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Little Miss High and Mighty

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    My name is Adelina. I live in a small village, but I did not always. This is my story.

    When I was seven, my parents were tired of taking me everywhere with them. You see, they traveled a lot. They used to leave me with nannies, but they started taking me with them. They showered me with expensive gifts,  but normally left me alone in some hotel somewhere. It wasn’t a bad life, exactly. I got to eat and do whatever I wanted, but it was a little lonely. They told me whenever I asked why I had to be alone, “There are kids without food. You should be lucky!” I hated it. Finally, they got tired of me. I suspect they never really loved me, I was, to them, just a doll to show off. They decided to plop me down in some small village and leave me there asleep. I woke up with a strange feeling, like I was being watched. Suddenly, a girl popped out of the shadows. “Well, who have we got here? Looking quite the little lady?”
    Another, older girl said, “Do you know the way my dear? ‘cause the woods get dark and shady!”
    One grabbed me and commented on my dress. It was one of my plainer ones, nothing special. Then I noticed what they wore. It was threadbare, rough, dirty, and worn. More girls stepped out of the shadows, and I noticed that a few had no shoes.
    “Who are you?” I asked.
    They began an elaborate formation, saying I should buy new manners.
    The littlest girl said, “We get quite offended when you look at us funny!”
    They began chanting, yelling to push me in the mud.
    “Push her in the mud!”
    “No, please don’t” I pleaded.
    “Let us see her get all dirty!”
    “Leave me alone!”
    “You don’t want to be her friend, you’d end up talking silly!”
    “And wear these lacy frocks. You’d just end up being chilly!”
    I then realized, they were jealous. They spoke about how they were free without money, but you could see the longing in their eyes. I sang out, “Please, don’t believe those things you say. I just would not dare to judge you that way. Because all I see when I look at you, is the friendship I miss, and want to share too. All I ask is that we set judgement aside. Don’t assume the worst, I-”
    At this I broke off as the biggest girl shoved me aside and yelled again.
    “Push her in the mud!”
    I was startled when the smallest girl said, “She just wants to be our friend!”
    A few of the other smaller girls began huddling in a protective circle around me. I was pleading for the older ones to stop, but they just kept chanting “Push her in the mud!”
    I was sobbing, and the oldest girl grabbed me and shoved me into a tree, where I stumbled and fell into a slick patch of mud. She roughly took hold of the other girls and pulled them away, back to the village. I began to try to crawl after them, but I could not. They left, and the woods were again pitch black. Defeated, I rested my head against a rock and fell asleep.

