TITLE: Only by grace...
By beth soledad
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“Nicolas! Jorge! Time for supper!”, mother called in her distinct British accent.
“Come on, slow poke!” Nicolas teased as he raced out the door, giving me a slight push.
“Hey, no fair!”
Our footsteps resounded on the wood floor as we raced through the hallways and to the ornate staircase.
Mother met us at the foot of the stairs. “Shhh.” She was not happy, again. More and more in the last few weeks did she seem to tire of our noise and games. “Your Father is talking to a very important dignitary in Paris and I’ll not have naughty boys disturbing him!”
Nicolas cleared his throat and looked at the floor in very real contrition.
“Sorry.” I muttered while tracing patterns on the floor with my sock.
“Sorry? You both make enormous amounts of noise and never care about anyone else in this house. And you never clean up after yourselves, leaving toys and blocks all over our home. You’d think you’d be grateful after all we’ve done for you. I mean, we rescued you from that horrid orphanage and all those snotty nosed kids. But no, you repay us by being noisy, not practicing hard enough in your music lessons, and insisting on learning that backwards language. Do you want to be like all those other brats that have no future? Those children at the orphanage are dirty and smelly, and …”
“Hey! They are my friends! And for all their smelly ways, they’re a lot nicer than you are!” I was really angry now. “You’re just an old, wrinkly, bruja. And thanks to you that’s the only word in Spanish I remember.” Nicolas tried to shush me but I raise me voice even more. Her gaping mouth just urged me on. “But that’s the only word I need to know! You’re an old bruja and I could care less about your stupid lessons or your dumb rules! And I don’t care how much noise I make!” With this I started singing Ol’ Mc-Donald at the top of my lungs.
“How dare you?! You insufferable little brat! Nicolas, what does ‘bruja’ mean?” Her face was twisted in a feral expression with eyes the were wide with rage.
Nicolas met my eyes with a why-did-you-get-me-into-this look. I smirked a bit and said “Tell her, I don’t care.”
“Witch” he mumbled. “It means witch.”
“Witch!?” She shrieked. “I hate you! I'll tear you apart! You good-for-nothing-“
“Stop!” Nicolas screamed. His hand clutched my arm and I could feel him shaking. He was shaking from anger and I could tell in his voice that was low and menacing that he was livid. “Don’t you dare talk to m brother like that again.”
I could see it coming. I should’ve stopped her somehow or jumped in front of him. But it all happened so fast. One moment she was just standing there like a volcano ready to erupt or like a balloon ready to burst; the next she raised her hand and brought it down quickly with a sharp blow to my brother. It caught him by surprise and the force of her slap caused him to double over on the floor with blood streaming from his nose.
Even though I was younger by two minutes, the sight of my big brother hurt and bleeding spurred me into the role of protector.
I was angry. This was my brother! She hurt the one person I loved more in the world! The one person that had stuck with me through thick and thin. I let the rage build up and like a warrior I let out a blood curling scream as I lunged at her with my arms outstretched and my eyes blazing hatred.
The mirror crashed to the floor and shards of glass went flying. The coffee table collapsed under the weight of the woman.
God looked down from Heaven and He shed tears as the scene played out before His almighty eyes.
“Father? Why don’t we do something? Why don’t we help?” the angle inquired. His holy brow creased in pain.
“I have a reason and there is a plan. Pain must yield its fruit before the holy plant may begin to grow.”
“Would you boys care for some water?”
“Um, no thank you.” Replied Nicolas. The stewardess walked to the next aisle repeating the same question with her false smile.
“I can’t remember the last time we were on a plane. Do you?”
Nicolas turned to the window with a non-committal grunt.
“Does it still hurt?”
He must’ve heard the real concern in my voice, because he turned to me and gingerly touched his black-and-blue nose and cheek. “Only a little.”
I love you.” I said, tears welling in my eyes.
He smiled gently. “I love you too. But little brother, you really shouldn’t have attacked her. Plus, it only made him angry.”
Him…x-dad. Couldn’t call him dad anymore though. Not that I wanted to! But they were through with us. Done. Just like our real parents were done with us.
“How does your arm feel?” He asked.
I pulled up my sleeve and showed him my bruise that covered my arm from the elbow up. Grimacing I said, “Painful.”
We both fell silent then and I was left with my thoughts. My terrible depressing thoughts. I wish I could just turn off my mind sometimes and throw the memories in the trash.
