Charity Stays Strong – Book 1 of the Charity Brooks Series
by Madison Lorfing
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved by the eighth commandment, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.
Not to be reprinted, reposted, or used unless given permission from myself, Madison Lorfing.
Era set in the 1890’s.
My heart pounded as I walked up the steps to Miss Hattie’s Orphanage for Girls. I hoped I looked alright as I looked down at my plain brown skirt and scuffed black boots. Mrs. Hawkins, my neighbor, knocked on the door loudly. My sweaty hand gripped my tiny sack of few belongings saved from the fire which killed my parents and soon-to-be baby sibling. My other hand grasped my golden locket which I wore around my neck. In it bore pictures of my mother and father.
The door swung open, and there stood a crisp-looking woman, appearing to be about in her early forties. She had on a brown dress and a red and black brooch on her collar bearing a picture of some young woman.
“How may I help you?” She asked with fake politeness. She had on a weary look. “I’m here to drop off a girl for your orphanage? She is twelve years old, and her name is Charity Brooks.” Mrs. Hawkins told the woman.
“Yes, well, come inside and fill out a form please, and then this girl can stay here,” the lady mumbled, stepping aside to let us in.
She showed us to her cluttered office, introduced herself as the Miss Hattie, and let Mrs. Hawkins sit down and fill out a form which showed she gave me to the orphanage on what day, blah, blah, blah.
“Good luck, Charity. I hope you find a home and a good family someday,” Mrs. Hawkins told me, and then she left.
“All right, I’ll show you to your dorm,” Miss Hattie grumbled, and I followed her upstairs into a medium room with thin cots lining the walls. Girls of all ages (5-15) sat on their beds, chatting or quietly keeping to themselves.
The moment Miss Hattie stepped in, every girl scrambled beside their bed, curtseyed, and stood straight before her. “Girls, this is Charity.” Was all Miss Hattie said. Then she left, shutting the door behind her.
A girl about my age walked over to me and offered her hand to shake. “I’m Jaida,” she introduced herself with a smile. I gave her a nasty look and walked over to an empty bed, plopping my stuff down.
Jaida’s smile faded, and she slowly returned to her own bed, sitting down.
An older-looking girl, the oldest one there in fact, walked up to me with her hands on her hips. “Look here, missy. We will have none of that attitude around here. My name is Courtney, and I am the eldest girl here, and am in charge while Miss Hattie is gone. You’re not to be rude. Is that clear?” Courtney stoutly spoke.
I stood up from the bed, glaring at her and crossing my arms. “And who made you the boss?” I asked impudently. “Miss Hattie did, and I am not afraid to report your behavior to her if you don’t straighten up that attitude of yours.” She replied.
“Well you can tell Miss Hattie that I don’t care about any stupid rules, and you can sit right down on your rump and shut your mouth!” I retorted saucily.
The girl’s eyebrows furrowed. Finally she shook her head. “You’re new here, so I’ll give you some grace.” She turned back to her bed, and all the quiet girls now resumed their normal chitter chatter.
All of the sudden, we heard a loud bell ring downstairs. “That’s the supper bell!” Jaida told me. Her cot was two away from mine, which was underneath the large window in the room. “I’m aware of that, thank you!” I snapped. Jaida hushed and lined up single-file with all the other girls, Courtney as their leader.
We all followed Courtney as she led us seventeen girls down the spiral stairs and into the dining hall. Each girl took a seat, and Courtney led us in prayer.
Miss Hattie came in with two big trays full of plates of roasted potatoes. She set the trays down and Courtney directed each girl, one by one, to take a plate. Then Miss Hattie came back with cups and a big pitcher of water, then walked briskly back to her office, shutting the door behind her. Courtney poured each girl a glass of water.
I grabbed a slice of roasted potato with my fingers and popped it in my mouth. It wasn’t savory, but it was good and filling.
It was then I noticed all the girls were staring at me. I stopped in mid-chew, frozen. I glanced around. Courtney, clearing her throat, told me, “Here, everyone always wait for the eldest, me, to begin eating before starting to eat.”
“So? I don’t care,” I haughtily announced, taking another bite of potato. Courtney just shook her head, took a bite of food, and then the other girls began eating.
I was finished before everyone else, so I told her I had to go to the bathroom. But I snuck into the kitchen through the back door – I had to get something I’d need for later tonight.
After supper, Courtney led us back to the room. She told us now it was quiet-time, for reading the Bible or another book, sewing, or getting ready for bed early. But no talking was allowed.
I leaned back against the wall above my cot, sighing loudly.
For everyone to hear.
“Charity!” Courtney scolded. “SHUSH.” I stuck my tongue out at her and made a face. Courtney ignored me, and turned back to her Bible reading.
I watched as Jaida pulled out a worn journal and started writing in it with a thin stick of graphite (pencil). I stood up and walked over to her. “Whatcha writin’?” I asked. “This is my journal,” Jaida replied with a hint of pride. She showed me it, smiling. “My older sister gave it to me before she sent me here. She’s coming back for me as soon as she gets enough money to rent a place and provide for us both,” she added.
“Charity, what did I say about no talking? And Jaida, you know better!” Courtney told us both. The sparkle in Jaida’s eyes left instantly, and quickly muttered, “I’m sorry, Courtney.”
I walked back to my bed, very bored. Hmm… I could always make some trouble. Plus, it would be fun to annoy bossy Courtney!
“A MOUSE!!!” I shrieked at the top of my lungs, pointing at the floor randomly.
Every girl screamed for her life and stood atop her bed. “IT’S COMING TOWARDS YOU!!!” I yelled, pointing at a young Ethiopian girl with lovely black hair. She screamed, pressing herself against the wall. Everyone except Courtney was screaming at the top of their lungs, with me pointing and shouting at random places on the floor, with, “THERE IT IS!!!” every so often.
It was so hilarious – if you could have been there, oh my word. It was all I could do to keep my “petrifyingly scared” face on during the entire time. I could barely keep from doubling over with laughter!
Courtney was the only one standing, unamused. Her arms were folded, and she was glaring at me. “Charity!” She barked, marching over to me. Uh-oh. I jumped down from my bed and faced her boldly.
“You march yourself in that corner right now!” She commanded, pointing towards the corner close to my bed. By now, the girls had all calmed down and had realized I made the entire mouse thing up.
“If you say so,” I grinned, and literally loudly marched-stomped like a stereotypical soldier to the corner. A few of the younger girls giggled.
Courtney whipped around, her skirts flying. “Quiet!” She ordered. Everyone hushed. While she was turned around, I hurriedly sat in my bed.
“You are impossible!” Courtney hissed at me when she found I was back on my bed and not in the corner. Then we all turned our heads to the door which had been flung open by Miss Hattie. “What’s going on?!” She demanded.
“There was a mouse,” The Ethiopian girl squeaked shyly. “Well, I don’t see one! And for heaven’s sake, it isn’t going to kill you!” Miss Hattie snapped. “Now, as punishment, early bedtime for all of you! Courtney, you see to it that they all get to bed NOW.”
