This is my first post, so any critiques would be appreciated!!
The playground square was half-colored with green grass and grey stones, surrounded on three sides by black bars that jutted up to unclimbable heights. To everyone outside of the orphanage this was a prison. To the orphans of St. Augustine’s House for Abandoned and Delinquent Children, this was paradise. The moment the bells rang from the classrooms –the signal for recess- they all rushed into the green square to play and enjoy a few measly minutes away from studies, even settling with the old balls and sticks for games.
But none of the boys looked out beyond the gates- except one.
That boy’s head leaned against the black bars, holding onto the bars like a prisoner. Yet he wasn’t sad at all; in fact, his head stayed up as he looked at the people, the streets and sky. It was the only time David got to see the world beyond the bars of the orphanage.
While it’s true that he was able to look out from the huge windows in the sleeping quarters, here it looked alive, like there was more to it than what he saw at night. Some of the people even slowed down to stare at him like he was on display, but never to talk to him. He knew already that the only fault with living behind bars was being ignored from the outside. Orphans weren’t liked very much in London.
Yet he kept looking out, regardless of the stares. Maybe, just maybe, he would find one person who could bring him into the world outside. He had always dreamed of a place where there was always color, places to run, trees to climb, and nightlights to help him sleep at night.
Yet here, on an autumn Saturday in 1913, clouds blocked the sky and colored the world with shades of grey. The only bright colors were from the leaves still on the trees, slowly drying and being taken by the wind. London's autumns were always grey; they barely had any sun, replaced with clouds and rain. Maybe that's why everyone else appeared so dreary and bland, especially the administrating Nuns. And especially the old groundkeepers lurking around, muttering something in Latin.
Maybe the outsiders thought he was in a time out, that he deserved to be behind the bars of the orphanage. But they wouldn't know anything about him if they didn’t ask. Plus they were mostly what he began to call grown up.
He had learned to repulse a new word- grown up. It had bad thoughts attached to it, especially since it came from the person he least liked in the Orphanage's administration: Father Priest, the only man among the nuns, with cold eyes and a sturdy white beard. He had said it before, when the 12th year boys, like him, were starting to learn more of the New Testament. He had said that this was the "first step to becoming what you all want to be- good grown-ups." Anything Father Priest had to say about things like that never came across well with him, even though Father rarely spoke to the boys outside of sermon.
He was supposed to have learned a lot today, especially after what the class was told at the beginning of the lesson. Sure he was able to pay attention, but that day he just didn't like what he heard. He drifted off into another daydream.
And now, as he moved from one side of the grounds to the other, he continued to spin a tale around it. His friends knew he had great stories to tell at night. Even some other boys would sit in as he spun a tale about some place beyond their wildest dreams. Places where clouds flew below the ground, where water flowed upwards, where people could fly higher than birds, places where people were so tiny they used prams to get around.
George and Nathan loved his stories. They gave them a place to go to if they got too bored to study.
Yet time always flew when he lost himself in daydreams. The end-of-recess bell rang him back into reality, into the one thing he hated the most of recess; the single-file line back inside.
He never felt like he belonged to the orphanage. All you had to do was look at him. His hair stuck out from the endless heads of black and brown hair, even if it was always cut short and covered with the smooth plaid hat that Sister Deborah got him for his birthday a long time ago.
He was the only one who always looked down to avoid getting attention to his freckles and especially his eye color. Even though some didn’t mind, others still avoided him. Most of them were new kids and they spread the rumor they heard before; He had a rare disease that gave him hideous spots on his face.
They marched in tight rows as their hard shoes clomped on the cobble-stone floor. He followed his row of classmates to the classroom, until a Nun walk straight up to him and got his full attention.
"David, please come with me. Fathe' Priest wants te see ya." It was Sister Agnes, and she looked like she was trying to hold back a smile.
The surrounding boys didn't know what to think as he was pulled out of line. Out of the Hundreds of boys here, why him?
David looked curious, but couldn’t say anything.
She chuckled a little, which concerned him.
They walked the rest of the way not only in silence, but at a quicker pace than usual. The booth was on the other side of the building, and past the huge sanctuary, shrouded in darkness due to the absence of light, near the Priest's office.
When she went to open the booth, a stench of garlic, wrinkles and some powder rose up and smacked him in the face. It took a while to get used to, but it smelled terrible as he went inside.
As she shut the door, Sister Agnes assured him she would be there.
Probably to snoop on what Father Priest says.
After the door closed, the only light was a small candle in the corner of the small quarters. The rest of its walls needed serious cleaning, as they looked black from the light's reflection, or lack thereof.
Then he heard the door open on the other side and as he saw a silhouette of a person walk in, he immediately bowed and took of his hat, a muscle reflex of respect. He came so close to the seat that he began to hear mumblings of Latin- David never liked Latin. Something about knowing a language he'll never use in real life made him despise it.
Then the mumbling stopped.
"David, I presume?" His voice was raspy and direct.
"Yes, Father Priest."
"I've called you in here for something very important. So important that I needed to tell you in private."
"Of course, Father."
He cleared his throat and sealed David's fate.
"I thought there was something special about you the moment you came into our lives, that G-d had a plan for you. As you grow up (there are those words again) before our eyes, I've seen you become the man that everyone else wants. I've only heard the best about you, and I've seen how you'll be able to take my place someday. You understand?"
David paused in utter disbelief.
"I'm to... replace you... as the Priest?"
"Correct, my son. But you’re still too young, being that you’re still in your 12th year. So after you reach your 13th year, you will become my apprentice. You will be trained to replace me when I pass on."
Even when in shock, David only questioned Father Priest, to spite his rules.
"D-Does that mean I can't be adopted? I can't leave the orphanage? Forever?"
After a tiny pause, Father made it clear.
"Yes, David. You will stay here. No one else will take you away from what G-d has intended for you. Nothing evil will taint your soul."
The next question just slipped out, without any thought.
"W-W-What did you see in me that made me so different?"
Father sounded more and more confident by the minute, almost teasing David.
"I'm glad you asked. You have all the proper traits of a true servant of G-d: humble, kind, respectful, disciplined and you are different than other, both physically and mentally. Everyone else can see that you were born to be a messenger of the word of G-d. When you are a grown-up, you will be a greater person than all of the other boys in the orphanages, no matter they become."
"No more questions David. You are missing your studies. Now, accept this message with honor and walk with the pride that G-d has bestowed upon thee. Concentrate and excel in your studies. Become the man G-d and everyone else wants you to be. Please forgive me for leaving you now, as I must return to my own business now. Sister will return you to your class."
Sister Agnes was ecstatic, but David felt a depressing shock that not only frustrated him, but crushed his dreams. He would never be able to walk out the doors of this place. She kept saying how much pride he should feel, how much honor it is to be chosen, but he felt worse and worse. She never once looked down to see his feet shuffle, his face towards the ground. That was the problem with this place; they never cared to look at the children's faces. Only one Nun did, and she was the closest person that David had to being a Mother.
Yet as he returned to his class, the teaching Nun's lecture turned into white noise. He had always thought some nice couple would adopt him, take him into their world and he’ll make the most of it. But now he'd never leave, in order to fulfill some "destiny" he never knew about, could never question, and could never change.
The day flew like a blurry picture. He didn’t tell anyone why he couldn’t say the story he had planned, and just went to bed when the Nuns announced curfew. Then the nightmares began.