A Girl Walked Alone This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It was raining and horrible. I was at mygrandma’s house, living with my older cousin. Sometimes I livedwith my parents and my two little brothers, but not that often becauseChina’s law only allows one or two children in each family. InChina they think boys are more important than girls. Some girls areabandoned or even killed. I was scared about that.

I always hadfun at my grandma’s house because she had parties. On the otherhand, I hated to watch the chickens and keep the birds away from therice that my grandma’s friends had harvested. Sometimes my cousinand I had to cut the grass in the hot sun to plant vegetables and fruitsbecause the markets were a 12-mile walk away. Sometimes we didn’tgo to school. I really hated school because there were lots of meanchildren.

At the Chinese New Year, I saw my parents and mylittle brothers. I was shy to walk to them, but when my father gave me anice smile, I smiled back. My mom did not smile or say hi. Ididn’t think she liked me.

My grandma made deliciousfoods. While we ate everybody talked about something I did not knowabout. I ignored the conversations and just enjoyed my dinner. When wewere done, I helped my grandma clean the table and dishes. Later myuncle, grandpa, dad and other relatives gave all the children money forHappy Chinese New Year. When I went to my grandma’s room, I saw mymom walking toward me from the bathroom. I smiled at her, but still shedid not smile back. I gave my mom money because I wanted her to love melike a great mom.

“No, you keep it,” said Mom in alow voice, and walked away. I was crying a little because I wanted tolive with them, but I guessed I had to live with my grandma for the restof my life. When I came out of the bedroom, my mom was playing with mybrothers and she looked so happy. My face started to get wet, so I wentoutside to breathe fresh air; looking at the sky made me feel better. Myfather came out and hugged me. Then I was happy, but I wished my momwould hug me too. I tried to be nice, but I guess nothing would make herlove me.

In the afternoon, I went to wash my feet at the pondwhere women were washing their clothes. It was cold and clean, with somefish living there. I was scared of fish. I walked back to mygrandma’s house. My feet got dirty again when I was walking. Ismelled something cooking and it made me hungry. I followed the smelland it was my grandma cooking our dinner.

Finally it was time toeat. My older cousin sat next to me and my other family members came andate too. The food was so good that everybody was happy.

The nextafternoon my father came.

“Hello,” he said with anice smile.

“Hi, what are you doing here?” askedGrandma when she came out of her bedroom.

“I came to takemy daughter to my work,” he said, proudly.

I stood up whenhe said that.

“Oh,” Grandma said softly. “Ididn’t know you were going to pick her uptoday.”

“That’s okay,” said Dad.

Iknew my grandma was confused when I looked at her. Maybe he was missingme so much that he wanted me to visit his work.

“Come, mylittle angel,” he said. “I’m going to take you to mywork. Would that be fun for you?”

I walked slowly with myhead down because I didn’t want to go.

“Good-bye,everyone,” he said. I didn’t say anything because I hated togo. My grandma started walking toward me. She said, “I will pickyou up in a couple of weeks.”

“In a couple ofweeks,” I said softly, thinking that was too long. “Thatwill be a month,” I said without looking at her.

She noddedand said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up.”

My father put the small umbrella over us because it was raining.As we walked far away from my grandparents’ house, we didn’tsay a word. We met my mother near my parents’house.

“Are you ready to go?” asked myfather.

“Yes, I’m ready to leave,” she said. Ilooked at my mother as she said that. She gave me a meanlook.

“Good,” said my father with a smile.

Istarted to turn red; my mom scared me when she looked so mean.

Aswe walked to the train station, I thought about telling my father that Ididn’t want to go, but I was afraid of my mother because she mightpinch my arm hard and give me another mean look. I know my fatherdidn’t know that I didn’t want to go.

It was night.We were waiting for the train for hours. I was holding my mother’shand, which I hated because she was holding me tight like a snake. Ilooked around and everybody was very tired and quiet too. As I lookedaround, the big candy store’s light met my eyes. I licked my lipswith a watering tongue. I was very hungry. Then people started to walkpast my view of the candies, and the candy store started to close. Icouldn’t see the delicious candy anymore.

We had no chairsto sit on because they were all taken. I was scared and nervous becauseI needed to go to the bathroom. I knew my mom would not let me. Idon’t know why, maybe she didn’t want to get lost becausethere were thousands of people around.

She saw me holding mypants. I was crying because I needed to go to the bathroom.

A mancame by and asked me, “Are you okay?”

My mom said,“She’s fine.”

My mom gave me a bad look whenthe man left. She pinched my neck so hard with her nails that it had abig, red lump. When I touched it, it hurt. I was very scared now. Mypants started to get wet. My face turned red.