Trash. X-mom called us trash. Called the orphanage where we lived trash. The Bulacks came to Peru when we were four. They said that we pleased them and so they became our foster parents. The first five years with them were ok. We obeyed and did what they told us to do. Their friends would often come to the house and tell the Bulacks how wonderful it was that they would save us from the nightmare that we were living in. It also helped Mr. Bulack in his political career because it showed the people that he really cared about children and making life better for others.
But when we turned ten things started to change. I was always a rebellious child and only in the last year did I begin to give my bitterness a voice. I dislike the music lessons. Why must I learn French? I wanted to learn Spanish, why couldn’t I learn Spanish?
I still think everything would’ve been ok eventually if the BIG NEWS didn’t come. The reason they adopted us was because they couldn’t have children of their own. So, they settled with us. But finally, after twenty years of marriage, the unthinkable happened! They were going to have a baby! At first we were excited, a little brother or sister!
But I guess that with them having a baby, they didn’t really need us around anymore. Mr. Bulack’s politically career was secure and their social standing was quite solid.
Soon ‘Mom’ began making remarks about not wanting her baby ‘contaminated’ with unruly ways. And the more she complained, the more I acted up and bucked the rules.
The tensions mounted every day until we reached the climax two days ago. Then as soon as her husband came out of the office, annoyed at being disrupted, and saw the chaos playing out in front of him, we were sent to the airport immediately with the one of the maids.
And here we are- two twin boys who spent the last six years of our lives in London with every type of convenience one could imagine. We were just a glitch in the perfect lives of the Bulacks. An imperfection really that could be scrubbed off and disposed of. We were being sent back to live with the other brats. After all, we were just Peruvian trash.
I didn’t realize I was crying until Nicolas squeezed my hand with tears streaming from his face too.
A mechanically voice sounded above our heads and announced, “We are now approaching the Jorge Chavez International airport. Please fasten your seatbelts and return your seat to the upright position.”
Panicked, I turned to Nicolas, “Brother, do you remember how to speak Spanish?”
“Other than the word bruja?” The grin vanished. “No, little brother, I don’t remember.”
The wheels screeched and the aircraft rumbled as we touched down.
Another stewardess, this one with a real smile, neared our seat and asked, “Boys, do you have anything stored in the overhead compartments?”
“No ma’am.” Nicolas replied. I just sat in surly silence.
“Then follow me.” She led us off the plan and into the waiting shuttle that soon filed with grumpy and anxious flyers. Most of them were on their cell phones notifying family and friends of their safe arrival.
I leaned to Nicolas. “No one would’ve cared if we died on the stupid plane.”
Sending me a reproving look, he studied the other planes as we passed them. I felt bad for making Nicolas upset, but it seemed like the hot anger and bitterness inside of me was eating my heart away. Sometimes when I lie in bed I feel like the inside of my stomach is being torn apart by the evil memories.
Once we arrived at the brightly lighted building everyone shoved to be out of the bus first. Stupid people. I thought. The lady tried to hold me hand a guide me to the conveyer belt where our flight number was posted on top, but I jerked my hand away and glared at her. Even with everyone pushing and saying stuff to me in gibberish, I managed to plant my feet and cross my arms. I pride myself in being as stubborn as a mule.
When the smiley stewardess lady realized I wasn’t with her, she retraced her steps and stood in front of me. On her face was a look of confusion and sympathy. “What’s wrong?” She asked in a husky voice.
My voice was bitter, “We don’t have a suitcase.”
She looked between me and my brother in very real agony before bursting into tears.
My brother whispered harshly, “Would you stop it already! Just stop being rude to everybody! They’re not responsible for our life!” Turning to the damsel in distress he said,
Please, don’t cry. He isn’t trying to hurt your feelings. Honest.”
Her sobbing made me mad. But, everything now a days was making me mad. I mean, why was she sniffing and running her nose everywhere? People were staring and staying stuff in Peruvian! Our lives were being destroyed! But watching my brother… remorse cut deep at my soul. His life was being ripped to shreds and all he was doing was cleaning up my mess.
I shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
“I’m so sorry” She blubbered though the tears. “I just can’t understand why two adorable little boys are being sent to Peru with nothing but identification papers and cryptic instructions!”
I made a face and mouthed “adorable” to my brother. He frowned at me.
She knelt on the ground in front of me, “Hey, look at me.”
