Livelovecats

United States

* 15 years old *
* Human *
* Cat lover *
* Writer *
* Reader *

" We don't meet people by accident. Everyone is meant to cross our paths for a reason."

Have you crossed paths with me? It must be fate!!

Message to Readers

I haven't edited all of this, but most of it is edited. I also have way more but I plan on changing it a little, so I won't publish it yet. Enjoy :)

Escapees

February 12, 2019

FREE WRITING

0
    It was raining outside, raining hard. The children huddled around me, and I comforted them. That was my job, since these children trusted me.
"The storms almost over, don't worry," I assured them. "Why don't you get back in bed. When you wake up it'll be over."
    The children quietly scurried back into their beds, which were rusted chunks of metal with dirty cloth covers. There were five beds up here, in the attic where we slept. The second floor was already full with children so we slept up here, where the rain was the loudest and everything dusty. Not that downstairs was much better.
    I saw another flash of lightning, suddenly noticing that the small attic window was open, letting rain drip onto the floor. I ran over to it, about to shut it, looking out for a second. Then a flash of lightning lit up the street and I saw it, a black horse carriage moving through the rain and puddles of the muddy storm.
    Then it was dark again, but when I listened closely I heard horse hooves, coming closer to the orphanage. Then they stopped. I heard a door open, and soft voices. I shut the window tightly and turned to the children, there faces hard to see in the darkness.
    "I'll be back in a minute," I told the four children huddled under their covers, shivering.
    "Please don't be long," Cora said, a small little girl who was seven.
    "I won't, don't worry," I replied, opening up the hatch in the floor and descending the creaky wooden ladder as silently as possible.
    I dropped to the floor as I reached the bottom, then carefully skittered over the wooden floor, knowing where to step and which boards would creak and give me away and which ones wouldn't.
    The upstairs hallway was lined with doors, all leading into small cramped rooms that had more beds than was legal for an orphanage, but nobody ever cared enough to check. For all they cared all of us orphans can rot and die here unless we are lucky enough to reach the age of fifteen in which they send us off into the streets of London to fend for ourselves.
    I finally found the stairs in the darkness which I had gotten to know so well, having been here for five years already. I stumbled down them and heard voices from downstairs. I hid in the dark spot behind one of the tables and watched.
    "How much?" I heard Ms. Tuble ask. She was the orphanage owner, and behind her back, people would call her names. No one liked her.
    "He's a dirty 'un all right. Not fit for much. A bit scrawny, would need some feedin' but would be some cheap labor. Twenty euros?" a man said. He was wearing an old gray coat and had a hat that was dripping wet from the storm.
    Ms. Tuble stood across from him, holding onto a boy who I couldn't recognize. There were more than fifty orphans at the orphanage and so it was hard to figure out everyone's name. The number kept increasing since more came in than out.
    "I have people to feed here, you know!" Ms. Tuble burst out. She was probably talking about herself, who she gave most of the food to. She claimed to give it all to us, but it was obvious by her bulging belly that she was lying. The London Society for Young Orphans gave Ms. Tuble a small amount of money which she used to feed us, but some of it went into her own piggy bank.
    "Fine. Twenty-five. No more, 'cause I've got my own mouths to feed," the man replied.
    "Please Miss Tuble!" the boy suddenly said, his voice trembling.
    "Shut up boy! This is what you get for stealing my cheesecake!" she screamed at him. The boy whimpered and quieted. See what I mean? She wouldn't even think about giving us cheesecake in a million years.
    "Just give me the money and leave," Ms. Tuble added, holding out her chubby hand. The man slapped the euros into it and then grabbed the boy.
    "I'll be back in three days," he added, leaving. A minute later I heard the carriage moving away, the horses hooves clopping loudly.
    Ms. Tuble sighed, then walked outside to her quarters, passing me. She had a good sized apartment behind the orphanage where she lived with the teachers. I shrank farther under the table and waited a few more minutes before silently tiptoeing back upstairs.
    "You're back!" Tom said relieved.
    "We got worried!" Annie added.
    "You were gone for fifteen minutes!" Nathan added. He suddenly broke out crying. "I thought the storm got you."
    I gave him a hug and picked him up. "It's okay. I'm fine." I brought him to his bed and set him down on it. I felt sad for him since he was only five. One of the younger orphans, and much too skinny for a kid his age.
    Then I crawled into my bed, letting the storm slowly help me fall asleep.

