonda to take care of him more than they desired.
For the next couple of years, Rhonda and Cedric were inseperable. She needed to be by his side in attempt to keep her parents stress free, taking on all the stress for herself.
What started out as trial and error in figuring out which out of several foods Cedric did not like, became a whole other monster entirely. When it was time to feed Cedric, he would refuse most foods and Rhonda—after having eaten her own meals before playing with him and feeding him on his sporadic feeding schedule—would eat whatever he couldn’t.
Her parents would argue that she had to force him to enjoy and try out several different foods, but Rhonda fought for Cedric’s right to stick to a hot dog, rice, and ketchip diet, with a few touches of different breads for every other meal before supper.
Rhonda had always had immense patience for Cedric and never took out her frustration on him. Because although he was a lot of fun to be with, other times were stressful and she knew it, but she buried the feeling and remained committed to her parents plea to help them out with Cedric.
It’s not really helping when you’re simply doing all the work, Rhonda reasoned with herself as she chomped down on cake after cake, and guzzled one soda from the next. The sleep depravation, and the daily energy lack, had left Rhonda being tremendously hungry. And it was when she was the most full of her favourite foods did she have the patience to broaden Cedric’s pallette, much to her parents’ preference, but also much to her detrement.