“Yes ma’am,” Courtney replied respectfully as Miss Hattie left.
As soon as the door was closed, Courtney announced, “Girls, you heard Miss Hattie! What are you waiting for? Get your nightclothes on, all of you!” When she saw they were all staring at me, she crossed her arms. “What now?!”
“Charity’s bleeding!” Jaida screamed. Tears were streaming down my face as I sobbed. A terribly red liquid was drenching my thumb. Courtney’s expression turned to pure sympathy and concern as she rushed over and knelt by my bed.
“What happened, Charity?” She asked, a worried tone in her voice as she held my bleeding hand in hers.
“Well… I… I…” I started sobbing again.
“Wait a second, this isn’t blood…” Courtney began when she saw strawberry seeds in the “blood”.
I was laughing hysterically through all of my fake tears. “You seriously fell for it!!!” I shrieked with laughter.
Courtney sprang up angrily. “I should have known that was another one of your tricks!” She scolded severely. “You lied to me – you weren’t using the bathroom, you were getting strawberries from the kitchen! You should be ashamed of yourself, Charity Brooks! And you’d have yourself a right terrible belting on your backside if I told Miss Hattie, too!”
My giggling face stopped fast. Did she say belting? Miss Hattie? Belting? Those words seemed to perfectly fit together, as if a legend to scare kids into being good. But was it really just a legend, or was Courtney being serious? I admit, it worked for scaring me – for a little bit, anyways.
And I noticed all of the girls were not only staring at me with “Not-cool,” glances, but Jaida had her arms crossed, shaking her head with disapproval as if she couldn’t believe I faked an injury.
“All right, all of you, change into your nightgowns!” Courtney commanded.
I was quiet for the rest of the night. When Courtney handed me an extra nightgown that looked liked it would fit me (which it did), I said thank you. But she didn’t say you’re welcome, and ignored me for the rest of the night.
We took turns in the tiny bathroom area to brush our teeth, and everyone shared six toothbrushes.
That night, I stayed rolled over to the wall, shivering under my covers and gently crying myself to sleep. Not only have I made myself out to be a bully and a bad girl here, but I missed my parents and my old house terribly. I wanted to go back more than anything in the whole world.
I didn’t even know why I was being mean to everyone here – maybe I was just angry that my parents were dead, and just needed someplace to vent out my anger.
But if you can’t clear your name, make it worse.
The next morning, I awoke to another bell. “Everybody up!” Courtney cheerily urged. She was already dressed and ready for the day. She was also in a happier mood – perhaps she believed in starting afresh each morning, as she didn’t give me any stern looks but actually asked me how I slept last night!
I just shrugged for the most part, and then rolled my eyes. I was known as the bad girl now. There’s nothing I could do about it but keep the title… Right?
I reached under my bed and pulled out my clothes. After slipping off my nightgown I pulled on my under garments, black stockings, blouse, bodice, petticoats and skirts, as well as my boots.
I twisted back a section of my curly auburn hair and clipped it back, then repeated to the other side. I had saved a few of my mother’s hair clips from the fire, and I wore them proudly every day. I also made sure my locket was securely around my neck – ever since the fire, I never took it off. Not even to sleep. I kept it on me at all times.
Making sure I had my locket, I tucked it in my blouse.
“That’s a pretty necklace,” a little girl came up to me and said. She looked about six, and she had shoulder-length brown hair, light skin, and brown eyes. She was the cutest thing you ever did see, but I snapped at her anyways. “Don’t make personal remarks!”
The girl’s face saddened, and she turned away from me, afraid.
“Come, come, Kathy! Don’t let her scare you,” Courtney reached out for the Kathy’s hand. Courtney shot me a look. “Is this really going to continue on?” She asked sharply. “If you mean my awesomeness clashing with your dullness, it will keep going on for eternity or until your death. Whichever comes first.” I answered, then flicked my gorgeous hair at her and turned away to make my bed like the others had done.
Kathy sat down on her bed (which she had already made) and chatted with some other young girls while waiting for the breakfast bell to ring, and Courtney came towards me briskly.
“If I have to tell Miss Hattie about your behavior, I will,” she announced. “And when she hears about all the terrible things you’ve done and spoken, I know for sure she will give you the licking of your life. I’ve seen it done. I’ve had it done myself, actually. It hurts worse than almost anything else you’ve ever felt in your life, next to breaking a bone or something of course. If you don’t drop the attitude and start being more respectful, sooner or later, Miss Hattie will be getting ready to flog you something terrible.”
“Oh, wow, I’m SO scared,” I dramatically pretended to yawn at her threat, though inside I was almost shaking. Something told me she wasn’t kidding. Courtney opened her mouth to say something, but instead clamped it shut and glared at me when the breakfast bell rang.
We all lined up, and I was disgusted to find out that breakfast was grits. “You can’t get much better at an orphanage,” I complained when I had a bite. It wasn’t actually that bad, but I was wishing I had my mother’s delicious cheesy eggs right now.
“Charity, don’t complain!” Courtney scolded. “Why shouldn’t I?” I asked impertinently, flipping my gorgeous hair again. “You are impossible…” Courtney mumbled to herself again and then took another bite of grits.
“Okay, girls, we have lessons to do!” Courtney announced when we were back in our dorm. She pulled out a crate of books from the corner of the room and let the girls choose one each.
I stayed on my bed, hugging my knees to my chest, looking out my window. Yes, I called it mine.
“Charity? Do you not know how to read?” Courtney asked with sympathy, holding up a book entitled, “Little Women”.
“Of course I know how!” I sputtered. “I just refuse to read at the moment because I like to busy myself doing other things!”
“Like what?” She asked, annoyed. “Like this!” I stood atop my cot and started jumping.
“One little girly jumping on the bed! Then she jumped off and did a front flip!”I sang, and then I jumped and did a front somersault in the air. All the little girls were amazed.
“Charity! Stop being so naughty!” Courtney yelled. “Boohoo! You can’t make me!” I taunted, then I picked one of the little girls up. She started screaming, “LET ME DOWN!!!”
Courtney ran over to me and grabbed the little girl and set her down. “Charity! I’ve about had it with you!” She had a strong, painful grip on my shoulder as she pushed me into the corner. “Now you stay there, biting your tongue the entire time!” She commanded.
I stuck my tongue out and then clamped my teeth down at it. My face grimaced a little – I didn’t realize how much it would hurt!
Satisfied, Courtney turned around (after commanding me to stay put) and returned to helping a little girl with easy words.
All the while, I was devising a wonderfully bad plan.
After about an hour, my tongue was getting tired, numb and sore from me biting it still. Lessons were just getting finished, and Courtney marched up to me.
“Charity, has you learned your lesson?” She barked. I turned around from the corner and nodded, still biting my tongue. “You may stop biting your tongue now,” she told me. I suck it back in.
