Last week, we met Evelyn, a 6-year old girl who is motherless and lifeless…she’s a ghost. Her story picks up here. Oh, but there is so much more to Evelyn.
When I was six years old, I died. Energy is neither created, nor destroyed but transformed into another state. People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh melts away. Eventually their bones crumble and dissipate. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation.
They can become a ghost, like me.
Are you scared? You shouldn’t be. I’m just a little girl. I stand about 49 inches tall. I have lots of ideas and a rag doll I carry with me all the time. It was made for me by my mother and since I no longer have her, the doll cleaves to my heart, clutched in my hands. When I bury my nose into the rose print cloth, I imagine I can smell her scent, deep and warm and sweet, like yeast.
Jacob says she wanted a little girl more than anything. It’s funny he says that because he was too young to know. His reasoning goes like this, “All mothers want a baby girl, to be just like them,” he says as he flips his hair with a quick turn of his head, almost like he’s not important. But he is. I tell him all fathers want a son to carry on the family name. Me, I’m just a girl with no mother to teach me anything of being a woman, of tending to family.
Mother died just after I was born. She slipped into unconsciousness when the bleeding didn’t stop. There was no doctor, and even if there was, he couldn’t have done much to save her life. The story I’ve been told is that she held me for a moment, looked into my gray-green eyes and smiled, ran her knuckle across my cheek and kissed my forehead. She reached for the bedside table where she retrieved the small rag doll she knotted and tied from the bedding as she labored. There was a small ball she had done the same with, in case her premonitions were incorrect and I was another son. She must have felt the room spin and called out. I can’t be sure how it happened, exactly.
My father was nowhere to be found, having been out in the woods chopping wood. Somewhere, in a nearby room of our small home my big brother was being tended to by her cousin. Mother’s voice was thready and weak as she called out, a characterless whisp of hope. Her cousin cocked her head for a brief instant, listening. And when she heard nothing more decided it had been her imagination.
I cried out, as newborn infants do, beckoning the cousin to the room, and when she arrived, she found me swaddled in a dingy towel, an angry red face in my mother’s gray, limp arms.
Perhaps I had known that death had barred its ugly face under it’s sinister veil, relishing the fact it had created two orphans.
Father never returned that day. There was no other family. The cousin, we were told later was feebleminded and needed no additional responsibilities. She crumbled into despair, her knees buckling upon seeing the scene of my mother’s laboring bedchamber and began mumbling nonsense, claiming she saw a translucent image of my mother floating above the bed, peering down at me in her arms, a smile across her face as she buoyed from the ceiling before being swept into the otherworld.
Arrangements, I’m told were made for both the asylum and the orphanage by the town priest.
As a newborn baby girl, I was placed in the care of the Sisters of Mercy at St. John’s Home for the Orphaned and Unloved. One would think this to be the safest and best place for a child with no parents, but instead it was a living hell. We slept on pallets of hay crawling with vermin. Our food was watery broth and bread. Butter, when available, was infrequent. We received one glass of milk a day, but mostly subsisted on water and diluted tea. Many children were ill, their eyes hollow and empty, sores puckering along lids, but those who were worthy-enough were sent out to work as servants.
Jacob was my only constant. At first, all children were dumped into the same room, no matter male or female. Later, we were segregated, but we always found each other. We were, after all, foundlings.
I was beaten and raped and called horrific names. When I was six, I couldn’t take it anymore, the beatings having jostled my internal organs such that they were no longer in working order. I breathed out my last breath, a grayed powder of dust and grit on the new iron beds the sisters finally received. And when I did, I knew I was headed to a better place from where I’d come from.
My body was scraped off the bed, stripped of my tattered pinafore and wrapped in a thin sheet. My leather laced boots were removed, tossed aside for another little girl to wear, and yet in my hands remained the rag doll from my mother.
Wrapped in the sheet, my body was hurled into a mass grave on the edge of the property. There was no undertaker, but a janitor who was paid by the number of children he tossed into the grave. More children equaled more monetary pay, but he never went hungry; there was always plenty of broth and bread to see him through.
My body lay among the dead. The smell grotesque, crawling with maggots, oily and metallic shards of decomposing life ate away at me. I went to open my mouth to cry out in agony, only to discover it no longer moved in relation to my brain.
I was dead.
Shovelfuls of earth sprinkled onto my body, a black-brown glitter of embellishment and then heavy clods of dirt, a finality of life.
While I lay there, I missed Jacob. My arms tingled with anticipation of wrapping them around my brother one last time. Inside my ruby red heart lay a bond that forever attaches me to him. And that’s when I decided I wouldn’t go on without him.
My spirit is here and it is a good, kind, innocent one. Just because others have done me harm, doesn’t mean I am here to do you harm.
I am just a little girl.
My name is Evelyn. It means beautiful bird.
[Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed it. Remember, this is an original work of fiction. Please do not take or share as your own.]