She walked the same way every day, alone, looking at the beach nearby and wishing that she could go there instead. She passed the bakery, which always smelled lovely. She would have loved to go inside, like many of the other school kids who came out again with steaming, fresh buns or cookies, but she knew that she couldn’t. All she could do was to keep dreaming of maybe, maybe one day. Minutes later she was right outside the school, just as the bell rang. She ran the last bit and got to class just on time.
The hours went by. Finally it was time for lunch, all the kids took out their boxes or wrapped lunch packs and started eating. The others had really nice lunches, neatly cut bread with all kinds of lovely things on; like salad, ham and cheese, chocolate spread or peanut butter. She tried to hide her chunk of bread with only butter on, took one bite at a time and covered the rest of the bread with paper while she chewed, embarrassed that she didn’t have a proper lunch like the others. They all got milk, though, which she thought was the best part of the whole meal. Many had brought apples, bananas or other fruit, but she never had that. Sometimes she wished that she, too, had a proper lunch box, a pretty one with Disney princesses, or Winnie the Pooh, and a bottle for the lemonade. But she didn’t dwell too long on this. Lunch didn’t last forever, and afterwards they’d all run out to play.
The rest of the day went by, until it was time to go home. Many of the kids got picked up by their parents, but she never did. She knew that no matter what weather, even thunder and lightning, her little feet would have to carry her back, because her adoptive mother was waiting at home, full of pills and living in a world of her own, expecting her daughter to come quickly and do her chores.
There were potatoes and carrots to peel and prepare for cooking. Mother took care of the other ingredients, though the hygiene wasn’t all that good. Sometimes she would drop a piece of meat, vegetable or other on the floor, which was never clean, but she would just brush off the worst of it and toss it into the pan with the rest, dog hairs and other dirt going with it.
On Fridays she had to clean the kitchen and hoover the floor around the house, and dust the bookshelves, then tidy her room. When all was done she would take the dog for a walk, her best friend who would follow her anywhere. They’d go to the beach, where she would find a big rock to sit on for a long while, thinking and wishing that she could just be a little kid like all the others, and have the same things they had. Responsible parents who would take proper care of her. A mother who would make her breakfast and school lunches, who would take her to town and buy nice clothes for her, and even a proper lunch box and lemonade bottle. A mother who might from time to time give her money to spend at the bakery with the other kids, so that she, too, could walk out with a cookie in her hands, or sink her teeth into a delicious, steaming fresh bun, filled with custard cream and covered with icing and sprinkled with grated coconut. A mother who would wake her in the mornings and make sure she had clean clothes to wear, who would tuck her into bed at night and read her a story before she fell asleep. A mother who would take care of her, instead of ignoring her. A mother who would let her bring friends home, instead of being afraid that others might see what home looked like.
What she had was an adoptive mother who sat in a chair all day, who couldn’t care less if her daughter was OK, as long as she had her smokes, her pills and alcohol. That was the ugly reality. And when her adoptive father came home from work it was time to hurry with dinner and do the homework, then get out of the way, retreat to her room to listen to her parents yelling at each other in the distance, and maybe sneak out for a while, along with her four-legged friend.