~Told in the POV of Tova~
Chloe, one of the dolls in the household I was staying at for now, was a writer. She was very sweet, dramatic, and adventurous. She always had an excited, almost mischevious twinkle in her sparkly blue eyes, ready to take on whatever may come her way. The fact that I was here and the fact that I might not stay was dramatic enough that she wanted to write a story about it.
Come to find out, Chloe keeps an autobiography of everything that happens to her in her mind. She also has a big, idea-filled notebook that she loves to brainstorm in.
“So, Tova,” she told me, sitting down and opening her writing pad, pen poised and ready to start jotting down anything I might have to say. “Tell me about your life in the orphanage. Give me a clear picture of what life was like, or something unusual that happened, or the worst or best days, anything interesting!”
“Well, I don’t know if there’s much of a story there,” I smiled at her enthusiasm. “I was your typical orphan. But the orphanage I was staying at wasn’t always an orphanage. Once upon a time, it was a boarding school for girls. The lady who owned it was very kind and generous. A poor little streetgirl came up to the grand building one day to ask if anyone would like to be her pencils she was trying to sell. The compassionate woman invited her in and never put her out. She helped with a few chores around the boarding school in exchange for the prime education offered there, as well as meals and living in the dorm with the other students! She wasn’t treated like a servant, or even looked down on. She was a sweet little girl, and always brightened up the rooms she walked in to. It was a delight having her, and she was real handy.
“Word got out about the kind woman’s generousity, and a few helpless mothers who were too poor to care for their children, but wanted a good life for them, dropped them off at the boarding school. The kind owner wouldn’t turn any hungry mouth begging for bread away, and soon, the place was known more as an orphanage than a boarding school at all!
But when the kind woman died, a new owner took her place, and she wasn’t too fond of the orphan children. ‘More mouths to feed,’ she griped. ‘I can’t make any money off ’em.’ She wouldn’t dare put the orphans out on the street, for that would give her and the boarding school a bad name, and wouldn’t be good business. So she put all the orphans to work, really hard, instead of hiring maids to do the work. That saved the greedy woman a little money, but made the orphan children miserable. She didn’t let us recieve the education that the boarding school students got anymore.
The woman was cruel, and wouldn’t put up with any of the crying from the orphan girls when they missed their parents and families. She would hit them hard herself with a long ruler, but it would make them cry harder. The more they cried, the more they got hit, so they eventually had to stop crying and just shield themselves from the blows.
“I arrived at the orphanage not very long after the greedy woman, Mrs. Frank, came to own it. My mother loved me very much, you see, and it was very hard to leave me at those steps, but she could not afford to put food on the table. She didn’t want me to die of starvation, so you see, to keep me alive, there was no other way. She eventually did die herself of a really bad fever but couldn’t afford medical care, but I comforted myself by knowing I will see her again in Heaven one day.
“The skimpy dresses we wore were thin and ragged. Mrs. Frank didn’t buy us any shoes, so if we wanted to protect our feet, we would rip off some of what little fabric there was already on the dresses and wrap them around our feet with string.
“One day, I caught a cold and had accidentally sneezed in another girl’s mush – we called it mush, but it was a hot brown rice cereal porridge-type thing, and it was rather very tasteless – and she got mad at me. She shoved me, and that made Mrs. Frank very mad. She wouldn’t put up with any fighting, but she didn’t punish the other girl at all! She made me go to our bare, cold dorm and spend the rest of the morning there without breakfast.
As I was walking down the hall towards the dorm, which had bright, cheery curtains blocking the windows, I had this sudden urge to go outside. We hardly went outside, and I really wanted the freedom of turning cartwheels in the big, beautiful yard of the boarding school.
“So I sorta broke the rules and pulled away the curtains. I know I shouldn’t have, but we got so terribly lonely and confined in that place. I wanted to just see the outside world. ‘Wow, the world is so wet outside!’ I giggled, looking at the dewy grass of morning. How I wished I could go outside and feel the freshness of it all!
“She put me in a quite empty, useless storage closet and told me, ‘Let’s see how you like that! You’re to sleep in here tonight, away from all your other friends! This should teach you to break my rules, you little orphan!’ She called the punishment ‘Solitary Confinement’ But that’s a rather fancy name for just being by yourself, isn’t it?
