My Thirteenth Adoption
I woke up to the sound of phoenixes cawing at the sunrise. It was still fairly dim in my room but I still got up from my bed and walked over to my wardrobe to get dressed. My wardrobe only had seven kimonos inside, one for each day of the week. I decided to wear my favourite light red one for the day, wearing a white shirt and leggings underneath. Standing in front of the cracked mirror, I began brushing my ebony hair, pinning it up into two buns like I did every day. The other girls in the beds slept on, hugging to their pillows and stuffed toys. I picked up my twin fans from my nightstand and quietly headed up to the roof of the orphanage, sitting crossed-legged with both fans open and lying spread out on either side of me. I closed my eyes and began meditating my dawn session as I normally did. I let myself smile a small smile as I felt the gentle spring breeze and the scent of pine trees. The orphanage was rather secluded, in a peaceful and beautiful forest.
The children, the nuns and the monks thought my routine to be a bit odd for a ten year old child. They questioned once and I couldn’t give them an answer so they leave me alone. It just all happens automatically every day when I wake up. I don’t know why I have this routine, only that I must wake up at the crack of dawn every day and meditate until the sun has fully come up. Then I must meditate again in the middle of the day then at dusk, no questions or excuses. I’m not entirely sure why but it was just this instinct. During the time between my meditation sessions, I find myself in the garden or somewhere deep in the forest, practicing katas with my fans. The children question what I do and I have to be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. I don’t remember anything of myself or my background before I found myself at the orphanage when I was five years old, burns covering my hands and face. All I could remember was my name and age.
The girls of my age all wear shirts, skirts and try putting make-up on themselves. They look at me with odd expressions whenever they see me in my kimonos. I too question myself to why I wear such odd clothing but all I think about is how I arrived at the orphanage in a kimono. Perhaps before, I always wore a kimono instead of modern clothing? I often find myself isolated from the other children because of my peculiar behaviour and habits. Also, I don’t really talk that much, even to the monks and nuns, I never talk first. Even if they do talk and ask me questions, I barely say more than three words for answers. I don’t know why I do, I want to talk but something just prevents me from saying detailed answers, as if I should only speak what people have asked for instead of expanding the subject and beginning a conversation.
Girls have tried approaching me before but then left me alone when they found that we had little in common. They talked about people in magazines, they talk about certain clothes and wondering what makes them look fat. I find their topics of conversation rather bizarre. They offered me their own clothes to wear but I refused, I had the feeling that I wasn’t meant to wear clothes like miniskirts or shorts. Also, I wasn’t entirely comfortable in wearing something that would show a lot of my pale skin. That’s another thing that puzzles me, the girls wanting to spray their skin with fake tan lotions and look completely unnatural. I personally think having pale skin is nicer. The girls at the orphanage laughed and mocked me for my opinions but I didn’t feel hurt for some reason. As if I knew that they would say things like calling me a freak.
Despite my quiet, odd and seemingly cold personality, adults aspiring to be parents come and go and always take a glance at me first. My first adoption happened two weeks after I was confirmed an orphan or unwanted. The nuns and monks had sent out a notice, saying that I had been found in case I had gone missing but no-one came back to claim me so I was put on the adoption list. They looked like such a sweet couple, they were both humans and they adopted me five minutes after they saw me. They called me beautiful, cute, adorable and sweet, exactly what they want their daughter to be. So they took me in and brought me to a flat in Aurallion. I had my own bedroom, my own box of toys and lots of clothes. I was going to be staying for a week to settle in and then I would go to school. We don’t go to school at the orphanage. Instead, we get tutored by the nuns and monks. I wasn’t sure how to feel, I’d never been to a school before and when they said I would meet lots of children, I got nervous that I wouldn’t fit in.
I was only in their care for three days until the first disaster happened. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw my whole room engulfed in flames. Immediately, I tried to get out of my bedroom but the door was stuck. I don’t remember much else apart from I fell and everything went black. When I woke up, I was in the middle of the burnt rubble, burns covering my hands and face. The neighbours heard me crying and sent me to hospital to get treated. I was soon sent back to the orphanage and it began to become a sort of cycle. I would get adopted, I would spend a few days under the couple’s care then something would happen that would send me back to the orphanage. I’ve been adopted by hybrids, vampires, werewolves, even a harpy family adopted me. Apparently everyone wanted a beautiful elf for a daughter, despite their species. One way or the other, I would end up back at the orphanage. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was cursed.
I’m slightly upset to have been adopted by different families but one way or another, something horrible would happen. I never got hurt seriously enough to go to hospital for more than a week. But because of my first adoption, I have always been afraid of fire. Even when the nuns want me to warm myself up by the fireplace in the winter, I didn’t dare come as close as the other children. I still remember the heat of the flames burning my skin and the smoke choking me. Even if it’s a controlled fire, I was still afraid from the memories that forever burned themselves into my mind.
