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Flash Fiction: Orphaned
Every night Vanessa woke up screaming in a soaked bed of sweat and excrement. Totally drenched, the nuns would strip her down and plunge her into a freezing cold bath. Afterwards, she’d be taken into isolation and left with nothing more than a raggedy old blanket and a stuffed teddy named Oliver. But not even Oliver could make her rest peacefully. Right up until morning Vanessa would have nightmares; crawling from end to end of her bed. It became more serious as the weeks went by. She stopped eating. Her frail body became thinner and bonier. Jeans worn only a month ago now fell down to her ankles.
One late night, Vanessa heard the wind howling outside. She imagined lions clawing at the window. Vanessa screamed and hid under her blanket. Sister Mary rushed in to comfort her; Mary unveiled the child’s terrified face, which was damp with tears. Mary brushed away the hair hanging over Vanessa’s forehead and whispered soothing lullabies as she rocked her back and forth. Mary was the only sister Vanessa trusted; she wouldn’t throw her into icy water or place her in isolation. None of the other sisters cared for the orphans that way.
The roaring lions faded from Vanessa’s memory when Mary was there, but once she’d gone, Vanessa could hear them again. They’re not real, she told herself, yet she couldn’t muster up the courage to look outside. Instead Vanessa lay back and stared at the cracks on the ceiling. Sometimes she thought the whole building would come crashing down on her. Structural work was desperately needed, but there wasn’t enough money. The council had refused a grant, so if the sisters didn’t raise enough funds, then the orphanage would be closed down. Faith was not enough to keep it running. Doors were closing in every direction, soon to be locked forever. That was the cruel reality.
Lord, please provide me with a miracle. Vanessa needed this place, hell though it was. It was her only chance for a family. The other children were her only family now. Of course, that was until they were taken away by a young couple looking to love someone. Love someone who isn’t totally screwed up that is.
Nothing was going to change. Zorro wouldn’t come flying through the window and fight off her demons – that was up to her.
Vanessa dug her nails into the palm of her hand. Dead skin flaked off. Death. What a thought. She rolled up the sleeve of her white nightie and stroked the bulging line running across the inside of her arm. Vanessa chewed at her wrists, trying to remove any remaining glass underneath the surface. None remained. The doctors removed it all. Vanessa continued to chew.
Doctors couldn’t be trusted; they said her parents ‘would be out by the end of the week.’ What they failed to mention was that they’d be coming out in body bags, and she would be whisked away to – this.