Memory Burns

Trish's house catches on fire, causing both of her parents' deaths. Only she knows that she was the cause of that fire. She goes to live in an orphanage in the hopes of being adopted, but something weighs on her mind. Somebody who had threatened her had intentionally killed her parents, and now they want to kill her. She goes from foster home to foster home, trying to adjust to the life she now has and let go of the ones she lost.


5. Chapter 5- The Ice is Slowly Melting

Feeble light scrapes across my face. My eyes flutter open. How weird. Don’t I usually keep my blinds closed at night?

And what’s with the noise? Mumbles, whispers, squeals, all fill the room. Hundreds of girl voices. But then my eyes adjust to the light and my heart plummets to my stomach.

Right. The orphanage. I shut my eyes tight, praying to nobody in particular that when I open my eyes again, I will be back in my room. But I don’t open them. Because I know that I will never be back in my room. It is now a pile of ashes, along with anything I loved about my old life.
“You getting up? There is only one chance for breakfast...” a gruff voice sounds in my ear. I flinch and shoot up from my bed.
A tall, lanky girl with a severely loose shirt on stands over me, holding a bucket of water. The bucket is tipped, nearly spilling over.
“Alright! Alright! I’m up! I’m up!” I shout, jumping off my bed. Or I try to. But I am in a bunk, and I hit the floor with a smack. The room goes silent.
I exhale as pain rushes through my side. I force myself not to scream. I have to be tough. I reluctantly put weight onto my arm, and suck in air through clenched teeth. I definitely hit my arm weird. Icy pain shoots through my wrist, but I ignore it. I push myself onto my back and stare at the ceiling. Wonderful day, so far.
I see a grubby hand above my head, and my arm automatically reaches out to take it. But as my fingers close around hers, I curse myself as I instinctively cry out in pain.
“Are you alright?” the girl looks worried, “if you have an injury, you can’t really fix it here. That was a kind of stupid thing to, jumping off of the bed.”
“I-i’m used to my old room. I forgot I was on a bunk,” I mutter, dusting myself off with my good arm, “where’s Kab?” I my eyes search the room, begging for her.
“There are other nice people here besides Kab. She’s just our miniature welcome committee, “ the girl who helped me up continues, “ my name is Nikki. You can depend on me to help you out. I saw those kids picking on you yesterday,” she clenches her fist, “ oh, by the way, this here, is Shelb,” she gestures to the girl who gave me a refreshing wake-up call, “ and this is Mitt. She doesn’t talk much,” a girl stands behind Nikki, staring at the floor.
“Thanks,” I say, secretly wanting to hug her.
“Yep.” she grabs Mitt’s small hand swings her over her shoulder.
“What do you think you’re doing!?” Mitt shrieks, battling against Nikki’s strong hand, “we’ve gone over this! I am not a stuffed animal! I have nerve endings!”
“What are you doing standing there, aren’t you going to follow us?” Nikki calls over her shoulder.
“Sorry, she’s a bit pushy,” I look over my shoulder to see the girl Nikki called Shelb approaching me, smiling.
“It’s fine.” I mumble, not sure what to think of Shelb. She nearly broke my arm before I even met her, after all. But then I realize she is genuine. She smiles at me, leaning down to serve as a brace. I put my arm on her shoulder and limp alongside her.
Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all.
As we approach the picnic tables, my eyes widen in awe. So many people! I hear a loud roar, the quiet talking from each table turning into a lion’s angry scream. 20 people attempt to squeeze onto each picnic bench, and some are pushed off. I see a girl dressed in all black flipping off a guy with blonde hair. He rolls his eyes and raises his fist to her, but then they laugh together. The boy says something to her, and she smacks him.