    When I woke up it was still drizzling outside, a dreary London morning. The other children were still sleeping, and I sat up thinking about last night. What had I really seen? Was Ms. Tuble selling orphans? Why?
    I sighed and saw Tom sit up too. "Olivia's awake!" he screamed, running over to me. This awoke the other kids, which was probably his purpose for doing it.
    "Good morning Olivia!" Annie and Cora shouted in unison, running over and trying to jump on me.
    "Ready for breakfast," I asked them, hoping to put last night behind me.
    "I'm starving!" Nathan replied. I sighed. Weren't we always?
    I led them downstairs, knowing the morning bell would ring momentarily. Everyone flowed from their rooms, finding their way downstairs for breakfast. I had just gotten in line for food when the bell rang three times.
    The two cooks came out and gave everyone half a grilled cheese sandwich, so burnt that all that could be seen was black, covering the bread and cheese. After I got mine I sat down at the long dining room table next to the children from my room.
    Within five minutes everyone had eaten and were putting their plates in a big bin to be washed. Everyone was talking and it sounded like a roar was escaping from the dining room. The flow of orphans took us outside, to our morning play.
    I walked over to a wooden bench and sat down. "I'm going to play with my friends," Annie told me and Tom left shortly after to find his.
    "Me too!" added Cora, and ran off, splashing mud all over herself which was left over from last night's rain.
    I closed my eyes and leaned back against the rough cement of what the teacher's and Miss Tuble called "The Student Quarters" as though it was a professional place and not filled with bedrooms crammed with rusty old beds. I thought of what I had seen and heard last night again. Was Miss Tuble really selling off orphans? Why? Who would be next? I didn't know, but I really hoped it wouldn't be me, or any of the children in my room, which was unlikely since they were all younger, the oldest being me. Even Tom was still young, being eight. The other kids all were similar in ages, with Cora being seven, Annie six, and Nathan five. Oh, and me. I was twelve soon to be thirteen.
    Then the bell chimed again from the top of the schoolhouse, signaling for us to go to our morning classes in the schoolhouse.
The schoolhouse was also behind the "Student Quarters" and was a two-story building. It had only four classrooms, grouped by age, and when I entered I quickly ran upstairs to mine.
The bell chimed again right as I sat down in my seat in the back on the long bench. In fact, before I start telling you about class let me make a mental list of what I hate most about school:
  1. The long table requires sharing desk space. Also, the long benches mean that you don't get your own chair, and sometimes people try to get in your space.
  2. Being in the back of the room means that kids think they can get away with more, which is true.
  3. The majority of the kids don't care about learning.
Then Miss McLeer went to the front of the room and welcomed the class. She was a middle-aged lady who probably wished to have any job other than working at a low-class orphanage. She was also quite strict, and despised us all, just like all the other teachers.
"Good morning students. As usual, I am not happy to see any of your ugly, orphan faces," she started. Ok, I'm kidding. She only said "Good morning students" but her smirk said the other part of it.
"Miss Kelly, could you please hand out the chalkboards to your fellow classmates?" Miss McLeer asked a student in the front of the room.
"Yes ma'am," Kelly replied dutifully.
On the front board, Miss McLeer started to write down a math problem on the board, which was five times six. "Everyone please answer this question on your chalkboards."
Let me add another little detail in. My class was the "older kids" class and so it contained kids ages twelve to fourteen. So usually kids tried to do some pretty stupid things and acted like jerks.
Sitting on the bench next to me was Dylan, a kid that was the same age as me, but several inches taller and much meaner. "Hey, Pete!" Dylan whispered loudly to the kid on my right.
"What?" Pete whispered back.
Dylan scribbled something on his board and then leaned over me to show it to Pete. See what I mean about people getting into your space?
I saw what was on his board, and will not repeat it to you for your own good. But anyway, I will just let you know that it was a drawing of Miss Mcleer with a caption underneath. I was still trying to figure out the math problem and was counting off my fingers when this happened, and Dylan made me lose count.
I gave Dylan a little shove, trying to push him back into his seat but he ignored me. "Stop it!" I whispered harshly.
"What are you going to do about it little girl?" he taunted me.
"I'm not little. And I'll tell Miss McLeer."
"Awe. She's a little tattletale too!" Dylan told Pete, making a fake sorry face.
"Shut up!" I told him.
"What was that, little girl?"
"Shut up!" I screamed.
Within second several things had happened. First, Dylan slid calmly back into his seat, a smirk on his face. Second, Miss McLeer came marching towards me in a couple swift strides. Then she was staring down at me, her head right above mine.
"What, in the name of heaven, did you just say?" she asked me.
"Um nothing. I was just … um … Dylan was talking to Pete and … I wanted them to be quiet and …"
"Miss Tuble's office. Now."
"But … but …" I tried.
She glared at me. "NOW!"
I got up quickly, erased my chalkboard, and stood. But I was mad, very very mad. I saw Dylan still holding his chalkboard and smiled.
In one quick motion, I had grabbed his chalkboard out of his hands and handed it to Miss McLeer. Her eyes widened as she saw what was on that board, which by the way insulted her in the worst way you could insult a teacher.
    "Miss Tuble's office. Both of you. NOW!" she screamed at them, slamming her ruler in front of Dylan before marching to the front of the room.
    We quickly skittered out of the room like little ants running, trying to escape.
    As soon as we got into the hallway Dylan glared at me. "Stupid girl. You should've stopped when you had the chance."
    Then he swung his fist at me, which, by the way, I was expecting. Five years in a place like this can teach you many valuable lessons, starting with life isn't fair.
    Dylan tried again, making a connection with my ear. I cried out in pain, but spun around and sprinted down the stairs and outside before he could hurt me more.
    He followed, but I was smaller and faster so I was able to outrun him. I had just burst into the Student Quarters when I saw Miss Tuble standing at the kitchen counter, gobbling up some food and licking her fingers.
    "No running," she told me, sliding the plate into a sink and walking towards me. Then noticed Dylan walking casually outside, away from the Student Headquarters. "Come over here Dylan. What did you two do?"
    Dylan, who probably hoped he could just wander off and avoid both Miss Tuble and Miss McLeer turned around and walked inside to were Miss Tuble and I stood. Then he shot me a glare before standing next to me.
    "Start talking," she growled, obviously planning to go back and finish her snack.
    "It wasn't my fault Miss Tuble. You see, he was complaining about Miss McLeer to Pete and was leaning over me. Then I told him to stop and … "
    "That's not true!" Dylan cut me off protesting. "I was doing my math problem, and quietly talking to myself trying to figure it out, and Olivia here told me to shut my mouth and Miss McLeer heard. She then sent us both here."
    Miss Tuble stood there, thinking. "How about this. Since you can't agree on a story you will both spend some time in the basement, no? That seems like a good punishment. Three days in there and boom! Lesson learned. When you come out then you'll be all better, and I'll send you off!"
    I didn't know what my face looked like, but I was pretty sure I looked horrified because Miss Tuble let out an evil laugh. "Maybe this time I'll get thirty apiece."
    With that, she led us outside to a concrete trap door revealing some stairs and pushed us down into it. I heard the sound of a lock click behind us and let out a gulp. Then I started to ascend the stairs into the darkness, wondering what was inside it.
    
