FREE AS A BIRD
"My God, you don't actually intend to play that do you?" that ever so haughty musician sneers at his best mate. His doe eyed friend simply ignores the rude comment and continues plucking chords on his ancient guitar.
"It's only a pub."
"But it's in public! People will see us. Hear us. We have to be absolutely grand!"
"So. We aren't a real band. No one's expecting us to be any good anyway," the younger boy shrugs nonchalantly. The other boy's eye twitches in irritation. "Come on, mate. What if someone likes us? We could become a real band. Don't you see it? We could be world famous!"
"Again, it's only a pub."
"We could be world famous!"
At last, the boy finally stopped playing his guitar. "Have I not stressed enough that this is a pub?! We are not gonna become world famous from a place that holds 25 people."
"Yea, and you also said that I would never be able to have a bird that I'd never be able to find the right girl and fall in love. And yet, I just so happened to have found exactly that in Sadie here, haven't I?"
The redhead on the couch beside them glances up at them briefly before returning to her drawing with a roll of her eyes. She snuggles close to the older boy when he sits down beside her, slinging an arm around her shoulders. "Really, I think what he's playing would be just fine."
"Ahh, not you too!"
"Sorry," she mutters, not sounding sorry at all. "Fine. Instead of playing something everyone's heard before, why don't you just play one of the millions of songs you guys have already written yourselves?"
The two boys look at each other and then at her. "Do you really think they're good enough?"
She scoffs, setting aside her sketchpad to focus her full attention on them. "Are you boys kidding? You're songs are absolutely amazing. And that's not a biased opinion at all. They're great. Sing one." They both look at her skeptically. "Oh come on boys. We've been through hell and back together. You think I'd lie to you? Knowing how important I know this is to you? No. Believe me. You boys are something special. One day, I promise you that everyone in this whole world will know the genius of Lennon and McCartney."
"Absolutely. Just one thing."
"Please find your band a better name than Johnny and the Moondogs."
A Day In The Life
Several Months Before...
I stare at my white ceiling. The longer I stare at it, the more frustrated I become. I slowly begin to think about how annoying it is. Why does it have to be there? What right does it have to block my view of the sky? I certainly never gave it permission to. It's so taunting, too. Its stupid white paint job couldn't be any farther from my personality, the room as well. White is so innocent, so bright, and I'm, well…not. I've gone through far too much to be.
Okay, so, that is very off track. But I suppose I'm just that kind of person. And by the way, I'm not totally insane; I'm just beyond tired at the moment. I haven't slept in nearly two days. Tiredly, I turn my head to look at my clock. 11:44. Perfect.
Quickly, I glance around the room before sitting up and sliding off my bed. I try to walk as quietly as I can so as not to walk the other girl up. I struggle for a few seconds with the window and I cringe as it squeaks. I look over my shoulder to find no one rushing up to me angrily. Expertly, I slip out the window and scramble up the shingles. I don't stop until I'm in the dead center of the right side of the roof. I rest my hands under my head and gaze up at the stars. Why does life have to be so unfair? I ask myself just like I do nearly a hundred times a day. It's like life just decided to take out all its anger out on me. That or it was proof that life had a sick sense of humor. I don't usually pity myself like this. I just shrug it off or bottle it up inside, as I do with everything else.
I sigh in frustration at myself when I realize I forgot my drawing book. Wistfully, I look on as a group of teens run down the street below me. Their laughter and smiles are what makes me so sad. What I wouldn't give to have the chance to be happy.
One of my teachers the other day asked my class what our greatest dreams for life were. We could either share or keep it to ourselves. I kept it to myself obviously. My dream is to someday actually mean something, maybe not to the world, but just a person or two. That isn't too much to ask for is it?
For awhile I just lay there on the roof with my eyes closed. I listen to the familiar noises that could only belong to the nights in the city of London. The laughter of rebel teens, the splash of the car tires driving through the forever wet streets, the low hum of traffic off in the distance, and the far away musical beats of the clubs toward the heart of the city.
Thinking of music, I find myself dreaming of the Cavern in Liverpool. I really want to go there someday. To hear such music live, to no longer have to sneak around in search of a radio, to not have to sit outside the door of the ever angry Caretaker's office in hopes of catching a tune or two. For me, to listen to music is to be free for a moment. To one day go to the Cavern is a dream that I fear at this rate I'll never fulfill.
Feeling as if I've been up here a bit too long, I slide down the roof and back into my room through the window. Thankfully my absence remained unnoticed. Good. I crawl under my blankets and am greeted welcomingly by their warmth. Sleep finally graces me with its presence as I snuggle into my soft blankets.
