“Outside an Orphanage”

This is a piece of flash fiction that I wrote for a creative writing class a few years ago. I love the image of a dark street with a single gas lamp above, and the quietness of a devastating choice. This was fun to write, and I hope you enjoy it!

            The gas lamp flickered above the dark street, illuminating the baby’s face in soft yellow light. The girl looked at him and a tear fell down her cheek. The baby in her arms, normally so cheerful, now seemed sad, as if somehow sensing the girl’s despair and mimicking it. She leaned against the lamppost and bit her lip to keep it from quivering. It wasn’t fair. None of this was.

            How small the building was. How dirty, and poor. The girl didn’t like it. It wasn’t a good place for the baby to be growing up. But I suppose, she thought, it’s better than at home. At least here he’ll be safe.

            The baby had grabbed hold of her threadbare scarf in one of his chubby little hands. He looked up at her with those deep blue eyes—so much like her own. Even so young, there was no doubt that he was the girl’s brother. Her love for him was more than that, though. In the past few months, the girl had become less of a sister and more of a mother to the baby. She was the only one in the house who truly loved him as he should be loved.

            A soft rain started, and the baby cooed as little drops of water landed on his face. What was rain, though, and what was tears? The girl sniffled and wiped her nose with her sleeve. The yellow lamp light lit up the scars on her hand from where she had been repeatedly burned. Her gaze lingered on them a moment, letting them be justification. The baby couldn’t suffer through that as she had. He was too young, too pure. It was too late for the girl, but the baby could be saved.

            Quietly, the girl tiptoed up the stone steps of the building and knelt in front of the door. She adjusted the blanket around the baby, making sure his body was covered so he would be warm in the chill of the night. The girl kissed his forehead sweetly, and the baby clutched a strand of her dark hair as she tried to pull away. He held tight as she attempted to place him down on the doorstep.

            “I’m sorry, my love. So, so sorry.” And she pried away his hand from her hair and set him on the stone. Then she knocked three times on the wooden door, loud and quick. Then she scurried down the steps and hid in the shadows on the side of the building until she heard the door open. The baby was crying now, and she longed to run to him, comfort him, but she couldn’t.

            The door closed with a loud boom. The girl stopped holding back her tears and wept into her hands. The baby would be safe in the orphanage, though. He wouldn’t be hurt here. He could escape the punishment she knew was coming for what she had done that night.

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