“Now everyone, line up! It’s time for play time outside!”
The backyard was relatively large, but not so much so you could say it was “A large backyard.” It was just big enough for a tree or two, and had enough running space for all of us seventeen girls.
Courtney kept a sharp, motherly, protective eye over each one of the girls, including me.
“Now it’s time to put your plan into action,” I whispered evilly, rubbing my hands together and delighting in a malicious evil laugh to myself.
I sat down underneath a tree and observed everyone, trying to choose my victim.
I noticed a girl who looked around nine years old. She had braided strawberry blonde hair, a few bangs here and there, and a shy look on her face. She was perfect.
“Maisie, would you like to play jump rope with us?” Jaida asked her sweetly. “No thanks,” she answered politely, shaking her head.
I stood up and walked over to her.
“What’s wrong, Crazy Maisie?” I teased. “Are you too loopy to play jump rope today? Perhaps you jostled your noggin too much with all the shaking of your head you do?”
Maisie’s mouth was in a tight line.
“Oh, don’t get offended. It’s not like EVERYONE who wears pigtails is stupid!” I tugged one of her braids. She stepped back, pulling her braid out of my hands. “Stop it,” she spoke quietly and shyly.
“Are you going to start CRYING?” I taunted. “Perhaps you need to let all those tears out. They are welling in your eyes quicker then ever! Here, this should help jump-start the sobs…” With that, I reached out and grabbed one of her braids and pulled down sharply as hard as I could.
Maisie started screaming, which brought Courtney over to us in an instant.
Her penetrating grip on my shoulder pushed me back as she comforted Maisie.
By now, all the girls were gawking at me. The Ethiopian girl leaned over and whispered to Jaida, “Why is that girl so mean?” Jaida just shook her head, whispering back, “I don’t know, Elaine.”
Inside, I still endured shocked stares from the girls and disappointed looks from Jaida. Courtney’s firm grip on my shoulder as she shoved me in the corner was firmer than ever. It actually hurt. “Charity, you are the baddest girl I’ve ever had to deal with? Are you TRYING to make my life and the life of other’s around your miserable? I already have such a responsibility of watching out for all these girls! You make my job so hard! I hope you’re happy!” Courtney yelled at me.
I hugged my arms and hung my head as I faced the corner once again. Oh, why couldn’t I just clear my name? Why did I have to keep the title of being bad?
“Alright, girls, it’s time for the afternoon meal,” Courtney announced after a while, glancing at the clock in the room. I happily turned around from the corner to line up with the other girls – I was getting hungry!
“Except for Charity,” she added sharply, eying me carefully. “You are to stay in the corner for the rest of the day!”
My jaw dropped. “F-f-for the rest of the day? W-what about meal and b-bathroom breaks?!” I sputtered in unbelief.
“Monique, as second-eldest, you will stay here and make sure Charity stays put in that corner. If she absolutely must use the bathroom, you are to accompany here and make sure she makes it in the outhouse and then walk her back inside. I will bring you your meals, Monique.” Charity told a tall girl who had medium skin, very curly brown hair, and unique hazel eyes. She nodded and sat down on her bed.
As soon as all the girls left except for Monique, I turned around, slid down the wall, and hugged my knees to my chest and burst out in tears. Why? I didn’t want to be so naughty! I didn’t want to have to be punished so often! But how on earth could I clear my name? I just wanted to be with my parents again – oh, how I wish they were alive!
I buried my face in my arms and nearly drenched them with tears. I felt so awfully sorry for my self. I was miserably hungry, and my muscles were getting a little cramped from sitting there for such a long time.
I stayed there and watched pitifully as Monique devoured her afternoon meal mashed potatoes and roasted ham right before my eyes. Courtney saw my longing, and I could tell she felt satisfied about how well my punishment was working.
I watched as the girls came and went for another meal, bathroom breaks, and more free time outside. I did have to use the bathroom once, and I walked slow and took rather large steps to stretch my cramped muscles. Another older girl switched out shifts with Monique so she’d have a break.
By the time it was nighttime, I was so hungry I felt faint, I was cramped and sore, and I couldn’t fall asleep because I was tossing and turning. My cot was uncomfortable, and I couldn’t stop thinking of my parents.
Morning came, and we all awoke to the bell and Courtney practically singing with joy, “Time to get up, lovelies!” As I sat up, Courtney looked at me sweetly. “Are you ready for breakfast, Charity?” She asked, knowing I was starving. All I could do was nod feebly, and let my stomach do all the talking – it let out a HUGE growl and grumble in answer to Courtney’s question.
I placed my hand over my stomach and blushed greatly as all the girls turned to look at me when they heard the loud noise.
I dressed quickly, but twice I had a wave of nausea come over me. I held my stomach as it growled again, and had to close my eyes, lean against the wall, and take a few deep breaths to steady myself again. I felt a little dizzy here and then, and when the oatmeal was set before me, I waited for Courtney to begin eating. I didn’t dare do a thing bad today – lest she make me go without breakfast, too!
As soon as she took her first bite, I DEVOURED my oatmeal in less than a minute. “Yuck, oatmeal again?” A little girl complained, pushing her half-eaten oatmeal bowl in front of her. “Lilia! Don’t complain! Be grateful for what you have.” Courtney told the girl. “I’ll have hers!” I spoke up quickly.
“Well… Okay,” Courtney said slowly.
After eating the oatmeal, I felt much better.
As I walked back upstairs, a voice raged inside – ‘What are you doing! You are known as the bad girl now! There is no way to clear your name! You must be naughty! There’s nothing you can do about your name now.’
So, when it was time for lessons, I refused to read the book that was handed to me. “Charity, I’d honestly thought you learned your lesson! Why won’t you just obey for once in your life?!” Courtney snapped.
“Because no one’s the boss of me!” I sang, jumping up and down on my cot. “Just read a book!” Courtney begged. “Do SOMETHING – ANYTHING – with it and make my life easier!!”
“Okay, I’ll do something with it,” I grinned mischievously. I took the heavy book from her and tossed it across the room.
I hit Elaine’s(The Ethiopian girl) head, and she let out a piercing scream. Courtney ran to her, trying to calm her down. She was now fighting back raging sobs as she held the side of her head in agony. “Am I bleeding?” She wailed, tears streaming down her cheeks.
I clapped my hands over my mouth – I didn’t mean to hurt Elaine! I really hadn’t! I didn’t mean to hurt any one!
“No, child, you’re not! There, there, lay down and take it easy. Monique, run downstairs to the icebox in the kitchen and wrap a hunk of ice in a cloth. Hurry!” Courtney’s orders were quickly obeyed as Monique darted down the stairs to prepare an ice pack. “It’s going to be alright, Elaine – just lay here.” Elaine was now calmer, and closed her eyes as she laid on her bed.
When Monique came back faster than we’d expected and hurriedly put the ice pack on Elaine’s head, Courtney whipped around angrily to me.
