THIS PARTICULAR SHORT STORY CONTAINS CONTENT THAT SOME MIGHT FIND TROUBLESOME
Chapter 10: Colder Than Bruises
They led us down a large room with a table stretched though out it and little wooden stools around it, then through another door into a room that only had a staircase in the middle and some cabinets behind it. Ms. Wilco lead me and Eli up the stairs while Ms. Hunter said that she would “Check us in.” I did not know what that meant, they already brought us inside, what else do they need to check? Eli held my hand throughout and Ms. Wilco would occasionally look back at us and pass a smile that only made me feel worse. Did she not know what happened to Mother and Father? Did she not worry about her own daughter? Did she even care? Or was she like Mother, and wicked.
Upstairs were several doors, one of which was huge and that is where she led us, inside which were beds. Bunk style beds, left and right, so many of them, I couldn’t count. There were kids there as well, too many to count, up and down, boys and girls, older and younger than me, but none of them moved or spoke as Ms. Wilco walked us through them to the last bed, near a large and only window in the room and tossed my bag on top of it. I assumed that this was now my room. With no toys, no closet, no carpet, no curtains, no mirror, just one window and a bed. I had been with Eli for so long and I had never had to share a room with anyone before.
I stood at the base of the bunk bed and watched as she led Eli across the room to another bed and tossed her bag on the bottom bed. Ms. Wilco then looked around the room for a moment, smiled that wicked smile again, and then quietly walked out the room, slamming the huge and heavy door behind her. The room remained quiet more a few minutes after she left, and then kids started talking and running. Eli and I ran towards one another and hugged tightly. She was shivering and about to cry, which was going to make me cry. I did not want to cry in front of so many new people. I was scared and ashamed.
“Elena?”, a voice came from somewhere in the room.
I looked around and saw a little boy running through the crowd of uninterested kids, towards us.
“How are you here?”. It was Andy, Margret’s younger brother. He looked the same as before, small, weak, skinny, and tired.
Andy told us that he was surprised to see us here, asking again as to how we got here.
“Father and Mother are in jail,” I finally told him. “So, they sent us here, where they said they found us.”
Eli looked up at me and said “Mother isn’t in jail. They only said Father.”
I looked back at her, trying not to speak louder than I should. “They talked to Mother and put Father in jail, so when they talk to Father they will put Mother in jail also. I’m sure.”
Andy told us the rules of the place: sleep by 9 pm, no loud noises, no mess, get up by 8 am, no breakfast, no toys, lunch by 1 pm, no naps, visiting happens in the evening, dinner by 6 pm and the bathrooms were the doors next to the stairs upstairs. The rules were simple and had to be followed. He told us that not following the rules would take them to a dark bathroom, which only had one small lantern on the ceiling that attracts insects from a tiny window to come in and bite at night. If kids still didn’t listen then they would be taken to a room downstairs and beaten with a metal stick. I asked him if that was the reason he didn’t come visit us last few times, to which he nodded.
“Aren’t you worried for you sister?” Eli asked her.
“Sister?” Andy asked. “I don’t think you understand.”
“Your sister,” I tried to clarify for him. “Margret. Did your mother or anyone not ask about her”
“You don’t understand. I don’t have a sister,” he replied and his head dropped down.
Eli and I stared at him. He always had a sister. They used to come with Chelsea, Ms. Wilco, and Ms. Hunter all the time and we used to play and he used to call her ‘sister’ and Margret would call him ‘little brother’.
He lifted his head up and spoke again, “I do care about Margret though, which is why I do not want to know what happened to her.”
Andy was making less sense the more he spoke, but I was too confused to tell him to stop talking. I was scared to know, but I had to, so I asked.
“What is Margret to you then?”
His cold word pierced my skin sharper than Mother’s beatings. How could she be nothing to him? She always spoke so much of him, like I spoke of Eli, of how she cared about him.
“Nothing?” Eli repeated.
“Well… She is a great friend.” Andy added and my confusion grew.
“Listen,” he went on, coming closer, as the noise of kids running around us grew. “Margret and I both grew up here together, even Chelsea. We aren’t their kids, and we aren’t siblings.”
I was stuck standing, and couldn’t move my lips or eyes for a few moments. Why is everything that I know, wrong?
“How can you say that?!” I yelled at him and pushed him to the ground, like I did with his sister. “She and you always called each other brother and sister! How can you say that?!”
I was not sure whether I actually wanted an answer or if I was just that angry.
“That’s why I was punished,” Andy spoke again, his head was down again, and he did not try to get up. “They have files downstairs by the staircase, it has this stuff. They check-in all the kids they get here. Margret and I planned to check where we came from. So, when she went to your home, I went downstairs to see where we came from. Apparently, we they aren’t our parents, and we aren’t siblings and we aren’t even from this city. It said my parents died in a fire and hers in a car accident, when we were only a year or so old. So, the police gave us to this orphanage. The night caretaker, Mr. Floyd found me reading this and took to beat me for the next week and didn’t allow me to leave ever again. That’s why I never saw you guys again.”
“Did you tell Margret?”
“Yes, she was heartbroken. She wanted to run away.”
Before I could respond, a bell was rung over the room and everyone stood still, Andy remained on the floor and Eli and I remained holding hands.
A few seconds later the huge door swung open and Ms. Hunter walked in and pointed at a little girl in front of me, who stood there sweating until Ms. Hunter yelled at her “Do you want me to call in Floyd?”
The little girl, probably Eli’s age, ran towards a bed, pulled out a little bag from underneath it and then followed Ms. Hunter down the stairs.
As soon as the doors closed, everyone ran towards the big window, from which we could see the front door and the road.
“What’s happening?” I asked Andy as we followed him to the window.
“Adoption,” he replied. “Someone is here to take the girl home with them.”
We all climbed up on my bed and looked down at the car parked outside and Ms. Wilco putting the small bag inside it.
“Is that good?” Eli asked Andy before I could.
Andy remained quiet for a while, staying focused in looking outside as Ms. Hunter walked outside with the little girl, and then spoke.
“We all agreed that when we go to a good home, we would tell our new parents to let us visit here once.”
“No one ever came back.”
Ms. Hunter and Ms. Wilco stood on the pavement as the little girl was greeted by a woman exiting the car door, with her back towards us. She kissed the little girl, held her hand and nudged her into the back seat, opening the door for her. The woman turned towards Ms. Wilco and Hunter and my heart punched my chest so hard that I almost fell off the bed.
Mother opened her side of the car door, waving good-bye to her friends, then sat back inside, slammed her door shut, started the engine, and drove off with the little girl looking back at us though the back window, till we couldn’t see each other anymore.
I lay flat on the bed and Eli and Andy immediately noticed.
“No one ever comes back,” Andy repeated.
I stared at the window, not looking through it, but at it, at all its cracks and thickness and thinness in design and how fragile a huge piece of glass may be.
“I did,” I corrected Andy, sitting back up and cuddling my knees to my chest.
“And I do not want to stay here again.”
(Picture Credit To Respectful Owners)