3,000 Years Ago

Chapter 21

“Oh, the blessed goddess of marriage and family, what happened to you two?” asked the priestess when she saw two teens coming back with an empty basket. The girls have already hanged out the washing.

“It’s the new one, Gina! She beat us up and told to wash the linen you gave to Ruby,” Penelope lied.

“What? They came back not long ago and I clearly saw blisters on Gina’s hands. She couldn’t have had them if she hadn’t done any washing,” said Flavia intently looking at two older girls.

“She climbed up and down the tree that’s why she has those blisters,” the taller girl answered stealthily winking at her friend.

“Hey, Leticia, please, find the new girl. She should be with Ruby and smaller children in the yard,” the priestess called to the 7 year old girl running nearby with the little boy.

When Gina came, priestess Flavia attacked her with questions.

“Gina, tell me, please, what happened to these girls?”

“I taught them a lesson that it’s not good to bully weak children who can’t answer them,” Gina looked at the priestess with a challenge not even paying attention to the teens.

“Can you explain me, what do you mean by bullying younger children?”

“Sure, every time Ruby has the washing to do, these two,” Gina nodded at the girls, “put their dirty linen in Ruby’s basket and threaten her that if she tells anyone they’ll beat her at night.”

“Penelope, Agaphena is that true?” Flavia raised one eyebrow not satisfied with their behavior.

“That’s a lie,” started Penelope but Gina cut her off.

“Yeah? Let’s ask Ruby. What too scared of one little girl?” Gina glared at the two with disgust in all her slim form.

It took Gina by surprise when Ruby confirmed Penelope’s words.

“Ruby, why? You know that’s not true. Are you afraid of them?” The girl seemed confused and disappointed.

Ruby bit her lower lip and kept silent.

“There were two other girls with us. They saw everything ask them! She’s just afraid of them. Ask the others they saw what happened!”

Priestess Flavia interrogated everyone who was connected to the case. Everybody pointed at Gina as to a factor of all the disaster that occurred that day.

“As I see, Gina, you’re the one who misbehaved. You’ll work the whole day. Others may play,” Flavia announced her verdict.

So, after tiresome washing, Gina swept floors, fetch water and washed-up after dinner. She was completely exhausted when she finally got into the bedroom. The bullies prepared for her arrival. The time a thin blanket covered her tiny form the two beasts together with some other girls attacked her. They wrapped Gina tightly in another blanket and hit her until she was crying.

In the morning Gina could hardly get up from the bed. Every inch of her body was in agony. Legs, arms, back were in bruises.

“Oh, Hera, the mother of Gods, what happened to you poor child?” asked the terrified priestess staring at Gina as if she saw a ghost.

“It was the evil spirit,” – a 13 year old girl with sandy hair spoke, “as the night when Leticia was beaten. Priestess Flavia, we were terrified. He stood there so huge and merciless. I couldn’t move a finger because of fear. Ask others they’ll say I’m telling you the truth.”

“Uhu, the truth nothing but the truth, so help me God,” Gina thought to herself.

“Selena, take Gina to nun Alexia. She’ll take care of her bruises and gather the others in the dining room. I want to talk everybody about the recent events,” said the priestess calmly.

“Come on.” Selena pushed Gina a little when they left the bedroom. “Don’t even think of opening your filthy mouth or tonight will be the same, got it?”

Gina didn’t answer. Though, her guess was a right one. She definitely felt more than 2 people had been beating her last night. Now she was sure that Selena also joined the merry company of bullies in the orphanage.

After a long speech on good behavior and moral values the nun gave Gina a mattock and the girls went to weed the beds in the garden.

“Gina, I’m sorry. I couldn’t tell the truth, your mother is going to come in some days but I’ll stay here,” Ruby apologized while taking away the weeds.

Gina kept silence. She didn’t help Ruby either. The girl went and sat down in a shadow of a bush. She was there until a boy came and told them to go have lunch. The mockery didn’t stop, though. Children had a delicious soup for lunch and when Gina just took her spoon to eat some Selena, who sat next to her, stealthily for the priestess and other nuns not to notice put some dirt in it.

“Enjoy you meal, pig!” she grinned very proud of herself.

The kids around them started giggling. The ten year-old regretted that they had wooden spoons, but it didn’t prevent her from taking her spoon and hitting Selena in the middle of the backside of girl’s hand. The trick was that she nearly plugged the sharp tip of spoon’s holder in the girl’s hand. Selena shrieked like a wild animal. Meanwhile, Gina took the plate with hot soup and poured it on the girl.

“Tell me who beat me this night or I’ll tear you to pieces!” Gina shouted.

The girl wanted to stand up. Gina had a good hold on Selena’s hair. The girl screamed in horror and pain. Nuns and priestess yelled something at Gina, they ran to the girl until a boy about 14-15 years came to Gina from behind. He grabbed her, Gina ripped some hairs from Selena’s head. She managed to get rid of the boy’s clench. Suddenly, two more boys jumped at Gina pinning her to the floor.