"What the bloody 'ell are ye still in bed fer! Get up and make me breakfast already!" someone shouts angrily. I bolt upright out of my peaceful dream. I do so very much hate being awoken in such a manner nearly every morning.
"I'm up, I'm up. I'll have it ready in half an hour," I reply sleepily.
"I want it in my room in my office in ten minutes," the woman snaps before whirling around and storming out of my room.
I fall back onto my bed. The woman, no she doesn't deserve to be called that. The demon from hell that has just so rudely woke me up is Ms. Kollins, the owner/caretaker of Ms. Kollins's Home for Unwanted Girls. Real pleasant, eh? The Unwanted Girls part is a bit of a downer for us 'unwanted girls'. I mean, sure a few actually weren't wanted, but most of the girls had been wanted but their families were dead, like mine. The name of the orphanage couldn't just have been Ms. Kollins's Home for Girls? Anyway, Ms. Kollins, the demon from hell, is just that. She has short, scraggly black hair and gruesome yellow, rotting teeth. She's a large woman, towering over most men; a real beast. The beady eyed woman thrives off of the fear from the innocent girls she terrorizes. She yells at us and hits us just for breathing it sometimes seems. As for me, since life just adores me, am her personal slave. I get the pleasure of attending to her every beck and call. I'm forced to clean the entire three floor building everyday, make all her meals for her, and am the victim of her worst punishments on a daily basis. Most likely her belt will take a bite out my back and what little pride I have left when she gets her breakfast late this morning.
I rush up to her room as fast as I possibly can when I finish cooking. She tells me to come in after I knock on her door. Without a word, I set the tray down on her table. I glance at the grandfather clock she's so fond of and realize I'll be late for school yet again. Thankfully, all she gives me is a scowl before she allows me to run up to my room and get my backpack.
I don't have time to check my appearance so I have no choice but to run my fingers through my hair as I run to my school in hopes of looking halfway decent. It seems like life is having an alright day because it lets me make it to class just seconds before the morning bell rings. My teacher, Ms. Parkhurst gives me a look but says nothing. As usual, I sink into a desk in the back row. Prudence Mulroney and her girlfriends always sit in the front row so to avoid them I sit in the back. I take back what I said about life as I got here on time when it allows that evil brunette and her friends to sit in every desk surrounding me.
"Oi, girls, are you ready to go on the trip to Liverpool? My parents signed the slip last night. What about you? Oh wait, that's right, you haven't got any! They didn't want some freak like you," Prudence taunts cruelly, her posh accent only making it sound nastier.
Slowly, I unclench my jaw and bitterly say, "My parents are dead, thank you very much."
Prudence rolls her eyes, "I pity girls like this, always makin' excuses."
Like I do in every other situation I come across, I tune out the people around and stuff my emotions deep down. The girls see this and ignore me for the rest of the class. Instead, they talk about music. And from what I hear from the bits of their conversation I catch, its good music.
"I still can't believe that we're goin' ta Liverpool. Think of it, we can sneak into the Cavern! I hear that my friend's older sister is friends with someone who's cousin's brother's in this band they say is really gear. They'll be playin' while we're there," one of Prudence's friends squeals.
"Oh, and she said she hears they're real cute," another sighs.
"We have ta get in."
I, once again, find myself daydreaming, this time about the Cavern. Now that place knew what music was. And I know it'll never happen, but I still daydream about sneakiing into the club myself. As for the trip to Liverpool, I am going on that, surprisingly. Ms. Kollins is actually letting me go. I thought I'd die of shock when she said yes. I can't wait to see a new city. I haven't been out of London since I got here nearly seven years ago. That's why I don't have an accent. I'm from America and my accent's the only thing that hasn't changed since I got here. The reason I was placed in an orphanage in England is because I was born here, so technically I'm a citizen. I only have just under two years left at the home until I'm free to go.
I spend the rest of the day with Prudence and her girl teases me and taunting me. I pretend to ignore it when their boyfriends call me ugly and a freak after school. I pretend that it doesn't hurt. I pretend that I don't care. I pretend like I'm not slowly dying on the inside as each and everyday passes. I am very good at pretending. To top off Prudence's teasing, failing a rather important test, and getting tripped in the cafeteria by a former friend where everyone was watching, it begins to pour as I make my way back to the orphanage. The rain soaks me in less than seconds.