She marched up close and yelled, “Charity Brooks! You are the most terrible, most awful person I’ve ever known! That was the most terrible thing I’ve seen done! I just can’t believe you!” I opened my mouth to speak, but clamped it shut as Courtney threw out, “And I hope you learn the greatest lesson of your life, and I hope you know you’re learning it the hard way! Monique, you’re in charge while I’m gone – I’m telling Miss Hattie to give you the whipping of your LIFE for everything you’ve done!!!”
Courtney fled out the door. I gawked. “W-w-what!” I stammered. “Looks like Little Miss Naughty here is in for it big time!” Jaida remarked, glaring at me. “Yes, I hope she learns her lesson, or at least pass out from all the pain she’s going to endure!” Monique agreed.
“P-p-pass out?” I repeated, hugging my arms. “So much for quiet time,” sighed Lilia, slamming her book shut. “I won’t be able to get any reading done with all the screaming of pain coming from Miss Naughty.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as Courtney appeared at the door, commanding, “Charity Brooks, Miss Hattie wants to see you downstairs NOW.”
Tears overflowed as I followed Courtney down the stairs, and turned into muffled sobs as we reached a door entitled, “PUNISHMENT.”
Miss Hattie, carrying a long, thick leather belt, stepped out of her office. “Thank you Courtney, you may go upstairs now.” Miss Hattie dismissed her. Courtney curtseyed, then hurried up the stairs.
“Step in here, child.”
I was bent over a bench in the dark room, and grit my teeth, bracing myself for the whippings.
But really, nothing could have prepared me for that one penetrating moment when the belt smacked my back. I screamed at the top of my lungs, instantly bursting in tears.
The floggings never stopped. Miss Hattie kept whipping my back, and I kept screaming the blood-curdling shrieks of excruciating agony every time. “Just stop!!!” I begged, sobbing uncontrollably when I could take it no more. “Please! I will never ever be bad again-” I was caught off by another smack of the belt on my back. I screamed out again, tears flooding my face.
Then, finally, it all stopped.
I kept clutching the bench tightly with my white knuckles, wailing and sobbing. “I trust you’ll never misbehave in my orphanage again, will you?!” Miss Hattie asked sharply.
I shook my head, still sobbing. “Never,” I choked out between teary explosions. “Now, you owe Courtney a very sincere apology. You march your behind right up those stairs and give it to her. It better be good, because if Courtney tells me it wasn’t a real apology, we’re coming right back down to this little room and we’re going to do it all over again.”
I nodded rapidly, still crying. “Yes ma’am,” I told her, taking shaky breaths as I feebly stood up.
She opened the door for me, and watched as I stepped up the stairs until I was out of sight. Just before I came to the door, I took a few slow, still quite shaky, breaths and brushed my skirt. I knew exactly what I needed to say. This was my mistake. This was my lesson learned. This was my apology to make.
I took a deep breath. “I am never going to be bad again,” I decided. “I don’t care if I’m known as a bad girl for the rest of my days at the orphanage, I won’t live up to the title!”
I clutched my locket tightly for a moment before reaching out to touch the door knob.
I finally opened the door to the dorm slowly and stepped in quietly. A few girls looked up and stopped talking. Soon everyone was staring at my red eyes and tear-stained face. The shame was almost unbearable as I walked up to Courtney, who stood up and folded her arms when I started walking to her.
If I didn’t notice her height before, I sure did now. She seemed to tower over me, with a stiff look on her face. I could hardly look her in the eyes, so I hung my head and looked at my feet, hugging my arms tightly. I told her in a quiet, greatly ashamed voice,
“I am very sorry for my rebellious attitude … and … the way I treated you and everybody… I … apologize … and … ask for your forgiveness.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I endured the mortifying stares from all the girls, and my cheeks were blushing furiously from the shame and humiliation. I finally forced myself to look her in the eyes.
“Apology accepted,” Courtney’s expression softened as she said those words. “I forgive you. But you’re grounded for the rest of this day to this room.”
I looked back down and walked around her to my bed by the window. I sat down, bringing my knees to my chest and burying my face in my hands. It was everything I could do to keep from crying. I was so ashamed and embarrassed!
I finally rolled over and gently sobbed myself to sleep. “Tomorrow is a new day,” I told myself in my dreams. “The future is yours if you make it. You made things right. You learned a great lesson and decided to do what’s right. What’s tomorrow going to be like? It’s your choice.”
I woke up before the bell this time. Courtney had just laced up her boots and stood up. She was combing back her ginger hair and twisting it back like I do. I swung my legs out of the covers and let my toes touch the chilly floor. Autumn was almost over, and that meant winter would come soon.
When Courtney turned around and saw I was awake, she smiled at me. “Good morning, Charity.” Her smile was genuine, as if she knew things would be different from now own. “Good morning,” I replied quietly, avoiding her eyes.
Courtney walked over to me and sat down on my bed. “You still owe Elaine, Maisie, and Jaida apologies,” she mentioned. “I know.” I muttered, nodding. “But it’s going to be harder to apologize to them than it was to you.” I didn’t know why I told her that – but at that moment, I felt so close to her.
“I know,” she quietly sighed. “But it’s the right thing to do.” I nodded, completely understanding what she meant.
The bell rang soon after, with Courtney greeting everyone with a good-morning smile and sweet, urging words.
“How do you feel today, Elaine?” Asked Courtney when Elaine woke up. “Other than the fact I’ve got a bruise the side of a goose egg on my head, I’m totally fine,” Elaine replied, grinning.
Now is your time.
I stood up slowly and walked over to her. “Elaine, I am very, very sorry about hitting you with the book,” I began. “It really was an accident. I meant to throw the book, but not to hit you – or anyone. I’m really sorry.”
Courtney watched me with approval. A reassuring smile broke out on Elaine’s face, as she told me, “It’s totally alright! I knew that deep inside of you, you’d never want to actually hurt someone!”
“I wish that was true,” I sighed. Then I turned to Maisie, on the other side of the room. “But I hurt Maisie, too. I’m very sorry about pulling your hair, Maisie. And for teasing you, too.” Maisie didn’t say anything at first, but she finally huffed, “I forgive you.” She had on a crisp look on her face – she didn’t really forgive me.
Finally, I faced Jaida.
“Jaida, I’m very sor-” “I know,” Jaida smiled. “It’s fine. Let’s just forget it.” Her smile was so genuine, sweet, and forgiving, I felt nearly overwhelmed with joy. “Thanks,” was all I could say, smiling widely.
I also apologized to the little girl I picked up. I learned later her name was Ella. She had curly black hair, dark skin, and brown eyes. She also had the cutest thing of a smile!
“Okay girls, line up!” Courtney called.
We scampered to line up single-file behind her, and we followed her down the stairs. I waited for Courtney to begin eating before I ate, and I was grateful for the oatmeal.
I concentrated hard on my “lessons” – it was just reading for the girls who knew how, and the littler ones were taught how to read by Courtney. I was reading an amazing book, called “Nymphs and Royalty” by Madison Lorfing. (You can read it too… Click here!)