Every morning when I’m meditating, I wonder what disaster the next family will go through and how long I will have to wait until I’m back at the orphanage. Will their house go up in flames? Will my new father die in a car crash and my new mother will start drinking and abusing me? Will my new mother die in a bank robbery and my new father will be incapable in looking after me? Will the whole family die from a gas leak and I will survive because of my nightly sleepwalks outside? Will my new step-brother be locked up into the mental asylum and my new parents say that they can’t look after me because things are just getting too much for them? Will my new step-sister commit suicide and my new father will place the blame on me and throw me out onto the streets?
Things began to change when I finished meditating and went downstairs to have breakfast with the other children.
“Zelda,” Sister Elizabeth called for me with a warm and gracious smile when I helped the younger children stack the bowls and plates to wash “Come with me, there’s someone who wants to see you.”
Of course I was reluctant to see them and everyone in the room simply gave me a look, jealous about how I seemed to be the first child to be seen to. Some of them had a sceptical look, as if wondering how long my next adoption would last for. I followed her to her office and was sat down in front of a young man, who looked to be in his late twenties. He smiled down at me but I didn’t return it. I always had a neutral face unless I lost control of my emotions. Another reason why people rarely approached me. To strangers, I could sit still long enough for them to think that I’m a doll or a puppet.
“This here is Zack,” Sister Elizabeth said “It seems that he saw the notice about you and has come to claim you.”
I lifted my head and stared at him. I didn’t recognize him and he didn’t really look anything like me. Yes he had black hair like me and his pale skin matched mine but I just felt that I didn’t relate to him. He smiled warmly at me and ruffled my hair. I flinched because his hand was so cold. Yes, his smile was warm but his eyes and touch were so cold.
“It’s so nice to see you again after so long, Zelda,” he said as I unruffled the mess he made of my hair “I’m sorry I couldn’t have picked you up sooner.” I stared at him silently and he chuckled. “Aw, don’t you recognize me? I suppose I have changed a bit. I must say, you’ve grown up quite beautifully.”
I looked over at Sister Elizabeth and she smiled at me.
“He says that he’s your older brother,” she explained “Apparently your parents perished in a house fire and he got amnesia like you. However, he’s recovered from it and has come here to take you to your new home.”
“I’m going to take you to our parents’ mansion in Aurallion,” Zack said “We’re going to be so happy together.”
I didn’t say anything as I normally did, just watching silently as Zack filled out the forms to take me into his care and then helping Sister Elizabeth pack my suitcase with my personal belongings. He began talking something about getting me new clothes or something, I didn’t really pay attention. I watched as Zack put my suitcase in the boot of his car and opening the front passenger door for me to climb in. I didn’t like cars but I didn’t complain. I never complained, it causes too much trouble. I got into the passenger seat and watched as the children gathered themselves by the doors and windows, watching me leave again. I saw some of the older children pulling out pieces of paper, writing down people’s bets on how long I would last with Zack. Zack got into the car with me and I gave a small wave as he started the engine and drove off down the dirt path.
“So, Zelda,” Zack hummed with a warm smile “What do you like to do in your free time?”
“…Meditate,” I said.
“Hm? Really? You meditate? I suppose that’s how you’re calm most of the time. You must be pretty disciplined.” I didn’t respond. “So, what do you like to eat? I’ll cook you up something nice when we get home.”
“Come on, you must have a favourite dish or something! What would you like for lunch when we get home?”
“…I don’t mind.”
That was how the conversation would go. He would talk to me, I would give him what he asked for and made no effort to expand into a conversation. I felt uneasy with him but maybe it was because I was in a car. I didn’t get carsick, I just don’t like travelling in them. They smelt horrible too, I wrinkled my nose discretely. Zack chattered and laughed and asked questions while I just watched the scenery flow past us, feeling a little sad when we left the forest and I saw the all too familiar sight of Aurallion coming towards us. I didn’t like Aurallion, too many horrid smells and people who look at me whenever I pass them. I know elves never live in cities so I often got a sense of loneliness in the city. What disturbed me was that the number of elves had been dropping for about a decade and no-one knows why. I haven’t even met another elf like me, someone who might be able to understand my habits. Personally, I blame humans for ruining nature by building their big ugly buildings and cutting down the forests that we lived in.
I also felt disturbed by Zack. He claims to be my older brother but he doesn’t have pointed elf ears like me. Why didn’t Sister Elizabeth mention that to him after he claimed to be my brother? What did this man want from me? He could have easily adopted me as his little sister without claiming to be my brother in blood but why did he want me to think that he was my blood brother? I didn’t ask that question.
“Here we are,” Zack said cheerfully as he drove into the richer area of Aurallion where the larger houses were.
I watched as he pulled out a remote and clicked it to open a couple of silver steel gates to a large white mansion. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously as he drove up the drive and stopped the car in the garage, turning the engine off. I didn’t move as awkward silence filled the car and a large hand landed on my head, ruffling my hair roughly.
“Come on, let’s get your suitcase and take you to your old room,” Zack smiled.
“Elves don’t live in cities,” I said and Zack laughed.