I hum my favorite song in attempt to feel a little better. It sort of works until the home comes into sight. It looks like a place that should be called a home for unwanted girls. The three story building is made of drab, gray bricks, coated with a layer of grime. The chimney puffs out a rather nasty looking black smoke and the windows are black. The building looks rather worn and depressed itself. Just looking at this building drains the smallest ounce of whatever bit of happiness I have left at the time.
Like always, I just run across the street without looking either way. I mean, I figure if it's your time to go, then it's your time to go. An angry cab driver honks at me as I dart in front of him. All I offer in response is a slight shrug as I jump the last few steps to the curb.
I hear the distant but familiar chimes of the seemingly ancient Big Ben as I stand in front of the door. The faded red paint is peeling away in great strips, which perfectly suits the poor conditions it reveals when opened. The moment I push open the door, I'm attacked. Let's just say that taking a regularly abused girl by surprise is not the wisest thing for one to do. I nearly push the person to the floor in fright until I realize who it is. "Annie, I thought I told not to do that," I breathe in relief as the five year old clings to one of my legs. For some strange reason, all the younger kids look up to me, Annie especially. Children just love me, I suppose. I pat the brunette on the top of her head and pick the tiny girl up. She wraps her arms around my neck and snuggles up to me. "Hows was school?" she wonders.
I shrug, knowing that even if I did bother to admit the truth of my problems to anyone that it would just go right over their heads. And besides, Annie's only five. Right now she's learning her colors, there's no chance she'll ever understand what's been going through my head. "It was okay. What about you, what did you learn today?"
"Whys don't you sound like us?" she questions suddenly, but innocently. I tilt my head in curiosity so she continues, "You sound diff'rent than me an' the other girls. Why?"
"Well, that's because I'm not from here. I lived in America so I'm American. And it's called an accent, honey," I try to explain. The little girl just shrugs and lets me set her down. "Will you tell me a story again tonight?" I can't help but say yes to those big, brown eyes of hers. "I suppose. What'da ya say I come in right at 7:30. I have to go, see you later."
From 4 p.m. to around 7 I sweep and mop all three floors. My arms are aching by the time I've finished the first floor. Once I'm finished with every floor, I collapse onto the nearest chair. The sad part is that I know that I'm nowhere near being done with my chores. I must still make sure all the girls in my room are done with their chores and make sure all the girls' rooms are all cleaned up. After that I will have to cook dinner for Ms. Kollins and then be scolded by her for not having something or other done. She'll probably have some paper work for me to do for her. Before I will be allowed to go to bed, I'll have to be sure that all the girls are in bed. Then I'll lock up and turn the lights out. Only then will I be finished for the night.
Shaking off my bad mood, I head to Annie's room. What story am I possibly going to tell her? I put a fake smile on my face the second I open her door. I wince slightly at the loud creak the door makes when it's opened. I'll have to fix that too before I can sleep tonight.
"You came!" Annie exclaims happily. I ruffle her hair and lift her onto her bed. I wait until she snuggles under her covers before I think of where to begin. "What kind of story would you like, hon?"
I hear her soft giggles before she mumbles, "Love, music. Oh, and ponies." I chuckle, shaking my head, "That's quite the mix, now isn't it? Hmm…" I think for a minute before I begin. "Shall I start with once upon a time?"
The only answer I receive is an enthusiastic nod.
"Alright then. Once upon a time there lived a young girl who longed to be free. The girl had long, curly black hair with eyes as blue as the sea. She was kept under lock and key by her evil aunt, you see. She dreamt of the day when she could roam the world and see its beauties. Well, one day she finally got the chance when she finally escapes. She traveled to a far off city where she met people who loved her for who she was. One day while she was walking, she heard the sweetest sound that she had ever heard. She was drawn to the music as if it were calling out to her. When she found the source of the music, she discovered that it was from a boy her own age. The beautiful music was coming from his guitar. The two began talking and soon became quite good friends. She admired the quiet guitar player because he never failed to be nice to her. He was always there for her, you see, when she needed him most. Soon-"
Annie cuts me off, "Do they fall in love?"
I smile at her, "Hold your horses, I was getting there. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Soon, the girl began to fall in love with the guitar player. But there were two problems that made her love seem hopeless. The first was that the boy didn't believe in love. He thought the idea of it was silly. The second was a problem that she didn't even know of. Her aunt was very angry when she found that her niece had escaped. She did everything she could to get the girl back. On the day that the boy finally realized he her, the girl's aunt found her and dragged her back home before he could tell her. Distraught that he couldn't find his love, the boy vowed he'd never stop looking until he found her. The aunt did everything in her power to keep the two apart. Eventually though, the boy found the girl and at last he was able to tell her that he loved her. The two overpowered her aunt and they ran away and lived happily ever after. The end."
