The first blow was the separation.
For the first time in our lives Max and I were forced to split. Max cried and screamed and I begged them not to do this. We had just lost our parents; we couldn’t bear to lose each other as well. My pleas fell into the void. Our guardians were unmovable.
“These are the rules. No exceptions”, they said and that was the end of it.
So they moved Max to the boys’ quarters and me to the girls’ one. They gave us shapeless pale blue uniforms to wear and took everything else away. That was the second blow: we weren’t allowed to have but only a few personal belongings.
I gave another fight for mum’s favorite book and dad’s lucky vintage watch, but lost again, some photos.
“Why?”, I demanded angrily. “Why can’t I keep all my stuff? They are the only things I have been left of my parents, of my whole life!”
“Somebody would steal them anyway, sooner or later”, replied one of the guardians as he tossed most of my things into a rubbish sack. A bloody rubbish sack!
The days dragged on and on gray and unchanging. We followed the same routine every day. We woke up, headed to the dining room, had breakfast, proceeded to the education halls, split according to age groups, attended lessons, headed to lunch, participated in the so called ‘leisure activities’ in the afternoon, had some spare time to ourselves, ate dinner and returned to our sleeping quarters.
The food was badly cooked that it tasted like ash. We always left the dining room feeling sick most of the same time. Our educators were austere and distant, commanding our silent attention through intimidation.
I know it doesn’t sound as bad, but it was worse. It really was. The sleeping quarters were packed with orphans; you couldn’t breathe or have a moment of peace. The younger and more vulnerable kids were victims to the swinging moods of the older ones. It was the only entertainment ―twisted as it was― they really had; making vicious jokes and playing cruel tricks on one another.
I kept my distance from them as much as I could, always keeping a hard face on and never allowing them to witness even the slightest sign of weakness on my part. I don’t even remember how many times I had to defend younger girls from bullying. This is when I learned how to fight. Physically I mean. How to know what is the best distance to keep your opponent, hit hard, sharp, unexpectedly, back to safe position, watch you back, have balance, ex-hail when taking a blow not to feel it, use hands and feet as weapons, never think of fear no matter how your opponent looks like, never fear to get hit, never surrender, but most of all be the smartest one in the fight.
It always felt like I was fighting to defend Max from bullies. I wanted to fight all bullies of the world till there was no one left, if I could, but I knew this was impossible. I only gasped into tears when in bed, when no one knew.
The spare time in the early evenings was the only time of the day I could spend with Max. I tried to look cheerful and optimistic whenever I was with him, but the blank look in his eyes and his persistent silence really scared me. It was like he was drifting away from me, and everyone – actually I was the only one he had – and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t bring him back. And that was the third blow. This dreadful feeling that I was going to lose Max too; like I had lost mum and dad.
The days dragged into weeks, the weeks into months.
And then one day Alex came into our lives. And changed everything.
…but I will save this story for the next time.
Talk to you soon, guys.