I did, albeit unwilling. I figure it was the least I could do for my brother.
“What you said in the bus… yeah, I heard you. It’s not true. There is one Person that really cares.”
“Oh, no, really!? Shock me. Who?” The words dripped with sarcasms and my brother moseyed over by me and gave my side a sharp pinch.
“OWW!” Under my breath I said, “Fine!” Faking remorse I said, “I’m sorry.”
“That’s ok, sweetie.”
I made a puking noise and was rewarded by a super hard pinch. I glared at my brother and he glared back. Boy, he sure was mad this time! Better listen to the lady.
“That Person is called Jesus. And even when it seems that no one care or wants you, just remember that Jesus loves you very much. She started to cry again and I rolled my eye at my brother.
We breezed through customs seeing that we only carried the clothes that we wore. Right outside the gate stood a throng of dark-haired people waiting to greet the passengers. Many held signs with the names of hotels and underneath was written the name of the person they were to pick-up. But many people were simply family and friends that didn’t need a sign to recognize the one they sought.
I’ll bet our name is on a sign.
Sure enough, after standing on her tiptoes to get a good look at all the names scribbled on signs, the stewardess propelled us toward one of the corners where a man was standing with a faded sign that read ‘Nicolas and Jorge Rojas’ and underneath that it said ‘Hogar para ninos Corazon de Maria’. I didn’t remember the man.
To the man, the lady asked, “A quien recojer.” Now, I’m not a Spanish expert, but she sure sounded funny!
Sporting an offended look, the man replied, “I speak English.”
Now, I have a pretty good grasp on English , and that man did not speak English like most people. I just stared at him. He was short and quite rotund. His eyes we so dark you couldn’t see the pupils. His hair was also black and kinda greasy looking. He made me cringe just a bit. If anything, our mom… x-mom taught us proper hygiene!
“Oh, ok. Sorry. Didn’t know you spoke both languages.”
This seems to appease the man and they spoke for a few minutes and she checked his papers to assure that he was authorized to pick us up. They both signed an official document and she handed him our passports and files. After trying to give us quick hugs, the lady walked back toward the customs area. I think she was crying again.
Women! Don’t understand them.
“Ustedes hablan Espanol?”
Nicolas and I looked at each other and shrugged.
He grunted. “You learn quick. Follow you me.”
“Work harder! Don’t look at me like that. I know that you can do better than that. Is that what they teach you in other countries? To be lazy? You lazy child! Work! Work!”
I wiped the sweat from my hairline and brought the shovel down with a vengeance. I had been working for three hours. And I still on was a third of the way done. In order to grow enough food the all one hundred kids that lived at the orphanage we had to plant our own garden. Because Nicolas and I were sent back it was now our fault we didn’t have enough food. According to the director, if we were good children then we wouldn’t have been sent back and none of this would be necessary.
I fumed. Always working! Nicolas just bore everything they sent his way. The only time he got angry was when they hit me.
All of a sudden she was there, by my side. “You think I’m joking you think I’m playing?” She hissed in Spanish.
“No ma’am.” I replied back in the same language. Within the first month Nicolas and I were speaking out native tongue again.
She grabbed my ear and jerked me to the ground. “I said work! And you play! You sit here and dream! You ungrateful child! Do you want to work in the fields? That’s where I should send you!”
I whimpered and she pulled me to my feet again and dragged me alongside her as she marched toward one of the two building that made up our home sweet home.
Nicolas ran after me. “Stop!” He cried. “Let him go. He’s just tired, that’s all!”
The director turned around and clamped down on his arm with her claw-like hands. “You dare disobey me?”
She half dragged half pushed us into the building and up the stairs. It was happening again. There was a room for all the kids who were very naughty. I knew this room. From every crack in the wall to every water stain on the roof. I spent many hours here.
Thrusting us inside she slammed the door behind her and locked in soundly. When she left she took and slivers of light with her. No food for two days, I could handle. No water or entertainment, I can handle that! But the darkness… the overwhelming darkness!
I’m three again and my mother left me, in the dark. I’m three and I’m punished by being sent to the terrible nothingness of this room. The darkness eats me and invades my mind! I go numb. I can’t scream. I can’t run. Darkness follows me!
I’m drowning. Peruvian trash. Ungrateful child. Brat. Lazy. I can’t scream. Help me! Please someone help me!
“Wake up! It’s ok, I’m with you!”
