9: The Orphanage.
It’s been exactly a month since I joined high school, I feel like so much had happened during all this time and all that because of ... him.
Luke ... I wonder what’s going on in your mind. Since the day he hit Jordan and then kissed me on the cheek, I didn’t see him again. He doesn’t come to school and it makes me feel guilty every time I think about it. Is it because of me? I don’t hope so.
As for Jordan, he ignores me. He made new friends and every time I cross his stare, he looks away. But after all, I understand him somehow, he came all the way to see me, and suddenly he got beaten by Luke. I sighed internally, what could happen more in my life...
- “Hey watch out, girl! “. Shit, I was so lost in my thoughts that I ran over someone’s foot.
-” Oh I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to...You? “. When I looked up, Noelle’s step-brother was standing in front of me.
- ” Wait ... You’re Luke’s chick ? “. Luke’s chick? Something’s not going on right...
- “Damn, that bastard ! He always fucks the most beautiful ones. Too bad I can’t put you in my bed”. I stayed speechless for a moment with my mouth half opened and he kept looking up and down at me lengthily. Respect, where are you?
- ” You were raised on a street or what? “. I regretted immediately what I said seeing the glare he gave me.
- “Mmm ... interesting. I see, you are as beautiful as wild, I like that”. He said giving me a flirting stare.
- “Uh ...“. I think I have nothing more to say. The way he is speaking to me so normally like I’m one of those girls he sleeps with makes me feel sick.
- “Okay, I didn’t expect less from the bitch of Luke. I’ll let it go for this time, but don’t ever walk over me or talk to me like that again or you’ll get serious problems, got it ? “. Bitch of Luke? Let it go? Serious Problems? Is he threatening me? I must be dreaming cause no one has talked to me in that rude way before.
- “Firstly, I didn’t do it on purpose, walking on you, and secondly, I am not the girl of your friend or whatever you said “. I said calmly. Noelle warned me that he is pretty rude, but I didn’t think it was that bad.
- “Hey dolly! “. I turned around to meet Jacob. So, if it’s not Luke that I meet, it’s his friends. And what’s with those nicknames?
- “Oh hey Jacob! How is it going ? “. I asked ignoring the boy standing in front of me and still staring at me with the same seductive look.
-” Cool. I see you’ve met Taylor “. He smiled putting his arm around the shoulder of his friend.
- “Uh yeah, kind of”. I faked a smile.
- “Well see you then cutty. let’s go, Tay! “. Jacob smiled at me and moved forward.
- “Let me tell you a secret, I’m better than Luke in bed so call me when you’re free, beauty”. Taylor whispered in my ear and winked at me. Oh god, he thinks I’m a slut. I understand why Noelle acts coldly with him, it’s probably a nightmare to live with him and someone needs to set him in the straightway.
I hesitated to ask them about Luke but I gave up quickly, not wanting them to make false conclusions especially when they had already called me Luke’s chick or whatever.
I sighed and joined Noelle and Ashley who were waiting for me outside.
The air was cold and it seemed like it was going to rain soon.
- “Ha finally! What took you so long ?!.” Complained Noelle.
- “Sorry, I lost my way”. I lied, I don’t want to tell her about my “meeting” with her step-brother, I don’t think I want to tell anyone especially when all he did was insult me.
-” Seriously it’s been already a month since you’re here and you still get lost ! “. Noelle teased me and I shrugged smiling.
- “It’s finally the weekend ! What are you two going to do ?“. I asked, changing the subject.
-“I’ll probably go visit my father, my mother won’t be here all weekend”. Noelle said clapping her hands, happy that she can finally have a little freedom.
- “And you Ashley? “. I asked, realizing that she got lost in her thoughts.
- “What ? “. She raised her head suddenly as if I awakened her from a bad dream.
- “Sarah and I were wondering what you are going to do this weekend”. Noelle recapitulated.
- “Oh I will probably visit the orphanage.” She answered, shrugging as if she was used to it.
-” The orphanage ? “.I asked curiously.
- “Yes, the one going down towards the town. You never have heard of it ? “. She asked surprised.
-” No, never. Can ... can I come with you? “. I asked shyly. She seemed surprised by my request. To tell the truth, I always wanted to see what an orphanage looked like, having become an orphan myself. I’m lucky to have my aunt beside me cause if she wasn’t there by my side, I don’t know where I would be now.