“I’m surprised Little Miss Naughty hasn’t done anything bad all day!” Spoke up one girl. Unshed tears stung my eyes as I bit my lip to keep the angry words back. “That whipping must have taught her such a great lesson!” I finally slammed my book shut, eyes of fire glaring at her. I had a look of DEATH on my face. I glared at her like I was about to chop her head off.
But I said not one word.
“Lauren!” Courtney scolded. “In the corner, now!” Lauren looked down at the floor and blushed as our eyes all followed her to the corner.
I caught Jaida’s eyes, and she was grinning at me. She mouthed, “You did good.” I returned her smile, and then returned to my book.
“Hey, is this a golden locket?!”
My jaw dropped. I quickly felt my neck – my locket wasn’t there!
Maisie held in her hands a golden locket – MY golden locket – and her face seemed to taunt me. She must have stolen it from me while I was sleeping! “Oh, Maisie, you found my locket!” I pretended to thank her as I walked over to her and reached my hand out to take it.
Maisie snatched it out of my reach and brought it close to her chest. “Mmm-hmm, and how do we know it’s really yours, hmm? I’ve never seen you wear it!” Her taunting eyes seemed to dance with mischief, and her smirk told me she was still holding the grudge.
“Maisie, give it back.” Jaida demanded in a strong, fearless voice. “I’ve seen her wear it, she just tucks it in her shirt sometimes. If you don’t give it back, I’ll tell Courtney.” (For Courtney had gone to use the outhouse, and Monique was left in charge but she was busy helping a six year old learn how to read.)
Maisie stuck her tongue out at Jaida as she smacked down my locket into my open palm. “Be careful, Maisie!” Jaida scolded. “You’re not the boss of me!” Maisie argued. “But I know someone who is, and she’s right here.” Jaida turned her head to the door, and in stepped Courtney.
“Fine,” Maisie whispered quickly. I clipped my golden locket behind my neck, and then threw my arms around Jaida in a big hug. “Thank you.”
The hug with Jaida didn’t last long, but I savored every second of it. It was so genuine and warm, and it made me so happy and loved… Which I hadn’t felt since my parents died.
When we finally pulled away, it was because Courtney was telling us to get back to our lessons. We smiled at each other and then walked back to our beds.
Free time. It’s my new favorite part of the day. Or at least, I wanted it to be. I was looking forward to actually play with Jaida instead of looking for ways to be mean to her and everyone else.
“I know! Let’s play hot potato with this rock!” Lilia cried, picking up an oval-shaped stone about the size of your hand. “Great idea,” Maisie commented. I noticed she’s really broken out of her shell lately – that’s one good thing that’s come out of me being the “bully” slash naughty kid. She started being more outgoing as to not make herself a target. ?
“Charity, stand by me and Elaine!” Jaida waved me over. I was shyly standing a few yards away from the circle that the girls began to form. Grateful for her friendliness, I skipped over and stood by her, smiling.
“I don’t know if it’s such a good idea for her to play,” Maisie spoke up. “And why not?” It was Elaine’s turn to break out of her shell now. She put her arm around me confidently, standing her ground. “She might decide to throw that rock and hit someone!” Maisie explained, glaring at me.
“She wouldn’t,” Jaida stood up for me. “Not now.” “Charity doesn’t want to hurt anyone!” Elaine agreed. “She did me,” she scoffed, flipping her hair. My cheeks blushed as I looked down at my feet, pressing my lips together. “Well not any more! Must you keep bringing up the past, you rude little girl? If you continue to be so rude I will tell Courtney!”
“I don’t care! I don’t want HER touching that ROCK!” She continued to be stubborn.
“I’m a little wary of her too,” Lilia added, fidgeting. “Me too,” added Ella. “Me three,” added one more girl with short red hair.
“You girls are being very rude!” Elaine scolded. “It’s okay,” I quietly mumbled. “I think I’ll just sit over here,” I broke away from the circle and sat underneath a tree. “Well I’ll sit with you!” Elaine offered, with Jaida agreeing.
“No, it’s… It’s okay, really.”
“Maybe she needs some alone time,” Maisie told them quickly. Jaida shot her a disapproving look, but she finally walked over to her with Elaine and then they started the game of hot potato.
Courtney saw me sitting under the tree, staring wistfully at the circle of girls, and walked over to me. “Don’t you want to play with them?” She asked, sitting down next to me. “No,” I said much too quickly. Courtney cocked her head to the side.
“You can’t blame for avoiding you,” she noted quietly. “After all you did.” I pressed my lips together tightly. “I know,” I muttered, but I still wanted to cry. I still hadn’t cleared my name!
“The older girls and I are having a discussion on women’s rights,” Courtney added, trying to excite me. “Want to join us?” I shook my head, fidgeting with my locket.
“Well, alright…” Courtney sighed, standing back up. “You’re welcome to join us if you’d like.” I nodded my head half-heartedly, still looking down.
I then watched her as she walked over to the cluster or the older girls. I sighed, hugging my arms and bringing my knees close to me again.
Free time is my least favorite part of the day.
For the rest of the day, Maisie made rude snippets to me about how bad I’ve been and gossiping to other little girls about how I secretly planned to sneak away.
“Don’t listen to them,” Jaida would tell me. “Kids are cruel,” Elaine sighed to me. “Just know that we’re the mature crowd.”
Though my friend’s words were sweet and edifying, it was hard to ignore all the other mean whispers and gossip stories.
Some nights I would lay my head on my pillow and try not to cry. Sometimes the tears would spill over, silently. I didn’t want to be known as the crybaby, too.
Two weeks past. Nobody had came to adopt. The teasing continued. I still cried some nights.
And no one could stop it.
It was as if a huge bubble of fiery anger and hurt was growing in the inside of me. It wouldn’t let me smile. It haunted me at nights. I could do nothing to rid of it. It grew more when Maisie or her new BFF, Lauren, would tease me.
I know! Isn’t it silly! They are both four years younger than me, and I’m letting them tease me and make my life miserable? But… What could I do about it?
“Okay girls, Monique is in charge. I’ll be right back,” Courtney spoke up one day. I looked up from my book of Nymphs and Royalty. Reading was the only way the bubble subsided – for a bit anyways – and the only way I escaped the teasing. I was in another world when I flipped those pages.
Courtney left and Monique worked with a seven year old to read some old lost journal of an Indian.
“I wonder how Charity can be so quiet,” Lauren spoke up, teasing. I could barely focus on my book now. “She’s usually so mean!” I tried not to let the stupid words bother me.
“Lauren, lessons are for reading, not talking.” Monique quietly reminded, but she never made her authority clear so everyone ignored her.
But what Maisie said next nearly set me on fire.
“Her parents must have raised her terribly! What a relief they died in that fire!”
I SLAMMED my book shut.
That did it. The big bubble of fury finally welled up to its fullest.
