He knew life could be easier. He knew if he let her go, it would be easier. She could have a better life. But the thought tore at his heart. She was the only one he had left. She was a part of him.
So he ran. He carried her. He cared for her, in sickness and in health. He used his wits. He kept them alive.
Even when it was cold.
He woke her up.
He watched her as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes silently and looked blearily out onto the alley. She wasn’t looking at anything in particular. She just looked. She knew he would take care of her.
The problem was, she was a pretty, sweet little girl. He was a scrawny, hard-looking boy. Nobody wanted street boys. She would be adopted, most likely. He would not. Once they surrendered, he could no longer control what happened.
On the street, he could.
It had been years since their aunt had let them go. Vaguely, Valentin wondered if she ever worried about them or queried anyone.
Anna was older now. She got up and walked on her own, stretched, understood their plight. She endured it silently, always trusting that her big brother would do what was right.
She looked like their mother, whom she would never remember.
She had nightmares a lot. She woke up screaming. Sometimes she remembered them, sometimes she didn’t. It was unspoken between them. Valentin had them, too.
The most common one, every time, was that he was laying on a hospital bed. Pain wracked his stomach and lower belly, and when he looked down, he was strapped to the bed. He couldn’t move. Every time, it threw him into a panic. When he looked up, Anna, bored, was wandering off. He didn’t know where she was going. He couldn’t call her back. His voice didn’t carry far enough. He wrenched himself around and against the straps. Somewhere in his head, he knew it was a dream. He knew if he just tried hard enough, he could control it.
But he never quite found the control he was looking for. It remained out of his grasp, under the power of everyone except him.
He wasn’t scared for himself. If it was just himself, he wouldn’t have to worry about staying alive. He could do whatever he wanted and not worry what happened next.
But he had to protect and provide for her. And it would be hard to do if he was dead. So he had to stay alive.
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.