Both Different – Both Alike
“Both Different – Both Alike” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Tilly Hann Thomas, The English International College, Marbella, Spain.
Both Different – Both Alike
It was 8pm. The first Thursday of the month. When it happened. When I became an orphan. At first, I could only see shapes. Blurry shapes. Then, a face. Warm, thick arms scooped me up, cradling me. I was placed in a crib, a quilt tucked neatly atop of me. If only that kind lady had stayed. I would have been properly looked after; it would be like having a mother, it would feel as if I belonged to … a family. Who would have thought, nine years later, I would still be alive? Not me.
I slid out of the old, abandoned building, making sure I stuck to shadows. You’ve got to be careful when you’re a street kid. Living out amongst the sinners and rejects. Sure not the prettiest life. You’ve got to scrounge around in the dump. Literally. Like right now, I´m on my way to the market. Not the nice market, where you buy flowers and clothes. Oh, no. I´m on my way to The Market. Like, the fish heads and rude, older kids market. But, I can deal with them. It’s not like I haven’t lived here almost my entire life, or anything.
I made my way down the old, rickety staircase of the orphanage. Plop. I didn’t even need to look up to know that it was the old leak from the boy’s room. I share my room with two younger kids, Stephanie and Luc, which is a pain. How come I always get the blame whenever they’ve done something wrong? Life’s unfair. Life’s always unfair to orphans. As I walk into the kitchen, a single slice of bread and a sliver of butter are shoved in my face. I sigh. I always dream of the day when I wake up to find this is only a dream. Even though I know that day will never come.
Stealthily, I stole a sneaky loaf of bread from a withered, hunchback woman, who was browsing the dodgy meat stall. Score! I eyed the bread. Not bad considering it was from old Martha. “Oy! That’s my bread! That lass stole my bread! Thief!” The lady screamed. Shoot! I was in for it now. With the expertise of an urchin, I dodged around the crowds and sprinted down the narrow lane nearby. Past the library, the bakery, the carpenters. I kept on running until there was nobody behind me and my heart was wheezing. Sitting down on the stone floor, I looked up at the building in front of me. Wait a second. Isn’t that the orphanage?
Time for work. The worst time of the day. Girls do sewing, housework and cooking. Boys do arithmetic and gym. It’s like being stuck in the 1900s, even though we´re in the year 2005. I´m working on a pillow case that got split open yesterday. Even though it wasn´t me. Suddenly, I spotted a person sitting outside. The first thing I noticed about her was her face. She had thin, pale features; her cheekbones were drawn in so much that it looked like she hadn’t eaten for months. I mean, it’s not as if us orphans live in luxury, but at least we look relatively healthy. The thing that stopped me, though, was her eyes. Her eyes were filled with power, hunger. It looked like she was born ready, ready to face the world. She looked alive, and proud of it.
Even the sight of it gives me shivers. Ughh. Can you imagine, being trapped inside that awful building? People always feel sorry for me, my being a street kid and all. I like it. You choose what you want, no compromises, no other people. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about other people is don’t get too close to them. Love only brings pain. I know. I went back to staring at the side of the wall. A pretty, slightly dirty girl around my age was hovering in the window. She smiled. I smiled back, a shy, quiet sort of smile. Someone had evidently called her name, because she shouted something back. She turned to me, laughing, her eyes bright. I joined in, and as my laughter echoed around the small clearing, the sun rose up into the sky, seeping through the dark clouds of night, calling out to me, calling out to the world…