☆☆☆
    At first, I just sat down about halfway down the stairs, and Dylan stayed at the top. Miss Tuble had given us our punishment quite fast, and it was obviously just because she wanted to eat without us watching her- it really wasn't a pretty sight. Also, she probably realized that we could be her next money haul, with double the money.
Finally I went to the bottom of the cellar floor and fumbled around for a while, trying to find some source of light. Twice I found things that felt like dead rats, four times I found things that squealed and moved when I touched them, and many more times I found squishy stuff I would rather not describe.
    Finally, I found an old rusted lantern with some matches beside it. I quickly struck on on the filthy floor and it flared to life. Seconds later the lantern was lit and I could see around.
It turns out the cellar was big, huge in fact. Around it was many things, some so ancient I had no idea what they were. On one side there were metal cots, more rusted than our beds with shredded blankets that were probably from the rats and mice. Another side had two more lanterns and a box of matches. The third side had crates filled with who knows what, and the last side had the stairs leading up to the backyard.
I saw Dylan still at the top of the stairs, watching the door as though any second it would swing open.
I walked over to one of the four cots and sat on it, a rat scurrying away as I did so. I held up the blanket for a second before tossing it onto the ground and sighing. I just sat there for a while, I had no idea how long, thinking about what I was going to do.
At one point I must have fallen asleep because I suddenly jolted awake. The lantern must have burned out since it was pitch dark, and I couldn't hear a thing. My stomach growled, which wasn't unusual. It must be around dinner time.
I sat up and patted the ground for the lantern, unable to find it. I stumbled through the darkness, stepping in something squishy with my worn out shoe.
I could hear Dylan sleeping a couple feet from me, snoring quietly. I stood up and walked over to him and felt around, finding the lantern. I lit it with a match and made my way up to the top of the steep cellar stairs.
"Where's Olivia?" I heard Nathan ask. They were probably outside during free time.
"I don't know," Tom replied.
"In the dungeon probably," a kid snickered, probably one of the older kids. "I heard she got in a fight with Dylan."
"When will she be back?" Annie asked.
"Last 'un that went in there disappeared. Miss Tuble said they had run away, but I think she did something to 'em. Who knows what," the kid said creepily.
Nathan started to cry right then, and I felt bad for him. I wished I could be there to assure him, maybe give him a hug or a pat on the back.
"Who will comfort us when it rains, and there's thunder?" Tom added. "I'm scared of the thunder."
"Nobody now," the kid answered harshly before laughing and walking off.
After that I just sank down onto the top stair, putting my head in my hands, crying. My situation was hopeless. If only I had just ignored Dylan!
☆☆☆
    I couldn't fall asleep that night since I was hungry, so very hungry. Dylan had woken up this morning, looking too miserable to pummel me. So we just sat on our so-called beds in silence.
    At one point in the morning, a girl came in with a tray of food, handing it to me. It had half a loaf of stale bread and two cups of water. I broke the bread in half, and let Dylan choose his piece to keep him from thinking I had given myself more.
I ate my bread as fast as possible so that Dylan wouldn't try to take mine because when you're hungry you will do some pretty desperate things. The bread made me so thirsty that I drank the water in two gulps before handing my cup to the girl who left quickly.
Then I sat down on my bed, overcome with boredom. And you won't believe what happened.
Dylan and I hadn't said a single word to each other since yesterday, so when he asked me what I thought was going to happen I was surprised. But what made me even more surprised was that I answered him like we were old friends. I told him what I had seen two nights before, but he wasn't as shocked as I thought he'd be.
"I suspected something like that. I mean, ever since Conner disappeared…" Dylan's voice cracked when he said this, and he looked sad. Maybe he wasn't as tough as he looked.
"Oh," I said, unsure what else to add. "I'm sorry. How long ago was that?"
"About a month."
"So this has been happening for a while then."
"I hate her. I bet she used the money off of orphans just to buy herself another fancy dress that she isn't ever gonna wear, or be fit to wear. Almost like she thinks every guy in London is lining up to marry her and she wants to impress them."
"Probably. Personally, though, she is a way to plump and rude for anyone to like her. Not even her own mother!" I added.
Then Dylan and I laughed. Real laughs. I don't remember when I last laughed like that, but it had probably been years. Not counting the fake laughs I gave Nathan when he tried to impress me or Annie when she told a joke.
Then he got serious again and continued talking. "We need to find out where, and fast. Maybe when she lets us out and tries to hand us over we can escape."
"No. That won't work,"  I told him. "She didn't let go of the boy until he was in the hands of the man. And that man was strong. Escaping him would be difficult, but maybe when we get into the carriage than we can escape."
"Ok. So we get in the carriage, then when we start to move we will be able to escape," then he let out a sigh and continued. "Actually I guess you will escape. I need to help Connor. I can't leave him there to do whatever he's being forced to do."