- “Please, I have nothing to do. I promise I’ll be quiet as a mouse, please. ” I begged her with my hands.
- “Okay. Be ready tomorrow at 3 p.m. I’ll come to take you”. I jumped on my place and hugged her tightly.
-” Thank you. Thank you so much”. She seemed embarrassed by my sudden embrace but patted my back anyway as an answer.
- “Ashley hates hugs, she’s such an unsympathetic person!” “. Noelle stated, seeing Ashley tense and uncomfortable.
- “Oh sorry, I didn’t know”. I said, getting loose from her. As a huggy and kissy person, it will be hard for me to remember to hold back.
- “That’s not true. Don’t listen to her”. She pulled me towards her and hugged me in turn and I could’ve smelled her good perfume and felt the warmth between her arms.
- “Hey! What about me?!” “. Noelle crossed her arms, annoyed.
-“You’re such a pain, come...“. Ashley pulled Noelle to her by the arm letting her join us in our sweet shared embrace, but the inside of the bag of Ashley, half-opened, caught my eyes. I couldn’t count the number of condoms there were in her purse so much there were several of them, but something more particular drew my attention. A small transparent pack, revealing a shiny crystalline powder similar to snow. Is this what I think it is?
- “You alright, Sarah?” “. Noticing my focused stare on her bag, Ashley quickly closed it with her hand.
- “Sure. so, see you tomorrow?“. She nodded with a strained smile and I kissed her on the cheek to soothe her.
- “What’s wrong with you two?“. Noelle arched an eyebrow, noticing our odd interaction.
-” Never mind”. Ashley and I declared at the same time which made us laugh together as Noelle kept suspiciously glancing at us.
-“Whatever. Listen, you two! I need you to help me choose an appropriate dress for a special occasion...“. As Noelle kept talking about her evening dress and the handsome boys of her dad’s friends that will attend the dinner, Ashley turned her gaze towards me with a relieved smile on her lips as she whispered a thank you.
Like they said, “No one keeps a secret better than someone who ignores it”. Do I even know one?
The next day, I was excited like a little girl.
- “Let me think, what can I wear to an orphanage? ” It’s weird to ask this question, after all, it’s not like I’m going to a ball or a party. I ended up putting on my jeans, a sweater, and my lovely vans, simple clothes that make me comfortable in my skin.
- “Ding-Dong! “.
-” I’ll open ! “. It must be Ashley, it’s almost 3 p.m. I went down the stairs quickly but when I opened the door, I almost lost my breath.
- “Professor Stumburg ?! “. I stared for seconds at the man who should be my professor of mathematics in school, dressed in such an elegant way with his hair well brushed and pulled back, his clean-pressed white shirt tucked in his blue pant, with his glossy classic black shoes, holding his car keys in a hand and his rather smart-casual jacket in the other, wondering what the hell is he doing here.
“Oh good evening Miss Arlyne. Your aunt is there? “. My aunt? No, don’t tell me he and my aunt are dating ?! This might be a very bad joke...
- “Uh ... yeah, yeah, I think she’s here, well of course she is, I’m going to get her !“. I tried to hide my embarrassment which is a total mess and left him standing in front of the door. It might be impolite to not invite him to take a seat and give him a drink but the thing is...I don’t want to. Maybe I’m just overthinking, maybe they are just going to talk about me and my grades just like parents do with their children’s teachers. Seriously Sarah? What could they probably talk about you, on a weekend especially when he’s dressed so elegantly ?! I immediately confirmed my fears when I saw my aunt dressed in a black-blue outstanding dress and freshly made up, looking stunning but still natural.
- “There is someone for you, I suppose “. I did my best to hide my disappointment and my anger against her cause, after all, she’s going to have a good moment and I don’t want to ruin it.
- “Oh yes I know. I have a date “. No kidding, I thought you’re going to church. I wanted explanations, of all the men living on this earth, she chose my math teacher that I see 5 hours a week. Not only I’ll feel embarrassed about that, but I also can’t even imagine what my comrades would say.
-” Well, I’m leaving. Take care of yourself, babe ! “. She kissed me on my forehead and left the house with the bothersome man, arm in arm.
