Black clouds brawled in the stormy night as the unforgiving wind bashed against the metal balcony railings. In the silence of the night, a boom echoed across the dimly-lit city, sending trembles through the apartment buildings. Rain fell onto the windowpane, while lightning flashed in the far distance.
Ten o’clock. Chatter filled the living room, irritating the insomnia-ridden Amelia, who had already been staring at the ceiling for hours, wishing she’d fall into a land of imagination. As the noises outside the bedroom grew, her curiosity grew. Gently tip-toeing to the door, Amelia placed her ear to the door, only to make out muffled sounds and the occasional “ma'am” in a foreign accent.
The voices melted away, and the house quieted once more. It was as if nothing had happened. When Amelia woke the next morning, she tried to find one reason to go to school. Nothing came to mind. The dreaded feeling of despair sat on her chest; she didn’t want to face the crude remarks, the humiliation, and the loneliness. Every day in that monotonous place was a battle. Nonetheless, her parents forced her to go. Frankly, they wanted to shirk any responsibilities they had when it came to Amelia.
With a loud sigh, Amelia stepped into the living room. Suddenly, she heard pots and plates clinking in the kitchen. Her parents never cooked, and their meals regularly consisted of takeouts. She peeked through the kitchen doors to see an unfamiliar petite woman with jet-black hair and honeyed skin standing over the stove, furiously stirring a bubbling pot of oatmeal. It was funny, she thought. She’d rarely seen a woman with tan skin that resembled her own. Amelia’s parents always thought her skin was too dark.
The aroma of freshly toasted bread and hot coffee filled the air. As Amelia took a deep breath, the woman turned around. Her hazel eyes lit up as she said, “Aren’t you adorable?” Her strong dialect strung each word together loosely as her inflections rose at the end of the sentence.
“Who are you? Why are you in my home? Where are my parents?”
“Don’t worry,” she smiled, “I’m your new maid, Rosalie.”
. . .
At school, Amelia she heard whispers and giggles as she trudged down the hall. Without looking, she knew her peers were making fun of her. She didn’t know why they always seemed to find a reason. It was finally time to stand up for herself. At the top of her lungs, she yelled, “How about talking about yourselves for once in your life?”
Amelia had failed to realize that the whispers were about something else or someone else. For once, it was not about her. Her words choked when she saw the widened eyes and gaped mouths. She understood what had just happened. After the outburst, their giggles turned into roaring laughter. Some rolled their eyes while others called her a freak. Heat rose to her cheeks, and tears threatened to spill at the corner of her eyes. Without a second thought, Amelia sprinted towards the parking lot, where she ran headfirst into Rosalie, who had been waiting to pick Amelia up after school.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay? Talk to me,” Rosalie urged as she observedAmelia’s shaking body.
“None of your business. Leave me alone!”
Amelia’s hot tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down her cheeks. She shoved Rosalie aside. Ignoring Rosalie’s cries of protest, Amelia only wanted to get away.
. . .
When the night turned pitch black, and the streets echoed with only police sirens, Amelia returned home only to find chocolates and a table full of her favorite food. Confused and distraught, Amelia held onto a glimmer of hope that her parents finally realized how miserable she was. Maybe after months of being called a “baby” for complaining about her classmates’ insults, her parents finally believed her. To her dismay, Rosalie was the only one home.
“You’re finally home! I was worried sick! Are you okay?”
“Whatever, it’s not like you care anyways. You only ask because you wouldn’t get paid if you lost me. No one in this world cares about me. Not even my mother.”
“What are you saying? I am...”
Before Rosalie could finish the end of her sentence, Amelia slammed the metal door, crushing Rosalie’s fingers. Amelia stumbled and fell on top of the duvet sheets as teardrops rolled down her cheek for the third time that day.
. . .
The iPhone alarm rang through the hollow chambers of Amelia’s bedroom. What woke her up was not the infuriating beeping, but rather the screams exchanged between her parents in the hallway. The incessant fighting began the moment she came into her parents’ life and had not ended since. Her mother never neglected to remind Amelia that she was the burden in their relationship, the aberration. Amelia was the predator, and they were the victims. Now Amelia cried not because of her classmates’ verbal abuse, but because she was sure her parents didn’t love her. She cried because no one cared.
Covering her ears to quiet all the shouting, Amelia opened her bedroom door to find Rosalie sound asleep against the wall. During the night, Rosalie had heard her cries and waited until Amelia fell asleep. Her heart ached for Amelia’s sorrow.
“Hey, what are you doing on the floor? Get up.”
“You’re awake. How are you feeling? You know you can talk to me, right?”
“God, why are you so frustrating? I don’t need your pity. You’re not my therapist, and you’re not my mom. You’re just a maid, just do what a maid does. Go clean or something.”
With those words, Amelia ran out of the front door, leaving without a word. It’s not as if the parents cared about her whereabouts. They had never asked. Amelia could go wherever she pleased, so long as she came back each night. Many times before, she had run away, but this time felt different. As she ran, her heart ached and each step became more difficult than the last.
Under the graffiti-painted undertow, Amelia finally slowed down, and sobs escaped her mouth. In the dark shadows, she sat on the wet concrete, bawling into her hands. Teardrops wetted her sleeves as she wept furiously. The world was against her. Nothing had felt quite right in her life. She never felt at home anywhere, not even with her parents. She faced the world alone. Angry and frustrated, she took her frustration out on the wall. With each punch, her knuckles split open. When she finally gave up, she broke down again.
Hours passed, and the sun began to set, casting a saturated glow on the treetops. The cotton candy clouds brushed against the warmth of the sun and merged with the tangerine sky. Squirrels hopped from one tree branch to the next, collecting freshly-picked acorns. Families gathered near a marble water fountain, where water droplets sparkled under the sun’s rays.
Amelia mindlessly walked through the streets, taking in her beautiful surroundings. She believed that she didn’t deserve this world, this gilded society that had broken her hope entirely. A feeling of nausea tugged at her stomach as her vision blurred. Unable to see clearly, she rubbed her eyes, only to find herself facing headfirst towards a speeding truck. The automobile grew larger by the second, and Amelia closed her eyes, waiting for impact. It was okay.
The bone-crushing sound never came.
Amelia fell onto the sidewalk as she heard the truck crash. She turned to see Rosalie lying motionless in the middle of the road. The world was silent, and all that Amelia could do was scream. After what felt like hours, strangers in black pulled Rosalie’s body into an ambulance. Amelia wanted to run after Rosalie, but her body refused to move. She stared at the ground as the alarm faded into the distance.
Amelia raced back home in hopes of finding out information about Rosalie. Amelia needed to reach someone who could help her. She needed to get to the hospital, but she had no car, no ID, no money, nothing. Without a second thought, she dug through all of her parents’ drawers, flipping their bedroom inside out. Suddenly, she stumbled upon an enclosed manila envelope that had been buried.
She opened it. Adoption Papers was written in bold block letters across a document. Her breath caught in her throat as she slowly unfolded the papers. Contracts, birth certificates, and photos fell out. Skimming through lines of words, she saw the words that confirmed her suspicion. “Amelia Brenig, adopted by Claudia and Eugene Brenig” was written on the bottom of the first page. What surprised Amelia was not that she was adopted, which she had suspected, but rather the signature by her birth mother, Rosalie Mullins.