"Fine. But then I'm staying with you." I replied.
"No. You should escape. Then I'll find a way to meet up with you, and I'll have Connor. Then we will finally be free." Dylan said defiantly.
"I am coming, no matter what you say."
Dylan sighed. "I guess I can't stop you. Hopefully, this all works."
I nodded. "The only thing is … "
"What?" Dylan asked me.
"My roommates. I don't want to leave them. They're all so young, they deserve to find a nice home with a family, not stuck here for the next ten years."
Dylan considered this, then replied. "The doors in the orphanage lock from the inside, not the outside. Miss Tuble does this to keep us from escaping. The more kids, the more money from the LSYO. This means that the door can be opened from the outside easily, just by jiggling the lock. You don't need a key."
"So you're saying that once we get out, it will be easy to get back in," I said, catching on. "So we can sneak in, get them, than go out."
Dylan nodded. "I think that'll work, right?"
"I hope so," I said with a sigh.
☆☆☆
    Sometime in the afternoon, another kid came down with a tray of food. When I saw who it was I ran up to him with a big hug. "Olivia!" the kid squealed. I had never been so happy to see Cora.
    I took the bread and broke it in half, and surprisingly Dylan took the smaller half, which I had meant for myself, considering he was probably hungrier. I smiled at him before devouring my bread.
    "Take this too. We all gave a little bit of our breakfast since you only get food twice a day," Cora said as we finished our bread, holding out two bowls of oatmeal. I gratefully took them and gave her a big thank you. She grinned and was about to leave when I told her to wait.
    "Cora," I started slowly. "In a few days, Dylan and I will have to leave. Tell Tom that he is in charge and that hopefully, I will be back in a week. When I come back, have your things and blankets gathered, and we will leave."
    "You mean like … go out into London?" Cora asked me.
    "Yes. Now go before Miss Tuble gets mad," I told her. She nodded and left, after giving me one last hug.
    "So that's Cora I assume?" Dylan asked after we had finished our oatmeal.
    I nodded and lay back on my bed, feeling happy for the first time since coming into this place. Maybe this was destiny, Dylan and I getting into a fight, then having to stay down here. It's our chance to escape, to start a new life.
☆☆☆
    Finally, it was time to put our plan into action. The last couple of days different people had delivered the food. After Cora, Tom came and right before we were taken out Annie came.
    When it was time to go Miss Tuble opened up the door, shouting down to us. "Get up here, the man is here to take your miserable butts away."
    I ran up the stairs, hoping to make this quick. Miss Tuble grabbed us by the scruffs of our shirts, which was unnecessary considering we weren't trying to run. As we got outside I saw that it was raining again, which wasn't much of a suprise. She then walked us to the front door, where the same man who had taken the boy last time stood.
    "Sixty euros," she demanded.
    The man snorted. "I gave you twenty-five last time. It should be no more than fifty!"
    "These two are hard workers, won't give you any struggle. See?" Miss Tuble punched Dylan hard in the stomach, making him groan. I shot her a glare and gave the same to the man.
    "I say forty. They should be cheaper than twenty-five apiece," he replied.
    "Then no deal."
    "Fine." the man turned to leave, but Miss Tuble shouted to him.
    "Deal!" she said, tossing us out the door, onto the soggy wet ground. Then she closed the door and locked it.
    "You two better corporate," the man told us roughly. "And you will call me Master Ben, and do everything I say."
    I wondered if we were supposed to say anything, and I hoped that silence was the right answer.
    When we got to the carriage I was thoroughly soaked and cold. I figured that in my head I would just call the guy Ben because he wasn't my master. Nobody was. Ben made us get in the back while he climbed into the front, grabbing the reins. Then the horse, the same one that I had seen four nights before, started off.
    I sat next to Dylan, wondering how this was going to work out and how long we had. We were soaking wet and muddy from our fall on the ground. The ride was silent except for one moment when Ben turned around and tossed us an apple to share and we muttered a quiet thanks back. We passed it between us until it was eaten to its core.
Right after that Dylan took my hand, giving it a squeeze. Even though I was wet and cold, it comforted me and I felt a little warmer somehow.
    Just as the sun started to peak over the horizon, we came to a stop. Dylan, still holding my hand, got out with me and we followed Ben into an old three-story black building.
    "In," he told us, and we walked through the rusted doors.
    At the front of the building where we entered there was a desk, and behind it sat a man dressed in a brown suit with a bow tie. Both were very worn, and not at all nice.
    "Ah. New recruits," the man said. With the word "recruits" he added a smirk. "Why a girl though? She ain't gonna be as strong as the boys."
    Ben just shrugged. "We'll find some use. Maybe a room cleaner. This place could really use one."
    What he said was definitely true. The walls needed repainting, the floor cleaning, furniture polishing. But I did not want to be the one to do it.