I sighed deeply, understanding finally why the man kept looking at me all this whole time, she could’ve warned me at least...
- “What’s wrong ? You’re very pale”.
- “Oh nothing, just our math teacher squatting my house on weekends”. She winced but didn’t look surprised.
- “I just saw him, he was so well dressed and everything, I thought I was dreaming”. She sneered before handing me a helmet and waving me up to come up.
- “The worst part is, he came to see my aunt!” “. I pretended to cry and she winced again.
- “Not the best thing to happen. Come on! There’s no better way to cry over your problems than a ride on a motorbike”. I glanced cautiously at the helmet she gave me before. This thing is not as dangerous as it is said, right?
-“Don’t be afraid, you’re not going to die”. She said laughing at me, making me realize that I was thinking out loud.
-“I’m not afraid !“. I declared with false confidence, putting the helmet on my head and climbing on the motorcycle.
-“If you say so”. She keeps laughing at me and I’m grateful that I can hide my face from embarrassment with the helmet, I hate when people tease me about my fears, it makes me feel weak even if it’s a little hard for me to hide them, I still remember what happened to me with Luke and the spider, when he said to me that there was nothing to be afraid of, I ended up leaving him alone with the creature, that was fun though.
The ride was calm, Ashley was driving slowly, maybe cause she didn’t want to scare me more than I am especially when I was holding her too tightly by the waist during the whole trip. The more we were moving forward, the more I felt comfortable and soothed but every pleasure has an end, and we were forced to go down when a huge mansion appeared in front of us.
We could only hear the sound of the wind making the trees’ leaves dance. Ashley took off her helmet and told me to follow her with her hand. I did the same thing and got closer to the entrance. The green placard on the rust-colored gate indicates the name of the household Children’s Light Corner. Ashley knocked two times softly on the front door and while we were waiting for someone to open, I took the chance to give a deep look to the manor. A vast isolated ground, surrounded by a forest, near the entry of the big house, was a fountain which seemed to me that it stopped working for a long time and that made the place look more mysterious and creepy at the same time. Only the growing Ivy on the walls was giving color and cheerfulness to this lonely grey building. If Ashley didn’t tell me that we were going to an orphanage, I would say that this manor is haunted.
Suddenly, the door opened letting us meet a young woman dressed as a maid.
-“Oh Ashley, we missed you !“. She gave Ashley a quick peck on her cheek, then turned to me.
- “Sofia, this is my friend Sarah. She insisted to join me so I brought her with me”. I gave her a small smile and she smiled back, giving me her hand to shake.
- “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sarah!“. I took her warm hand and thanked her shyly.
- “Come in, it’s cold outside”. Once inside the house, we took off our shoes and coats, I was very surprised to see that the inside of the manor was illuminated and warm unlike the outside of it.
-“Let me take care of your coats, I’ll go call Mrs. Hawk can you wait for me here, please ?“. She took our coats and smiled at us warmly before disappearing.
-“Who’s Mrs. Hawk?“. I asked Ashley when Sofia had gone.
-“She’s the headmistress of this household, she’s a kind woman and she loves children so much, you’ll get to know her soon”. I nodded looking around me. The mansion has a lived-in comfort, a large hall, overstuffed furnishings, warm colors, someplace you would like to sit yourself down and enjoy a welcoming cup of tea or great meals with good company. Paintings and accessories on the wall display the life of the persons that live there, a melancholic history that makes me want to sit on the long red tapestry in front of the chimney and stay awhile listening to the cozy sound of the low burning fireplace and the recent rain outside. The well-made stairs take probably to the dorm, where all the dreams and nightmares of kids and teenagers remain.
Suddenly, children’s laughs and screams filled the space before an adorable little young girl jumped into Ashley’s arms.
- “Ashley, you came ! “. Her voice is so sweet and dainty that I couldn’t take my eyes off her, she should be 5 or 6 years old, her hair was blond and curly and I don’t know if this is a coincidence but, she resembled Ashley in a very remarkable way.
- “Yes, I came as I promised you”.For someone who doesn’t like embraces, Ashley didn’t want to let her go. She was holding her tightly in her arms as if she was afraid that she would run away, and the little girl couldn’t stop jumping while her eyes were glowing with joy while watching Ashley caressing her golden hair. All of a sudden, many other children jumped on her back and shouted her name. She took them in her arms one by one and I envy her so much to be loved by all those innocent little faces.
