It was cold.
It was always too cold. But Anna slept still.
Maybe that was a bad thing. Maybe they needed to get up and move around.
But the nightmares were too bad, it was rare she slept like this. So he let her.
The silence was creeping up and down his spine like a shiver. But that was okay. The prickles of worry hadn’t left him for many years now. It kept them alive. And when he had felt them start to ease, something had always alerted them. Police, an angry shopkeeper, mean drunk men, a pack of stray dogs.
He had first felt it at a place that should have been the end of their troubles. An old aunt had offered to take them in after much discussion among the adults. They had arrived on her doorstep, alone, one cold September day, after a long train ride. No one had cared enough to accompany them. She had opened the door. Her expression was worried and harassed. She was chewing her bottom lip. She kept looking furtively back into the apartment.
“I can only take your sister.” she had blurted out.
Valentin had stared at her in disbelief. “Where will I go?” The feeling of worry and fear settled into his stomach and made his cheeks grow hot.
“The police will find a place.”
Their aunt was trying to herd Anna inside the door. Although barely able to walk, she somehow understood what was going on. She started to protest and the big woman lost her grip on the girl. Anna came back to Valentin’s side. He looked down at her and made the first decision of his life.
“We will go together.”
His aunt stared at him. “I can’t take you, Valentin.”
“Then we will find a place somewhere else.”
A voice called out from inside the apartment. “Let them try.”
His aunt quivered at the voice, fear coming into her eyes. But when she turned back to the children, they were already clattering down the stairs.
They had emerged from the shadows of the building. Valentin was infused with a dizzying sense of freedom and responsibility. He felt like a trapped animal suddenly given his freedom among thorns and hunters.
And the feeling of worry had settled permanently in his stomach.
To be Continued…
Note: this is fiction based on stories I’ve heard from orphans or former orphans. This is written simply to give perspective on adoption. When a family adopts, they combine their experiences, their wounds, their personality, and their expectations with the life of a young person with his or her own experiences, wounds, personality, and expectations. It’s a miracle that it ever works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Children aren’t blank slates, especially adopted ones.