    "Follow me. Better get you two to your rooms so that you can get workin'.
    He led us into a hallway, then up two flights of stairs. Finally, he stopped in another hallway, pointing to a door. "That's yours girl. And at the end of the hallway, that's yours boy."
    I opened the door to my room and saw that it was no bigger than a hallway closet, which is probably what it was supposed to be. There was a tiny window, as well as a bed, slightly better quality than at the orphanage. But since the room was small, the bed filled the entire space. The man tossed me some new clothing and I closed the door and changed, hanging my wet clothes at the end of my bed. The new ones looked like some kind of old uniform for one of those fancy English schools.
    I took a look at the window, so small I would barely fit through it if I wanted to and so dusty that I couldn't see outside. Someone started knocking on my door, and after a minute I sighed and went into the hallway to get my first task.
☆☆☆
    It turned out that this wasn't any normal place that "hired" orphans. They set them to work as I had expected. The guy who had shown us our rooms took Dylan to the boy's workplace, and another person came to show me my tasks.
"You can call me Max and the other guy is Bert," the guy said. "You will work with house cleaning since you are the first girl here as far as I can remember, which is quite a while. Every morning you will start with downstairs and work your way up."
We walked downstairs, and Max showed me an old cart. "Your cleaners and what not will go on here. There's water in the pump outside. Get to work." Max started to leave, but I stopped him.
"What do you mean by cleaners? Where are they?"
"Hmm?"
"The cleaners. You said cleaners. Where are they?"
"You will make them. We can't afford to buy them!" he let out a laugh as he said this.
"I don't know how to though." Did he really expect me to already know how?
"What do you mean, you don't know how? No one taught you? What did you do at your orphanage?"
"We went to school and did dishes. But we never cleaned except for once or twice a year and the stuff was already made."
Max sighed and called over to the person behind the desk. "Can you show her how to make a soap solution?"
The man snorted back. "Don't she know how?" but when I shook my head he came over and showed me a little room in the back that had towels, soap, dishrags, buckets, and scrubbers. He motioned for me to put them onto my cart and I did.
"All ya have to do is put that soap into the bucket and let it dissolve. Everything should be scrubbed every day. After meals, you will do the dishes. The boys'll be relieved. Also, make sure you get all the rooms cleaned before dinner because after dinner everyone goes back to them."
After that, he walked off and Max left too, so I decided to get to work. I went outside to the faucet, noticing that the entire warehouse area was surrounded by a ten-foot wooden fence that had sharp barbed wire at the top. I hadn't been able to see it in the dark when we had gotten here this morning. They obviously didn't tolerate runaways.
Once I had filled up three buckets and put in the soap I went back inside. Everyone had already eaten breakfast which meant that I had missed it. My stomach now growled, the apple not having been enough. I tried to ignore it though, starting to scrub the floor.
☆☆☆
    I had just finished cleaning the main room and had moved on to the living quarters upstairs (downstairs only had a big warehouse room which held who knows what as well as the cafeteria, lobby, and some other rooms which I wasn't allowed in) when my hunger was too much to bear. I had been working for at least three hours but it was still another three until lunch, so I decided to find food.
    I left my cart in the boys living quarters which was a huge room lined with row after row of beds, wandering downstairs. When I found it I saw that it was medium size, with ten tables scattered around.
    I found my way to the kitchen in the back, quickly going in and finding the pantry. I ate two apples but nothing else then saw a pile of dishes which I was probably expected to clean. I groaned, but went over to them and grabbed the soap and a dishrag.
    Lunch was terrible since I had to serve everyone. The cook wasn't a good one either since the food was practically mush. The only people I didn't see were Bert, Max, and a few other adults. What I did see was at least a hundred people, my age and older, all younger than twenty.
    When I saw Dylan he gave me a weak smile, before moving on.
☆☆☆
    The rest of the day was boring, with lots of cleaning. It took me an hour to clean the hundred dishes that were left for me. Then another three just to clean up the boy's rooms- it turned out there were three of them, thirty-five beds in each. I had to make the beds, scrub the floor, and organize the clothes thrown all over the place.
    Dinner was the same. I served the food, spent an hour cleaning dishes, then went back to my room. It was on the way to my room when trouble came.
    "What do you think you're doing?" Bert asked me, intercepting my path.
    "Uh, going back to my room."
    "But you didn't clean the warehouse yet!" he snorted.
    "I'm not allowed in there," I told him.
    "During the day. In the night when the boys finish you've gotta go clean it!"
    "But during the night I sleep, not clean."
    "The faster you get it done, the faster you get to sleep. Get to work!" with that he left, giving my cart a kick which knocked off a dirty bucket of water.
    I bent down and cleaned it up, before going to get more clean water. I had a long night ahead.
    
