Her name was Sofie and we all remember well her brilliant orange hair and light brown eyes. Having just reached the age of ten she couldn’t weigh more than five stones, even though she was almost as tall already as her older sister, who had the exact same birthday four years earlier.
The fastest growing of all the lot, her pants were always shorter looking than everyone else’s. But she never let it bother her, even if all the other kids pointed at her knobby ankles and made jokes about the rising water. She would laugh along and pull them up even higher and pirouette around them as graceful as a ballerina.
It was the only time she seemed to laugh, when surrounded by other kids, who were laughing too. But they were never real laughs and only her sister would ever know her orphan sibling was putting on a show.
Most days, much like this one, her sister Ava would have to drag her out of bed. It was an effort just to get dressed and go down for breakfast with the rest of the house, all of them here for the same reason—the Lonelies. The Lonelies had come to make claims on their parents.
This day was no different than any of the days before it over the past year. Ava pulled the covers off Sofie. “Don’t do this today, Sofie. Get up and get dressed. I want pancakes before they’re all gone,” Ava said, showing the frustration of her wits end at her sister.
Sofie laid there, eyes close, her long legs and knobby ankles sticking out over the bottom of the bed’s edge. “Pancakes don’t mean what they used to,” she told Ava. “Not since the Lonelies.”
Ava had been awake for at least an hour already and her stomach was telling her it was hungry. “No they don’t mean the same anymore, but I’m hungry and you know I can’t go down without you. So get out of bed.”
Today should have been a good day. Sofie remembered when it used to be a good day. Her parents would make them both their favorite breakfast to start the day. But that tradition had ended the day her parents were forced to leave them here with the other orphans. What made it worse was those other children were real orphans who never knew their own parents.
Sofie swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, with her eyes still closed.
“Ava,” she said.
“Happy birthday.” Sofie opened her eyes and her sister threw her clothes at her face.
“They don’t celebrate those here,” Ava said. “Hurry up. Get dressed before all the food is gone and we have to wait ’til supper.”
Sofie slipped on her pants and changed into her shirt and the two sisters went downstairs to have breakfast with the other kids.
The tables were full of children eating in silence. That’s how the Head Mom wanted it. She told them when they first arrived, “Talking must mean you are done eating.” And with the size of the plate being so small, having one meal taken away for talking meant being hungry for the rest of the day.
The Head Mom, more like witch, was in total control of the orphanage. She never herself miss out on an occasion to hurt the children. She seemed to revel in it. And today would be no different. She glanced up from her plate immediately as the two sisters enter into the dining hall and announced them to the other children.
“Children, forks down. Listen to me,” she said to them. “Today is a special occasion. We have two stars among us.”
Ava froze were she stood and so did Sofie. They were late again, and it was her fault. Yesterday the Head Mom made all the children stay in their seats until the two girls had finished their oatmeal. Sofie wondered what she would do today.
“Today is Sofie and Ava’s birthday. Lets all show them how happy we are for them,” the Head Mom said. ”You may continue.”
The children picked up their forks and looked down to their plates and began to eat again in silence. No one spoke a word. No one even looked the girls way to offer them a smile. No one cared, because no one had cared about their birthdays either, they were all orphans, and birthdays were a painful reminder no one cared about them either.
The girls each took their plate from the Cooker Mom and sat down at the long table farthest away from the Head Mom and began eating their dry morning pancakes, hearing only the scraping of forks on the plates from all around the hall.
Sofie was sad today was her birthday. Sad no one but her sister would ever know what it was like to have a day of celebrating with special food and presents and everybody laughing, happy, with a family.
The Lonelies had taken everything from her but Ava. The way Ava had been treating her the past couple of days they might as well have taken her too. But they couldn’t take away her memories, she wouldn’t let them.