She’s going to hit me again and this time I know she’ll kill me! ‘Remember, there is one Person that loves you!’
I bolted upright in my bed. The covers held me captive and my shirt was drenched.
Nicolas scooted closer to me and fanned my face. “There, there.” He murmured softly. “It’s ok. It was just a dream. But I’m with you now. I’m here.”
My breathing evened out and I squeezed my brother tight as sobs racked my body.
“I won’t let them hurt you anymore” he promised.
After he clamed me down, we both fixed the sheets and crawled into bed once again. We both shared a twin bed that was laid on the floor. Every time I had a nightmare he was sent sprawling on the floor.
“Brother?” I whispered.
“How long were we in the room yesterday?”
“Only about ten hours or so, I guess.”
“Yeah, I know.”
I thought he might be asleep but I had to voice the terror that was clawing at my throat.
“I think she’ll kill me next time.”
Nicolas sat up straight and in the moonlight I say the agony written on his face. “Seriously?”
How long he sat there, I don’t know. It seemed I had just fallen asleep when Nicolas shook me awake and told me to hurry or there would be no breakfast. I rushed out of bed and smoothed the covers as my brother hurriedly tied his shoes. All around us the other forty boys that shared our room were rushing to put shoes on and straighten their beds. We all slept in our clothes because we only owned one pair. Every Thursday all the boys would wash their clothes then put them on even and let them dry as the worked in the sun. The girls washed their clothes on Friday. And everyone, even the youngest boy at three years old, were required to wash their clothes once a week, and their sheets once every two weeks.
As I knelt to tie my laces my brother knelt too and whispered, “I’m getting you out of here, little brother. Just watch me all day today.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him how, especially since the whole compound was enclosed with huge cement walls. That was the moment when the director chose to enter the room and use her shrill whistle. Scurrying feet, fidgeting hands, and then silence. Two boys stood in perfect silence in front of their bed. As the director passed with her hawk-eyes and fire-breathing mouth, she either nodded or rapped the boys on the head with a wooden ruler. If you received a nod, you had her almighty blessing to eat your watered down oatmeal and stale bread. But if you were hit with the ruler, then you stood still and waited for her to tell you what your punishment would be for not tying both shoes or removing all the wrinkles from your bed sheets.
As she approached our bed I held my breath and struggled to not remember the nightmare that lurked right behind my ears. There were just waiting for the right moment to jump out and scare me again with their vivid clarity. I bit the insides of my mouth to keep from yelling out loud.
She passed by us and nodded her head. Just as we were about to turn and eat our first meal in about 24 hours, she stopped. “Nicolas, Jorge.” She called with her back to us. “Stay put.”
After she finished her rounds only a few boys remained. To the other boys she ordered them to sweep the floor and wash the windows before reporting to their regular assignments. Then she turned to us. I insist upon the fact that she has a personal vendetta against us.
“You boys, will begin to work in the garden. May hard work break your stubborn and rebellious ways.” With that we were dismissed.
My stomach rumbled and growled all the way down the stairs and into the harsh sunlight.
“Nicolas” I whined, “My stomach is going to eat me if I don’t feed it soon! Hey, wait up. You sure seem eager to work in the sun for twenty billion hours. Slow down, will ya?”
When we reached the field where we continued to hoe and pull out stones, Nicolas turned to me with the first smile I saw in the five months since we arrived at the orphanage.
“Oh, so now you smile? You think this is funny?” I got angry as he stood there with a stupid grin on his face.
Grabbing my chin he pointed my face toward the the cement wall. “What do you see?”
“Aw, come one. This is stupid!”
“Really. What do you see?”
“Fine. A wall. So?”
“So that is how we’re going to find freedom.” He informed me smugly.
I tilted my head and considered the possibility. Since the field has just been purchased they still hadn’t built the huge cement wall around it. And, it was behind both buildings, so no one would detect our escape. Furthermore, there were bags of cement stacked by the wall that would provide the leverage we would need to boost ourselves over the wall.
My tone was now one of admiration. “Brother! You’re amazing! We’re going to be free!”
“Yep. Come one! Let’s get to work.”
“Work? Huh? I wanna go!”
He grabbed my face with his hands and squeezed till my lips were mashed together. “The director will be out shortly to see if we are working. Once she sees the we are working she will leave us for at least an hour. If we were to run now, she’d have people looking for us in less than fifteen minutes. Get it?”