☆☆☆
    The warehouse room was huge and full of sounds. Not human sounds, animal sounds. The room was filled with crates, crates that moved and shifted, groaning or making odd noises. In the back of the room there were huge garage doors, probably to transport the crates.
    The floor was nasty, so I decided to start there. My shoes got dirty within a few minutes, and I gagged when the smells reached my nose. I dumped buckets of water and started to scrub the floor using a mop that had only part a handle that was leaning against the wall. I ended up putting a dishrag over my mouth to keep out the smell.
    Now, this might sound crazy, but I spent eight hours in there. My back ached but I kept going, eventually losing all feeling of reality. Being in that room with only the light of a small candle I was able to figure out what this place was. It was a place for illegal animals to be brought into then shipped out to try to make some money. Not what I had expected, but it would have to work.
Then finally at hour eight Bert came through the door and called to me, saying it was time for breakfast duty.
    When I came out he put his hand over his nose, saying I should get cleaned up first and get a new set of clothes. He went into another room and grabbed a towel and an old shirt and pants as well as a set of overalls. "The shower house is out back. You can shower in the morning the boys shower at night."
    After a freezing cold shower, I put on the clothes, which were meant for boys not girls by the way. I guess that the outfit I had been wearing before was one-of-a-kind around here.
    The cook screamed at me when I was late, twenty minutes late, he informed me. All the boys had been served and were eating, so all I had to do was dishes.
    The rest of the day went about the same, and that night I went back into the warehouse to finish cleaning. I made sure to wear my old smelly clothes, and when I was done I went back to my room to rest, although I figured I would have to clean my sheets.
    I got only an hour of sleep before I had to get up to shower, and then helped with breakfast. After that, I decided to wash my dusty sheets and clothing and I was able to hang them up outside. I didn't wash the outfit I had come here in though since I needed something to wear while my stuff dried. Then I skipped cleaning and went to my bed, lying on the empty matress.
    I woke up to the sound of knocking on my door, and when I opened it I saw Bert glaring at me.
    "What are you doing?" he sneered.
    "I haven't gotten much sleep and I figured that since everything was clean …"
    "You will work all day, every day, and if you don't finish you will work all night too. I never, ever said anything about sleep," he growled.
    After that I worked harder, trying my best. When night came he inspected my work but couldn't find anything to complain about. This made me smile before I walked back to my room.
    Around what I thought was two o'clock I heard a knock on my door and opened it. I had only gotten about five minutes before. There stood Dylan, smiling a weak smile.
    "You're finally here. How has it been?" he asked me.
    I quickly ran to hug him, unable to resist the urge. I had never been so glad to see him.
    "Terrible. I haven't had much sleep and Bert is out to get me."
    "He seems to do that to everyone. So you ready to get out of here?"
    "To get out? I don't know if it's possible. This place is surrounded by barbed wire." I told him, shaking my head.
    "Not like that. Don't worry, I have a plan. Follow me."
    He led me out of my room, and I saw that a boy with blonde hair and a shy smile was in the hallway. Dylan introduced him as Connor, and I nodded. Then we quietly crept downstairs.
☆☆☆
    We made a stop in the kitchen where I loaded a sack with food, including apples and ten cans of food. I also threw in a can opener. Then Dylan led us over to the warehouse room.
    "What are we doing in here?" I asked him.
    "We are going to pretend to be animals," he said with a cunning smile. He picked up a crate and motioned for Connor and me to do the same. Then he led us through a door which took us outside.
    There were five carts outside, some already loaded with crates. We jumped into one, then set the crates down. Connor pulled out a metal tool, which he used to scrape the labels off one of the crates. He then stuck it onto his box, then scraped off two more for mine and Dylan's.
    Finally, we climbed into the crates, which were just big enough for us. We closed the tops, but Dylan told us to keep them unlatched.
    "It will be easier to jump out when the carts leave in the morning," he told us. I also made sure that each of us had an apple to eat so we wouldn't get hungry.
    When morning came we were ready, still in our boxes. More boxes were put next to us, but we were in the higher boxes so none were put on top of us. Then finally we started moving.
    Half an hour into the ride we got ready to jump out. We whispered to each other and then counted to three before making the leap. The person driving the cart didn't see us, thank goodness, and we were able to just run.
    We were now somewhere in London, I have no idea where. We set off walking silently until I couldn't stand it anymore.
