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Stealing Bread

The sky looked as if an artist had splattered dark paint for the background, and then carelessly knocked over hues of deep blue, crimson red and dull orange. The expressionless people were just as hopeless as the sky. The crestfallen eyes of the farmers scanned their mostly barren fields. Their dry lips were craving water and their stomachs some food. John had been tired of the corrupted government. Although they had a limited education and no access to newspapers, such as “The Gazette”, all farmers knew how the government officials and the nobility were dining and feasting like kings, while they were sweating like dogs. He stumbled angrily into his cottage. His wife, Faith was sitting down, mending their daughter, Lizzie’s worn out blouse. They didn’t exchange a word because each was so engrossed in their own tasks. John was staring with mixed emotion at his fields and several wilted crops. His eyes scanned the veins on the leaves of the droopy lettuce and his eyes stung with rage as he compared those veins to the veins of the cold-blooded hearts of those who caused his family to live in such dread. Faith was diligently sewing each stitch carefully knowing that this blouse would be worn on her beautiful and precious daughter’s back.

Their silence was broken when the door flung open and Lizzie, a petite eight year-old student with perfect front bangs and cascading golden hair entered. “Madam says that the tuition needs to be doubled and the school hours are cut down buy one –third! So, everyday I would be home at this hour!” Her worried parents, alarmed at his news, looked up with creased foreheads. Lizzie just flashed a wide grin, revealing a missing front tooth. John and Faith couldn’t believe this, with just barely enough to get by; the fact that school decides to increase tuition and decrease school hours is asinine. That evening before dinner, John and Faith were complaining about the news. “I just can’t believe this. Lizzie should just quit school and mend clothes like you do; at least we can make some more money” John huffed a bit too hastily. “Are you insane? A month ago, my small business at the marketplace has been a hopeless case. The poor can’t afford it, and the rich – well why would they need to mend their clothes? Besides, our daughter must attend school!”

At the dinner table, Lizzie saw that the only dish was bread. She could sense that something was wrong. As she bit into the warm and soft bread, she exclaimed, “I don’t want to go to school!” For a second, both of her parents were at a lost for words. “Lizzie, honey, we could definitely afford one more week of school. After that, we will definitely find a way.” Her mother’s soothing tone was comfortable. After everyone had two pieces of the bread, there was a small piece left. Far from half full, her parents winked at each other. “Oh, papa, aren’t you so very full?” Faith questioned (premeditating the answer). “Why, I am going to explode! We can’t eat another morsel. Here, Lizzie, please, help us finish the bread.” All along, Lizzie, who was drooling and eyeing that piece, greedily grabbed it and enjoyed every crumb.

After a week, the time when John and Faith couldn’t afford Lizzie’s education came. So, Lizzie often helped her father on the fields or helped her mother mend the few clothes she had from middle-class customers. Sometimes, her mother would train her by sending her out to the market to buy bread for the evening. But, somehow, every evening there was a bit more bread than the previous night. Maybe the economy was reviving. But no, Lizzie proudly replied “The bread vendor said I was cute, so he gave me a few left-over scraps of bread.”

After two months, John stumbled into the cottage as usual, frustrated by the diminishing number of crops that was good enough to sell. Lizzie was mending clothes, her fingers ran through the fine embroidery of the middle-class children’s clothes, and felt a tinge of envy. “Where’s mama?” John asked, curious as to why Faith would leave their daughter home. “She went out to the marketplace. She should be home soon.” As she was searching through the pile of clothes for one that needed some patching up, a piece of wrinkly paper fell on the floor. She picked it up and showed it to her father. It read:


Dear John,
Please take care of Lizzie for me. I am sorry. As you are reading this letter, I am at the police quarters under interrogation, and would be sent to jail. I have a confession to make. I have been stealing these past months; I have been going to the marketplace with Lizzie and distracted her, telling her to glance at some trinkets in the next vendor. Then, I’d steal a few extra pieces of bread into my basket while the elderly vendor wasn’t looking. I’d told Lizzie to say that she had been going to the marketplace by herself so you wouldn’t suspect anything. But, Lizzie doesn’t know anything about my stealing, please don’t tell her. I’m sorry again for not being able to watch over Lizzie with you. Tell her I love her. I will be fine, don’t worry about me.





Love, Faith

John’s eyes were red with anger and fright. How could his wife do something so immoral? Now, he knows why they still have so much to eat although the harvest was terrible. He was also helpless when he thought of what the corrupted officials would do to his wife. He looked at Lizzie, who was teary eyed and sniffling (she must have been reading the letter as well). His daughter, terrified, looked into his eyes and choked out, “M-mama lied; I was the one who stole the bread!”





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

mimo said...
Apr. 10, 2010 at 8:35 pm
totally loved it! brought a drop of tear to my eyes
 
Ericax3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 16, 2010 at 9:03 pm
Thank you so much!
 
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