Chapter four: Should I leave?
′Ciel, are you an orphan like us? ′ those words pounding in my head the next day, it should bother me, but it doesn’t.
“Now, Lilly, can you tell me how much is five times three?” Zara asks her eldest daughter, while I sat in the back of a large dining room. It has a large, long table, with twenty brown chairs. The walls are kind of badge color. Zara stood in front with a green chalkboard with a chalk in her hand.
“Um...” she went quiet, while Issac, a tall young man frowns at her. I leaned back in my chair and cross my arms. The baby suddenly started to clap and giggle. Zara’s eyes soften and she places her hands on top of the table to look straight at her eldest.
“Is okay Lilly, ah, how old will Issac will turn in a few months?” she gives a hint. Lilly turns to look at her brother. Her face changed to happy and she then looks back at her mother.
“Fifteen,” she said. Zara smiles and nods.
“Exactly.” with that, Zara claps her hands.
“That is for today. I have to go and start to do dinner,” she said, moving towards her youngest daughter and picks her up from the tall seat for a baby. I’m not sure what they are called.
“Dinner time. Mama, no broccoli this time.” Oscar spat, while Isabella nods in agreement. Sophy places her small head on her mother’s shoulder, while she walks up to Evalyn and takes her hand.
“That’s a shame. Then what shall I do with the pumpkin cake I have? Hmm, might as well give it to our guest. Mister?” she throws me a fast glance, which made me give her a cold stare.
‘Why do you put me in the middle? I don’t want cake lady,’ I told her with my mind, even though I knew she won’t understand. To my surprise, she just giggles, but covers her mouth with her hand to hide it.
Oscar and Isabella’s body bolts up.
“Cake? No, don’t give it to Ciel. We’ll eat the broccoli,” Isabella said, while I stood up from my chair.
“Is that so? How about we share it? Remember that when you share you make another happy, plus God will be happy.” she added. The children nod at her. Lilly stood up, while Issac did the same.
“Good that everyone understands.” she smiles at them. With that, they started to leave, but Evelyn lets go of her mother’s hand and rush to me. I look down at her.
‘Why do they keep coming to me?’ I just blink, while she takes my hand. She smiles at me, showing me her pearly white teeth.
“Yes?” I asked. She starts to pull me towards her mother since I had no other choice, I let myself be dragged.
While we reach her, Zara frowns at her daughter and somehow I felt very uncomfortable as our last conversation play in my head.
‘Hmm, should have used another lie. Didn’t mean to insult her. I just thought she was around to be having so many kids. Who knew she would just adopt them without hesitation.’ somewhere in me felt strange by that thought. A woman giving up her youth to raise children that aren’t even hers. Is admirable to look upon on.
Zara’s eyes connect with mine.
“Evalyn? What are you doing?” she asks her. Evalyn suddenly giggles.
“Help mama,” she tells me. I gave the child a strange look, then at her mother.
‘If the lady asks me, I would help, but feels awkward to be just around her right now.’
Issac clears his throat.
“Evalyn, let the mister alone.” Issac goes around the table and stands next to his mom. Zara turns to look at him.
“Issac?” she asks, placing her hand behind his head. Issac gave me a dirty look, while he bends and picks up his sister. Evalyn starts to protest.
“No, put me down,” she struggles, but Issac rubs her back, somehow that calms her down.
“Something wrong kid?” I asked him, while his eyes turn darker.
“Yes, something wrong. I don’t want you alone with my mom. I don’t know if you have any ill attentions with her. Like last night, you made her almost cry.” he defended.
’He’s protective over his mom. Don’t blame him. I would too if she was my mother. ′
“Issac, we just had a misunderstanding, plus children shouldn’t mingle on adult situations.”
“But mom, he..” Zara’s face softens, as her caramel eyes shined a little at her son.
“But mom nothing. I can perfectly defend myself. You don’t have to worry about me.” she cups his cheek. He frowns, not liking what his mother is saying.
“Mom, I’m not a child, I’m already grown and I don’t want this man around you. I won’t stand if anyone makes you cry. Not again.” he said the last part in a low tone. Lilly rushes over and takes her brother’s hand.
“Silly boy, of course, I’m going to cry and someone will make me cry. You can’t stop those, after all, we are human. One day one of you will make me cry since it’s normal for a child to somehow to give heartache to their parents in one way or another. I’ll just love you all the more, and pray hard for my children to become great people, learn from their mistakes. Heck, I’ll probably make someone cry as well. It’s part of being a human, no matter the age. That’s how we learn and we forgive.” she said, kissing her son temple.
“Mom, don’t..” Issac started to complain, but she giggles, and Sophy started to protest in her shoulder.
“Just let it be Issac, he won’t do it again. Right, mister?” she turns to face me. I gave her a long look, while Issac is ready to do anything to attack me. I simply shrug.
“Your mother is right kid and I apologize if I hurt your mother’s feelings,” I murmured, turning my head to head out.
“See, now go about getting the others ready, I’m already a bit late in the cooking. Mrs. Morris should come today and Pop’s as well,” she mentions.
