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It’s strange to think about all of the things that we find beautiful. For instance, a single drop of blood, glistening on a pallet of white snow, or wide blue eyes, glazed and shining, staring blankly up at the cloudy grey sky without really seeing anything, or even a city, up ablaze in the night, flames flickering toward the stars can all be beautiful. They are terrible, yes, but if you look closely, you can see the beauty of it; the striking contrast of red on white, snowflakes reflecting on the blood; the sparkle of those dead eyes, the small curve of their lips; and the ever-moving flames of the fire, the screams of the city’s people making harmonious music to your ears.
Then you take a step back, and you see the true picture—the single drop of blood becomes one of many from a dying boy in the snow, the beautiful blue eyes become those of a girl on a grassy lawn, a knife protruding from her chest, and the flickering fire becomes a flame on the flesh of people trying to escape from the city. The true picture is a horrid thing, which is why, when I was very young (too young to remember, in fact), I took a huge leap forward, using all but a magnifying glass, getting closer and closer until I could only see one world; one simple, humane world with simple, humane people. And there, naïve and innocent, is where I stayed.
But, of course, sooner or later you will have to take a few steps back and survey the scene before moving on to more important things in life. Because I had spent so long, so close, I don’t know how. I didn’t know how to take a step back to see how things truly were. I would never understand until someone came and saved me.
Both of my parents knew everything about me, every little secret. Unfortunately, they both disappeared after my tenth birthday, without leaving any kind of hint for me.
After weeks of waiting at the police station, curled up in uncomfortable plastic chairs, the cops finally sent me to the orphanage to help out until my parents showed up again. I was to assist the orphanage with the difficult children; changing diapers, feeding them, burping them, potty training them...you name it. I was there, and I was working. Two years later, I saw the cops again, dressed up and professional, waiting at the orphanage doors. I was ecstatic.
“They are here?” I asked, “Can I go home now?”
But my parents hadn’t shown up. Instead, the cops had bad news to give me.
“Face it, kid,” the female cop told me, her expression that of a person trying to look sorry, but not succeeding, “Your parents didn’t want you anymore. You were too much work and you were too expensive. Your parents had problems with money, and they couldn’t afford you anymore. So they left you to find a better life.”
It was too much for a twelve year old. I broke down sobbing, and the orphanage keeper gave me a sympathetic glance before she hustled the cops back outside. “It’s alright, sweetheart,” she told me, an arm around my shoulders as she led me into the back into the kitchen. “It’s going to be alright. You know you are always welcome here, right?”
“I will never be welcome here,” I hissed at her. “You can say that all you want, but I am just here for your convenience. I am just here so you can have another slave.”
The poor woman’s mouth opened in a silent O. She never thought that I would ever let out my anger onto her. I had been the quiet child since I’d arrived, sullen and serious, always a great help to her. She didn’t think I would be standing here now, a large, intricately jeweled knife in my hand that I had seized from the kitchen drawer. “Please, don’t—?
“Miss Everly!” A little girl burst through the door, seeking the orphanage keeper, but instead she screamed at the sight of us. The cops, who had been standing just outside the door, came in after her, pulling their guns from the holsters at their hips.
“Put the gun down, little girl,” the female cop yelled to me. “I know you are upset, but we need you to put the gun down now.”
“We don’t want trouble,” the male cop agreed. He was ruggedly handsome, and in a way, reminded me of my father.
“What gun?” I asked finally. “This is a knife.” I raised it, trying to show them, but the move was threatening. Both their guns went off and hit me in the stomach. A fiery pain spread through my body, and I gasped. “Miss Everly,” I whispered to the orphanage keeper. “I promise. I wasn’t going to do anything. Please don’t let me die.”
“We’ve heard it all before,” the female cop snapped. She put her gun back into its holster and knelt to pick me up. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do...” My vision went black.
“Drew!” I fell out of my bed and hit hard concrete. My side and back exploded in agony, and I let out my breath through my teeth. “Drew, just because you are new doesn’t mean you get to sleep in. Get the up!”
“What?” I looked up, into a tall man’s icy blue eyes. His white-blonde hair was slicked back and he was clothed in a dark blue body suit. The black leather belt that was around his waist had a nightstick and a pistol. In a moment, the past few days came rushing back to me: waking up in the hospital, my stomach hurting like hell, in a wheelchair in the courtroom, receiving concerned looks from the jury as the police wheeled me away, and then shivering naked in an empty room while the cops searched my clothes for possible weapons. I was in jail, and I would be for three more years.
“The name’s Harrison,” the icy-eyed jailor said, peering down at me. “Welcome to hell.” He spread his arms wide and grinned. “Here, we will voluntarily torment you in our all-new torture chamber, complete with free mints. Watch your step as you go down the stairs.”
“What?” I repeated, gaping. If there weren’t bars separating us, he would’ve punched my shoulder. “I’m joking. We don’t torture. But, since you screwed up, you don’t get to have feather pillows and fluffy slippers. You have to work, and you have to work hard. That’s the way it works here, Drew.”
“I would prefer Peri,” I muttered.
“Alright, then. Peri it is.” He handed me a heavy mop. “Now clean your cell.”
And thus began a long sentence, a longer friendship, and a new life.