“Tie her up. Put her into the cellar until I understand what’s going on here,” ordered the priestess and went to Hera’s temple to think a little.

Flavia interrogated the girls at the temple for hours after the accident in the dining room . She invited them one by one and asked the same questions. Children didn’t say much. They agreed that there is a dark spirit which torments misbehaving children in their sleep. Flavia started disbelieving the story told by certain fosterlings. An interesting fact came to the top, the spirit appeared only in the girl’s bedroom and never tried to crawl into the boy’s room, as well as that the spirit used to attack small children. It has never done any harm to the older teens. The priestess decided to keep Gina this day and the night in the cellar. Of course, she ordered to untie the ropes, feed the girl and give her a blanket. She didn’t want the child to catch a cold.

The day went by without any events. Selena’s hand was taken care off. The teen did everything to seem sick and fragile for everyone around to pity her suffering and hate Gina even more. During the day kids and nuns were talking about the accident in the dining room. At night, when girls and boys were sleeping in their beds, four teens sneaked out of the girls’ bedroom and ran to the barn where the cellar was. Carefully they entered the cellar and switched on a candle to see what was on their way. All at once the door to the cellar closed itself and the girls found to be trapped inside. Agaphena and Penelope tried to break the door open. Unfortunately for them, it was made of think wood and they just bruised their arms. Selena whined, tried to cry for help but the other three teens hushed her up. Imagine their vexation when the bullies understood that Gina wasn’t in the cellar either.

The next morning Priestess Flavia opened the ill-fated cellar to release four bruised and battered attackers. Very quickly the woman came to a conclusion that these four ladies tangled with each other because they had a hangdog look and gloomy attitude.

“Finally, I got four evil spirits not just one,” said the priestess sarcastically.

She let four other nuns to escort the girls to the dining room where everyone has already gathered for breakfast. When the noise subsided and children stared at four messy teens with their mouths open Flavia spoke.

“I want to show you the evil spirits you told me about yesterday. I’m sorry, that I didn’t pay attention to little children who at the beginning of the attacks spoke freely about older girls bullying them. I didn’t believe you, shame on me. I’m proud of the girl, who wasn’t afraid to tell the truth even at the time when everybody ignored her. Gina, thank you very much for bringing justice to this house. The girls who bullied other children will be thrust out. These are Agaphena, Selena, Penelope and Philomena. We’ll give you some food and clothes. I hope you’ll find your own way in this life but you’re no longer welcome here in the temple of Hera.”

The girls burst into tears begging the priestess to have mercy and not to send them away. Flavia didn’t listen. She asked the nuns to dismiss the misbehaved teens. It was Sunday, so the priestess let all children play in the yard.

In the evening children ran one after another with sticks staging a great Trojan war that was under way at this historical time when Ruby cried.

“Gina, look, you mother is coming!”

Gina gave the boy the low kick to make him fall on the ground and put her stick to his throat as if it was a kind of a sword.

“Beg for mercy, Menelaus. I won’t give up on Troy or my queen, I won’t let you take them,” Gina said dramatically.

“I yield to you, commander Hector,” the 13 year old bit the dust.

“Hurray, all honor to Hector!”

“We’ve won the war!”

“Troy is free!”

Children from different sides came to congratulate Gina with the victory. She definitely was a wise tactician and a skilled commander. Only few of her comrades fell down in the field of the battle. Instead of basking in glory the girl ran to the woman. She came running up to Xena and hugged her with all her might.

“I’m so glad you’re back,” she said not letting Xena go of her tight embrace.

“I thought, you didn’t want to see me again, what’s changed?” asked Xena gently stroking her daughter’s messy hair.

While holding her child, the woman noticed bruises on Gina’s arms. She pushed the girl away a little still holding both of her hands to take a good look at girl’s condition. Bruises, scratches and sometimes hematomas covered at least 70% of the body that wasn’t hidden with clothes. A minute ago she saw the girl running and playing merrily with other children.

“Hey, honey, did you get all the bruises playing war games?” she asked with concern.

“No, we’re only pretending to fight. Nobody hits anyone. It’s a game not an octagon,” assured the girl.

“Then, how did you get all these bruises?”

“Four older girls bullied other children. I beat two of them and made them do their work as we all did. They threw me a blanket party,” she confessed.

“Where are these girls now?” Xena asked too calmly for the feelings she hid inside her heart.

“Priestess Flavia kicked them out forever.”

“A very graceful act for the priestess of Hera’s temple,” Xena murmured. “Little one, go pack your things. You won’t stay here one more night.”

“Aye, aye, captain!” Gina showed wholesome respect and ran away to collect her things.

Xena shrugged her shoulders because she didn’t understand this military gesture, she went to the priestess. That day Gina shared one room with Xena at a tavern. It was much better than being at the orphanage. Even if Xena wasn’t her mother, she was the woman, who took care of her and protected her, maybe even loved her. For the first time falling asleep Gina thought of all the children, who were abandoned and lived without parents in orphanages.

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