    I woke up to the sound of birds chirping, groggily wondering why the bed felt so hard, and where the nanny was. I rubbed my eyes, and sat up in shock. The events of the previous night flooded into me. I looked at myself and laughed, I really did look like I belonged in the village now! My once pristine stockings were streaked with grass and mud, and my dress was torn, the ribbon shredded, and the pearl string broken. I then realized that my arm and leg really hurt, but my leg more. I checked, and saw a long, jagged gash down my arm. I then looked down at my grubby leg, and I noticed a huge wound on my knee. I struggled to my feet, my knee dripping blood, in agony. I staggered a few steps before my weak knee buckled and I collapsed. I took up the fallen string from the pearls and ripped the ribbon from my dress. I was not sure if I was doing it right, but I tied a bandage around the knee. I then crawled over to the well and washed the blood and dirt off me. When I looked at myself, The dress and baggy sleeves covered the wounds, and I only looked a little more ragged than when I arrived.
I then saw the tip of a toe peeking out from behind a nearby tree. The little girl came over to me. I asked, “How long have you been there?”
    “I’ve only just come” she said. “Are you alright? You took a nasty, um, fall last night.”
    “I’m fine” I said. Even if she was sympathetic, I did not want to look weak. She led me to the village, where they held a council and decided to dump me in the orphanage. All the girls from yesterday were there. I asked, “Do any of you have parents?”
    “No.” They said their parents had been killed in a devastating fire when all the children were on a trip. They had come upon this other nearby village, and been allowed to stay.
    My stomach grumbled just then. “When’s breakfast?” I asked.
    The girls all looked down, but the oldest sneered. “You missin’ your mommy?” She teased. “Aww, boo hoo, the little princess isn’t getting a five-star breakfast in bed today!”
    “Don’t be mean!” A smaller girl protested. “Don’t you think we’ve harassed her enough?”
    “There’s not even a scratch on her!” The oldest said. “We didn’t do nothing to her!”
    I thought of the dreadful wound on my knee, and resisted the urge to shove it in her face, show her what she had done.
    “We protect our own!” A new girl said. She looked about ten years old.
    “She ain’t one of us!” The tall girl said. “She’s an outsider, a posh little princess. Aren’t you, little miss high and mighty?”
    “No!” I said. “I’m here to stay! I’m one of you now! My parents left me!”
    “You’re just saying that for the pity!” She sneered. “You are probably trying to fool us and laugh at us!”
    Suddenly, a loud pealing rang out through the air.
    “We must hurry!” One girl said. “Or we won’t get food!”
    “What do you mean, no food?” I asked. “Do they make you miss breakfast?”
    One little girl stepped up and told me, “We orphans are treated like dirt here. They try to be kind, but there just ain’t enough to go around. What little there is, we gotta fight for it.”
    Then they pulled me along with them. My knee protested at every step, but I refused to give in. We began sweeping the streets and floors, scrounging in the dirt for anything we could sell or eat. I sighed in relief when it was over, thinking maybe we were done. Far from it.    We ran to the fields. When we reached, I had tears in my eyes from the pain.
    “Are you okay?” One of the girls that had helped me the previous night came up and put her hand on my shoulder.
    “Leave her!” The oldest girl barked.
    We then began cutting the crops, weeding and watering. It was backbreaking work, and we toiled from dawn to noon. The other girls seemed used to it, but I had cuts on my feet from the stiff, fresh cut stalks, and splinters and blisters covered my hands. My knee had begun to bleed a little again, but I just tied the makeshift bandage a little tighter and kept going. Nobody was going to help me, nobody ever had. I had long since learned from my nannies that life wasn’t fair, and if I showed weakness, nobody would help. Compared to these girls, though, I was a doll.
    Finally, the work was over. I was excited. After missing both dinner and breakfast, I was starving. I followed the girls to the orphanage, and was immediately disappointed. There were a few small, hard loaves of bread.
They immediately dove in, dividing up the food among themselves. The oldest girl made sure everybody got a fair share. Everybody, that is, except for me. I went in to receive a chunk, and she pushed me aside. “You don’t deserve this!” She told me. “Stop being so selfish and go away. You barely did any work today!”
The youngest girl then said, “She is new here, give her a break.”
“The others just all turned away, feeling sorry for me, but unwilling to risk the wrath of the older girls.
The little girl knelt next to me and whispered, “My name is Rose. What’s yours?”
“I was stunned. This tiny girl was actually showing compassion. She cared enough to ask my name, which is more than my nannies ever did for me.
I told her my name was Adelina.
She then did something even more surprising. She began tearing off a piece of her bread. She handed it to me.
That bread was more precious than any other gift I received before. Before, the gifts were meaningless, just showers of money. But this girl, who had so little in her life, had given me some of her hard-earned meal.
“I can’t accept this!” I said, though I stared at the bread in my hand with longing.
“Just eat.” She said.
We sat side by side, eating that dry, crusty bread in silence. After, we went and labored around the village even more.
When we got back to the orphanage, I realized there were no beds. The girls all curled up in little groups, huddling with moth-eaten blankets. I stayed in the corner all night, shivering, feeling miserable, though it really was not that cold outside. I shivered not due to cold, but rather exhaustion and fear.

    I awoke to the prodding of the oldest girl. She was yelling at me.
    “You lazy, good-for-nothing little freak! So you think you are a pampered little princess? The whole world will bow at your feet if you just sit here? Well, get up! We have work to do! I said, get up!”
    With this, she grabbed my arm roughly. I was sure I would have bruises on my arm soon. She pulled me along behind me, not listening to my pleas as my knee dragged on the ground. We reached the group, and she let go of me. I immediately collapsed.           
“What did you do to her?” Says one girl.
    “Just shut up!” She yelled back. “I didn’t do anything! She’s just a little spoiled brat, that’s all!”
    As they all turned away and I struggled to rise, the youngest girl gasped.
    “What is it now?” A girl with a long, thin face and a long-faded shirt with torn leggings asked impatiently.
    Without saying anything, she knelt next to me and pulled my now shabby dress away from my leg.
    “What happened” A girl asked. “Did that just happen?”
    I told them how I got the injury. Immediately the girls looked guilty. The oldest girl asked, “You have had that for all of yesterday?”
    I nodded, and immediately, they bundled up all the blankets and set me on top of them. They untied the bandage I had made, and immediately set to work, fixing it up. The girl that had given me the injury asked, “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
    I pointed to my arm, and they fixed up the gash as best they could, tying my arm into a makeshift sling. Then I asked if they had any ice.
    “Why?” A shy little girl in the corner asked.
    “I have a small, erm, bruise I have to tend to.” My hand gravitated to where the oldest girl had grabbed me. The girls grabbed my sleeve and pulled it up, gasping at the vivid handprint on my arm.
    “Who did this?”
    I told them it was the oldest girl.
    “You mean Georgie?”
    I said yes. They glared accusingly at her.
    “And when were you going to tell us?” They shifted their attention back to me. Now it was my turn to look embarrassed.
    Then Georgie spoke up. “I’m surprised that she did not immediately complain about her wounds. It appears I have been a bit harsh. I apologise, you are not who I assumed you were. We are a family now, Adelina, and family sticks together.”
    From then on, my life greatly improved. I even got used to the work times and the food amounts. Life was good, you could say, for us orphans. Together, we became a close knit family. I’ve kept my eyes open, though, for any newcomers to the group. I haven’t seen any outsiders yet, but you never know. The next Adelina might be just around the corner!

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