“It was really cold in the storage closet. My side hurt from sleeping on the hard, cold floor all night. I was really hungry, and thirsty, from not eating or drinking all day. I sneezed and coughed a lot, and was afraid that I wasn’t going to get any better when I woke up in the morning. But mother always told me that perfect love casts out all fear, so I focused on just trying to think good thoughts about Mrs. Frank instead of being afraid of not getting better.
It was hard to think good thoughts about her, but I was creative like you, Chloe. I made up a fictional backstory about her. I pretended it was true, and it helped me to think more good thoughts about her and say kind prayers for her. I imagined that she had been an orphan girl when she was little, too, only her orphan matron lady was much meaner. Her name was Mrs. Agonly. Mrs. Agonly would beat Mrs. Frank so hard that she would sob and sob and have bruises and cuts all over. Everyone was mean to her because she was the prettiest girl in the entire orphanage, and they were al jealous of her, and all the meanness caused her heart to turn cold and hard and bitter.
You oughtta pray real hard for somebody like that, and so that’s just what I did. And you know what? I fell asleep real easy after praying, and I wasn’t afraid of getting sicker. And would you believe it? I woke up in the morning feeling just fine!
“So when Mrs. Frank came to get me in the morning, and asked me how I liked sleeping all alone, I answered, ‘I had a great deal of thinking and praying time, Mrs. Frank. I was actually praying for you. And I am very sorry for breaking the rules. That was wrong of me and I will not make the same mistake twice.’ Mrs. Frank didn’t expect that kind of a mature answer from me, because I’m usually so afraid of her and just fearfully nod my head to whatever she says, on the verge of tears. But I felt different now.
“The next day, Mrs. Frank told me that I was being adopted by a human. She gave me a real pretty dress, nice shoes, and tiara to wear. She told me, in an oddly sincere way for Mrs. Frank, that I had the qualities of a princess and that she hoped I would be happy in my new home.
“Tova?” Chloe asked, setting aside her writing pad and bright blue pen.
“Thank you, Chloe. I really hope so, too.”
“Hello, Madison,” Chloe greeted the human as if she knew her. Of course! This must be her owner, I realized.
“Hello there, Chloe!” Madison returned the greeting, smiling. I liked her all ready. “And you must be the Tova I’ve been hearing so much about,” She nodded to me. I felt a little shy as I looked up into her face, but her expression was kind and inviting. It put me at ease.
Madison indulged in a sigh, which I learned later she does a lot of, and a hint of sorriness crossed her face. “Tova, dear, I don’t know why you are here, but I don’t want to turn you away so close to Christmastime. There must be some mistake, though, because I didn’t adopt any more dolls this year. I’m sure the orphanage got the address wrong, and there is another girl out there who is expecting you. She must be very worried about you, Tova, and I don’t want to do that to her.”
Chloe and I glanced at each other. But I want to stay here, I acknowledged to myself. I love it here. I feel so happy and loved, and this is the home I’ve always dreamed of staying at.
Ellie passed by, hearing it all. A look of pure determination shimmered in her eyes and hardened her face. At first, I thought she didn’t want me to stay because she was the first to tell me the news Madison hadn’t adopted any more dolls this year, but that wasn’t the case. She wanted me to stay, too, and was very artistic and spunky.
“You can’t take her away!” She yelled with such passion that I was surpsised. “How could you do that to her?! I heard her telling what kind of a life she had at the orphanage! You can’t send her back there! Tell her, Chloe, how miserable it was!”
Chloe didn’t say anything, only shook her head, which greatly frustrated Ellie.
“Ellie-Joy Ivy Ling,” Madison told her in a no-nonsense voice, using what must be her full name. “That is quite enough. I know what is best for Tova-“
“No you don’t!” Ellie shouted again. “Don’t send her back!”
“That’s no kind of tone of voice to be using with me,” Madison replied calmly but firmly. “Go sit by yourself for a while, take a breather, and clear your thoughts. When you are ready to discuss your concerns for Tova with me in the mature manner I know you can, come see me.”
Ellie angrily opened her mouth to say more, but defeatedly clamped it shut when she studied Madison’s this conversation is finished look.
“Sorry about this, Tova,” Madison told me apologetically. “Ellie is a strong fighter.”
“Are you going to send Tova back to the orphanage?” Chloe asked fearfully. We locked eyes again, sharing the same hope.
To be continued…