I jerked my face away and rubbed my cheeks. “Get it. Don’t do that again!”
He shrugged and went to work.
Sure enough, the evil taskmaster came by, criticized, threatened, then sauntered off.
Nicolas counted to ten out loud then threw his shovel aside. “Let’s go, little brother!”
We took off toward the wall and scurried up the cement bags. Nicolas pushed me up and helped me straddle then wall. Clinging to the wall with the knees, I leaned over and grasped Nicolas’ hand as he scaled the wall. With ease with threw ourselves onto the sand that was heaped on the other side of our prison wall.
“Now, run!” Nicolas urged, and run we did!
We ran from the dirt roads and sand dunes where the orphanage was situated to the busy streets of one of Lima’s markets. We dodged bikes, people, cars, cows, and many ice cream sellers.
“Wait.” I huffed. “I can’t go anymore.”
Nicolas squatted beside me but I couldn’t see him clearly. “Nicolas?”
“I’m here.” He said in between gulps of air.
“I feel so dizzy.” I complained.
“We need to eat. I feel the same way.”
So we just sat there, huddled together willing our heads to stop spinning and our hearts to beat normally.
“Hey, Jorge. We’re free!” His voice broke on a sob.
“I know” I said through the curtain of tears. “We’re really free.”
“Yeah,” I swallowed nervously. I enjoyed acting, but this was different! If we were found out then the police would take us and they would send us back to the orphanage! “Nicolas, I don’t think I can do it!”
He looked at me sharply, “Jorge! Don’t say that!”
The other boys that were gathered around us looked at me with contempt and some of them began to whisper. Nicolas lowered his voice.
“Listen, little brother. You HAVE to do this.”
My hands were shaking and tremors shook my body. “I’m sc-ccared.” I stuttered.
“Hey guys,” Nicolas said in a rough voice, turning to the group of rough looking boys. “Give me a sec.” There was a general mumbling and protests but Nicolas grasped my arm and pulled me around a corner where the other boys couldn’t see us.
“Hey,” He said gently.
My eyes were full of tears and I couldn’t stop shaking long enough to form any words.
“It’s ok, Jorge. I won’t let them hurt you and they’ll never take you away from me. Ok?”
I nodded and he pulled me into an embrace.
“I’m sorry, Nicolas. I’m fine now. I just don’t want to get caught.”
“I know.” He said, looking past me an into the busy street beyond. “But, if it weren’t for this group of piranhas, we would be right back in that alley where we started. So, you do your part, we’ll do ours, and we’ll get some food in our stomach for tonight.”
Sucking in air I nodded. “Sure, let’s do this. I’m fine. And, Nicolas?”
He turned back to me, “What?” he said with an air of impatience.
“I, uh, you’ll not tell those guys I’m afraid, right?”
A grin broke out on his face, “Sure, brother. I’ll never tell anyone.”
I responded with a grin of my own and we joined our group. Today our mission was simply, steal money and buy food. The same mission we had for the last month since being on our own. The street had toughed us and we looked the part of filthy street urchins. I was know amongst the other group of piranhas as being mean and rough. My brother was the only person that ever saw the weak and venerable side of me.
“Ok,” Nicolas ordered “Everyone in their place. Now!”
The group of almost 15 kids scattered leaving me and my brother.
With his hand on my shoulder he reminded me what to do, then he too left the alley and integrated himself into the moving sea of bodies. I turned my back to the busy street and pulled out a small bottle of ketchup we had stolen earlier. I discreetly squirted it on my shirt and hands.
“Ok, I can do this.” I muttered.
Turning around I began to scream hysterically and sway from side to side. “Help me!” I cried.
People began to stop and watch with worried looks on their faces. I clutched my chest dramatically and made my eyelids flutter. I collapsed to the ground and groaned theatrically.
Several good Samaritans offered me water and called the ambulance on their phones. I wasn’t worried. The ambulances never came anyway. Many others gathered round to observe this strange spectacle.
I kept the up the act while me accomplices relieved the many onlookers of their wallets, watches, purses, and pack packs.
As soon as Nicolas saw that they had pretty much cleaned out the group of observers, he motioned to them and pushed his way to the center of the circle where a lady had my head in her lap and was trying to look at my fatal wound. I kept resisted like I was in too much pain to even move my hand.
He rushed to my side and said, “He’s my brother! I’ll take care of him.”
