CHAPTER ONE: Another Orphanage Bites the Dust
I guess there’s no easy way to start this. Because it’s insane, it really is. But if we’re going to talking about my life, we better start at the beginning.
I was orphaned as a baby; the only survivor of a massive tidal wave. That’s how I was named. Tide the Tsunami Girl. No previous records of me or my parents were ever found.
Like any parentless child, I was sent to an orphanage. Took a few tries for me to stop getting thrown out but I managed. Eventually.
Kids with a record like mine just don’t stay in one place for long.
Most of the Residential Education Facilities (orphanages, just call them orphanages) and girls’ homes worked off of an “obey or suffer the consequences” kind of style. That didn’t exactly sit well with me. I didn’t throw myself into fights and get in trouble, like a classic rebellious movie teen, but I tended to stay to stay in the background, quietly screwing stuff up. Sometimes all the oatmeal would mysteriously disappear, so we had to go to IHOP for breakfast instead. I loved that. Seeing the faces of the younger children when they realized they were going to have an actual meal, like a real family. Then those smiles would get them adopted and the only people left would be the older kids, the ones who refused to even try a family, because they knew they’d just get thrown back.
I was the only one who had never even been fostered. No one would take me, not after reading my folder. I was used to the reaction when people came to adopt: smiling, less smiling, not smiling, then bam, they read it and they were out of there as fast as they could. I wasn’t positive what was in my file, but I had a pretty good idea. At every orphanage, something different had happened. Something strange. Disasters tended to follow me.
At Parkers, I was having a nightmare one night and all the sinks and bathtubs flooded. While in Brockton, I got slammed with a dodge ball and all the sprinklers in the gym went off. They wouldn’t stop until the red mark faded from my cheek. On a drive in a snowstorm back to Carrington— the kids would not shut up about the tsunami thing— the bus skidded and crashed right into the cafeteria. At Walkers— well, I think you get the point. I guess it was too much to hope that someone would take me in after that kind of history. But I still did, and it was the same every time. Hope, shock, pain, anger. Then I’d break something and be sent off again.
In a way, it was good. I learned to never get attached to places and things, no matter how much I wanted to. People were a different story though. Against my better judgement, I’d basically become the mother of all the younger kids at every orphanage. It just set me up to be heartbroken when they left, but I did it over and over and over again.
Westerville, the girl’s home I ended up in, was one of the kinds that you see in the movies. Drab, grey, and depressing. Even the creepy cupid statues on either side of the front doors had a frown. The food was tasteless, the beds were hard and it was the only place that would take me. Westerville was the longest I’d ever stayed at any one place. I wouldn’t say it was my home, because when you’re constantly being thrown away to some “better” place for your “needs,” it’s hard to find a place where you don’t feel like you’re walking on thin ice. But it was all I had.
Things were going relatively well, I hadn’t done anything major, but I had a problem with this other kid named Celina Garth. More on her later. My life wasn’t much, boring even. Boring seems so nice now. It was an endless cycle. I was sixteen when that all changed.
Sixteen is the magic age. Parties (if you’re rich enough) (or have enough friends), you’re almost half way through hell (I mean high) school, and you’re given a plastic card with an ugly picture that allows you to control a locomotive that weighs a ton. Unless you’re me, which means no cars, because giving a car to a kid like me is equivalent to dropping a lit cigarette on gasoline and wondering what could go wrong.
So, for a kid like me, sixteen was just like fifteen: washing dishes. Apparently, I was very good at using water and soap to make ugly floral plates look sparkly.
Celina and I were on dish duty that night. I was perfectly fine working in silence, each of us doing our half. Celina wasn’t.
Celina’s parents had died in car crash and she was the oldest kid in the orphanage. Two months away from being legally able to ditch this place.
“Say, uh… Tide,” she started. Celina had often made comments about my name, about how unusual it was, and whenever she said it aloud, she would always pause before like she didn’t want to.
“Yeah?” I answered, not looking up from my sudsy plate.
“My hands are so tired from scrubbing all these plates. Do you think you could finish them off?”
That’s Celina for you: always trying to make it seem like she’s in great pain when really, she’s just being lazy. Which is fine, if you’re not a kid like me.
But I am a kid like me.
“Um.” I didn’t answer her question. I didn’t want to finish all the dishes. If it was a little kid, then sure, whatever. But I’m petty, and Celina had racked up a bunch of “Tide Hates You and Wants Revenge” points.
Celina could see that I was avoiding her orders. She pressed harder.
“It would be really great of you. Besides, you’re almost done with yours, and I’ve just started. ” She was starting to whine now.
She was right in the fact that I was almost done and she, literally, had just started. She had spent twenty minutes eating cereal and making more dishes to clean. I could see where this was going, so I tried to put an end to it.
That made her stop. She looked up at me, a cold fire in her eyes. She stood up straight and I saw that her fists were clenched.
“Do it now,” Celina growled.
That was my last nerve. It felt like something had just broken inside of me. I was sick of her orders, sick of letting her push everyone around— I was sick of her.
"No,” I turned towards her, anger building up inside me. She took a step towards me so I had to look up at her towering figure.
“Listen here, kid. When I tell you to do something, you do it. Understand?”
Kid sent a streak of resentment through my chest. The last thing I needed was to be loomed over by someone only a year or two older than me, as if that time made her so much more important than me. More important than anyone. The arrogance of putting one life ahead of another made my blood boil.
My vision blurred. Sort of like a camera trying to focus on two different things at once. The sound of running—fast running water— filled my ears. It churned inside my brain, numbing other noises. Am I breathing? It felt like I didn’t need to.
Shouts vibrated against my skull. Frenetic. Frightened. I tilted my head to pick up the syllables.
Sound slammed into my senses like a freight train. I flinched so hard my muscles ached with the tension. I could hear water roaring, muted pounding, glass shattering.
“What is wrong with you, freak?”
I could see with absolute clarity. The faucets sprayed soap bubbles everywhere. The water from the spouts circled the room, adding to the swirling mass. Celina stood on the side farthest from me, ducking from the spray. Her mouth was moving—she was shouting. Her voice cut in and out. It must be the water blocking my ears. It had to be.
I’m going insane.
My breathing stopped. My chest hitched, lungs trying to gather air but there was nothing.
The water surged with my growing panic. The whirlpool converged on us, forcing Celina to stumble forward to avoid being dragged away with the current. Did I do this? I choked on a horrified inhale.
Celina’s screams petered out and my haggard breathing filled the space. My hands shook by my sides, arms limp. I swallowed through chapped lips and a dry mouth. Past Celina, the water hung in the air. It rippled with each breath I took. I brought my wide eyes to Celina’s.
I flinched and the water dropped, flooding the floor of the kitchen. Footsteps pounded over the second floor, approaching the stairs.
That was my only thought.
It coursed through my arms and legs and there was nothing stopping me.
I sprinted out the emergency exit. As alarms blared and sirens grew closer I raced out of the city. Westerville was on the edges of town so I got as far away as I could. I ran past familiar scenery then entered alien. I had no idea where I was, where I was going. All I could hear was the echoing of Celina’s screams.
I didn’t know how long I ran for, but eventually I had to stop to rest. My chest was aching and my heart was beating out of control. I was so tired. My legs felt like Jell-O. My head started to feel kind of fuzzy and I collapsed as everything went black.
Which brings us to the present.
Welcome to my life.