Two hours until I go. Until I start a new life. Until I am finally free. Two hours to relive the past sixteen years of my life. The streets, James, the orphanage. Soon I can add freedom to that list. Thinking of the streets usually make me want to crawl under my blanket and never come out. The streets are bad. They are the home of bad things and even worse people. They were my home for twelve years.
People pass in a colourful blur. The babble of voices surrounds me. Surrounds me, but passes over me. People look past me, the skinny little six year old girl, bones protruding under her ragged, dirty clothes, her face too pale, her lips too purple. They try to make themselves believe that if they don't see me, I don't exist. They try to ignore my cupped hands, and my hopeful eyes, begging for money so that maybe today, I will eat.
Hours pass. I get nothing. My mother, who is standing beside me, just as skinny and dirty as I am, gets some money. My heart sinks. That money won't be spent on food for me. Not even for her. It will be spent on something that will take my mother away from me tonight.
It is dark. My mother and I have given up on begging for tonight. I follow her, through a maze of streets and alleys, to an abandoned housing estate on the outskirts of the town. A man stands outside of one house. My mother goes up to him, whispers in his ear. He nods. He gives her a little white stick. She gives him the all money from today. I watch mournfully as she passes him the coins and notes. Whatever hope I had left of eating today, dies. My mother brings me to a house a few doors down. We get in through a broken window. There is a couch in the corner of a room. It is ripped and has burns on it, but I can't complain. It is a bed. My mother tells me to go to sleep. I curl up on it, but I can't sleep. I watch my mother take a small packet of matches out of her coat pocket. She lights her little white stick and sits at the window smoking it. An hour later, a man taps on the window. He says something to her. I can't make out what he says. She laughs and says "Ok." She gets up and fastens her coat. I sit up. "Where are you going?" I ask. "Out." She replies. I don't want her to leave. "But-" She stops me before I can beg her. "Shut up and go back to sleep Tessa. I'm going out. Stay here and don't make a sound." She's gone before I can say anything back.
All hope lost, I run. I run as far as my legs will carry me, which is not far. I am only at the end of the estate when I start gasping for breath. I am too weak. Too weak to keep running. Too weak to keep living. I haven't eaten in days. I haven't slept in days. I am dying. I decide to give up. There's no point in fighting anymore. I force myself to walk a little more. I make it to the river, and lie down on the grass beside it. This is the place where I will die. It is peaceful. Away from the bustle of the town, the dark shadows of the estate. The grass is soft and mossy under me. The stars twinkle up above me. A yellow flower is closed up beside me. The beauty and peacefulness of it overwhelms me. I close my eyes. I am drifting away. Drifting. Into the night. The darkness.
I open my eyes. A beam of golden light pierces them. Is this heaven? Am I dead? The last thing I remember is giving up. Letting go. I sit up. No, I am not dead. This is the same place I lay down last night. Only more beautiful. The sun is rising. It's light showers the trees and grass in a golden glow. The birds are singing. Beside me, the yellow flower has opened. A wave of hope rushes through me. I can't give up. I have to keep fighting. I was given this life as a gift, I can't throw it away. I stand up and start to walk away. Taking one look back at the yellow flower, the giver of hope, I make a silent vow to myself to never give up. I am going to fight to live, even if my mother won't. Keeping that thought in my mind, I turn around and head back to the estate.