Life in a orphanage for those without names, but numbers
Picture this, three girls on a bench, side by side. The tallest is sitting up bone straight, her features are mainly brown from the sun. Holding her hand tightly is a younger girl with waist length black hair, she has a look much older than her years. Another girl much smaller than the rest, her nearly white locks standing limply from her scalp, her head leaning on the black haired girl’s lap.
All sitting on a worn bench with a solemn look on their young faces, their names are 25, 26 and 27.
At Mrs Hoosegow’s orphanage they had no names, there were too many of them. The girls on the bench were very sad. “I feel so sad, what will they do to 34?” moaned the brown haired 25 almost to tears. “He tried to escape remember, 17 convinced him to have a go.” 26 nibbled her already tiny nails. “I would do anything to get out of this place.” whimpered already pale 27.
There were screams echoing from the wooden door that could be heard around the grounds. The stinging crack of a leather whip against bare skin made the girls wince and shake their heads. After what seemed like hours, there was a mute silence. 34 emerged from the dreaded room pale and shivering.
The girls knew that under his threadbare rags were thin red lines of pain. The traditional method of punishment at Mrs Hoosegow’s orphanage, was the whip and a week of no food rations, but attempted escape was a serious offence, it had earned 34; that week without rations in the solitary- confinement cell.
Later after the Sunday meal of boiled swamp peas, 25, 26 and 27 were scrunched up in the bed in the corner.
The potato sack which was used as a blanket barely covered the bed, the air was stifling from the heat of summer and the added body heat of 30 other girls.
27 was crying tears from her eyes, they were almost blind to begin with, but some of the girls had used a magnifying glass to try and burn them. At this point a sour prune faced lady came in to take away the candle, seeing 27 cry, she slapped her hard and screeched that if she tried that cheek again she would burn her with the candle.
Chapter 1: Orphans
25 was born in a barn at the orphanage, she had no family.
A little sallow baby with curling mud hair, apparently she owed her life to Mrs Hoosegow who ‘raised’ her. She was there when the orphanage was in its beginning stages, 24 others with her, 25 of them alone for 7 years.
Then the depression yielded countless other orphans, now 4 years later there were over 100 children, not including the first 16 who had left for meagre jobs in the city. 25 was now 11 years old and had the responsibilities of the eldest 24 before her, because she ‘owed’ the most to Mrs Hoosegow.
At 5 am each morning, they were greeted by a stinging slap of the whip on their bare feet, the prune faced lady wielding it. The prune faced lady was Mrs Hoosegow’s assistant, a formidable woman but nowhere near as bad as Mrs Hoosegow herself.
25 was the cook’s maid, she rose an hour earlier to ready the kitchen for the prune faced lady who was the cook too. Monday was a whirlwind of work so they looked forward to what small portion of food they got.
26 stared at a tin beggars bowl which contained a miniscule portion of watered down gruel and a mouldy crust of unwanted bread.
All the food the orphanage provided had been found in the dustbins of bakeries and soup kitchens, even the beggars on the street were better provided for.
25 closed her eyes and dreamed of the lovely breakfasts she had as a little girl with granny, as she was dreaming of croissants and coffee the distasteful food was disposed of into her young stomach, that’s what got her through the meals. 27’s head hung limply over the bowl, her face languid with the thought of poor 34 without the strength to get through the day.
All the children were named thus by their arrival, the day 26 came was when 25 was seven years old; she triggered the wave of orphans that began to reside at the orphanage.
Before her arrival 26 had come from a rich family, her parents had died when she was three days old and from then on she was taken care of by her grandmother; who could neither speak nor write.
Her parents had died before giving her a name so the name 26 was all she knew.
When 26 was six years old her grandmother died of a burst vessel, with no known surviving relatives 26 was brought here by her manservant, coincidently Miss Prune face’s brother.
She had a face that made you stare, startling near purple eyes that flashed in anger stood out of a thick veil of black hair. A mature face not normally seen on any normal girl of ten, a look that made observers feel that she knew all your most dark secrets; and she possessed an air of defiance and independence which further curried Hoosegow’s scorn for her.
27 came next, born in a time when if you are useless then you are simply left on the roadside to die. She was brought to the orphanage at two weeks old. She was left to die because she was found to be an albino with near sightless eyes peering out and a weak constitution.
At the age of four she might be considered a precocious child but Mrs Hoosegow saw her troublesome, as she was the only albino in the area the other children had a time, candles, matches and magnifying glasses were only the few instruments of torture that 26 submitted to.
No matter how hard 25 and 26 tried to protect her; the catcalls of ‘vampire’ and showers of rotten garlic cloves could not be avoided.
She was always cowering in some corner or as close to 25 and 26 as possible, her long straggly, limp hair covered her face and her small body as weak as a badly stuffed rag doll, large wan eyes the color of water flowing over stone with a languid look of pain constantly there.
When 25 was allowed to sit with the children for breakfast it was almost time for work. The orphans were made to earn their keep.
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