“We don’t eat over here. Too many people. Mitt gets too closterphobic. Cmon, lets go get our food.” Shelb leads us over to the building in the middle of the property. I limp behind her, struggling to catch my breath.
But then I smell it. Food. I haven’t eaten food since lunch, yesterday. My stomach grumbles in protest, and I press my lips tight together. I can’t hold myself back anymore.
I rip my arm from Shelb’s hand and rush forward, stifling a whimper as ice dashes around my hurt arm. The pain is unbearable, but I have never missed a meal in my life, and I can’t miss a meal. I have low blood sugar.
But I know my energy is going down, because I can feel everything in slow motion. I feel like I am in a dream. I hear a voice call my name, and I swivel backwards, stumbling on a root in the ground.
“This way,” I hear Shelb call out to me. I blindly follow the voice.
“Hey, are you okay? You look kind of high,” Nikki calls to me, giggling.
“I have low blood sugar,” I mumble lightly.
Strong hands push me up, and an arm supports my numb shoulder. What’s going on?
I observe my surroundings as we stand in line. Gritty walls with dust filled windows. Although light streams in through the window, the light is dim, and filled with dust particles. The floor is gritty, and the counters the cook is preparing on the food on is absolutey filthy. Grime climbs it’s way up the side of the counter, partially hidden by the lack of indoor lighting. Weeds stick up from the thin cracks in the boarding in the floor, with the occasional dandelion hanging from a thread. The air is damp, and my chest feels overworked from trying to extract oxygen from it.
“Pretty place,” I say, almost cheerfully.
“We got a sarcastic one, I see!” Nikki grins at me, but she rolls her eyes too, “ we didn’t choose to live here.”
“Why are you guys here?” I ask her, mostly out of curiousity that had been eating away at me all day.
“Most people you ask will beat you up, but I don’t mind telling the story. Behind everyone.” she says, twisting a strand of wavy, caramel hair.
Her hair is pretty; it matches her eyes perfectly. They glow amber in the dim light. Her thick lips are curved into a smirk, and her devilish looking eyes give her a playful look. I suppose she is playful... but more than that... she knows how to manipulate. That must be it.
“Nikki here knows how to get on every person’s good side when they are lower down in the rankings here. It’s the best strategy. Once they toughen out, they won’t pick on her.” Shelb announces proudly, raising her voice, for she is 2 people behind us. The girls between us glare at me suspiciously.
I nod, but think quietly to myself. What if they are just trying to use me for something? I don’t know why I am so paranoid- but inside, I know why. It is like a jungle out here. I always have to be on my guard, because I never know what’s lurking around the corner.
I reach the counter where the old lady asks me for my ID. My fingers fumble around my pocket, and I pull out the ID with a flourish. She hands me my plate of food and I walk in the direction of Shelb. Mitt is next to her, quietly nibbling on a piece of dry bread. She is smiling. Her eyes slowly travel to my face, and her smile fades. She nibbles her bread in silence.
“So you got to be careful not to get hurt around here. That little stunt you pulled this morning was not smart, well, especially not around here.” Mitt nods fervently in agreement.
“Um, where is Kab?” I ask, trying to change the subject.
“She’s on dish-duty today.” I grimace at the words. At home, we had dish-duty. But being an only child, I had dish-duty every day. Not fun when you don’t own a washing machine. Especially after zucchini soup. Mitt smiles in front of me willingly for the first time.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds... for her at least. Right now, she trying to make a slave.” Mitt tries to cover a giggle. Her voice is scratchy, like she hasn’t talked in a day. I look over at her pointed hand, and try to squint in the direction of her finger.
I didn’t bring my glasses with me. They got burned in the fire. I shudder and try to shake the thought away