“Pop’s coming as well?” I heard Isabella asked, while Oscar and Armando clap. Daniel runs up to his mother.
‘Oh, that mysterious Pop guy. Hmm, I need to give my thanks for using his clothes.’
“Pop? Pop?” Daniel said, Zara nods, looking at her children.
“Yes, pop is coming, now hurry on and get ready. I have lots to do.” She said while I turn my head to face the door, as an eerie feeling rush down my spine.
‘What the hell is it?’
I dust my hands as I finally finished stacking up the logs in a pile near the fireplace in the living room. I can smell the aroma of the food through the room. Since the living room is right next to the kitchen.
“Silly woman, how can she not stalk up on wood? It's getting colder as the days goes,” I frowned, looking at the fire that burns gently.
“I wonder how I ended up here? Last time I remembered. I was running away from the cops.” I cross my arms, when a sudden chill filled the room, feeling someone behind me. I went still, and turned my head, to see no one.
“Mister, there you are,” I heard my name. I turned to my left to see Zara walking in, wearing a simple green dress. Her curly short hair curlier than ever. Her eyes shine strongly.
“Lady, I have a name you know,” I said, while she comes closer.
“What a coincidence, so do I.” she claps with sarcasm.
“Funny,” I dryly remarked, while she shrugs, and walks closer to me, to look at the side, her eyes widen, and turns to face me.
“So you were stacking the logs for us.” her eyes shine with happiness. Somehow that made me feel weird.
“I told you, you should stock up,” I grumble, not liking her look, so I turn my gaze away from her.
“I know, but Mrs. Morris hasn’t returned yet, and I can’t leave my children alone.” she frowns, looking down at her small hands. I return my gaze back at her.
“What do you need?” I asked, not noticing that I was staring at her longer than I had to. Not sure why, but something in her eyes seems alluring, especially how the fire makes them look more gentle. She folded her arms under her breasts and sighs.
“Dinner is almost ready. Can..” but her words are cut off when a sudden noise is heard on our right. A door closing. My body went rigid as she did the same.
“Who closed the door?” she rubs her arms, I didn’t say anything, but walk away from her. I open the door that just shut, but didn’t see or heard any of the children. I frowned.
‘Was it that thing that I saw yesterday?’ I mentally groaned while I felt Zara next to me peaking out as well, I went still and turn my head, to see her how close she got to me. Her eyes connect with mine and somehow my chest felt uncomfortable.
“Is not the children, if not I would have heard someone laugh. They normally give themselves away when they pull a prank,” She explains. She swallows hard, as her tongue graze her red lips.
“Actually yesterday, I saw someone in the boy’s dorm. It was scary, so last night I had everyone sleep in the girls’ room, including myself. That’s why I had you slept in Pop’s room. I am worried, it looks like a man. Do you suppose he sneaks in here?” she asks, noticing that she moves a bit closer to me, her body shaking a little. For some odd reason, she looks like a child, wanting to be protected and assured.
“You think I believe that?” I questioned her. She nods.
“Yes, you saw him too.” I blinked surprised once again.
‘How does she know?’ I frowned, but shrug my shoulders.
“I already checked on the children, they are doing fine, so I came to check on you. They’re coming now,” she said, still looking at me.
‘Are you that worried about me? You shouldn’t, I don’t deserve it.’ I lifted my hand, not sure why, but then shook my head.
“I’ll go and check around,” I assured her, now opening the door and headed out. In doing so, the children were coming down the stairs. Zara rushes up to me and takes a hold of my wrist. Issac and Lilly stop their tracks and stares at us.
“Not now, please, just have dinner with us, plus Mrs. Morris and Pop’s will arrive soon.” she looks desperate.
“What’s going on?” Lilly asks while Sophy and Daniel gave us a long look. Evelyn and Armando rush to our side, and Oscar and Isabella which are holding hands came up to me. Issac, which held Sophy looks down where his mother held my wrist. He raised a brow.
“Ah, nothing. Err, Ciel wants to look around right now, but it’s too dangerous to leave the orphanage at night. You know the rules.” Zara said with a straight face, I arched a brow,
“So you know how to say my name,” I mouthed for her to read. She shot me a death glare.
“Don’t’ you start,” she mouthed back at me. I somehow find this amusing.
‘Sounds strange to hear her say my name.’
Zara turns to look at her children, while I look down to see that she hasn’t let go of me. Zara made eye contact with me and I simply gave her a cold smirk and she laughs nervously. For a reason I wanted to laugh at this situation, not sure why?
I can feel the corner of my lips rise once again, but I pushed it down. With her eyes still on mine, I pointed down, making her follow me. Her eyes widen to realize she hasn’t let go of me.
“Oh, sorry,” her face turns red once again from embarrassment. I blinked and tilted my head just slightly.
‘I wonder why I enjoy watching her turn red?’
“I’ll go now,” I simply said, but Oscar and Armando once again grab my pants.
“No, stay for dinner. Mama made broccoli again, and I can sneak you some, so I can tell her that I ate it.” Oscar tries to convince me. I actually snorted out a little, as I felt Zara giving her son a dark look and surprise one.