“Zelda, what makes you think that?” he asked as we got out and he opened the boot to get my suitcase.
Even inside Zack’s car, I smelt the pollution from cars that were coming from the city. I wrinkled my nose in disgust and looked up at him. I kept silent as he led me out of the garage, carrying my suitcase for me. The marble stairs were colder than anything my bare feet has ever felt before and I refrained myself from flinching to avoid questions from Zack. He had marble floors too, I felt myself shivering from my lack of shoes. I looked at the massive lobby, grimacing to myself when I saw that the stairs were made out of marble too. I then felt something ominous upstairs. I wasn’t sure what but I stopped shivering from just the cold marble beneath my feet.
“Oh, are you cold?” Zack frowned when he saw me shivering and then saw my bare feet “Don’t you have shoes?”
“One pair,” I answered.
“Then why aren’t you wearing them?”
“I don’t wear shoes with kimonos.”
Zack laughed loudly and the next thing I know, he was giving me a piggyback ride upstairs and into my new room with was carpeted thankfully. He sat me down on my large double bed and placed the suitcase next to me.
“It’s so good to have you back home, little sis,” he said and ruffled my hair with a wide grin.
“You’re not my brother.”
He pulled away with a very shocked and hurt look.
“Why did you say that?” he asked.
“You don’t have elf ears like me,” I twitched my pointed ears to emphasise my statement. Zack laughed.
“I got an operation to make them look human to fit in with society,” he said feeling his own ears “I’ll have the same to do you, don’t worry. Soon you’ll look just like a human and no-one will be making fun of you.”
“No.” Zack looked startled as I refused his offer. There was no way I’m going to have my ears morphed into a human’s. I gave him a firm glare and he smiled. I’m not sure why but he seemed a little bit frustrated behind that smile.
“Alright, but please hide your ears when you’re around someone else,” he said politely, although it felt more like a command and I felt rather hurt. I nodded to say that I will hide my ears when I’m around someone else. I felt sad that I had to, why should I pretend to be someone that I wasn’t? With a sigh, I looked down with a glum look.
“I don’t know why you adopted me,” I said softly “I just bring misfortune to everyone else.” Zack laughed again.
“Zelda, there’s no need to be superstitious,” he said “Now come on, let’s unpack your suitcase.”
He helped me unpack my suitcase and commented about my lack of modern clothes. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder, feeling that ominous aura. It scared me, sent shivers up my spine and caused me a bit of paranoia. It scared me to the point where I went out of the bedroom to find out where it was coming from. I climbed stairs and went down corridors, following the dark aura to an old door. I was going to open it but as soon as my hand touched the doorknob, Zack found me and grabbed my wrist.
“There you are!” he exclaimed and dragged me away “I was so worried about you! Come on, let’s make dinner.”
I didn’t say anything whilst I ate the hefty dinner he cooked for the both of us. I didn’t particularly like the greasy burgers or the oily chips with the tangy ketchup but I didn’t complain. I just prayed that my stomach wouldn’t churn from all the fatty acids I had to consume to please Zack. I was afraid of what his reaction would be if I didn’t accept these popular foods. I felt very ill afterwards. Maybe that was the reason I couldn’t sleep that night. I lay in the cold double bed, wondering why I had to have such a massive bed. My stomach was groaning from the unnatural food I had for dinner and I couldn’t shake off the ominous feeling from that door that I had found. I tossed and turned but still I couldn’t find any sleep. But whenever I closed my eyes, images of flames would arise in my mind and I would jolt awake again.
Then I found myself so frustrated by sleep evading me so much that I got up and put on my pale blue kimono, my favourite red one was in the wash. I carefully went up the stairs to the old door, following the aura whenever I got lost. I carefully took the doorknob and turned it. It creaked open and I felt a gush of cold air come at me and blow the candle out. I shivered from the cold, pulling my kimono closer to me and I peered into the room. Cobwebs covered the place and I noticed that there were so many boxes stacked on top of one another. I slowly came into the room, looking around curiously and running a finger along one box to see how much dust I had collected. It was something I liked to do, I also drew pictures in dust as if to mark how dirty the place was.
I jumped at the sound of a woman’s voice and turned around. I dropped my jaw in horror when I saw a spirit of a middle-aged woman, wearing a kimono like mine, pointed elf ears like me and piercing violet eyes like I had, though they were rather hollow and tired. I felt myself stiffen in shock as she hovered over me, pointing a wrinkled finger at me. She opened her jaw where I could see a black abyss inside.
“Don’t trust the man who adopted you,” she said and jabbed the rather cold and icy finger into me where it nearly touched my heart “He is not your brother. You must remember, Zelda. Remember your heritage. Don’t let him make you forget.”
I didn’t know what to do but my instincts told me to run so I ran like the wind. The next thing I remember was waking up in my bed. I couldn’t forget about that woman I ran into and began wondering what she meant by letting Zack make me forget that I was an elf. I didn’t want to pay much attention but it was still nagging at the back of my head. So that was how the thirteenth adoption started.