It had been a few days since our little trip to the pharmacy. Lory and I were listening to Miss Cera, who was writing something about grammar on a dirty blackboard. Since we orphans were not allowed to visit normal schools, the director had also taken on the role as teacher. I wondered how much real school differed from our makeshift classes - and if real classes were just as boring. I peeked over to Lory, noticing the lazily drawn hangmen in her book.
Once the bell finished class and the sun started setting down, Lory and I went to the auditorium. The large room, which should normally function as a warm welcome to anyone entering the building, appeared dark and cold. Between us and the entrance door was the caretaker’s bureau. Mister Wilsom was probably sitting behind his desk, cozily writing stuff in his notebook. A thin ray of light fell through his left ajar door. Fortunately, the old man didn’t hear really well. Lory and I were careful not to produce any unnecessary sound and quickly sneaked out through the entrance. The air was cooler than last time and as soon as we passed the gate a chilly breeze rushed through my hair.
We walked briskly through the streets. Dark patchy clouds covered the sky, dimming the already weak light of the setting sun. Not a single person was to be seen and the town appeared almost spooky. A sense of freedom latched onto my heart. How much would I have liked to just grab Lory’s wrist and run through the streets - to leave this town and sprint over the rolling hills and fields. That ,of course, was totally unrealistic. I swallowed my thoughts as we turned left into the same alley from days ago. We climbed up the stairs of the watchtower and on top...stood the familiar figure of a woman with bright red hair. She gazed over the horizon while her hair was waving in the wind.
“Umm, hello.” Lory suddenly greeted the woman while not letting go of my hand. The woman turned around rather surprised.
“Oh it’s you again,” her lips curved into a soft smile while she eyed us curiously. “Did you leave the old man behind again?” she asked, elegantly covering her mouth with her fingers, trying to hide a chuckle.
“N-no, we sneaked out.” Lory replied after a few seconds of hesitation.
“Oh, why is that?”
“Umm, there is no particular reason. The place itself is just a bit...suppressing,” I answered thoughtfully.
The woman’s smile weakend. I couldn’t really tell what she was thinking about us but her face radiated a hint of pity mixed with something else - a weird expression in her eyes that vanished after just a split second. The three of us gazed at the horizon for a couple more minutes. The once patchy clouds now covered most of the sky, just here and there were some beams of purple and gold able to pierce through, revealing curtains of rain in the distance. The rustle of leaves on the overgrown walls grew louder - the wind had gotten stronger.
“You two better head back home now. You should consider yourself lucky - I’ll accompany you.” A wide and proud smile covered the woman’s face while she nodded in agreement with herself. I wanted to refute the woman’s escort since I didn’t want to cause her any unnecessary struggles, but she was already charging ahead. Rain had begun to drizzle on us as we reached the gate of the orphanage. Lory and I bowed in front of the woman, thanking her once again and excusing us for the bother.
“This is my job as an adult,” she grinned while petting our heads. Was it just my imagination or were her hands trembling?
“I like her, she always smiles,” remarked Lory as we walked through the entrance door - just in time since the drizzling rain now turned into a heavy shower.
“Hopefully the woman won’t catch a cold because of us.” I whispered to my friend. We wanted to take stairs and go straight to our sleeping room, when we noticed that Mister Wilsom's door was still left ajar. The candles in his room flickered and we heard two voices - the caretaker and Miss Cera. Just as we carefully sneaked past the door, we overheard something that peaked our interest.
“...for adoption.” We stopped and went closer in order to hear better.
Miss Cera’s voice rang with a hint of frustration, “You all are so embarrassing it actually hurts. I don’t care if they claim her to be a descendant of their lineage, I too can claim many things. Without proof I won’t agree to anything.”
“Why do you even care, they’re just black-bloods. You know how the other regions treat them,” Wilsom murmured with his old rusty voice. The room fell silent for a few seconds before Miss Cera responded in a tone that sounded so frightening it gave me goosebumps.
“As long as I'm here, no one will lay a hand on those kids or I’ll make sure they land in a worse spot than your ‘black-bloods’, Wilsom.”
“Good luck trying this with House Arden,” the caretaker grumbled, then left for another room. Miss Cera sighed and leaned against the table, “...I also feel bad for Nathan.”
I grabbed Lory, whose face was frozen in confusion and fear, pulling her up the stairs into our room. We sat down on a bed. A multitude of emotions started boiling up inside me. It wasn’t hard to put one and one together, though shouldn't I be grateful? If I understood this correctly, Lory would get a family after all, wouldn’t she? But Miss Cera didn’t sound happy at all. Who was this House Arden? If Lory was related to them, then why did she have to live here for all these years?
“Nate...” Lory’s entire body was shivering, her eyes bloodshot. I wrapped both my hands around hers.
“Everything will be fine.” I whimpered, just barely able to hear my own voice.
“Th-there has to be a meeting before they adopt you. I’m sure they are nice people.”
Rain pattered against the windows. The dark room occasionally lightened up as the thunderstorm rolled over our town. Four wooden beds stood in our room, but since there weren’t a lot of children in the orphanage - plus Lory and I struggled to make friends with the few other kids - we got this one for ourselves. I was lying in bed and tried to fall asleep, but my mind was restless. Lory came back from the bathroom, “Are you asleep,” she asked. I could not remember a time when her voice had sounded so weak and thin. Turning around, I locked eyes with her.
“Can I sleep in your bed?”
I was surprised, but immediately went to the side so Lory could lay down next to me.
“I-...I don’t want to leave...”
There were no words in my head, just abstract feelings. I grabbed her cold hand underneath the white blanket. We stayed that way for a while until the rustling rain and departing thunder put us to sleep.