And it burst.
“HEY!” I SHOUTED, standing on top of my bed. “I’ve had enough. You two are being just like I was. And that’s not right. You need to stop it right now.” I turned to the rest of the room. Monique was grinning at me, happy I was finally standing up for myself.
“And I’m sorry I was so mean to all of you. That was not right of me. I – I don’t know why I was like that.” I caught Jaida’s shining eye. She gave me a thumbs up.Keep going! You’re doing great!
I took a deep breath. “I just felt so much hurt and anger. I didn’t know how to control my self. I didn’t know how to let it out. That was no excuse to how I acted, but I wanted to let you know why I was like that.”
Turning directly to Lauren and Maisie, who were staring at me, I thrust the words, “And don’t you EVER talk about my parents like that. That wasn’t cool at all. I don’t know what ever happened to your parents, or how you ended up here in the orphanage. But what I do know, is that you wouldn’t want me saying mean things about it.”
I jumped down and walked right over to them. “And if you can’t forgive me, if you can’t let what’s in the past go, you two have got a serious problem. You should really learn from Jaida and Elaine how to forgive and forget!”
Maisie opened her mouth to say something, but clamped it shut. Lauren looked down and started fiddling with the fraying hem of her vest.
“Well, that’s all I had to say. I’m done.” Taking a breath, I looked about the room. One girl started applauding.
Soon everyone was. My cheeks felt warm and my smile was big as the applause filled my ears. Jaida ran up to me, so Elaine following, and threw her arms around me. Soon all three of us were in a group hug. The applause was still sounding when a voice spoke out, “Well done, Charity. Well done.”
I turned around to see Courtney. Had she been there the whole time? I hadn’t noticed. She smiled at me. I smiled at her.
You’ve cleared your name.
“All right, ladies, free time!” Courtney called sometime after lunch. Once outside, a group of girls was forming to play “Who Has The Twig?”.
“Come on, let’s join them!” Jaida urged. Elaine, Jaida and I grasped hands as we ran to the circle. “Can we join?” Jaida asked. “Sure,” Lilia nodded. “You can be ‘It’, if you want, Charity,” Maisie offered, handing me the twig. Her earnest offer and the sincere look in her eyes told me she was sorry. “Thank you,” I smiled at her reassuringly.
I stood in the middle of the circle and closed my eyes. I started singing, (to the tune of “Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed”)
“Who has the stick? Who has the twig?
We’re sure to find out at the end of this jig!
Who has the twig? Who has the stick?
Hopefully it will be the one I will pick!”
With that, I turned around and picked Lauren. Her hands were clasped behind her back like everyone else’s, but when she brought her hands to her again and showed her palms, she didn’t have the stick.
After a few more guesses, Elaine was the one who had the stick, and she got to be ‘It’.
We were about ten minutes into the game when a bell sounded. “Time to go in already?!” Lilia cried. “But I was just about to be ‘It’!”
“That’s the adoption bell!” The usually quiet Elaine spoke up excitedly. Her warm brown eyes sparkled like stars. “We have a chance to be adopted!”
No sooner than she said those words did every girl flock to line up and were rushed inside. We stood in the foyer of the orphanage in a straight line.
“Girls, this is Mr. and Mrs. Campbell. They’re here to adopt a… Ten-year-old girl, you said?” Miss Hattie announced. “Yes, that’s right!” Mr. Campbell responded.
“All ten year olds, step up!” Miss Hattie. “HANNAH! BACK IN LINE, I know you’re not ten!” She had to bark at one girl.
“What’s your name, dear? Mrs. Campbell asked one girl with sparkling blue eyes and shoulder-length blonde curls. “Karen Lopenne, ma’am!” She exclaimed jittery-like and excitedly.
“Oh, she has the same eyes as Gina!” Mrs. Campbell gushed. “And she is the same age Gina was when she passed away… Oh, Brian, we must get her!”
“We’ll take this one,” Mr. Campbell coughed. “Wonderful. Karen, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, please follow me,” Miss Hattie said with fake politeness, obviously hurrying up to try to do other things, God knows what.
“Alright, the rest of you girls, upstairs,” Courtney sighed. Elaine’s sparkly expression changed to her usual shy and quiet emotion. I sighed. I wish I was adopted already!
“No! Mama! Papa! D-d-don’t!” I screamed as loudly as my smoke-filled lungs would let me. Watching my parents being burned to the bone in a matter of seconds was the most painful, scarring, terrible moment of my entire life. Gasping for breath after my shout, I fell to the floor, sure I was going to be consumed in the fire, too. “Hold on, miss!” Was the last thing I heard before I passed out.
I woke up with a start, shooting up and breathing heavily. I was drenched with sweat, though I was shaking all over. I took a few deep breaths, rocking my body back and forth. “It’s just a nightmare… It’s just a nightmare.”
But I couldn’t console my self.
Warm tears spilled down my cheeks as I cried. I clutched my locket tightly, then unclipped it and stared at the pictures of Mother and Father. The moonlight was dim but enough to see their happy faces. “Oh, Mama, Papa,” I whispered, shaking my head. “I miss you dearly.”
I looked out the window at the streets below. There was barely anyone out, except for a staggering, drunk man walking down the street from the saloon. I sighed, then laid back down and tried to sleep.
Awaking to the bell, I pulled off my nightgown and pulled on my clothes. As I laced my shoes, I heard Jaida tell me my curly hair looked gorgeous. “Your hair is always so perfect when you awaken!” She gushed.
“Thanks.” I smiled, standing up. All of the sudden, Miss Hattie walked in, followed by another woman. “Girls, this is your new orphan keeper, Mrs. Jones. I’m retiring at an early age.”
And that was the last we ever saw of Miss Hattie.
“Well, girls, as you’ve heard, I’m Mrs. Jones. I’m from the Children’s Protectant Agency. I was aware that this orphanage isn’t up to code to provide proper care for you ladies, so Miss Hattie was fired and I’m here to take proper care of you.” She smiled. She had brunette hair tucked into a big bun on her head and a lovely crimson dress.
“Courtney takes care of us just fine!” Lilia hugged Courtney’s waist. “So you held the responsibility of looking after these children,” Mrs. Jones breathed, stepping closer to Courtney.
“Such a big job for a girl.”
Courtney cleared her throat. “I beg your pardon, ma’am, but I’m practically a young woman. And caring for these children doesn’t seem like a big responsibility to me. I love caring for them.” Mrs. Jones just shook her head, sighing, and patted Courtney’s shoulder. “You poor dear.”
“First of all, this place is in terrible condition. We must all work to clean it up! You older girls, fetch buckets of water. You there, go with you, grab some soap,” she directed different girls. “You three, we needs brooms and buckets of water! Younger ones, start making the beds!”
“You two,” she motioned to Jaida and I. “Fetch many rags!”
“Now!” With that, everyone bustled about their jobs.