With that I leaped up and we both dived for the feet of the onlookers. We quickly made our way out of the circle, and just as we planned, all the boys scampered off in different directions. We all were to met up in “our” alley in ten minutes. About the same second this all was happening, a bright gentleman realized that he no longer was in possession of his expensive watch.
“Run Jorge!” Nicolas urged as our feet slapped down on the steamy asphalt.
I turned around briefly and saw the man chasing us as he waved his fist menacingly above his head. “I’ll kill you! Give me back my watch!”
“Go, Jorge!” Nicolas motioned with his hand “Take that street! I’ll turn here!”
I turned down the street and out of instinct turned to see where my brother was going.
The man was right on his heels so my brother darted into the street. Horns blared, tires screeched.
“Noooooooooo!” I shrieked.
My brother was rooted to the spot and with a frozen look on his face stared at the yellow taxi. There was a sickening thud as my brother was plowed over by the sudden impact. The taxi turned sideways and the driver ran to where my brother lay on the ground.
I pushed and shoved till I was in front of my brother. I couldn’t move or think. His arm was twisted under his body and his face was an eerie blue. I rushed to his side and dropped beside him. I was oblivious to the hoards of people crowding around us, I disconnected myself for the world around me and poured my whole body, soul and emotions to getting my brother to breath just once more. His eyes were glazed and vacant. I willed my breath into him, I shut my eyes and begged God for mercy. He tried to form words and force a comforting phrase from his lips. But then he was gone. I leaned back on my heels, raised my face to the sky and screamed till I passed out. My brother died and with him died a part of me.
I sat on the cold, unforgiving wooden bench as I waited for the verdict. The judge was in the courtroom right now deciding my future. I looked around. The walls were made of cement with no paint to try to brighten its face. On the wall hung an old clock whose hands were frozen at twelve o’clock. It was going anywhere. It would never go forward… it was dead. The same as my heart. I frightened myself because of my lack of feeling. I didn’t care if the judge sent me back to the run-down orphanage. And I could care less if he turned me over to the care of my long-lost uncle that suddenly appeared. I could care less.
The sharp clicking of the officer’s shoes approached and stilled before me. I refused to look at him and instead kept my gaze pinned on the aging clock.
Duh I still didn’t look at him.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You’re uncle is ready to take you.
Great, the kooky uncle gets charge of the abandoned child. I stood lethargically, still obstinately looking only at the clock.
A little unsure of what to do, the officer turned sharply and muttered, “Follow me.”
I did. He lead me out the sagging wooden door and out into the sharp Peruvian sun. I grimaced as the rays hit me in full force, taunting me while blinding me. I sneezed three times and wiped me nose on my sleeve. Nicolas always told me that the sun would tickle my nose and make me sneeze anytime I saw him again. He also said-
Enough! Nicolas is gone. Dead. I’m alone. And I don’t care. My foul mood heightened as I shuffled behind the officer.
“Senor Rodrigez, here is your nephew.”
As the officer turned I saw a frumpy old man wearing a smile that was much too big and way too cheery.
“Oh, thank you, compadre. I’ve been looking for this little guy since he was about so tall. My, he’s grown into the picture of his… of his, um, mom. Yeah, same eyes and nose.”
I can’t believe this guy is buying into this! He’s not seen me ever!
After exchanging a few more words and giving my uncle a paper with phone numbers on it, the officer walked away without looking back.
Just like my mom and dad.
I trudged alongside my uncle as he hurried away frmo the building and merged into the sea of humans. People pushed and shoved along the busy street looking more like busy ants than human individuals. I did my best to keep up with my uncle. Caramba, this guy walks like a bulldozer! He just shoves people out of his way. Hello, I'm back here! I grumbled and vocalized my anger and frustration with some strong words I heard on the street. My uncle paused abruptly when he heard my voice, but then he picked back up his ridiculous walking pace. Doing my best to not be pushed over by some overly busy person, I didn't realize when my uncle stopped and I ran right smack into his back. He whipped his face around and gave me the most feral look along with a "What's a matter with you, boy?!" He let out a strong of his own colorful words as he grabbed my arm in an iron grip. One thing I learned, no matter how much you hurt, never let it show. I clenched my teeth, curled my toes, and formed my hands into tight fists. One day when I'm big I'll hurt you so bad! I vowed silently as I glared at my uncle.
