The next couple days flew by in a blink. I attended Miss Cera’s classes, then would head out for dinner at Evelyn’s place. Today it has been raining heavily since noon though, so I relied on the regular bleak dinner that the orphanage provided. A decision I didn’t regret, seeing as it now also started to hail outside. I sat alone at the table and tried not to think about the empty seat next to me while I was poking around in a grey mass of mashed potatoes. Two other boys entered the room, their expressions reflecting harsh disappointment once they saw today's meal selection. They grabbed plates and filled them with the grey pap, then took seats at another table across the desolate room. I noticed that one of them occasionally gazed over to me.
“Wow, he didn’t go out today,” one of the boys spoke in a quiet, but clearly audible voice.
“Bastard has probably some old geezers who turned an eye on him. It is so unfair. Why a weird kid like him?” the other replied, obviously frustrated.
I don’t know if they underestimated the acoustics in this hall-like room or if they intended for me to hear them. Well, if I had to guess it would be the latter. Their complaints didn’t hit me however. If anything I could understand why they felt like that. It was still hard to wrap my head around the fact that I would soon have a family. I was incredibly happy since I really liked Evelyn, Alan and Mae - but more than that, it made me anxious. I was afraid of misstepping and becoming a nuisance, afraid of failing as a son - even if I was only adopted. I tried to focus on less disheartening thoughts. Right, I would have a family and even leave this town soon. I wouldn’t have to spend my days alone without Lory at this place.
I will even have a little sister, the thought brightened my mood. Most importantly though, Rika had given me hope to see my friend again one day. I wondered what Lory was doing right now, if she was fine. While lying in bed, I remembered Rika’s words. I considered practicing this counting she had been so serious about, but there weren’t any clocks nearby. Still, I decided to at least give it a try. It didn’t take much to realize my efforts were in vain since the clacking of hail against the window panes made it near impossible for me to focus. Furthermore, I always found storms weirdly soothing. My eyes were fixated on the windows, and the dark clouds that lured behind. The violent winds and lashing rain soon let me fall asleep.
I woke up early in the morning, rather tired. Evelyn and Alan would come over soon in order to prepare my adoption with Miss Cera, so I dressed up quickly and skipped breakfast.
The auditorium was empty as always except for three other people who talked with the director in front of her bureau. One of them was the girl with the scar, who had directed some of my attention towards her over the last few days. I was surprised - most years passed without a single adoption but this year appeared to be different.
“Let’s go Mari,” the man and his wife guided her into Miss Cera’s office, with a timid yet broad smile on their faces. So her name is Mari, I took a mental note.
“Ah, shit. We should have taken Mae with us,” Evelyn’s foot was tapping the floor nervously. “Our neighbours are currently looking out for her but I promised it won’t take so long.”
“Naw, don’t worry dear. Mae is bad with other adults so it might be good to get her used to them,” Alan’s finger pointed up, as if it would further validate his words.
“Must come after her dad,” Evelyn teased, but much to her disliking Alan just let out a proud laugh.
“Why do you take that as a compliment?”
A few minutes passed until the door in front of us opened again. Mari stepped out, followed by the couple. All three of them looked rather pleased. Mari’s gaze met my curious eyes for a short moment and her face turned red - with a hint of something that looked like sadness.
“Do I look weird?” I asked Alan.
“Huh? No, you’re looking like someone I’d like to hunt beasts with!”
I looked at him, puzzled. He wants to take me to one of his work trips that badly? Evelyn locked arms with me and pulled me closer. “You look rather handsome,” she chuckled.
Miss Cera was sitting behind her massive wooden desk. Sunlight poured in through two large windows behind her. We talked over basics like family status or jobs, well Alan and I were mostly just sitting there while Evelyn did the talking.
“When can Nathan move in with us?”
“Well, we normally require one more meeting while we double-check the information-” Miss Cera let out a sigh, “but all things considered, I don’t care about turning a blind eye in this case. The boy can go whenever he wants to,” she added with a wink aimed in my direction.
“Wouldn’t that cause any problems for you?”
“Hah! Nobody really cares anymore apparently!” Cera’s voice grew more quiet as she continued- “I wouldn’t be surprised if the laws regarding these facilities are soon abolished.” The director’s eyes lightened up again as she noticed the worried faces on my soon-to-be parents.
“But that is nothing to worry about today,” she stated in an energetic tone, trying her best to lighten the mood. Miss Cera went over the sheets of paper spread out in front of her one more time. Her eyes went down the written lines, then stopped.
“Your birthday is an empty field Nathan.”
“Ah, yes. I am not aware of a precise birthday, just that I’m around ten,” I explained while itching the back of my head - this topic was kind of unpleasant for me to talk about. Miss Cera nodded, before looking back up again.
“Then how about we make this day your birthday?” she suggested with a smile. Evelyn’s and Alan’s eyes sparkled brightly when I accepted.
“Perfect. Congratulations on your eleventh birthday. That is all then,” the director proclaimed happily and handed us a signed certificate.
I didn’t have much package, just the clothes we orphans had received from Miss Cera and my toothbrush. I decided to move out the same day. Evelyn had already left, “Can’t break a promise with your own child!” - to quote her words. Alan helped me pack the few things I owned. It felt weird. I will probably never see this building and all the kids living in it again. The director was waiting for me at the entrance door of the auditorium. I told her goodbye with a slight bow. Miss Cera eyed me critically, her lips curved into a gentle smile, then she tapped me on my shoulder.
“Be careful out there and give it your best, brat.”
I nodded, “Thank you for everything, Lady Cera.”
A vene on her forehead twitched for a split second before she waved me goodbye.