Just one day. Not more, not less. The freedom gifted to this beggar who is of age five.
|The buns smell good, delicious. I am hungry but I have no money. So, I’m going to get them into my mouth by playing a simple little game. There are only three simple steps. Step one: join the crowd and swim to the middle of the shop. Step two: sneak a piece of bun under my shirt. Step three: escape between the legs of the crowd and when I reach the exit, run. There is only one rule to this game: Do not get caught.
I’m game as the over-flowing crowd drove me into the bakery shop. With my beggar’s bowl nearly squeezed out my hands, I assume that the adults must also be starving too. But no, I always watch them eating in comfy places; I am different.
I am five, but I cannot be five. I am forced to take care of myself without those devils notice.
Watching the rats at the sewage is my entertainment because I feel like I am one of them, hiding and begging just because my foster parents asked me to. They don’t love me, I know it. I just kept quiet about it. I am only behaving because I have seen street children being beaten to death. I don’t want to die, but I don’t know how, I am only a small girl. There is no one I can ask. Begging will never earn me much. I know it, the street adults told me when I nap with them, but I can’t run away. ‘Father’ and ‘mother’ have many friends acting as spies.
Close to the shelves now. This heart in my chest pounds like mad when I sneak a piece under my shirt. Do not worry silly little heart, this is not the first time you do it; one good way to be invisible is to have some flashy stuff away from you, and these discount cards and cheap buns are flashy enough to keep them busy. Okay, mission accomplished, I have to get out quick. Out, out, out!
“Where do you think you’re going, missy?” Bad luck – here comes the baker’s son. I am going to be arrested again, with nobody to save me. Stoned but keeping calm, I fix my eyes dead onto my enormous bun, not going to give it away this time. Without warning, my legs are nearly swept off the ground as he claws into my shoulder blade and toasts me over. Eyes closed, I wait for any punishment to pass. That is the only way I survived. Struggle less, and they will hit you less.
“I’ll pay for the bread. Keep the change.” But surprisingly, nothing bad happened.
I steal a peep at Mr. Good-guy. He is tall, dressed finely, wealthy I suppose, and faceless; the sunlight behind him is too glaring for me to see his face at all. Faceless he shall be with a fat wallet popping out of his trousers. The amount in it must be mesmerizing. With weak legs, this body acted automatically. Survivor’s logic: Do anything in order to survive. Take every opportunity or you’ll be the next prey. Steal.
I ran, leaving Mr. Good-guy as Mr. Blur-guy, still unknown to the fact that his wallet was stolen. My brain is almost empty at this stage, only wishing to go as far away as possible from that shop, only thinking of which turning to take and which street I will end up in. Until I am sure that I am impossible to be tracked only I tear a bite of my nearly-gone-prize, the bun, and examined the handsome amount of cash.
The bun is tasty and the papers are more than I have imagined! I cannot count exactly but I am sure that I am rich. Peeping left and right, I stuff the whole bun inside my bulging cheeks and have all the money in my hands so that they will not disappear. However, something is not right, there is way too much to hold. So, I took out the wallet again and put back some and keep it inside my loose pants. That way, I will be able to watch over the money and still managed to hold them in my hands. I am a genius.
Can I buy a house for myself? Or maybe a unicorn that will take me away from hell? I cannot afford to be illogic. Should I feel comfortable with this lot of money with me? Actually I don’t know, but I think I feel happy. Is this the feeling of happiness?
Come on, Leanne, think practically. What would adults buy when they have money? Food. Burped. I don’t think that I need food now. So, what should I buy?
My head was spinning when suddenly one little thought stroke me. Not as satisfying as it sounds, but I am quite sure that this is what the other girls like to do – shopping for pretty dresses; I saw them doing it in fashion shops with smiling faces. I want to smile too.
Bare-footed, I land my dirty feet in an air-conditional fashion shop. I know what I want, a make-over to look pretty. For the first few seconds, nobody in the shop served me. In fact, I think they wanted me out. I hugged myself as I walked in. Don’t worry Leanne, you are used to it, nobody can hurt you. Use your brain to get their attention, little genius. And I had a trick up my sleeves.
With the papers in my hands, I raised them high for their greedy eyes to scan the amount of cash I am holding, and they come to me like dogs. I gulped – finally other people get to play a role on being dogs, and not me – serve them right. If you can do this to me, I can do the same to you too. You want to have all my money in my hands just for a make-over package. Let me think about it first. Alright, take it, I don’t care anymore.
In just merely two hours, even I cannot recognize myself anymore. For the first time, I laughed. Quickly, I covered my mouth and wondered, is laughing better than smiling? But, look! I look so pretty! I played with the mini crown stuffed onto my neatly combed white hair. I look like those mini princesses in the televisions. I turn myself around and around and watch the dress puff up in the mirror walls being careful not to topple over at the same time.
I look closer into the mirror, but I can see scars, and the most obvious one is on my shoulder, still dark red. They reminded me of who-I-am. Gently, I stroke my hair and held my tears. I have to be strong. I want to live on.
‘Father’ is always very strict about my begging to support the family financially. He beats me with all the things at hell whenever I did not reach his quota. Brilliant businessman he is to have me feed their warm meals while I get none; giant devils they are, the whole family, force me to call them ‘father’ and ‘mother’ without knowing how disgusting it is to have those words on my tongue for them. Yuck.
I forced a smile. I know how to smile now because I am a genius.
I move on. The beggar’s bowl and rag clothing are left in the trash bin behind the shop. Never mind even if ‘father’ and ‘mother’ find out. They will still beat me if I have not misbehaved. I am not scared of you. For today, I am a princess, not a beggar. And I am happy.
Puddings… I have always wondered how those fresh slimes taste like on my tongue. I used to watch people eating them at the window panel. Hopefully, I can manage to feel one today…
Why is there another bad luck today? That outfit, I can recognize that he is the Mr. Good-guy at the cashier. He is searching for money to pay.
If I return the wallet to him now, will he beat me? Stealing is bad, I know, or else people will not arrest me. Mr. Good-guy looks like he is really scared. His hands are shaking. Naughty cashier, why can’t you stop forcing him to pay? Just give him free food! But I don’t think that this is possible and if this continues Mr. Good-guy will also be arrested for stealing. Oh no, I have to save him, he is a good guy!
This time, my hands are shaking as I go near him. I have to return him his wallet no matter what. Quickly, my eyes are shut, waiting for any punishments to come. But there was no sound or punches coming. I have to peep.
It will be good if Mr. Cashier ring up the police instead of ‘father’. Although the police would do nothing even if they see my scars, ‘father’ will beat me lesser after seeing them. They call this child abuse, wonderful name I like it, but still they do nothing. I can never understand them. I only know that I have to depend on myself if I want this abuse to end. I learnt it in the television. Doomed, Mr. Cashier is calling ‘father’ instead.
“I don’t have parents,” I whine in distaste, but no use. He knows them.
Before I leave, I recall the feeling of buying this pretty dress and doll shoes and mini crown. The power of hoping for puddings to hop into my mouth, that sweetness must be yummy. The sad things and the happy things I felt today. I really have to thank the good guy. After all, I am a polite princess today.
‘Father’ and ‘mother came too quickly that I don’t have chance to say more. A flung of the umbrella panged onto my head as their greetings. I hate them.
So, everything will return as usual tomorrow. One day, just you see, I, Leanne, will be running away from this hell to have another great laugh, to be a happy kid. I will change my world’s logic because I know logic better than anyone else and because I can. I will escape.