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Where I Belong
The sun reflected off my necklace as I swiftly pulled the laundry off Mistress’ washing line. My black hair was tied back in a braid and I was wearing a white frock with tiny purple flowers on it. My old blue bunny named Aubrey (missing one eye) popped out of the pocket. Purple is my favourite colour. In fact, it’s the colour of my necklace; half a heart that says FRIENDS on it. I know someone has the other half, but I don’t know who.
I live at an orphanage, I haven’t got any parents. I don’t have a single friend here. Except for Helga, the youngest. She’s only three years old but she loves me. Her mom died in child birth and her father was dead a year before that. The orphanage isn’t much fun, all we do all day is work. We get an hour free at lunch and twenty minutes at 10:30. After lunch we have lessons. First mathematics, then Religion, then French and finally writing. Bedtime is strictly 8:25 and dinner is 6:00. It’s all rather boring. Mathematics is my favourite.
“Children!” Mistress called.
She stepped out of the back doors and banged her stick on the wall. It was suddenly silent. Mistress sniffed and pulled on her tight grey ponytail. Her pond-scum green dress was neatly pressed and washed and her shoes were polished to flawlessness.
“Time for lunch break. Quickly!” she barked. “Ages three to seven may go first. Hurry now! Peas and mash for lunch. It’s getting cold!” I followed the girls my age into the dining hall where I sat next to a girl two years younger than me, known as Gemma.
“You can have my peas.” Gemma said quietly, “I’m not so fond of them.” I looked at her doubtfully. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yeah, I really don’t like them Aimee.” I reluctantly took her peas and nibbled on them slowly.
“Mistress!” called a girl around Gemma’s age, named Marah. “Aimee stole Gemma’s peas!”
I looked up in shock. “Not true! She gave them to me.” I said, in my own defence.
“Gemma, is this true?” Mistress asked. “No! She grabbed them and ate all of them up in one gulp!” Gemma yelled.
“Aimee! I’m ashamed at your behaviour! You should know better than to steal food from the other children!” Mistress grabbed me by the arm and dragged me outside. She threw me into the shed. “You’ll be there until tomorrow morning!” she slammed the door shut and stomped away. I slumped on the floor of the shed. It was no bigger than a closet and it was cold and dark. The only things in the shed were a blanket (old, smelly and scratchy) a pot to pee in and a cup of cold water. I lay down on the cold, hard floor and tried to sleep. There was no use. It was still as bright as day. I cuddled with my teddy and looked at the cracks in the ceiling. I pretended they were mazes and tiny people were walking through them. Then I sang to myself. Finally I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was dark.
I lay there for a long time until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I jiggled the door, and surprisingly it opened! I grabbed the blanket, emptied the pot and cleaned it out with the cold water. Next, I placed the blanket and the cup in the pot and ran to the gate.
“How do I get over this gate?” I whispered. I noticed a hole near the end of the long gate. Quickly I dug deeper and slipped under the fence, pulling the pot behind me. I was free. Suddenly I heard voices in the building. Someone must have woken up. I scurried along the dirt track, clutching the pot and my bunny. Lights turned on behind me, the unmistakeable ones on the back porch of the orphanage. I turned around and saw Mistress and two other girls walking around on the grass. If they saw me, I’d be dead. I ran away, as fast as I could. I heard Mistress yelling, “Hey, isn’t that Aimee?” They were coming after me. They had reached the gate but I was too fast. They were hot on my trail. “Come back here Aimee!” Mistress shouted. “Come back!” shouted the other girls, Gemma and Marah. I sprinted as fast as I could.
I ran until I reached the village. I ducked into a narrow alleyway and caught my breath. “Close one.” I breathed. I rested my head on the pot and draped the old blanket on me. I tried to sleep. No luck. “Mom.” I said. “I know you’re out there somewhere. Please, come and find me. I need someone who loves me.” I cried myself to sleep that night, just like I have almost every night since the accident. I snuggled with my teddy, smelling the sweet smell of my life before everything happened. The accident happened when I was three years old, almost four. I can only vaguely remember it. We were driving down the highway and my Dad was drinking. Mom got upset and grabbed it from him. I remember shouts and then a screech. We were in a ditch, the car was flaming. I remember screaming as loud as I could. Mom grabbed my baby brother. I can’t remember anything else except I must have blacked out because next thing I knew, I was in the orphanage. But I remember, someone else was there, I don’t know who. But I think it might be the person with the other half of this necklace.
I woke up in the morning with a dog leaning into my face. “Hi there!” I said petting the dog. ‘Woof!’ I laughed and looked around for an owner. Sure enough, a five year old boy was sitting across from me in the alley. He had black curly hair and wore a ragged shirt and dirty jeans. I suspected he was a street kid.
“Hi, I’m Quintin. What’s your name?” the boy asked.
“I’m Aimee. Do you live around here?”
“Yeah, just over there.” He motioned vaguely in one direction. “How about you?” he asked.
“I haven’t really got a home, or a family.” I told him. His face fell. “Oh. I have a mom… and a sister that looks a lot like you.” He paused. “C’mon, I’ll show you our house.” He scurried out of the alleyway and to a very small old house. The bricks were crumbling and limp, ripped clothes hung on a pitiful line next to the house. Quintin opened the door and led me inside. A tall young woman was in a tiny kitchen stirring something in a large pot. She had curly blonde hair and was wearing a simple green dress and apron. A girl my age was sweeping the floor. She had black hair like mine and wore a long purple shirt and grey leggings. I caught a glimpse of a chain hanging from her neck. Immediately I thought about my own necklace.
“Hello!” the girl said. Her mother smiled and put down the spoon. “Who’s your friend Quintin?” she asked.
“This is Aimee. I met her in the streets.” I blushed and lightly shook the woman’s hand.
“I’m Quintin and this is Aubrey. She looks a lot like you Aimee. Oh, you can call me Mom. I don’t like Mrs Hanford or ma’am.”
I grinned, this woman was treating me so kindly! “Where are you from?” Aubrey asked. “I ran away from an orphanage. I lost my family in a car accident. I am eight years old.”
“Oh. We lost our father in a car accident. And Aubrey’s twin.” ‘Mom’ said, rubbing Aubrey’s shoulder. Aubrey smiled weakly.
“What’s your last name?” Aubrey asked. “It’s Hanford.” I told her, immediately realising the connection. ‘Mom’ rushed out of the room and came back with an old yellow folder. She opened it and pulled out a piece of paper.
“Birth certificates,” she whispered. She showed me the one of Aubrey’s twin. On the top it said:
Aimee Sarah Hanford
I gasped. “It can’t be.” I said.
Then ‘Mom’ showed me a photo of Aubrey and her twin playing in the sand. Next to Aubrey’s twin was a teddy. A old blue one missing an eye. A bunny, named Aubrey. After my twin. The bunny I still have today. It was all coming back to me. The other person in the car. The bunny, always there. ‘Mom’ showed me another photo. This was of Aubrey and I holding ‘Mom’s’ hand. And I could see it clearly. The necklaces. BEST. I had the other half. Aubrey showed me her necklace. “Aubrey,” I whispered. “Am I your twin?” Aubrey smiled. “I think so.” Mom (no speech marks required) smiled. “When the car accident happened, your dad ran off with you. I think he must of dropped you off at the orphanage before he died of lung cancer.” I smiled through my tears. Through all these years my family had been here. I hugged Mom, Aubrey and Quintin. Aubrey and I put our necklaces together. They fit together. Like the last piece of a puzzle. I felt that I finally belonged. Because I did belong. This was my home.
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