Disclaimer: Liza belongs to me! Doesn’t that count for something? ;-)
Another stupendous chapter image by PrincessPotter! Love it! Thanks also to the fantabulous beta-ing team of K-you guys are awesome! ;-)
Huddled underneath her blankets lay an eleven year-old girl taking advantage of her rest. She didn’t have very much time to herself at the orphanage, and since she shared a room with five other girls, she rarely got a decent night’s sleep, with them constantly talking, tossing and turning, and sometimes even snoring.
Today was no different.
Liza groaned as she slowly opened her eyes. This time, she had been awakened by the chattering of Anna and Serena, two girls in her dormitory who were possibly the most talkative girls in the whole orphanage. The two were best friends and about the same age as Liza. Although they had been there nearly as long as she had, they were not friends. As a matter of fact, Liza wasn’t really “friends” with anyone. She preferred friends she made up herself, inside her head, to real people.
“Liza’s up,” Anna said, giggling. “You’ve been asleep for a long time. You’ll have to hurry if you want breakfast.”
“I don’t care,” Liza muttered to herself, in a tone barely audible. “I’d rather sleep than eat breakfast, anyhow.”
They both began to giggle again. Liza scowled.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Serena reminded her, as Anna nodded. “You sure you want to miss it?”
Liza nodded. Fortunately, Serena and Anna began to talk about something else, ignoring her.
She didn’t really mind being ignored. It was the way she liked it. A lot of people in her shoes would have hated being ignored, but she didn’t mind it. It wasn’t as though she had never made friends at the orphanage, but eventually they got adopted, leaving Liza behind. Finally, after this had happened once or twice, she gave up. It was nothing against the other girls at the orphanage, but what was the point of making friends, if only to be hurt later? Girls like Anna and Serena were so lucky that they had never been separated.
Liza highly doubted she would ever be adopted. She had been living at the London Girls’ Home ever since she had been born and supposed she would continue living there until the orphanage wouldn’t be allowed to serve as her legal guardian any longer. It was very rare that children above toddler age got adopted. There were a few cases where children got adopted at five or six or even eight, but Liza didn’t know of anyone who had gotten adopted at eleven.
It was quite depressing that she hadn’t been adopted. She often wondered what life inside a family would be like, but she doubted she would ever get to experience it. The only way she could was inside her imagination and by reading stories, and that would have to satisfy her.
Sometimes, she couldn’t help getting jealous of all the fictional characters she read about who did have families. Though it was fascinating reading about something she would never experience, it didn’t take away the twinge of envy she felt whenever she read those books. She much preferred dramas of children’s parents dying or books about people who were in far worse situations than she was to happy books about families. Reading about situations worse than hers made her feel a little better about her own.
Sighing, Liza managed to wait until Anna and Serena finally left the room before she got out of bed. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing that they had driven her out. She wouldn’t.
Life at the Girls’ Home could get rather repetitive at times. They were all expected to do a certain number of chores per week and always had to make their beds. They also had to get at least an hour of time outside so they could get fresh air and exercise. Summer was perhaps the most repetitive time of all, since they didn’t have school to get them away from the orphanage. They did get to spend a few weeks on holiday in the country, but it was the time surrounding that was so boring. Besides, what was the fun of the country, when there was no one to enjoy her days with?
Liza usually spent her days alone at the local library, wasting time. It was within walking distance to the orphanage, so she could get there easily. Besides, even if the library hadn’t been an option, anything was better than being at the orphanage. She was sick of being there, thinking about how her only family didn’t even care about her. How could she stop thinking about it when she lived in the very place that reminded her?
She glanced at her reflection as she got dressed. All the girls in her dorm shared a bathroom, which could be both dirty and disgusting at times since there were so many of them, but Liza was used to it. She had never experienced anything else.
There were times when Liza hated the way she looked. Her hair would have been all right, if it weren’t for the fact that it never lay flat, no matter how much time she spent brushing it. Her eyes would have been all right too, if it weren’t for the thin, black glasses she was forced to wear over them. And then there was her height. She was smaller than most girls her age and thinner too. It wasn’t that she was starved, but she never had a very big appetite. This was partly the way she was and partly because she didn’t want to give the cooks the satisfaction of knowing that she liked their food.
Although Liza knew she shouldn’t, sometimes she couldn’t help blaming the orphanage and workers there for all of her troubles. She felt she needed to blame someone, and the people at the orphanage were the only people she knew. Who else could she blame? She didn’t know who her biological parents were, who truly deserved her blame, so who else was there but her orphanage?
