“She said she’d be here.” I uttered to myself as I sat on my bed, twiddling my thumbs. It wasn’t like Harriet to be late. Especially on a day like today.
I eyed up the door, making sure that it was completely shut. I wanted no one to know that I was talking to outsiders. Cyril , one of the older boys, told the rest of us a story about the outsiders, people who lived beyond the walls of the orphanage. It had everyone scared out of their wits. Everyone but me. The difference being that I had talked to many of them before, some of them hadn’t. After all, no one else here has the common knowledge to realise that there will be life for them beyond the walls of this place.
The door was fully closed. I stood up and headed to my organised pile of paraphernalia in the far corner of the room. Searching through my clothing, I finally found my jacket, the only real source of warmth I had. I shoved my hand into the left hand pocket and found the key for the bedroom door. After locking it with the key I paced over to the rusty windows and pushed them open.
It had only been a day without the cool, autumn breeze. But really, it had felt like much longer. There were many strict rules we had to live by while we were at the orphanage. One of their most important rules was Always stay indoors. Do not so much as open a window or door that leads to anywhere beyond this orphanage.
Another was Do not make any form of communication with a living creature outside this building.
“Hello Mon Mon!” I turned my head to find Harriet approaching me from the side of the building. She wore a tartan dress, the same one she always wore and her lengthy black hair was tied into two beautiful plaits on either side of her head. I have never understood why she dresses and looks the same everyday. She doesn’t really appear to age physically either. Not that it matters to me anyway. A friend is a friend.
“Hello Harriet. How is life at the cemetery?” For whatever reason, Harriet spends all of her time at the cemetery. Again, something I don’t understand but am willing to accept.
“Oh it is average I guess,” she replied, finally reaching my window. “Goodness another year has gone by Mon Mon. Before I know it, you will be leaving here to live with a loving family.”
“I doubt that will happen.”
“Oh sure it will Mon Mon. You just have to wait until the time is right.” Harriet said cheerfully. She had more belief in me and my future than I did. “So how has your day been so far?”
“No different from any other.” I sighed. At the beginning of every day, I could literally wake up and know what was going to happen during every second of it. My life had a strict routine, and no birthdays were going to disrupt that.
“I brought you something.” Harriet chirped, holding out a small box. I slowly reached my hand out and took it from her. I could not believe what I saw when I opened it.
It was a necklace. A beautiful silver necklace. Dangling from the bottom of this necklace, was a pendant. This pendant was the same colour as the chain and it spelt out a word. A very important word. Believe.
“Wow. This is... amazing.” I was almost speechless. This was the first gift I had ever received, or at least I remember receiving, and it was beautiful. “Thank you so much” I reached out and hugged her outside the window.
“You’re welcome. Being the way I am it was already going to be difficult getting you a present, but I found this and with a bit of help, I got it for you. Happy Birthday Monica.”
What did she mean by Being the way I am?
I opened up the necklace clasp and reached my hands behind my head, trying to connect one part of the necklace to the other. I have never been very coordinated so I found this a challenge. But with the help of Harriet I finally got it on.
“Wow it looks beautiful on you.” Harriet beamed.
I thought about it for a minute.
How would the grown ups here would react to me wearing this? They would know that I must’ve gotten it from somewhere outside of the orphanage. This would usually lead to severe punishment. I haven’t experienced this first hand but I have seen it done. And trust me when I say that breaking of the rules here isn’t taken lightly, at all. But I wanted to wear it. And I was pretty sure that Harriet would be disappointed if I didn’t wear it. So I quickly hid it underneath the collar of my shirt.
“Why did you hide it?” Harriet asked.
“Well I just, don’t want anyone to see it. That’s all.”
“Oh okay.” I didn’t have to inform Harriet about the toughness of the orphanage. In fact, she used to come here until she was adopted at nine years old so she had a pretty clear idea.
Harriet had actually told me a lot about her life. She is an only child and she lived in an average house a few streets away. However last year, Harriet was in a taxi coming home with her parents from a holiday late one night, when the driver began to increase his speed. He did so until they were at 80 kilometres an hour, 30 kilometres above the speed limit. To no surprise, the man behind the wheel was drunk. The driver then drove into a power pole and both of Harriet’s parents and the driver were killed. I don’t know what happened to her as she hasn’t really mentioned anything about the aftermath of it all.
Knock, knock, knock
“Mon Mon! Open this door immediately.” Oh great, it was Nurse Rhona, the toughest nurse at the orphanage. If she knew what I was doing, I am afraid I wouldn’t see the end of it.
“Mon Mon!” I could tell she was getting even more furious with every second she stood out there waiting. She twisted the door handle several times, with no success.
“Harriet, you need to leave now. Please.” I pleaded.
“No please, Harriet. If she sees you-”
“MONICA!” Suddenly a large thud came from the door. Followed by a few more. I wanted nothing more than to jump out of the window, then and there but I knew I couldn’t. Instead I shut the windows and rushed to find the key, which I had returned to the pocket of my yellow jacket in the corner. But it was too late.
All of a sudden, the door came crashing down and Nurse Rhona came rushing in the door.
“What on Earth were you doing in here?” she snapped.
“S..sorry I was j..just-” I paused, taking time to look out the window, silently hoping that Harriet was not there. But she was still standing outside the window, watching us as the scene took place.
What was she doing? Didn’t she realise that she was giving everything away. All she had to do was go hide, so why wasn’t she?
“What are you looking at?” Nurse Rhona asked, the anger apparent in her voice. She followed my gaze out the window, at Harriet.
“Don’t play games with me. What are you looking at?” I couldn’t believe it, she actually couldn’t see Harriet. It was as though she was a...
No, I reassured myself she couldn’t be. Maybe Nurse Rhona has bad eyesight?
Nurse Rhona walked over to the window, where I was still looking. She stared out the window, looking at every angle, but still didn’t see Harriet who was right in front of her.
“I will never understand you Mon Mon.” she said before storming out of the room.
I ran straight to the window and opened it, the fresh air coming straight onto my face again.
“What just happened? Why didn’t she see you?” I asked in a panic.
“See you tomorrow,” Harriet said quickly, before heading back towards the cemetery.