Marie

Ever since birth, Marie was always the smallest and weakest quint. Within a couple of weeks after birth, a non-malignt tumor started to grow on little Marie’s leg. Dr Dafoe feared that if it broke, the baby might bleed to death. A radiologist arrived at the crowded farmhouse and performed an operation to retard the growth.

Marie, the last born, was the slowest to develop but also the most affectionate – the baby of the group. When she was little, Marie manifested fear more frequently than the others, and along with Annette, she showed anger more often than the other three. She had sometimes difficulty keeping up with her sisters. She loved to dance, to clown about, and to entertain the others, perhaps as a way of seeking their attention. Her designated color throughout childhood was yellow.

In 1953, Marie announced her intention of becoming a nun; she was enrolled at the Convent of the Holy Sacrament in Quebec city. When Emilie, whom Marie always had been closest to, died in 1954, she felt the loss of her sister more keenly than any of the others. Marie’s own health started to fail, and she could not return to the convent. She and Annette enrolled together in the Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys to study music and literature. In September 1955, Marie made another attempt to adjust to convent life, but it was short-lived. Late in November she was reported on hosptial in “very precarious condition”.

In April 1956, Marie decided to open a flower shop in Montreal, named the Salon Emilie after her dead sister. It was a financial disaster. Marie gave away as many flowers as she sold and suffered a forty-two-thousand-dollar loss. Depressed by the failure of her first business venture, she suffered a nervous breakdown in the spring of 1957. She was given shock treatments for her condition and radium treatments for the tumour on her leg, which had bothered her all life.

A year later Marie was married secretly to Florian Houle, fourteen years her senior. She did not inform her sisters until the night before the marriage; they stayed away in order to preserve her privacy. Nor did she make any attempt to tell her parents. After the marriage, she settled down and had two children. Her first child, a dughter, was born on Christmas Eve 1960. Marie named her Emilie after her sister. Her second child, Monique was born a few years later.

The marriage between Marie and Florian lasted six years. Marie’s temperament was as changeable as the weather. She flared up easily and was subject to fits of depression interspersed with bouts of gaiety. She had no understanding of money – spent it liberally, often gave it away, and spent large sums lying around the house. Once she lavished gifts upon a neighbor and then, after a quarrel, tried to sue her in court for their return. She was not a good housekeeper; her husband did most of the cooking. Her bitterness towards her non-identical siblings was so strong that she refused emphatically to allow her elder sister Rose to be godmother to one of the Houle children.

After her separation she deteriorated physically and mentally. Deeply depressed, psychologically erratic, she began to drink heavily – so heavily that Annette and her husband, with whom she stayed for a time, were forced to lock the liquor cabinet. Often she talked of suicide.

In February, 1970, after Marie had moved into and apartment of her own in Montreal, Annette became alarmed because her sister’s daily phone calls suddenly ceased. There was no answer at her apartment, and Annette’s husband gained entrance through a window and discovered what had been suspected: Marie had been dead for several days, apparently of a blood clot in the brain.

Of the five intervowen tales, Marie’s story is the most tragic. The feeling of having been raised in a goldfish bowl never left her; she could not rid herself of the obsession that people were staring at her wherever she went.