- “This is my friend, Sarah . She came to see you, so please be nice”. She said pointing at me and all the children turned their curious eyes towards me. Calm down Sarah, they are just kids...
-” Good evening miss! “. A little boy got closer to me, I looked at Ashley to ask her what to do, and she indicated me with her eyes to go talk to him. I knelt to be at his size and looked at his deep blue eyes.
- “Hello little man, what’s your name ? “. I asked.
- “My name is Kyle Ma’am”. Euh, ma’am? I’m not that old, am I?
- ” Call me Sarah, Kyle”. I caressed his head gently and he showed me a huge smile that made him look so cute and pure.
- “Ashley, sing us a song!“. The little girl with curly hair screamed.
- “YESH A SONG ! A SONG ! “. All the children shouted at once.
She hesitated for a moment then sat down on the ground and started singing Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph”. His voice was so soft and melodious that I had tears in my eyes. The children stayed silent, too focused, and mesmerized by the deep and hypnotic voice of Ashley. The little blond climbed on the knees of the impressive singer, helped by her, and she kept playing with her curly hair and staring at her while she was enchanting us with her voice. Once she finished, all the children clapped their hands to thank her, and I did too. Knowing that Ashley could sing like that is impressive and she seemed so happy, surrounded by all these tiny supporters.
- “Daphne ! “. She murmured while hugging from behind the girl on her knees. I believed I saw a tear slipping down her cheek, she snuggled up against the frail body of the little girl who seemed to be restless and not paying attention. I wonder what’s in between these two...
- “That was so emotional! Your voice becomes more and more beautiful each day, Ashley !“. A grown woman with slanting eyes along with Sofia behind her, joined us, applauding.
- “Mrs. Hawk! “. Ashley stated, standing up.
- “Hurry kids, it’s time for a snack. Don’t forget to wash your hands before going to the kitchen !“.
-“YEESH !“. As soon as they heard the word snack, they rushed to the door with the maid following behind.
- “Ah, youth! Those kids are always so energetic, I wish I was like them “. The director sighed, referring to her old age.
- “How are you dear ? It’s been a long time”. She said staring at Ashley.
-” Very well thank you. I was a little busy with studies and you, Mrs. Hawk? You seem tired”. Ashley talks to the woman like she knew her for a long period.
- “Oh not that good, my child. I see you brought us some visit. Who is this beautiful girl ? “. She smiled at me.
-” She’s a friend of mine, she wanted to see the kids”. Ashley reassured me with a smile.
- “Sarah Arlyne madam! “. I replied.
- ” Delighted, Sarah. It’s nice to receive some visits, especially when the institution is living a critical time, children need a little company”. She said with a sad voice.
- “How much time is left for the orphanage to close ? “. Asked Ashley worried. Mrs. Hawk looked at her, desolated.
- “Unfortunately, less than 9 months”.
- “The orphanage will close? “. I asked, not understanding exactly what’s happening.
- “Yes, we don’t have enough money to fund the needs of all these children, so we have nothing to do beyond closing the place”.
-” And the children ? What will happen to children ? “. I asked, worried about the fate of these poor orphans.
- “They will probably be divided in all corners of the world”. My heart sank suddenly, feeling the terrible fate that awaited these poor children, soon separated and expelled to an unknown place. What if they get mistreated, or become vagrants without a roof to warm them or someone to feed and care for them? They will probably die of cold or hunger...An uneasiness took hold of my thoughts, feeling useless in front of such a tragic fate.
My god, this world is so cruel, even for beings with such pure and innocent hearts!
-“Is there something we can do ?“. I asked, hoping for a positive answer.
-“I’ll be honest with you my child, nothing can be done to save the fate of those children”. These words were like an avalanche of despair falling at me. She keeps playing with this pitiful apologetic face but I don’t believe her, there’s probably something to do, we can’t give up that easily. I turned to see Ashley and she seemed more hopeless than me, with her blank stare and clenching her fists firmly.
The time passed quickly, I played with the children and got to know many of them. The rain had finally stopped when I arrived near my house and I jumped out of the motorcycle.