I leaned back on my ankles from my kneeling position at scrubbing the floors. Though it was already Autumn, all this cleaning had worked up a sweat. “You there! No slacking!” Mrs. Jones barked. “Yes, Mrs. Jones,” I mumbled, picking up my scrub brush again after wiping my sweat forehead with the back of my hand.
I scrubbed a section, rinsed the rag, rinsed the section, dragged the bucket to another spot, and repeated. Jaida and I worked (mostly) diligently on the floor until it was finished. “This soap is making my arms itchy,” Jaida complained, stopping to scratch every once in a while. “No complaining!” Snapped Mrs. Jones. Soon, the floor was almost sparkling clean.
“Great! Now you there, gather all the dirty laundry!” She motioned to Jaida. “Then take it out back where some girls are preparing a hot tub of water and some scrub boards! Make haste now, child!”
“Yes, Mrs. Jones!” Jaida scurried to do as she was told, collecting dirty nightgowns and other clothes as well as all sheets and pillowcases that needed to be cleaned.
“Young girl, don’t stand around idle! Grab that broom and start sweeping the place!” Mrs. Jones commanded me. “Yes, Mrs. Jones,” I sighed. “I’ll have none of that complaining!” She barked. “Yes, Mrs. Jones,” I repeated again, without the long, wistful sigh.
After seizing the broom, I started sweeping. “We need a dust pan,” I spoke up after a while. “You there!” She pointed towards Monique. “Look in the storage closet downstairs for a dustpan. Then go outside to help with the laundry.”
“Yes, Mrs. Jones!” Monique left her work of dusting the bed frames of the cot and scampered down the stairs, picking up her skirts as she rushed about to find the dustpan.
“Will this work never be over with?” I sighed as I swept the last remaining g pile of dust into the pan. “What did I say about complaining, young lady? We still have the kitchen, the stairs, and the foyer to tackle as well!”
“Yes, Mrs. Jones,” I mumbled again, biting my lip. “I know it’s not right for me to complain so, but it was much better when Courtney was in charge. She wasn’t too barky like this lady. And she called us by name, not by ‘you there’!” Maisie whispered as she picked up the dustpan for me when Monique found it.
“Agreed! This new lady is awful!” I replied much too loudly.
“I beg your pardon!” Cried Mrs. Jones indignantly, her face turning sour and her lips starting to pucker. I whirled around to face her steaming anger.
“You impudent young girl!” She sputtered. “Mrs. Jones, I – I…” Stammering, I frantically looked for an excuse. But I was busted! I couldn’t say anything to get me out of this mess.
“I’ll have you know that I’m doing you a GREAT favor! I’m providing for you, a little orphan girl, much better than your Miss Hattie did!” She wailed. Her brown eyes turned furious with offense.
“You come front and center to me this minute!” She commanded. My hands clasped tightly in front of me, I slowly shuffled towards her. She leaned down and picked up a bar of soap that was in one of the buckets. “Open your mouth!”
What choice did I have?
As soon as my mouth was opened, she shoved the bar of soap in it. My face turned into a grimace as the terribly strong taste overtook my taste buds.
“You stay biting that bar until I say so!” The prideful, haughty tone hadn’t left her voice.
I gagged after a while, my stomach starting to churn. All the girls were looking at me, their work put on a hold, and Mrs. Jones was so furious she didn’t even notice.
Finally, she gingerly took the bar of soap out of my mouth and placed it in the bucket. I fell to my knees, leaning over the bucket, and gagged and spit big soapy bubbles.
“That should clean your mouth of those ungrateful complaints!” Mrs. Jones barked finally.
“Now go outside and help with the laundry.” She finally finished. I jumped up and fled down the stairs.
Great! Now I’m known as a bad girl to this orphan keeper lady too!
“I don’t understand her!” I blurted as I swung open the door and then slammed it angrily. I was walking outside to where a group of girls were doing laundry. The girls, including Courtney and Jaida, looked up at me. “She’s so persnickety! Of course she’s in charge, I guess, but it doesn’t seem fair to have her barge in on our lives like that without any warning!”
I wasn’t really talking to anyone in particular, but Courtney answered me anyways. “Charity, you need to learn to submit to your elders. What are we, that we should have a right to know what decisions elders make for us? We’re just orphans! Of course people will barge in on our lives and do whatever they please! Now if you can’t find anything better to do than complaining, make yourself useful. Go on, now! Grab that bar of soap and start scrubbing that sheet!”
I didn’t reply back, but instead just started scrubbing furiously. If you ever need to get your anger out, get an old-fashioned wash board and a piece of clothing and scrub vigorously and fiercely to your hearts’ content. And get your clothing spotlessly clean in the process.
“Oh, my arms are so itchy!” Jaida exclaimed. “Mine are too,” Courtney sighed. All the older girls murmured their agreement. “Maybe our skin is just irritated with all this soap.” Monique reasoned.
“Charity, what’s upset you so terribly?” Jaida finally asked when she saw my angry face. I flung the bar of soap down harshly and dropped to my knees beside the tub and my scrub board. “You don’t want to know,” I choked back a sob.
Jaida put her soapy arm around me as she knelt down too. “Oh, Charity, things will get better, I promise.”
“No! They won’t!” I cried. “Charity, there’s no need for that!” Courtney scolded. I just bit my lip and blinked back hot tears.
All of the sudden, Jaida gasped. I turned to look at her. Her face was deathly pale, and she had trouble breathing. “Jaida?!” I asked.
Then she passed out.
“Jaida!” I screamed as I bent over her. Courtney ran to us. “Charity, run inside and get Mrs. Jones! Monique, help me carry her inside! Jenny and Isabella, fetch fresh water and a few towels!” Courtney commanded.
I ran inside faster than I’d ever run before. “Mrs. Jones! Mrs. Jones!” I screeched for the life of me. “My goodness, child!” She cried. “It’s Jaida – one of the girls – she’s sick, real sick! She’s all pale-like and passed out!”
Mrs. Jones ran to meet Courtney and Monique who were carrying Jaida inside. “Lay her down here!” Mrs. Jones instructed, pointed towards the nearest bed. Jenny and Isabella came back with fresh water and a few towels, and they cooled Jaida down with them while I stood by, watching with wide eyes and praying hard.
“What’s wrong with her?” I finally squeaked. “Never mind,” Mrs. Jones snapped quickly.
All of the sudden, I heard a gasp behind me and a body fall to the floor. “It’s Ella!” I cried. Her body laying limp on the ground frightened me all over again, and I started shaking. “What’s happening?” I cried as Isabella and Monique helped lift her up on another bed.
“Girls, outside now! We don’t know if this could be contagious…Quickly!” Mrs. Jones barked. “Except those of you thirteen and older, stay inside with me!”
I sat against the tree I always sat under, tears rolling down my cheeks for the billionth time all month.
“I think it’s an epidemic,” spoke up Lauren. “Who knows who’ll get it next?” I shuddered when I heard those words.