She supposed there were all the couples out there who had been looking for a baby to adopt and hadn’t chosen her. Liza couldn’t help feeling a surge of bitterness whenever she thought of this. Although deep down inside, she knew there was probably no good reason why they hadn’t chosen her but bad luck, she was a little afraid it had to do with the strange things that seemed to happen whenever she got angry or scared.
She couldn’t remember a certain time when the things had started happening; the various quirks surrounding her anger or fear had always been a part of her. There was that time when her teacher called on her in front of the whole class to answer a question she didn’t know the answer to, and a light-bulb fell down. Everyone was so focused on making sure the glass was picked up and that it hadn’t hurt anybody that Liza never had to answer the question. Then there was the time when Anna and Serena were giggling about her behind her back, and Serena’s hair turned blue for nearly a week. There had been several other peculiar instances like this as well, but Liza had no clue when they had started or why they were happening. She wanted to think it was just coincidence, but hair turning blue out of thin air seemed a little too weird to be pure coincidence.
Sighing, Liza pulled on a skirt and an old tee-shirt of hers. Though she wasn’t as materially focused as several other girls she knew, she sometimes wished that her clothes weren’t all for from goodwill or hand-me-downs from the older girls at the orphanage. She wished she had clothes that matched her style.
She had planned to go to the library right away, skipping both breakfast and lunch, but was stopped when she was spotted by seven-year-old Polly. Polly was a sweet girl, even if she didn’t seem to understand that Liza was often annoyed by the way she constantly hung on her when she just wanted to be alone.
Polly’s eyes lit up when she saw Liza. “Liza! You’re up! Guess what?”
“What?” Liza murmured, her eyes still on the ground, though she was pretty sure she knew what “what” was. Polly had been left at the orphanage after a car crash had killed her parents and her only aunt and uncle had refused to take her in when she was two-years-old, but she didn’t know any of the circumstances surrounding her being put in the orphanage. Liza wouldn’t have known herself if she hadn’t overheard a conversation about Polly’s tragic life a few years ago. This had sent an unwanted surge of envy through her. Although she hated being pitied, she couldn’t see how Polly’s life was any more depressing than hers.
“It’s my birthday!” exclaimed Polly. “Next week! I’m turning eight.”
“Really,” responded Liza, a little dully, but Polly didn’t seem to notice as she continued jabbering and following Liza around excitedly. Liza’s own birthday had been in March, but although there had been a small celebration with cake for her at dinner, birthday celebrations at the orphanage were always modest.
“Where are you going?” Polly asked as Liza reached the door. To Liza’s disappointment, after she explained that she had been planning to go to the library, Polly’s eyes lit up. “I have an overdue book there! I’ll be back, I just have to get it.”
Liza sighed heavily. She was sighing more than usual these days.
She considered leaving so she wouldn’t have to put up with Polly, but she really didn’t want to do that. In spite of how bitter and even ornery she could be at times, Liza disliked hurting people’s feelings. She really did like Polly, in spite of how annoying she could be. She was like a little sister and would have been okay to have around if Liza hadn’t preferred being alone.
After a few minutes, Polly came running towards her, with a book in her hands. On the way to the library, she jabbered excitedly about the wonderful balloons and cake and presents she’d be having in only a week, and of course her birthday wish (“Though I can’t tell you what, it’s a secret!”). Liza couldn’t remember ever having gotten as excited about her birthday, even when she had been as young as Polly was. When she was seven, going on eight, she had known that she hadn’t been wanted. That had been around the time her only friends started getting adopted and Liza had vowed never to open herself up to friendships again, once and for all.
Finally, they reached the library, which was a good excuse for Liza to remind Polly not to talk so others could read in silence. That didn’t stop Polly from insisting that Liza stay with her as she returned her book and looked for a new one, but at least this made it easier for Liza to ignore her.
She didn’t know why Polly liked her, not really. Perhaps it was because they slept in the same dormitory and all the other girls had paired up, leaving Polly forced to pair up with Liza. Or maybe it was because Liza really did have a comforting presence about her, no matter how much of a loner she was. She was inclined to think it wasn’t the latter.
After Polly was done, she followed Liza to the Young Adult section. Liza gazed lovingly at the rows of books, so many of which she had read. This, not the orphanage serving as a reminder of how unloved she felt, was truly her home.