-” That was fun, thank you so much for letting me come with you”. I thanked Ashley with a hug, I feel like I’ve become more sociable now.
-“You can come with me whenever you want!“. She smiled.
-“Thank you, but the next time I’ll make sure to bring something with me, those children need so much love and attention and I feel like I didn’t help them at all”. I said remembering that I didn’t bring anything with me to please the youngsters, especially when they are in true need.
-“Well, in that case, that makes two of us, I didn’t bring anything too”. I shook my head.
-“You didn’t have to. Didn’t you see it ? Just your presence was amply enough. And your voice ! You never told us that you can sing like that !“. I gave her a quick shot on her shoulder to tease her.
-“Just say it. I don’t look like a good singer”. She laughed.
-“Yes you don’t. I really thought you were even worse than me in that”. I teased her.
-” You know what they say You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you’ jealous”. She winked at me and I chuckled.
-“By the way, what’s your story with Daphne, you just kept playing with her all the time until the other kids became jealous of your relationship”. Suddenly, her smile faded and the expression in her eyes became...confused.
- “Was it that obvious?“. She whispered and I nodded, looking curiously at her changing mood.
-“She’s my little sister”. She whispered after seconds of silence.
-“your what ?! What is she doing there ?!“. I asked with a shocked tone.
-“It’s a long story, but promise me you won’t tell anyone about that, even Noelle doesn’t know it”. I don’t find the word to describe my surprise, I saw that there was a little resemblance between them but I thought it was just a coincidence.
-“Okay, I promise I won’t tell”. I respect the fact that she doesn’t want to tell me the details, after all, it’s her private life but this revelation doesn’t make any sense. Why would her sister be in an orphanage?
-“I gotta go or I’ll be late for work. Thank you for today Sarah”. She smiled.
-“You work at the weekend ?!“. I asked, surprised.
-“Yes, I start at 8 p.m in a small bar. Nothing to be proud about”. She laughed and I nodded. This girl doesn’t know how to stop, she should be proud of that, and then there’s me who is exhausted of the day before it already starts.
-“See you at school then”. We kissed one another and she left faster than when she was driving with me.
As I was turning the key to open the door, a tall man, wearing a very elegant suit, called my name. I frowned asking myself how this man know my name when I never saw him in my entire life.
He got closer to me so I could see his silhouette more clearly. A very tall and attractive man, I would say that he is in his forties, but what attracted me the most is his eyes, bright green eyes, it reminds me of someone’s eyes...Luke ?!
-“You’re the daughter of Karl Arlyne, right ?“. I frowned not knowing how could this man know my father? I know all his friends, they all came to the funeral of my parents, but this man... I’ve never seen him before. Seeing my surprise, he smiled and offered me a document making my incomprehension became bigger. I stared at him for a moment to try to find out who this man is, and what does he want, giving me those papers?
- “Read it! “. His stare became more serious, almost frightening. From what I could’ve seen, there were a lot of sheets, when my eyes met the first words on the first page, I was really surprised that I couldn’t read anything. Every letter was a mystery for me, I’ve never seen writing like that, it seems that the scripture is coded and the letters are different from the ones I know.
- ” NO SARAH !! “. Someone grabbed my arm and took the papers from my hands. My aunt, breathless, glared at the man who had a smirk on his face.
- “Oh Jane ! It’s been a long time ! “. I looked at my aunt intrigued. She gave him a threatening look and then stared at me for a moment.
- “Leave or I’ll call the police! “. Her voice was harsh but the man seemed to find the situation amusing since his smirk became bigger.
- “Don’t be rude Jiji. You already forgot what we had, after all, we’ve been through ?! “. I looked at my aunt, with wide eyes. Is this man her ex-lover or something?
The man got closer to my aunt, which made her move back. Her eyes joined mine, I shook my head to ask her what’s going on, and she took a deep breath, revealing on her face an expression of...regret?
- “Leave David ... please”. She implored. Her tone was heavy and the man named David glanced at me with an amused expression.
- “Ah, I love when you beg me Jiji! It reminds me of all the good times we shared”. Jiji? I kind of feel embarrassed now, what was the relation between them exactly?
David was going to leave, but he turned one last time to look at me, and a smile that I couldn’t describe appeared on his lips.
- “We will meet again ...Arlyne! ”