Finally we got onthe train and even got seats. When I sat down my legs were wet and coldfrom the pants. My legs were stiff, like two frozen sticks. I was verytired from standing up all night. I didn’t sleep all day, morningand night. The sun started to rise. It was beautiful, but then I gotsick from the long train ride.

My father asked, “Are youfeeling okay?” and patted my back.

I nodded. It made mefeel better. I saw my mom next to my father looking out the window tosee the sun rising.

Finally the lady came with fried rice andeggs in a bowl. I ate the food so fast I couldn’t catch my breath.I was so hungry.

My father said, “Slow down, you’reeating too fast.”

I smiled at him and he gave me a bighug to make me feel better, which I did. I’m glad he did that. Itshowed me that he loved me more than my mother did.

The nextday I woke up and didn’t know where I was. Then I remembered I wasat my father’s work. The room was empty. I got out of bed and wentoutside to the lake. I sat on the grass, hoping to see the sailboats butthe sun was so bright that I couldn’t see them. I saw my momwalking toward me, so I stood still.

She said, “Go away,Guan Shu Qiong.”

She said that over and over and I startedto walk away. Then I remembered my grandma saying, “I will pickyou up.” I wished I could go back and tell my father, but she wastoo mean. She was standing and watching me until I went away. When Iturned my head she had disappeared in a gray fog.

I was walkingand walking. I kept looking back to see if my father was looking for me,but he did not come. As I was looking back, something stopped me,luckily, because I almost stepped into the road. I tried to cross theroad, but the cars and trucks were going too fast. Finally I ran acrossthe busy road, as fast as I could. When a truck honked, I ran faster.Then a man in a long gray coat with black boots followed right behindme. I looked back. Then he turned away and looked around. I knew he wasfollowing me, so I ran faster. He ran a little, but he couldn’tcatch me, which was good.

Now there was very little light fromthe sky. I was walking on the dry dirt road. I was very tired and neededto sleep. I needed a drink, too. I wondered how I would survive. Ireally missed my family and home with a nice bed, but I didn’twant to think about that because it made me cry.

Night came.There were no houses, no people. “I want to go home,” Isaid. It was frightening because I was only five years old.

Thestars caught my eyes, so I watched them while I walked. The stars makeme feel happy, but still I missed my parents and home. I wished mybrothers were with me, but they were home with the maid. Then I finallysaw a light so I ran faster to get there. My face turned happy. My legswere tired, but I tried to ignore it. When I got there, there were nopeople. The places were closed. I sank to the ground and cried andcried. Then I started to look around for a door to knock on. I finallyfound one and knocked. A man opened his door.

I said, “Iwant to go home” and started to cry because my legs weretired.

He was confused and went to get another person who gotanother person. I got really confused as everyone got more people. Theyall surrounded me and looked at me. All I needed was sleep and ahome.

Finally a young man came and took me to a small building. Isaw people working there in a small room. The man walked me upstairs toan office. He opened the door, so I went in. He closed the door. Theroom turned black. I could not see anything so I laid down on the floor,but it was hard like a big rock. I was trying to go to sleep. I slept alittle, but then I needed to go to the bathroom. The door didn’topen, so I started to cry.

“Open,” I said loudly. Thetears were on my cheeks from crying. Then later I tried to open it againand finally I opened the door. My pants started to get wet and thefloor, too. I went downstairs and I saw the same office with the people.I tried not to let them see me because they might catch me. I walked farfrom that place to find a better place.

Morning came. I walkedand walked. I saw a restaurant and ran there. I saw men cooking.

“What’s your name?” a teenage boy asked mewith a smile.

I was very tired, so I fell asleep on the floor infront of him. Then I felt somebody carrying me. Then I was sleeping on anice bed with a blanket like my own bed. I slept all the way through theday.

I woke up the next morning. I really had a nice sleep. I sawthe boy washing his hands and his face. Then he looked at me with asmile, so I smiled back.

He said, “Wash your hands and yourface. He took me to his restaurant where he worked and we ate rice witheggs. He said, “I have to go to work now.”

I got outof the seat and started to look around. I stopped at a store and watcheda lady carry a big rice bag to the other room. I started to talk to hera little bit when she came back. She started to pick up the other ricebag to put it in the other room, and I saw money on the floor when shewalked away. I put my right foot on top of the money, slid it toward meand picked it up. I ran back to the restaurant to buy soup and a bamboostick. When I finished, the teenage boy came.

He said, “Ihave to take you to the ladies’ house.” I didn’t knowwhat to say. He put me on the back of his bike seat and we rode on thebusy street. I had never been on a bike before. It was scary when hewent down a hill. I fell asleep on the bike seat. The teenager carriedme to the women’s house and put me to bed.

