“This is your home, Nikki.”
The car halts to a stop and I crane my neck, peering out the window. Across the street, set back behind a rusted, cast-iron fence is an large, brick building. Gold, tarnished letters on the gates of the fence read,
“MRS. DUNCAN’S HOME FOR CHILDREN”
Just seeing this sign truly confirms to me that I’m not going home to my parents. When we got rescued, I was so excited to go home. To finally see my parents again. When they first told me that I would be going to an orphanage, I still had a small flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, my parents would surprise me and come to take me home. But now, I have to confront the harsh reality that I don’t have any parents to go home to.
“Are you alright Nikki?” Alicia, the Coast Guard official asks.
My throat tightens as tears threaten to spill from my eyes.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I say quickly, still not turning away from the window.
“Alright, then let’s go.”
Alicia gets out of the car and I do as well, slamming the door shut behind me. We begin to walk towards the orphanage in silence. As we walk, there is only one person I can’t stop thinking about.
I miss him already. And the thing that hurts the most is that I barely even got to say goodbye to him. His parents came immediately to get him, and before I could even open my mouth to say anything, I was whisked away by Alicia. All that I could do was give him a lame wave goodbye.
The iron gates swing open, making a horrible screeching sound. I don’t know why, but I hate this place already.
I hate the fact that an orphanage is my home.
We walk across the lawn, our feet crunching on the dead leaves. Once we reach the front door, Alicia rings the doorbell. I wait, tapping my foot nervously and trying to calm the pit of dread in my stomach.
Suddenly, the door swings open, revealing a plump, elderly woman with white hair and rosy cheeks. When she sees me, a huge smile breaks out on her face.
“Oh Nikki, it’s you!”
Before I can even say anything, she pulls me into a tight hug. I awkwardly wrap my arms around her as she caresses me.
What the hell is going on right now?
When she finally breaks apart she beams at me with tears in her eyes.
“Welcome back home Nikki,” she says, wiping a tear from her cheek.
How could a place like this even be called a home?
I force a smile onto my face even though all that I want to do is cry.
“Well you’re in good hands now Nikki. Goodbye,” Alicia says, giving me a small smile.
She then turns around and begins walking back towards the car.
“Come in!” the old women, who I am assuming is Mrs. Duncan, exclaims.
She ushers me into a large foyer with a high ceiling, closing the front door behind us. Although faint, I can hear the sound of children’s voices from the floors above.
“Now I know you can’t remember this place, but this is your home Nikki. And we will do everything that we can to make you feel at home again,” Mrs. Duncan says warmly.
I’ve run out of the energy to talk. All that I can do is plaster another phony smile on my face.
“Let me bring you to your bedroom. It’s ready and waiting for you, just how it was before...before you were...”
She pauses for a moment, her voice hitching in her throat.
“Before you were taken by them” she whispers, her expression turning stony.
I stare at her for a few moments, and then her stony expression disappears, replaced by a cheery grin.
“But never mind that, you are safe here. You know that, right?” she asks.
“Yeah” I say blankly.
“Good. Now follow me.”
I follow her up a spiral staircase until we reach the top floor. She begins to lead me down a long, dim hallway with closed doors on both sides. So far, this place is utterly depressing. I swallow hard, trying to push down the lump in the back of my throat that is growing with every step I take.
Finally we reach a door at the end of the hallway and Mrs. Duncan twists the handle, pulling it open.
“It’s all yours” she says, taking a step back.
I slowly walk into the room, looking around. It is small and bare, with only a bed, a desk, a closet and a tiny window. As I walk closer to the bed, I see that there are pictures hung up on the wall. I walk closer towards them to see that they are pictures of me. Me with other kids. Smiling. Laughing. Having fun.
Suddenly, tears begin to silently roll down my cheeks as I reach out towards the photographs, grazing my fingers along them.
“Well I’ll leave you here for now Nikki. Dinner is being served soon, so when you hear the bell, come downstairs to the dining hall” I hear Mrs. Duncan say from the doorway.
“Okay” I croak, my voice trembling.
Only when I hear the door shut behind me do I start to cry. Large, fat teardrops stream down my cheeks as I collapse onto my stiff bed.
Other than the island, this place feels like the farthest thing from home.
I don’t how long I cry, but I do until I finally run out of the energy to keep doing so. After wiping my cheeks dry, I pace the room back and forth, feeling as if I am in a jail cell.
Just then, I hear the muffled noise of a bell ringing from downstairs, instantly followed by the roar of a stampede of children running downstairs for dinner. I don’t go down. I can’t even imagine eating; my stomach is too twisted and tangled in knots.
The sun is almost set, its last rays of light casting through my sad, dank window. I walk towards it, looking out onto the vast front lawn.
I have to get out of this place.
Now is the perfect time; everyone is eating dinner. No one will notice if I run away.
Quickly, I run out of the room and down the hallway, my feet padding quietly on the carpeted floor. I then hurry down the staircase, trying to be as silent as possible. Once I reach the hallway, I pause for a moment, listening to the loud, merry sound of clinking silverware and laughing children coming from a few rooms down.
How could anyone be happy here?
After taking a deep breath and swallowing hard, I turn towards the front door and rush towards it, bolting out of the building. Without looking behind me, I sprint across the front lawn and out onto the street. By now, a full moon has risen in the night sky, casting long, eerie shadows through the trees. I continue to run as fast I can, with absolutely no clue where I am going. I don’t care where I go, as long as it’s not that orphanage.
After a few minutes I am completely winded and stop, leaning up against a flickering street light. The street is empty and it is silent except for the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. Feeling utterly exhausted and miserable, I close my eyes, taking deep breaths in and out.
I am screwed.
I have no money, no food, no phone and no one.
I’m on my own now.
Just when I am about to start crying again, I jump when I hear a low rumbling noise. I flash my eyes open to see a car coming down the street towards me. I take a slow step backwards as I pulls to a stop against the curb, a few feet away from me.
Although it is dark, the moonlight illuminates the car, revealing that it is a sleek, black Escalade.
All of a sudden the passenger door opens as someone gets out.
“H...H...Hello?” I ask shakily, taking another step backwards.
The person doesn’t reply. Instead, they continue to advance towards me.
“Who is it?” I ask, starting to get uneasy.
The person pulls something out of his pocket, but it’s too dark for me to see what it is. Just when I am about to turn and run, the person grabs me. And before I can scream, a wet cloth is pressed to my mouth.
“Welcome back home,” a man’s voice snarls.
And then, there is only blackness.