    "What is your plan?" I asked them.
    "To find a ride, then get back to Miss Tuble's. We'll pick up your friends, then figure something out." Dylan told me proudly.
    "And how do you plan to find this ride?" I asked him.
    "I dunno. Call a taxi?" he gave an innocent shrug, then turned to look at Conner.
    "Let's ask someone," Conner said.
    I nodded. "That's probably smart. How about that man over there?"
    I started over to the man, but Dylan grabbed my arm. "We have no idea who he is though! He could take us back, and they will not be happy if they find us."
    "Don't be silly. If we have to we can run or hide. These alleys have helped me before," I told him, shaking away his hand.
    Before he could hold me back I took off towards the man. "Excuse me, sir, do you know which way Miss Tuble's Orphanage is? You see, we need to get there to find a home."
    "Little girl," he laughed. "Why go there? St. Lucy's is right around the corner! It is much nicer."
    "But you see, my sister lives in Miss Tuble's. Please, which way is it?"
    "Ah, little girl. For orphan's, there is no family. You lost it! Go to St. Lucy's.
    "My sister needs me! She's only five and … and … "
    "How about this. Go to St. Lucy's now, peacefully, or I'll give my friends the police a little call and they'll escort you there themselves! So don't dilly dally, scurry on over there!"
    I growled at him and stomped over to Dylan and Connor.
    "Rude," I mumbled. Dylan smirked and I punched him in the arm playfully. Just then a taxi was passing, and Connor called to it.
    It stopped, the man gave us one look, and left. Now it was my turn to smirk at Dylan, and he rolled his eyes in response.
    We tried several more before one finally stopped without leaving long enough to let us get in.
    "Prove that you've got money," the guy told us, and I must have looked worried because Dylan let out a little laugh. He and Connor emptied their pockets, showing the man about ten euros each.
    "Where did you …?"
    "Connor taught me how to pickpocket," Dylan whispered, quietly enough that the driver didn't hear.
    "Where to?" the taxi driver asked us.
    "Nepp's bar. My dad works there." Connor told him.
    "Why were you all the way over here then, lad?"
    "I was visiting my grandma, and these are my cousins. They're going to stay with my family for a few weeks."
    "Well off we go then!" he said, starting the horse.
    We were silent the entire way, sitting quietly. When we got out two hours later and had handed over ten euros- the driver insisted we keep some- we went over to the bar, walked inside, then when the carriage left we walked back out.
    "Miss Tuble's is over there, but the sun won't set for another five hours or so. We should make a plan for where to go once we have the young lads," Connor told us.
    This stumped us all, since we had no idea what to do. Eventually we agreed to walk around.
    We split two apples up with Connor's knife and each ate some apple. Then we continued to walk around.
    Then Dylan had an idea. "We can get a job!" he exclaimed. "Then we'll have enough to rent an apartment or something!"
    I considered this for a second before answering. "Good idea. But what job and what will we do until then?"
    "Let's find the jobs first. Then we can worry about that later." Connor said.
    We walked around looking for jobs, but most people weren't hiring. When we got to the post office someone finally answered us.
    "Good afternoon," the lady behind the counter said. "What can I do for you?"
    "We're looking for some jobs. Are you hiring?" I asked her.
    "No, but you look like you might need the money. How well do you know the streets around here?"
    "Not too well," Dylan answered honestly.
    "Hmm. Maybe you could sort out the letters. I can hire two of you for that job, paying three euros a day each."
    "That's not much, but we'll take it." Connor said. "Dylan how about you Olivia do it? I can keep looking for a job, and I'll meet you back here later."
    Dylan nodded, turning to leave. "Wait!" the counter lady shouted. "Do you want a job too? We need a stamper."
    "That would be great, thank you," he told her.
    "You all can call me Grace. Martin! Can you come up here and show our new hires how to do things around here?"
    A man, Martin came out. "Follow me," he instructed us, and we did. He showed us how to sort the finished letters in this bin by address into the mailman's sacks. Then he showed Dylan how to weigh and stamp the letters.
    Several times mailmen came in to grab sacks, leaving empty ones. Then, when the sun was setting Grace came to us, giving us three euros each. Then we left, walking over to Miss Tuble's Orphanage.
    We sat outside the gate when we got there, eating the last of our apples. Then we waited, talking quietly.
    When all had gone silent except for the occasional carriage rolling down the street we went in, trying to minimize the creaking of the gate.
    Connor waited outside the front door to keep watch while I handed Dylan a hair pin which he used to fiddle with the lock. It easily clicked open and we headed in.
    It turned out that I wasn't the only one who knew the floorboards and how to creep around unnoticed. I led the way upstairs, and pulled down the ladder to the attic.
