Open Fire Book 1: Embers

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Chapter 3

I got up and strode out of the room, a bright smile on my face. I couldn’t believe what was happening. When I was younger, I had always hoped that someone would come along, ready to offer me a life outside of this place. One where I could have friends, an education, a home where I would leave the dinner table full, and now I was going to get that.

If I said I didn’t feel bad I would be lying. I couldn’t help but feel as though it should be one of the little kids that got a family, I felt like they needed to be guided, loved, and taken care of, shown that there is more to living than scrubbing your laundry with already dirty water, or living with the mice. Don’t get me wrong, we take what we can get and we’re grateful for it but…some of these kids, if not all of them, deserve so much more than this.

I realized that I had delved so deep into my thoughts that I forgot to walk, then again, better to stop walking than run into a wall due to my lack of attention. I turned my head to the right and saw one of the guards standing there, waiting for me to lead him to my room—my shared room might be better. Was he going to help me pack? Or was he just there to watch? I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t want to ask. I would tell myself, “you know he won’t hurt you.” …but do I actually know that? I shrugged off the thought and walked up to the room where I found all the other kids just waking up. They all simultaneously(creepily) looked up at me with the same look of confusion on their faces.

“oh shit….” I thought

They all came running over, tumbling over each other, each trying to get to me to ask me questions. They started yelling over each other, each trying to get their question across before the next one stole my attention. I put my hand up, a silent gesture to get them to stop. I knew what they would ask. “What’s going on?”, “Who is he?”, “Where are you going?”. I also knew that each question was going to be harder to answer than the last, and suddenly I didn’t feel as euphoric about leaving as before, because it came down to this.

Lie to them, tell them I’m coming back, that all will be as it was again, only for them to wait. One week…two weeks…three weeks…one month…and so on until they finally realize that I lied. I’m not coming back, and they would never see me again. Or, I could tell them the truth, tell them that I’m leaving, that I’m never coming back, and I would have to watch the sadness and heartbreak fill their eyes. Both options made my heart ache, knowing that I could never see them again. I don’t even know where I’m going. I would much rather lie, so I don’t have to watch them cry and beg for me not to go. I was almost like their big sister, I looked after them when Miss. Harkins couldn’t.

I let out a sigh, and sat down on the bed, a few of the smaller kids jumping in behind me, the others just standing there, waiting. The second oldest, 15-year-old boy, Luke, was glaring at me. I got the feeling that he knew what was going on. I took a breath and started to explain…or try to explain…what was going on.

“So, I don’t know how to say this so I’m just gonna say it…” I looked down at my hands,” I’m…leaving.”

The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. The glares had multiplied, now some of them were mad.

“Hold up,” Jack, an 11-year-old boy said,” you’re just going to leave us?”

I know he was trying to sound tough, but it didn’t stop the sadness from showing in his eyes. When I didn’t answer, a young girl, Lila, asked what I was dreading the most.

“But I thought you didn’t have to leave until you were 18…?”

I stopped…I didn’t have an answer. I wish this wasn’t so hard. I just looked up at all of them. I didn’t want to tell them I was being adopted. I just hoped they could see the apology in my eyes. I stood up but was stopped by Jack. He just looked at me and tugged on my sleeve, as if begging me not to go. I just gently pulled my arm away but was grabbed by another kid, then another, and another. None of them were going to let me leave without a fight. I put my bag down and hugged them. I knew the longer I dragged this on the harder it would be, so I finally stood, picked up my bag, and walked out of the room.

As I rushed down the stairs, I was fighting the urge to cry. I wasn’t paying attention, so I missed the last step and fell, but never hit the floor. Someone had grabbed the back of my shirt to stop me. Now it felt like I was suffocating, only this wasn’t mental.

“What are you going to do without me? Huh? You won’t last a day without hurting yourself.”

I stopped and chuckled a bit. He was technically right.

“Luke, could you have found another way to catch me without trying to strangle me?” I raised an eyebrow.

I looked back and there he was, standing behind me, with a forlorn look on his face. He looked at me, desperately trying to be mad, but couldn’t. I opened my arms and just tilted my head to the side, waiting. He looked at me then slowly walked over to accept the hug. I could tell he didn’t want to, not because he didn’t like me, but he thought showing emotions and letting people in was a weakness, that you could get hurt from it. He couldn’t quite escape me though; I didn’t give him a choice. Once I let him go, he just stood there and frowned, I smiled, it was a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.

I suddenly heard a gasp, almost inaudible, from behind me. I turned around and saw Mrs. Gomez and Miss. Harkins waiting for me by the door. I thought maybe I was hearing things, but you couldn’t mistake the look of shock on Mrs. Gomez’s face. I didn’t know why she was shocked but didn’t have the energy to figure it out. I decided I had already taken enough time, so I quickly hugged Luke one last time, then turned around and walked outside where I waited for Mrs. Gomez. My new life was about to begin.

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