. I see Kab earnestly talking to a boy around the age 15. He is shaking his head at her, shaking a fist. Her smile vanishes and she utters a single word. The boy’s face turns ashen, and his posture tenses. They aren’t joking around anymore. He jerkily pushes himself off his chair and walks woodenly to the grubby door in the corner leading to the kitchen. What did she say?

Kab’s eyes scan the crowd, and her hazel eyes catch mine. She grins at me and skips over.

“What did you say to him?” I ask, bewildered.

She laughs, brightening up the entire cafeteria, “It works every time. I said ‘Secrets.’ and he totally freaked. But he knows his place. I know everybody in this rooms dark, dark secret. I can pry it out of them on their first day of school.

“I see...” So she had a weapon. She had the upper hand, over everybody in this building. She could be dangerous.

“C’mere, I wanna tell you something.” She grabs my hand and I wince as I place wait on my leg. My knees buckle, “What’s wrong with you? Are you injured?” she asks, examining my bruising leg.

“Yeah, I fell off the bed this morning,” I mumble.

She snorts, “I wish I saw that!”

I bite back a bitter comment.

“We’re here,” her voice sounds giddy. I glance at her, but her eyes are glazed over. She stares up at the sky, and as I watch her her shoulders slowly relax. She sits down, patting the grass next to her. I sit down as well. But she continues to stare up at the sky.

I glance up, but see nothing special. We are on a hill that overlooks a city below. Cars dance about the city, stopping and starting like a game. Lights flicker on and off in the buildings. Like I am watching everything in fast motion. Cool, but not mesmerizing.

“What’s up?” I ask her.

“I dream up here...” her voice trails off.

Curiousity burrows into me at that moment, and I can’t help but ask, “ Why are you here? What happened to your parents?” The questions come out more awkward than intended.

“You shouldn’t ask people that. You won’t get a straight response. And anyways, it’s always the same reason you are here. You either did something wrong, or your parents are dead.” I flinch at the unfriendly words. She sees my reaction and her hard expression softens.

“There are many reasons for why I’m here. I am just trying to make the best of it while I stay.”

“Why are you here?” I repeat, my voice rising.

“Well, my mom was a drug addict. She was arrested for dealing drugs, and the police took me into custody. They sent me here without hearing what I had to say. Yes, my mom had a problem. But she was getting better. She was learning to get through sucky breakups without getting high. And she actually found a decent man in her life,” she spits on the ground and scuffs the dirt with her boot, “Sometimes, I wonder if the police aren’t just trying to solve everybodies problems the easy way. Can’t find a home for the girl, dump her out in the boonies. Don’t know what to do with the recovering drug addict, puter her in jail. “ she says this bitterly

“I’m sure she’s in rehab,” I say, trying to recover her soft mood.

“No, she’s not in rehab. She would have been in rehab, except she commited suicide before they could place her there. I guess she wasn’t tough enough for jail. I sure am.”

“This isn’t jail, this is just the stopping point on your way to a new home,” I say this lightly, but I hardly believe myself.

“Why are you here?” she brings up the subject so randomly it catches me off guard, and I answer without thinking.

“Well, I was kind of stupid. fI was getting cigarettes from this drug dealer. And-” my respons is cut off.

“W’wait. Repeat that. You got cigarettes... from a DRUG dealer? The drug dealer had a soft heart?” she stares at me disbelievingly.

I smile and shake my head.’

“I shouldn’t be making a joke out of that though. What were you doing with a drug dealer?” she is stern now.

“I wanted to rebel. Let me finish my story. A couple of weeks went by and the I didn’t meet up with the drug dealer. She went to my house and left a cigarette burning. It set my house on fire. Now my parents are dead, and I am athe one to blame. I knew she left the cigarette burning, but I was so upset I didn’t tell my mom. I never knew it would have such an impact on my life.” I stare into my lap as the memories I have blocked come rushing back.

“That must be terrible. Knowing that you could have stopped what happened, and yet you did nothing... I can kind of understand how you feel.” she smiles sadly, and I immediately see her for her true self. She is really lonely and hurting.. Nobody could see that though.
“What do you want to do. I know you are using me for something,” I don’t sugarcoat my words’ no need.
“I want to run away.” her words take me by surprise.
“Really? You seem pretty happy here.”
“No, but don’t you understand? Novody here relates to me. Well, xcept you... But We are treated horribly, like animals, and weaker kids are always getting picked on. Kids rarely get adopted. Most end up living here until they are old enough to leave. Or until it becomes too much.” I feel increasingly uneasy. I knew coming here wouldn’t solve all my problems, and her words are confirming my fears.

“But I think I like you. I want to take you with me.”

“Are you serious?! You are just going to decide like that? Don’t you want to think this through?!” I shout, waving my arms.
“I’ve been thinking about this for 12 years.” she presses her thin lips together.
“You can’t be serious.” I am dead silent. 12 years without getting adopted; without parents, or money, or real friends?
“You don’t sound interested. But keep the option in mind once you start to get tired of living here.” she picks herself off the ground and walks on thin trail leading down the hill without looking back. I stand up quickly and run after her, trying to process everything that just happened.
She can’t be serious!

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