"The ponies?" Annie whispers hopefully.
"How could I forget? Let's see…The two overpowered her aunt and they galloped away on their beautiful ponies and lived happily ever after. There. What do you think?" I finish.
She giggles again. I roll my eyes playfully. I lay down next to her. "Annie, when I leave tomorrow morning, I won't be coming back for about a week. I'll come back, don't worry I just wanted you to know."
The brunette is quiet for a moment, "But you're comin' back?"
"Of course I'll be back. Just not for a while."
"Promise?" she asks, yawning. I get up off her bed and tuck her in better. "I promise," I whisper as I kiss her forehead. I smile when her eyes flutter closed and her breaths become deep and slow.
Not wanting to leave the peaceful room and the calm feeling I've got, I head down the hall and make my way slowly down the stairs. I take a deep breath before I knock on Ms. Kollins's office door.
She is waiting impatiently for me in her office, if you can even call it that. Papers and books are strewn about and scattered and not a thing is ever in any sort of order. She has one large wooden desk in towards the back of the smallish room. Behind the desk is a wall of dirty windows that allow only a dull light to seep in. This faint light casts the room in an eerie glow. There are two separate book cases that line the side walls. There are a few miscellaneous framed pictures of the Eiffel Tower on the wall opposite the one with all the windows. It has the potential to be a rather nice office, but instead, it looks as if someone took piles of paper and threw them up in the air. You can hardly even see the top of the desk or the floor for that matter. Anyway, back to Ms. Kollins.
"Tomorrow morning a rather wealthy couple will be stopping in to look into adopting one of you. Don't know why anybody in their right minds would want you girls though," she mutters the last part. "Anyways, I need this office spotless by eight-o-clock a.m. on the dot. Got it? Good. Now I'm off to shop. Enjoy cleaning my office," she says with one last evil smirk.
I swear to God my eye is literally twitching out of irritation of this woman. At least this time I managed to get away without a new bruise…so far, anyway. I turn back to the room after I hear the lock click behind me. How lovely, I think irritably, she's locked me in here like some kind of wild animal. I sigh yet again when I realize I have no idea where to get started. Eventually, I lean over to pick up a stack of papers that appear to have simply been dropped on the floor. Already, I know that this is going to take all night. All that's on my mind tonight is that I still have to pack for my trip to Liverpool tomorrow. Then, to make things more cheerful for me, I dream of what my life might be like once I'm old enough to leave this place. For some strange reason, I feel like something good is going to happen in Liverpool. All I can do is hope because to be honest, my life really needs something good to happen in it, and soon.
I bury my head in my hands when I hear the grandfather clock strike twelve. Groaning, I look up and survey the room. It does actually look more like an office now. There are neatly stacked piles of paper of even heights lined along the front of her desks that I had to sort through and alphabetize. The windows have been scrubbed as clean as they'll come and I've swept and mopped. I even organized the books on her bookshelves just in case. My whole body aches from all the extra work I've done today. A terrific headache clogs my mind. I rub my temples and sit down. At least I've finally finished for the night.
Suddenly, the door is flung open, startling me. I jump to my feet in fright. A very drunken Ms. Kollins stumbles into the small room. I do all I can to not wrinkle my noise as the strong smell of alcohol hits me. The beastly woman advances on me. "Yous call this clean! This room looks worse. Get over here, girl!" she shouts, slurring her words. I stand where I am until she rushes up to me. "Wull!" she shrieks."
"I did exactly what you told me to do, Ms. Kollins," I blurt out.
Her face grows hard and her eyes narrow into slits. "What did yous say?" When I don't answer her she shouts, "Answer me!"
I cower away from her as she slaps me across the face. She hits me so hard that I'm sent tumbling onto the cold floor. "Yous need to learn not to talk back, girlee. Now get out my sight!" she commands using her foot to kick me out of her way. I don't move until I hear the door slam shut behind her. I sigh and struggle to pull myself up. I rub my jaw that is still stinging. I can tell both my cheek and ribs will be sore tomorrow. I do suppose it hadn't been as bad as I was expecting. Honestly, it seems as if she let me off easy tonight. Ms. Kollins probably won't even remember what just happened when she wakes up in the morning.
I use her oak mahogany desk to drag myself to my feet. With shaky steps I make my way up to my room slowly. As quietly as possible, I slip into my room and flop onto my bed, not even bothering with pajamas. The last thing I think of is how much I hope something good will become of this trip. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.