That’s how long Max and I remained in the orphanage. Three years that stunk of fear and hopelessness. Three years full of a cold silence, cruel faces, darkness and a constant feeling of pain that turned into physical pain. They could drive you mad. Some of us did go mad. You could tell by the feverous gleam in their eyes; their haunted expressions; their frightened whispers.
I had heard the stories. Mum and Dad used to talk all the time about the flaws in Virtus’s caring system, about the suffering in the public institutions and the struggles of the lower classes. They scared me and fascinated me at the same time. They sounded like the novels I read about the harsh societies of the past.
I tried to imagine myself as part of these stories. A tormented heroine that life had thrown into one of these dark places my parents described but nonetheless managed to emerge back to the light through her courage and resourcefulness.
But let me tell you something: stories rarely make life justice. Reality is far worse.
I still remember vividly the day they took us to the orphanage. A couple dressed in sad grey uniforms picked us up from the public services’ hostel we were temporarily staying at. Their smiles were fake, their eyes icy. I was clutching Max’s hand so tightly it almost hurt. He didn’t even look at them. Just stared at the floor and kept silent. It was the beginning of a long silence that would last nearly as long as our stay at the orphanage.
We boarded on a thruster and flew to the other side of the city. Images of the glimmering buildings and tiny blurry figures flashed through the window. The sky, cloudless, had a blinding yellowish color. I strained to put on a brave face for Max’s sake.
Our escorts kept mumbling about how sorry they were about our loss, how proud we should be of our parents and how the state was going to take good care of us now.
I nodded and smiled politely and wished they just shut up and leave us alone. The trip to the orphanage seemed endless until finally the thruster landed on the rooftop of a large building at the outskirts of the city.
“We’re here!”, exclaimed the woman cheerfully. “Come along now, kids!”.
We followed her into the building and the orphanage director’s office, a vast room full of flowers and colorful childish drawings with a panoramic view of the seafront on the top floor. The director, a middle-aged glamorous-looking woman, welcomed us, offered us tea and cookies and talked to us about the orphanage’s facilities, its routines and rules. I didn’t listen to a word; just kept gazing out the window, holding onto Max’s hand and remembering Mum and Dad’s stories.
This time I was for real a heroine of such a story. The realization filled me with fear. Yes, I was scared, so scared, that I was not going to make it back into the light again.
I did though, guys. It took me some time, but I did.
I’ll tell you more soon. Stay in touch.
Phoebe’s Post: When it all started