“Is Ella or Jaida gonna die?” Squeaked Maisie to no one in particular. “Of course not,” I blurted. “They can’t die. They just can’t.”
My eyes caught the sight of Elaine sitting against the fence, curled up into almost a ball. Silent tears were running down her face as her lip quivered. She stared into space as if she was in some sort of a trance. “Elaine?” I asked gently.
Walking over to and sitting down by my friend, I told her, “It’s going to be okay, just you wait and see. It’s going to be okay.” I was really telling that more to myself, but it didn’t console me. “Yes, everything will be all right.”
“No,” Elaine thrust out, louder and stronger and deeper than I’d ever heard her speak. “This illness killed my parents. It’s known as Veinera. I’d know it any where.” Elaine paused for a moment, and stared me straight in the eyes. The hurt and pain Elaine felt when her parents died, and that she carried in her heart all these years, now showed fiercely in her grave eyes. Then she took a breath.
“And there is no cure.”
Two days later, five more girls fell sick with Veinera, including Jenny, Isabella, Courtney, and Monique.
“Elaine, how does this disease start? How does it spread? How did Maisie and Lilia, who were kept outside and away from those affected, catch it?” Mrs. Jones asked Elaine when she came outside. Word had gotten around that she knew about this disease.
“It’s not something you catch, as with a cold,” Elaine spoke slowly, making sure of every word she uttered. “It’s not contagious. When my parents passed out, it was because of – of something they touched. It was an allergic reaction, the doctor said. Something your body has a problem with because of what kind of blood type you have. A rash breaks out wherever you touched what you’re allergic to. Usually you’ll itch it so bad, the skin will break and the allergen with get inside your body. There it infects your blood veins, clogging and thickening it. Then you pass out, and from the lack of blood, you eventually die.”
“So there’s no cure?” Mrs. Jones asked. “No,” Elaine sighed. “What could they all have touched that made them break out like this?” I questioned. Elaine just shook her head.
I pondered upon it all evening, during our small supper outside of oranges. “If only we could find out what caused the allergic reaction, maybe we could think of a way to cure it.” I wondered aloud, peeling my orange.
“Let’s think,” Elaine suggested.
All of the sudden, it came to me like a rushing wave.
“The soap!” I screeched, standing up and dropping my half-peeled orange. “What?” Elaine seemed confused.
“Think about it,” I told her, shaking with excitement in my newfound discovery. “All the girls that have the Veinera all touched the soap in some way. It had to be the soap. And everyone was itching and scratching and telling everyone how itchy they were when we did the laundry. The two little girls who are infected fetched the soap, remember? They had armloads of it!”
“Well then why didn’t you get it? You practically ingested it but without all the rashes and stuff when Mrs. Jones washed your mouth out.” Elaine pointed out. I blushed, remembering my awful punishment. But shame was the least of my worries now – my friend’s life was in the line.
“I must not be the right blood type,” I explained. “Didn’t you said the allergic reaction had something to do with blood type? All who got infected must have had the same blood types!”
“Charity,” Elaine gasped. “You’ve figured it out!”
“But how do we cure the Veinera?” I asked breathlessly. “You’ve found the cause, for this case at least, so now we must figure out a cure.” Elaine nodded, popping an orange slice in her mouth. Remembering how hungry I was, I picked up my orange from the ground, dusted it off, and sat down to finish peeling it.
We both chewed thoughtfully, but we could not come up with any ideas.
That night, we slept downstairs on thin pallets of blankets again. I tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, but I just couldn’t. Finally I sat up and clutched my locket. I couldn’t let Jaida die – she was one of the last people that meant the world to me still living, next to Elaine. If I lost her, too, I didn’t know how I would bear it emotionally.
After dressing the next morning, I noticed all the girls seemed disheartened and sad. “Elaine, we must cheer them up somehow,” I mentioned during a breakfast of peaches. “Yes, we must,” she agreed.
“Alright, everyone! We are going to play a game!” I announced after we had finished eating. “It’s called, Don’t You Dare Laugh. Shall I explain how it works?”
None of the girls looked very enthusiastic, but a couple nodded politely. I took a deep breath. I so much wanted their faces to smile!
“We will all take turns being ‘It.’ ‘It’ will try to make the other girls in the circle laugh in any way possible. If someone laughs, they are out. The last one to keep a straight face wins!” I explained, smiling. “Can I be it?” Lilia asked. “Sure thing!”
Lilia was HILARIOUS. In no time at all, seven of us were out, chuckling hysterically. “Keep playing, girls! I will be right back!” I excused myself quickly as I felt something deep inside lead me upstairs.
I went up to the dorm room with all the sick girls and knocked. “Mrs. Jones, may I say a prayer over them?” I asked quietly when she answered. “Yes, of course, dear. Elaine did say it wasn’t contagious, right?” After nodding, Mrs. Jones let me in.
I walked over each girl’s cot, where each one seemed to be in a troubled, restless sleep. “Dear God,” I prayed, harder than I’d ever prayed in my life. “Let these people live.”
I finally reached Jaida’s cot. I knelt down by hers and started crying. “Oh, Lord!” I cried. “Please don’t let Jaida die. Please! She is one of the only people I have left in my life that love me. Please. Don’t let her die!” I buried my face in my arms and cried until I felt hollow.
I finally looked up and saw her sleeping face. “Don’t die, Jaida,” I whispered. “I need you.”
The next morning, Mrs. Jones came running down. “Girls, girls! Awaken yourselves quickly! It is a miracle! A miracle!”
I bolted up. “What? What?” I demanded, a heart full of hope. “Every one of the girls has recovered about seventy-five percent! They are sitting up, and they have a ravenous appetite now! Plus, the rashes on their arms are almost gone! It is a miracle, I tell you! The Lord be praised! I must make them some hot broth at once!” With that, she scrambled into the kitchen, squawking like a chicken random things that must be done as she went.
“My prayers have been answered,” I whispered to myself happily. I clutched my locket. Perhaps Mama and Papa heard my prayer up in heaven, too, and they asked God to pretty-please do what I requested. Because they knew it would make me happy. I smiled a smile that was a mile wide.
After dressing, I found myself upstairs, talking to Jaida and telling her about my prayer and encouraging her to sip her chicken broth. “Thank you, Charity – your prayers may have just saved my life!”
I grasped Jaida’s hand in mine. “It wasn’t me, it was Jesus.” I told her. “Plus, I couldn’t let you leave me,” I paused to smile. “Never.”
“Jaida needs to rest now!” Demanded Mrs. Jones strictly. “All visitors out! Shoo!” The other orphans who had gone up to visit their recovering friends fled out the door at her bellowing words, but I lingered a moment longer to give Jaida a hug.
“Get better fast!” I whispered to her. “I miss you dearly!”
Stay tuned for the next story in the Charity Brooks series by Madison Lorfing!
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved by the eighth commandment, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.
Not to be reprinted, reposted, or used unless given permission from myself, Madison Lorfing.