Liza had been coming to the library ever since she could remember. At first, she had been escorted here with the other girls her age, coming for story time, but Liza was the only one who was really interested in learning to read by herself. Finally, she had snuck off as the librarian began to read the other children a story and opened a book for the first time. Although she had been overwhelmed by all the words at first, she had determinedly decided to break the code. The librarian, who had caught on to her goal, had helped a little too, but it was mostly Liza who had taught herself how to read. She was still one of the best readers in her class, and though others were catching up, Liza couldn’t help remembering, with pride, that she had certainly been one of the first.
She had both sad and happy memories of the library. She had come here, scared and confused, after Serena’s hair turned blue, and she had come here when she turned eleven. There were very few happy moments in Liza’s short life, but, no matter how hard her day had been, the library was always a calm, safe place.
“What book are you going to get?” Polly asked, her voice still a little above a whisper, but Liza didn’t even answer at first. She merely looked around her one last time, observing the peace.
“I’m not sure yet,” she whispered, glad to be home. She was even smiling. “Why don’t you help me?”
As Polly helped her pick out a book, Liza began to relax. She was so tense most of the time that this was a welcome change, though she only felt like this once a day, at most. Maybe the real reason Polly liked her was because they shared a joy in reading.
Unfortunately, her peace would not last for long.
Liza hadn’t noticed that Polly and she were not the only girls from the orphanage at the library on that particular day. There was another gang of girls her age there that most unfortunately included Anna and Serena-and worse.
Polly wanted her to read Pollyanna because it had her name in it, but Liza was insisting that there were better books out there. “It has my name!” Polly insisted again, and that was when Liza remembered how soon Polly’s birthday was. She was just about to cave in when she overheard a hint of a conversation.
“-I can’t believe Polly likes her,” a voice was saying, and Liza looked through the book shelves to reveal Anna, Serena, and their friends. The speaker was Miranda Baker, the most insensitive girl at the orphanage, and definitely one of the girls Liza disliked the most.
She felt her blood turning cold.
“I know!” said another voice, this time belonging to Julia, one of Miranda’s most faithful followers. “She’s so bitter and angry most of the time-it’s no wonder she was never adopted-”
Polly was staring at her now, concerned, but Liza hardly noticed. She wasn’t feeling anything but anger, anger at the comment Julia had made. It was one thing to say things like that in the orphanage-that she could stand-but here, in the library, her only home…they were going to take that away from her too?
I won’t get upset, she tried to tell herself as the other girls came up with more stories of “Liza the strange”. I won’t get upset, that only makes it worse and who knows what will happen if I do? In spite of herself, she was getting angrier with each thought. I won’t get upset, I won’t, I won’t…
This time it was Julia’s purse. All of the girls in the snooty, popular group carried purses around, and Liza watched through the bookshelf as Julia’s purse fell to the ground. It had lots of make-up and lipstick and other items in it, and several had opened, staining the carpet. Although this was nowhere as bad as the time Serena’s hair had turned blue and was not completely out of the ordinary, Liza had a sick feeling that she was responsible. She watched, paralyzed, as Julia’s friends began to help her pack up the purse, hoping none of them would see her watching and blame her. Polly poked her arm, nervously, and, as though hit by an invisible bolt of lightning, Liza knew she needed to get out of there, so she did the first thing that came to her mind.
Perhaps it was because her anger had caused her to quicken her pace, perhaps it seemed faster because she wasn’t thinking, just running, or maybe it was even because she was angry, and it was another strange thing happening because of that. Whatever the reason was, Liza found herself at the orphanage in record time. She could hear Polly calling to her a few blocks back, but she didn’t even turn around. She simply rushed to her dormitory (which, to her relief, was empty), and lay down on her bed. She needed some time alone right now.
She could hear Polly knocking on the door, telling her that she shouldn’t listen to what the girls had said; she liked her anyway. But Liza desperately needed some time away from the world. She was so angry, she couldn’t even begin to describe it. She had been used to the comments from the other girls, talking about her at the orphanage or school, but it was a completely different matter for them to talk about her at the library…her own special place, her only home…
She covered her ears with her pillow to block out Polly’s pleadings. She was different. She couldn’t ignore how different she was, and it wasn’t just because she was so unwanted or even because she had turned Serena’s hair blue; there was something unsettlingly different about her and always had been.
She didn’t cry. She refused to. Perhaps she couldn’t ignore how angry those comments had made her, but Liza James was not a crier. She was too strong for that. She was completely and utterly alone. So she lay underneath her pillow as Polly finally gave up and left her by herself, pretending that the fantasy worlds she had read about were true, and that she was a different person than who she really was.
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