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A Shattered Rainbow
She had cried when she first saw him. Tears flowed freely from her warm hazel eyes as they fell upon the small boy sitting all alone in the corner. His face was caked with dirt and scraped by years of abuse and neglect; his cheeks displayed the scars of his childhood – or rather, the lack of one. Yet, she saw him and knew that she would one day grow to love him.
It was his eyes that first drew her.
Lily didn’t know quite what to expect when she first entered the adoption center in Afghanistan, but those warm hazel eyes unlike her own had instantly captivated her. A bond, unformed before, had suddenly taken root as their eyes met – as a series of past devastating events transferred almost telepathically to the other. Immediately, like a quick shock of electricity, she knew she could trust him. He, on the other hand, turned and looked away, escaping to a place that Lily, nor anyone else for that matter, could not quite enter.
It had taken months – years almost – of tirelessly fighting the government to get to where she was today. After countless of days’ worth of filling and renewing never-ending stacks of paperwork, hours upon hours of research, and thousands of dollars for a lawyer specializing in international adoptions, she had finally managed to find a loophole in the system. It was relief to say the very least – but even more than that, it gave her hope.
Curious eyes peered up at her as she down sat on a nearby broken bench. Her hazel eyes continued to be locked on the little boy sitting by himself. Tiny delicate brown hands pushed and tugged on her sleeves, all begging to be noticed. Averting her gaze, she looked at the young children – probably no more than six or seven years old – and smiled sadly. She wished she could take them all back with her to America. But sadly, there was only one child she could bring back. Even then, there were certain conditions that needed to be met.
It was despairing, the look of this place. The entire orphanage was wrecked to shambles. Splinters of wood laid strewn across the muddy cracked concrete floors. Fractured glass windows caught the sun’s rays, causing a colorful mosaic of rainbow patterns on the ground. Gnats hovered among the dust; fleas and flies made their homes in cracks along the wall. In one girl’s hair, a white creature wormed its way through.
She shuddered. Never before could she ever imagine that a place like this existed. Even her former apartment in New York, boasting of rodents and cockroaches, was no match for the unruly, downtrodden building these children were forced to call a shelter. She sympathized for them greatly, regretful that she didn’t bring along any extra blankets or pillows to donate. These children with their sunken bones and hunted looks needed comfort desperately. But Lily truly wished that she could provide them something far more important than material objects – a mother. A father.
An actual home – not just a house.
The lonely boy stood up suddenly, and she started. How remarkably young he looked! Judging from the petite willowy frame of his body structure, she guessed that he could not be any older than seven or eight years. His expression though, would betray him. His dark brown eyes, nearly delving into blackness, displayed little feeling but the basic ones of Want and Need and Hunger and Sorrow and Pain – the expressions of all the children here.
Judging by his eyes alone, he could easily be a hundred years old if he wished.
A gnat hovered by her hand; Lily swatted it away carelessly. Taking a break from the boy (she wasn’t frightening him, was she?), her eyes wandered around the dim mud-splattered room. The orphans had stopped pushing up against her but now sat Indian-style at the bottom of her feet, their bright eyes filled with curiosity and loneliness. She smiled at them again – emptily this time, she feared – and turned her head until her eyesight rested on the rainbow mosaic of light displayed on the liver-colored floor. A clear piece of glass flickered in the corner of her right eye.
How colorful the patterns were! she thought, bemused. How colorful and ornate and brilliant – like pieces of hope that lay shattered on the floor. Entranced, she stared at the vivid intricate patterns of red and blue and yellow and green until the sharp edges of the glass reflection became fuzzy in her vision. Gradually, they melted to become one big pot of rainbows – and look! The entire floor was covered in colors, in vibrant, flamboyant shades of dyes. For a second, she nearly forgot where she was. Instead, it reminded her of a daycare that she used to visit everyday, not too long ago.
Not daring to move and break the alluring illusion, she allowed herself to daydream until the grubby, filthy sunburned walls of the orphanage ceased to exist, melting until it glowed a perfect blinding white. Multicolored blocks lay neatly in perfectly shaped pyramids. Picture books were stacked neatly in rows on bookshelves. Happy, satisfied children filled in the blank spaces in coloring books, children whose worse fear was that a sudden slip of their stray hand would result in a pencil mark outside the lines. In the middle of the childcare room sat a four year old boy with strawberry blonde hair, two dimples on either side of his wide smile, and a curl brushing his forehead. His eyes though, were a clear shade of hazel.
A tear pricked her eye; she held it back. There’s no sense in mourning anymore, her conscience reminded her. That was years ago. Alex had passed away from a car accident. There was no bringing him back.
Lily sighed again, this time allowing all the weariness in her bones to flow out of her in a single breath. Her heart unexpectedly felt unusually heavy; exhaustion from years of grief weighed down on her mind. Again, the rainbow patterns grew fuzzy, transforming the room into a brilliant dazzling display of lights. It was like Heaven, she thought ironically. Almost like heaven.
She blinked. The room came back into focus. A clear piece of sharp glass flickered in the corner of her right eye.
“I’ll take him.” The whisper came out of her suddenly, unheard and unnoticed by anyone. The little boy in the corner went on sitting, a dark dreamy look in his eyes, unaware of the sentence that would change his life forever.
Lily repeated the phrase again, a little louder this time. “I’ll take him.”
The orphanage keeper looked up; all the children looked up. The boy looked up, his unfathomable expression transforming into one of mild inquisitiveness. His lips opened and closed silently. It almost formed into a smile, Lily would have liked to think. But no – he didn’t understand English.
In a clear voice, Lily repeated once more – “I’ll take him.”
The orphanage keeper cleared his throat and stared at her with a strange kind of look. She nodded, gestured towards the boy, and smiled again, this one with genuine enthusiasm. She ignored the peculiar look the manager was giving her.
“I’ll take him,” she said one last time. “I’ll take him now – and I’ll return for all the other little ones later.”
Again, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a small piece of broken glass. Its edges grew misty, and the rainbows once again danced in the middle of the orphanage.