By his heart, Donald had always been a creature of habits. With his luck (or lack of it) and temper, his life had always been more or less barely controlled chaos, leading the duck search control from little things. He had brewed his morning coffee the same way ever since he had started drinking it (in the same old copper kettle his mother had once used, six spoons of grounds and two cups of water, no sugar or cream) there were not many changes in the desserts he would enjoy after lunch (fruit or berries on weekdays and Saturday, ice cream on Sunday) and he did the laundry always in the same order (whites, cold colours then warm colours and blacks).
After becoming the proud (yet unplanned) single parent for his three nephews, Donald had dig even deeper in his habits. Getting up and going to bed become something ordered solely by a clock, as well as majority of the rest of his day. The evening dinners followed similar pattern, the similar dishes arriving on the table in same days, so he could be sure that his boys could get all the nutrients growing kids would need. He had even started to dress each on them in one colour only, something he had realised only after a mother of the boys’ classmate had pointed it out.
The boys didn’t seem to mind though. They enjoyed their Fish Friday, Chicken Wednesday and Ice Cream Sunday. The colour coding made it easier for them to keep track of their own stuff and while growing older, they learned how to trick their uncle to think they were a sleep even and the best ways to read under the blanket without him noticing a thing. Or at least that was what Donald let them to believe.
The habits made their lives stable. They were a good thing. Safe thing.
You can’t get hurt if you don’t try anything new.
Too bad Scrooge didn’t agree with Donald’s believes.
Moving in with his uncle had pretty much wrecked all Donald’s habits. Once, a long time ago, living in the manor had caused him to develop different habits than the ones he now had, but those were long forgotten or impossible to fit in the life style he needed to follow when raising his sister’s sons.
At least Mrs Beakley still remembered how he liked his morning coffee. Even if it was brewed in one of those modern coffee makers that didn’t give the drink that same special after-taste as his loyal copper kettle.
And then there were those adventures… Those cursed adventures…
But Donald knew better than break his promise to his boys. Besides, they seemed much happier in nowadays, more alive. So as long as no one go too badly hurt, Donald could stand little discomfort and extra chaos, so they could enjoy their life at its fullest.
There was one habit Donald couldn’t give up though.
Something he did every Friday on his way back from work, without hitch.
“Ah, good afternoon, Mr Duck” the lady behind the desk greeted him with wide smile. She was one of the newer employees, on her second year if Donald remembered correctly, but she had been fairly familiar sight in last few months. Probably because of that ring that had appeared on her finger around the same time.
“Afternoon, Miss Zwaan” Donald greeted, taking a hold on the clipboard the taller bird was offering him. “How’s the fiancé? Got that job he was trying in?”
“Oh, yes. He will start working on Duckburg’s Water Treatment Plant on next Monday. You can’t even imagine how exited he is about it.” her chuckle was full of loving fondness and Donald couldn’t but feel a bit jealous towards the guy who had managed to find himself suck a loving partner. “He has spent last couple days going through his old school notes to refresh his memory on all those ways how water samples can be analyzed. I swear, I have learned more about chemistry in past week than ever in school.”
“I know the feeling,” Donald smiled as he gave the signed paper back, thinking all those evenings he had spent listening one of his boys (usually Huey) explaining him about their newest interest or finding. The happiness of the memory didn’t last that long and the duck’s returned to something more serious.
“Has there been anything new?”
Miss Zwaan shook her head, hint of bitty behind her sympathetic eyes. “Everything is just like last time you visited, Mr Duck”
Donald sighed, and turned to look towards the hallway left from the desk. He had already known this was the answer he would get, but Donald was creature of habits… Every time he came here, he would ask the same question and get the same answer. It was how it had been for past ten years.
“I won’t bother you with my stories any longer, Mr Duck” the swan said as she sat back behind her computer. “But be free to stop by when you are finished. Margaret went to lunch break and she promised to bring me something good on her way back”
“Of course” Donald gave the woman weak smile before turning to face the hallway fully and started to walk. The doors he passed were all identical looking, painted dark blue against the otherwise white walls and identified with simple number plates next to them. He was the only living soul on sight, but he was still able to hear soft murmurs behind the closed doors he passed and sounds of something moving on distance. A completely normal sounds in place like this.
Finally, Donald stopped in front of the door that was just as plain and blue as any other door before it, holding a plate with familiar number of 313 next to it.
Donald closed his eyes and took a deep breath, just like every time he stood in that exact same spot, calming his nerves even a little before reaching to knock the door.
“It’s me, Donald.” He called even though he knew there would be no answer “Is it okay if I come in?”
He was only greeted by silence, just like expected.
“The silence means yes” he muttered to himself as he pressed the handle down and stepped in the room behind it.
