Things continued much the same for another week. Mr. Jameson gave us almost impossible jobs, and we did them until our hands were red, and then some. He really didn’t care. All that bullshit about strengthening us? That’s exactly what it was: bullshit.
If anything, we were getting weaker.
Around the end of the week, the true effect of the chores really hit us when one of the other boys, Frank, suddenly keeled over whilst mopping the kitchen floor. To his credit, Mr. Jameson did allow us to stop working, but only to support Frank.
And by support, that meant bring him water.
Frank didn’t last long, really. About a day or two. He’d been exhausted completely, and he died. Fortunately it was a peaceful death…I think. This time, of course, Mr. Jameson couldn’t keep it hidden from us.
And we all blamed him.
We didn’t say anything out loud, though. We were pretty damn scared of him. Even the older boys were, but they refused to admit it. As soon as Frank was dead, we were all put back to work.
‘Alright you lot!’ Mr. Jameson had shouted over the speakers. ‘Frank’s death is very sad, but there’s still a lot of work to be done! Those who get their chores done will be allowed to attend the funeral!’
He didn’t even have the courtesy to say it to our faces.
I really wanted to go to Frank’s funeral. I hadn’t really known him that well, but unlike a lot of the other orphans, I hadn’t been at my parents’ funeral. In fact, I had absolutely no idea who my parents even were.
I suppose a lot of us didn’t, but…
Okay, I’m not that special, but I felt like I was, and that’s why I really, really wanted to go.
I wore my fingers to the bone for days, all my chores done. I even worked into the night, every night, to make sure I could and would go to Frank’s funeral. The advantage of going to the funeral was no chores for the day.
Or at least, that’s what I hoped.
The day before the funeral, Mr. Jameson walked into the dormitory and stood in the doorway, blocking our way out. ‘Children,’ he said in an incredibly patronising tone. ‘Are you ready to find out who’s getting extra work?’
We all swallowed. Was that the price of some of us going to the funeral? Extra work for the others?
Suddenly I didn’t want to go to the funeral. But it was too late now. At least, that’s how I saw it.
Mr. Jameson started pointing at people, and everyone he pointed at was to receive extra work. There were four of us he did not point at, and when he stopped indicating people he smiled wickedly. ‘The rest of you…you’re coming to the funeral. Dress smart.’
Dressing smart meant wearing the suits we were required to wear whenever prospective adopters showed up, which was rarely. They were clean, that was for sure, but they didn’t exactly fit.
My suit, for example, was a bit too big and quite loose-fitting.
Mr. Jameson prepared to leave the room, but then he paused and beckoned to someone in the darkness. In response, a tall, stocky man walked into the low light of the dormitory.
The same man from Mr. Jameson’s office.
I swallowed heavily and found myself staring at the man. He looked like a soldier or something, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he shot someone. Here. Now.
‘This man is Marcus. He is the…top man. He’s in charge of this orphanage,’ Mr. Jameson said.
Marcus scoffed and said, quite loudly. ‘No I am not. I am from the F.R.A, not that that matters. I am investigating this place, but that doesn’t matter either. What matters is, all of you are being investigated.’
We all gasped. Investigated? Us? Why?
The tall man smiled at us, and then glared at Mr. Jameson. ‘You be careful. I don’t want to have to fire you.’ And then he was gone.
Mr. Jameson seemed visibly shaken and stood, frozen. He looked at all of us for a moment, swallowed, and then left the dormitory.
At least I was going to the funeral…