    I motioned for Dylan to wait for me, and I slid into the attic room I had known for so long. Then I woke up the children inside of it, starting with Nathan.
    Annie and Tom both grumbled when I woke them, and I had to shush them. Then I pointed to the ladder and told them to go down.
    Cora didn't wake when I shook her, and I remembered how much of a heavy sleeper she was. I sighed and picked her up, carrying her over to the ladder.
    Dylan took Cora from my arms and I put the ladder back in place. We were about to go downstairs when a girl, probably a few years older than me, came out of her room, rubbing her eyes.
    She gasped and jumped back when she saw us. "What the …" Then realization dawned on her and she saw what we were doing. Her eyes narrowed in the dim light of the hallway lantern. "Miss Tuble isn't going to be happy."
    With that the girl ran downstairs, and Dylan started to shout. "RUN!"
    So we ran, Dylan still holding Cora. Nathan stumbled and I bent down to scoop him up, continuing running. We had just made it out of the gate and into the darkness when Miss Tuble came out, screaming at the top of her lungs. "YOU NASTY LITTLE RASCALS. AFTER ALL I'VE DONE FOR YOU!"
    We kept running until we made it into the safety of an alley, right next to the post office. I sighed, and heard the others doing the same. I set down Nathan and sat on an abandoned crate.
    "Get some rest, all of you. In the morning we will find somewhere for you to go." I told them, standing up.
☆☆☆
    The next morning I awoke to Dylan lightly shaking me. "Huh?" I said, sitting up. "It's still dark! Why …?"
    "Shh." he whispered, putting his finger on his lips. He hauled me up to my feet and started walking, motioning for me to follow.
    I waited until we had left the alley to talk again. "Where are we …?"
    "Just follow me. You will see," he told me. I nodded, figuring it was a surprise.
    We walked for a few minutes until we reached it, an old brick building. The door was unlocked and Dylan pushed it open. "This morning I looked around and found this place. It's abandoned."
    It was small, but better than living in an alley. It had a small living room with a couch and armchair, as well as a small table with a lantern on it. Dylan lit the lantern, then held it up.
    The couch was red, a very ugly red, but when I sat down on it it was comfortable. There was also a kitchen next to the living room which had a stove, fridge, and oven. Then there were stairs which Dylan led me up.
    There was a hallway with a door at each end as well as one on each side. Three were bedrooms, and one was a bathroom. One had a big queen size bed, one had twin beds, and the other a single bed.
    "What do you think?" he asked me, and I shook my head. "You don't like it?"
    "No, no, it's great. I can't believe it. No one owns this?"
    "No one. Also, I think the stove and oven work to. Maybe even the fridge."
    "Really? Wow. This place is perfect. But what should we do with the children?"
    "I think that maybe it's time for them to get a family. They all deserve wonderful parents who can take care of them."
    "No, we can't do that. We can take care of them, and that will make them happy."
    "Olivia. We can't take care of four kids all under the age of eight. We can only give them so much. How about the two youngest stay, and in the morning we can find the older ones families. Think about it. They will be happier that way, and they can still visit you."
    "No. I can't let that happen, Dylan. It's my responsibility." I replied harshly, harder than I should have. Then I turned around and stormed out. He couldn't get rid of them, no no no. I had to take care of them!
    Half an hour later Dylan came back, and after another hour the sun came up. By then I had thought about what Dylan had said and figured he might be right.
    "Dylan … I'm sorry. Maybe you're right. Maybe we should find them families."
    Dylan reached over for my hand, and I let him take it. "I know that letting them go will be hard for you, but it's for the better." I nodded and leaned into him. They would still visit, I knew they would. They hadn't even left yet so what was I getting so upset about?
    A little while later everyone started to wake up, and Dylan led us back to the house. The kids ran around, claiming bedrooms and such while I found some pots in the cabinet and cleaned them out. When they were clean I heated up some beans and chicken noodle soup.
    When they came back I handed out bowls and they all ate fast.
    "I'll go find them homes, you guys should go to work. I'll see you for lunch," I told Connor and Dylan before they left.
    Dylan looked at me for a second longer, than nodded and before leaving with Connor.
    "Nathan, Cora, can I trust you to stay here for a few hours without me?" I asked them.
    Cora nodded responsibly when I told her that she would be left in charge. "Maybe you can find something to play with or make a toy," I told her. "Just be safe. I'll be back before lunch."
    Then I left with Annie and Tom.

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  • February 12, 2019 - 8:40am (Now Viewing)

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