The room was small, bigger than any room in his houseboat, but for a room in building as big as this one, it was small. There weren’t that many furniture, just couple armchairs on the corner and next to the window where you could see the ocean and harbour that had once housed his little houseboat. Someone had left it open, letting warm summer breeze inside and moving the pale blue curtains on its way. There was also small nightstand holding a small radio on it, standing right next to the most controlling piece of furniture in the room. A simple hospital bed.
A bed where a sleeping duck had been resting these past ten years.
“Hi, Dells” Donald greeted his sister as he moved to sit next to the bed. A heart monitor on the other side of the bed didn’t change its pace even slightest, leaving Donald to wonder if his sister had even heard his words. She looked just as same as last time he had seen her. Calm and almost angelic. Like real life Sleeping Beauty. She hadn’t even aged that much in past ten years. Or at least, she lacked all those wrinkles Donald had managed to collect during the past decade. But then again; she wasn’t living with her sons.
“How your week has gone? Been doing your exercises?”
Sound of breathing and peeping of the monitor were his only answer
“Good, good…” he cleared his throat awkwardly. He had never been good with these one-sided conservations, but he liked to think he was getting better.
“Boys are doing fine. Still hanging out with Uncle Scrooge and Mrs B’s granddaughter, Webby. I know I’ve told you about her before but wanted to clarify, in case you didn’t listen back then…”
“Oh, I almost forgot” Donald grinned and hit his fist against his palm. “We visited Itaquack last weekend. It wasn’t the plan of course… We were trying to get Turkey, I think, but there was a storm and Launchpad crashed the plane. Again…”
“No-one got hurt” Donald hurried to add. “Boys are perfectly fine and unharmed. Even if Zeus tried to ki- ...ehehee…” he laughed nervously, imagining how pissed Della must be right now inside that head of hers.
“Fine… I can’t keep secrets from you. You’ve always been too clever for me, haven’t you?”
“Turned out Zeus was still a bit sore to Uncle Scrooge about those games he lost. Wanted a rematch or something. So it was me Huey, Louie against Storkules. Dewey and Webby had run away somewhere… Probably trying to find ancient relics or something. You know, usual Dewey stuff.”
“Anyway… The final test was to steal golden belt from little girl who was actually siren. She made Storkules attack us, but luckily Louie managed to talk her out of it. That boy is quite good with his words. Just like you.”
Still no reaction. And after all these years, Donald was used to it.
“Since I’m pretty sure I know what you would ask if you could… No, I didn’t see Selene. I think she might come visit you soon, though. Storkules knows you aren’t around anymore and you know how the big guy likes to talk…”
Della breathed in and out, the wind making her short hair dance around her pale face.
“Della, please. Don’t go there again” Donald said weakly, lowering his gaze on his hands where his nervous fingers kept playing with each other. “You know why I can’t bring them to see you.”
The monitor peeped. Someone walked past the closed door.
“Because I don’t want them to spend their whole childhood waiting you to wake up. Can’t you wait till they are a little older? I mean, it’s not like you can even talk to them or anything”
Donald winced and the wind lifted the curtains behind him.
“Sorry… Didn’t mean to go there.” Donald sighed sadly, moving his eyes to stare into nothingness. “I’ll tell them soon. I just… Want them to be innocent just a little longer, you know. Let them enjoy their fun.”
She exhaled, stopping for the length of a heartbeat before inhaling again.
“Don’t be silly, Dumbella. You would have been suck a cool mom for them. I’m sure they will love you.” he assured with small smile as his hands moved to take his sister’s hand on his own. “They already do”
Part of him wanted to believe he saw a ghost of smile visit on Della’s beak when he said those words. The bigger part knew he was just imagining it.
Donald stayed there a bit longer. Talking about nothing and everything, and even brushed Della’s hair with the brush he had left in the nightstand’s drawer several years earlier. And as always in company of his sister, time flew faster than Donald would have liked.
“I should go now.” Donald told her after turning off the alarm he had put on his phone. “Huey’s Junior Woodchuck meeting starts soon. And believe me, I’m not letting Launchpad to drive him there. Seriously, if I didn’t know better, I would swear it was you who taught him” he chuckled a little to his own joke before pushing himself up from the chair.
“I’ll see you again in next week.” Donald promised as he squeezed her hand one more time before placing it gently back on the bed. “I’ll take care of boys, so don’t worry. Just focus getting better, okay?”
As if she could ever get any better…
Donald walked at the door and opened it, only to stop to turn and look his sleeping twin one more time. Her peaceful face and fading scars half hidden under her feathers that had lost their healthy glow years ago.
“Love you, Dells. Sleep well”
He left the hospital in hurry, only giving brief, but polite goodbye to Miss Zwaan. The way he opened his door was probably too rough, the hinges letting out a loud complain, but he was hardly in right state of mind to care about little things like that.
He listened rock all the way back to McDuck Manor as loud as his ears could stand without damaging his hearing.
Whoever had claimed the silence to be beautiful, was a complete madman.