’They sure are strange children. Wonder why I feel comfortable around them? Considering how I grew up. Maybe Zara is right, is because I am one of them? ′
“Then no cake for you Oscar, simple as that,” Zara said while I bend down, to see the hurt look in his eyes.
“But Mama Zara, I want cake. I’m going to eat.. I promise.” He starts to cry, but Zara wouldn’t put up with it.
“Cry to someone that will believe you. Come, dinner is ready, and you mister, will have dinner with us.” she grabs Sophy and walks away. Oscar ball up his hands and kept on crying. I felt bad, so I rub his head. He lowers his hands and stares at me with red puffy eyes and sniffs.
“Mama hates me!” he shouts.
“Don’t cry, if you want I’ll share my cake with you. Your mom just hurts that you wouldn’t eat her food, she doesn’t hate you. Did you know she prepares the most delicious food just for you and your brothers and sisters? Because she wants you all to grow big and strong.” Oskar eyes widen at my words.
“Really?” he asks.
“Of course, and she wants you to be strong and healthy, so you can protect her. Plus, there’re many children in the streets that have no food to eat right now. If your mother right now goes out to serve them her broccoli, they will eat it without complaints.” I told them. I took notice that everyone surrounded me, looking at me with wide eyes.
“Mama said the same thing a few months ago, plus that’s how I met her,” Lilly said in a sad whisper. I look at her arching a brow.
‘What does that mean?’ Issac just kept staring at me. I stood up.
“Good that you all know, because is true. Your mother is trying hard to take care of each one of you. You have no idea how much she loves you all.” I mumbled the last part and turned around, not noticing that every kid stares at me with wide eyes, as Issac give me a strange look.
‘Well, is the least I can do.’
“Enjoy,” Zara said gently, handing Oscar a big piece of cake. His eyes bulge out, looking up at his mother.
“You’re not mad?” he asks her. Zara shook her head.
“I was just hurt that you wouldn’t eat my food is all, I am not mad at you. Eat as much as you want.” she kisses the top of his head. Oskar blushes and kisses her cheek.
“Thank you, mama. I’m sorry too. From now on, I won’t complain.” he said, as he stabs the cake with his fork, and starts to eat it. Isabella shakes her head.
“Me either. Thank you mama.” They all said at the same time, while I drank my milk.
‘She’s an amazing cook, so this is what a home cook meal feels like,’ I felt my heart swell, as I watch Zara talk to her children. I licked my lips and place my elbows on top of the table. Zara is a fast cleaner, she moved the chalkboard, and the papers away. She set up the table very nicely.
“Ah, the cake was prepared by Lilly this morning. So everyone gives her an applause for her time and effort.” Zara said. Everyone started to clap including the toddler. I place my chin on top of my palm.
‘Ciel, are you an orphan like us?’ again her question pops into my head.
‘I want to leave, I shouldn’t bring them trouble, after all, I am a wanted man. Yet, this woman is alone in this place, raising eight children that are not even hers. She took me in without batting an eye. God help me on what to do. Should I leave or stay?’ I suddenly prayed,
I stare at the woman in front of me, she suddenly stops her chatting, and her eyes landed on me.
“Oh, Ciel, do you want to say something?” she gently smiles at me. I shook my head.
“I’m going to look around now,” I push my chair back, and stood up, Zara body went rigid, but a loud thunderous noise echo outside.
“Is Mrs. Morris!” Daniel and Evelyn screams. Zara wipes her hands on her dress and rushes towards the large window to look out.
“It is, oh thank God.” she sighs out relief. I walk up to her and peaked out as well to see a black Cadillac, looks very new. The front is long and shiny.
‘She must have some loot on her, to afford that.’ I thought, crossing my arms. I saw an older woman come out, and a younger man maybe around his forties come out as well wearing a business suit on.
“Why is Mr. Don is here?” I heard Zara ask, I turned to see her bitting on her nail nervously.
‘Something is not right,’
“Lilly, please take the kids to the girl’s dorm. Issac, please make some tea now, I’ll go and great Mrs. Morris and Mr. Don.” Zara orders, turning her body so fast, that she didn’t even notice that I was close. She bumps into me once again. Without thinking, I wrap my arm around her waist and steady her. Our eyes lock, and she looks at me with wide eyes.
“Sorry,” she blushes, noticing the worry in her eyes and fear. I leaned forward once again, our eyes never leaving. I felt her body already trembling.
“Keep your head straight, whatever it is, don’t let it get to you.” is all I said. She nods, while determination replaces her fear.
I let her go, as soon as I realized I was holding her a little longer than I was supposed to. She clears her throat and nods bravely and turns around to head out. I turned to face the children. She suddenly stops and turns to face me.
“Err, I think you should hide.” I frowned at her suggesting,
“Why should I hide?” I asked her. She looks down at the floor, while everyone went to huddle around her
“If he catches you here, then everything will be over. I don’t want to lose our only home, nor do I want you to leave.”