Our combi came by and my uncle impatiently waved his free arm so the driver would know to stop. He basically hauled my up the small step and placed me, not too nicely, in a bench before sliding in next to me. In such close proximity I could smell his body odor mixed with the smell of animals and alcohol. I slouched as far as I could and refused to look anywhere but the floor. I'm going to die. I turned the thought over and over in my mind, mulling over it diligently. My mood turned dark and sinister.
Once we got to my uncle's house, things did not get better. He lived in a bad section of town and the walls were covered with obscene writings and gruesome pictures. Gangs. At least I'm used to those! He pushed open the rickety tin door that separated his house from the world outside. The door opened to revela a dim hallway that was musty and with no eyes. As my eyes accustomed, I saw a door opening to my left with a curtain acting as the door. I could barely make out an old bed and a nightstand with clothes hanging from nails on the wall. A few more steps into the house brought me to the second doorway that also had no door. Here is where we found my aunt. She was very large and her hair was short and wayward.The room was a kitchen, at least I think it was. Just great. Creepy uncle, house that is falling apart...
"There you are! Probably thought you could just stay out all day, huh? Well, what's his name." My aunt huffed.
My uncle had no intention of answering her questions and he left me standing in the doorway while he went somewhere in the back of the house. I craned my neck, but I couldn't see where he has disappeared to. My aunt turned back to her stove and muttered to herself. I had gotten very good at tuning others out and this is what I did now. To survive, I quickly learned to take in my surrounds, judge those around me, and find my means of escape. The floor was dirt, as was the rest of the house, and unknown particles of food lay scattered about. Ants, cockroaches, and who knows what other types of insects were either dead on the ground, or scrounging for food. The walls were caked with dirt and grease and the was a lonely light bulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. My aunt was bending over the stove that had one burner on it and was now holding a very charred pot that was boiling. In one corner was a table with two chair by it, both chair were of different styles and colors. There was also a cupboard along one wall that had no doors or windows left. I remembered faintly the kitchen in London... No! I will not remember those years. They were fakes, liars. I hate them! I hate everyone!
"What is your name!" my aunt's sharp voice startled me.
I finished my pursual of the room and slowly swung my eyes to meet hers. I closed my lids halfway and said in my lowest voice, "Why do you care?"
Her face got all red and her cheeks quivered in anger. "I will tell you how it is to be! I am now your owner. You belong to me! You will obey me, you will listen to me and you WILL answer me! It is out of charity and the goodness of my heart that I let you into my home. But you will work! I will not let you sit all day looking at what you want. Now answer me now! What is your name!"
I opened my mouth to form the words, my took my own time doing so. "What do you care?" I enunciated every vowel and consonant.
She flicked her hand out and grabbed my ear. Hauling me out of the room she dragged me down the hallway. Oh, lovely she's giving me a tour of the house. Anger bubbled inside of me. Oh you people just wait. I'll be twelve soon, and as soon as I'm strong enough I'll hurt you and destroy your miserable lives.
At the end of the hallway there was a little dirt patio. A clothesline stretched from each side of the wall and clothes fluttered in the afternoon breeze. In the far corner sat a toilet and shower head with a green curtain for privacy. Right to my left stood an old stone sink with a faucet. Inside I could see lots of dirty dishes from the previous days. And directly to me right lay an old log with my uncle resting on it as he read the newspaper. Tossing me toward my uncle like a dirty rag my aunt fumed, "The boy is stubborn and disobedient! He won't tell me his name!"
My uncle grunted.
"Lucho," my aunt hissed, "make him talk! I won't have an ungrateful child around here! Lucho!"
Huffing and puffing, my uncle stood up and came towards me menacingly. "Answer her." he ordered.
I looked at the clothes the fluttered. I won't do it... I don't care. Suddenly, I was reminded of something Nicolas told me when we were in the orphanage. "Jorge," he said, "sometimes you have to do what people want you to do and give them what they want. Cause if you don't, you'll only get hurt. But just cause you do that on the outside doesn't mean you have to do it on the inside. Fine, do what the lady tells you to do, but you know and I know that on the inside your not doing it. And what's on the inside is what counts."
I looked my aunt straight in the eye, "Jorge." I answered proudly with a small lift of my eyebrows. I obviously took her off guard and she opened and closed her mouth several times before turning abruptly and heading back to the kitchen. "Bring me that pail of water!" she ordered over her back.
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