When I woke up Ihad to climb down a ladder. I had never slept on a tall bed before. Iwalked out of the room and saw two women breaking stringbeans.

They asked, “Can you help us?” I started tohelp. One said, “Don’t worry, he’ll pick youup.” I did not know what to say. I was very shy. We finishedbreaking the string beans and the teenage boy came.

“Thankyou, ladies,” said the boy.

The next day, I washed myhands and my face and we walked to the restaurant. When we got there,the boy went back to his work. A woman he knew took me to her house. Shewas very nice. She put makeup on my face and black eyelashes, but mycheeks turned black from me rubbing my eyes. Next she put red lipstickon my lips. When she was done, I looked in the mirror. I looked pretty.I had fun with her.

Two weeks later when I got to the restaurant,I saw men and a van. The young man told me that he was moving to find abetter place for a restaurant. I nodded sadly. A driver opened thevan’s door and I got inside. As he drove away, I looked andeveryone at the restaurant was waving at me. I turned and sat quietly.It was the longest ride.

When the van stopped, we were at abuilding called Kunming Welfare Institute. Inside a lady came and tookme to the nurse, who weighed me and gave me a shot. That hurt, but I didnot cry. Then she took me for a quick bath. She dressed me and cut myhair very short, like a boy. When she was done, she took me to thechildren’s room. They were watching a movie. I sat on a smallstool and looked around. A girl was next to me and I smiled at her. Wewere playing during the movie. I pinched her on her leg, but not hard.Then she pinched me back, so I pinched her again. She told the teacher.I tried to run away but the teacher caught me and the childrensurrounded me.

I started to cry. Then the teacher grabbed mehard and told me to face the wall and put my arms out like the letter Ton the wall. If my head turned, she would kick me. The children werevery quiet watching their movie. When it ended, they put their stoolsnear the wall.

“You can go eat now,” commanded theteacher.

My face was red and I did not look at the girl who toldon me. We ate rice and vegetables. I hated the vegetables, so I had tostand on the wall. There were other children standing on a wall, I wasnot the only one. When I was finished, I went outside to play in thecourtyard. One child started to talk to me, but I was shy. Icouldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy because our hair was allcut short.

Night came. Our room was big and had eleven childrenin it. I liked my bed and fell asleep fast. Then at midnight I woke upbecause I was sweaty and my bed felt like I’d wet it. It was hardto sleep in a hot bedroom. Then I saw a lady sitting in her rockingchair. She was sewing while she rocked. She seemed like she was shining,but she looked like one of my teachers. I put my blanket over me littlebecause that was scary. Maybe I was dreaming, but I think I really sawit.

The next morning we went to school across the courtyard andupstairs. We learned to sing and write. The teacher was very nice. A fewdays later, I went to a different school with the girl who had told onme. I hated getting up in the morning. The sky was still dark. Then theteacher announced, “Today we are planting sunflowers seeds in backof the school.”

“That sounds fun,” said agirl.

“Good,” said the teacher.

Soon a ladypicked me up from school. I didn’t know why. She took me back towhere I slept and other ladies changed my clothes. Now I wore a pair ofred pants and a red and white jacket. Then they brought me to the centerof the courtyard, where one lady said, “Come,child.”

They took me in a yellow car and I sat between twoladies. I was very quiet. They gave me something to eat. The man droveto a new building. I looked out the window and saw a beautiful orangesun shining in the water. The car stopped and we entered a room where Isaw a young lady and a young man sitting.

They said something ina different language. I was confused, and wondered why I was there. Iwalked closer to them. They gave me candy and a baby with a pink bottle.They said something else which I didn’t understand because I onlyspoke Chinese. I sat on a chair and started to play with them. The mantook my arm to wave at the camera the women was holding. I did not knowwhat it all meant.

The orphanage workers told me that thesepeople were my new mama and papa. They took me to a hotel. It was nice.The lady gave me a bubble bath. I had never seen a real tub beforebecause my grandparents had a round wooden tub. The soap smelled good. Iwas clean and got new clothes to wear.

Then we went to eat. Thenew parents spoke to me but I did not understand, so I kept eating.Later we went shopping for clothes and shoes.

A few days laterwe went on some amusement rides, but I got a little sick from a ridethat spun around and around. I really had fun. When night came, theytucked me in bed and kissed me on my cheeks.

In a few days wewent on an airplane to America. I slept the whole way.

I wasadopted December 9, 1996. When I got older, I realized that in America,you are allowed to have more children and they are treated equally. Mynew parents took me to a Chinese meeting to meet other little girls whowere adopted. I saw American parents who were very happy about their newchild.

Still, every night, I think about my little brothers, mydad and my other family members. What are they doing in China?Though I think about them, it’s getting harder to remember whatthey look like.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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