Seasons crawled by through the following year and one spring day, Tara was sitting under a big maple when she noticed a wagon tottering toward the orphanage. It wasn’t often that people would come to find a child in their small town. She watched as a couple climbed down from the wagon and walk toward the door that was opened by Mrs. Harris. They spoke for a bit then disappeared inside. Tara went back inside her own thoughts when she noticed movement nearby, she flinched as a girl approached her slowly. The girl was younger than her and she smiled in a friendly and disarming way. Her skin was pale like clouds and her clothes seemed to hang on her thin frame.
“Hello. What’s your name? My name is Lily.” she told Tara with a smile that revealed two dimples in her soft cheeks.
“Tara.” she said as Lily sat down next to her in the cool shade. She arranged her skirts under her and Tara caught a whiff of clean soap and fresh wind.
They were silent for a few moments when Lily turned to her.
“What’s it like being here?” she asked innocently and curious. Tara could only shrug in response and if she thought this would stop the girl from talking, she was mistaken.
“In some books, these places always seem so lonely, even if there are a lot of kids around. It must be hard to grow up like that. Maybe more for girls than boys, they don’t care too much about stuff we care about, you know?”
All Tara could do was nod at her. She was listening, how could she not? Not only because this girl was jabbering on, but that she was jabbering on about thoughts and feelings Tara had forgotten. By the time she told her that she had gone to school with as many as ten boys and girls, Tara was entranced by her life. She didn’t utter a word while Lily spoke with a kind gratefulness and a shade of sadness, it opened a drain inside her where all the guilt and pain drained down deep. A sliver of hope sprung up and almost jolted her out of the grassy spot.
“Lily!” the young woman of the couple she saw called out from the front door. Her dark gray skirts drawn up in her hand and and wind blowing gently along the rest. Her dark head was in a pale bonnet and she waved the girl toward her. Lily stood and stuck out her bony hand to her.
Tara took it and let Lily guide her to the woman who was tanned from the sun, but to a golden hue on her unwrinkled skin. Wide brown eyes that were classicly placed shone at her. Barely twenty five, Tara guessed and she looked fresh in her light blue blouse. The man was walking and talking toward them with Mrs. Harris, who didn’t look happy. Tara’s hope dimmed with her sour face. The man faced her and was handsome in a rugged kind of way. He had blue eyes that struck you first before a kind smile stretched his lips.
Mrs. Harris was hovering in the background.
“This is Tara.” she told them, as if she were talking about something she stepped in.
Both of them looked at her with warmth and welcome inspite of the doom that gloomed. The woman took her hands and Tara felt the calloses scratch her palms and fingers.
“Hello, Tara. I’m Beatrice and this my husband, Matthew. Of course, you know Lily.” she said and nodded to Lily, who was still holding her hand. She stood there in amazement that this was happening.
“What’s wrong with you, girl? You goin’ home with them. Don’t stand there like an idiot.” Mrs. Harris called out from the shadows. Beatrice turned to her sharply.
“There’s no need for that kind of talk, Mrs. Harris. She’s just surprised that’s all.” She defended, to which Mrs. Harris chuckled.
“She should be after what happened to her.” she sneered.
Matthew came at her then. “She won’t need anything from here. Thank you Mrs. Harris.” he said abruptly. She had to step back into the shadows and wait for them to step into the wagon and ride off to what seemed to Tara as an adventure that she only read about.
Not long during the journey, Lily feel into deep sleep and Tara gazed out over farms that looked majestic in the setting sun. She wondered where they lived for the hundreadth time before dozing off. She could smell the change in the clean air against the background of her dreams. Her nightmares of that day with the stranger. The burning stranger of her dreams would one day clasp her by the throat and into a firery death. Sweat poured from her and she gasped awake. Lily was awake now and looking excitedly at her.
“Almost home, Tara.” she told her in near squeal. A few minutes later, Matthew pulled the horse to a stop. Lily gracefully hopped out of the wagon while she carefully pulled herself down to face a vast field of corn, space and a barn that probably housed chickens, pigs, a cow and this tired horse. He whinnied as if to nudge her forward, which she struggled to do. She saw Lily head to the barn and she stood stuck until Matthew and Beatrice were at her side.
Beatrice took her hand in her and her other hand was in Matthew’s thick one.
“This is your new home, Tara and we are so happy that you are with us.” Beatrice told her lovingly and gave her hand a ressuring squeeze. Tara felt a warm jet of care in her palm and she walked with them to the house that stood not far from the barn. They opened the door to a cozy home with thick stairs that led to a space for sleeping. Four chairs were placed around the well made table, as if she had always been in their family. It made her feel weak from the welcome. Beatrice stepped inside with her and Matthew was last to shut the door. He went to the fireplace and lit it to a nice blaze while instictively Tara moved with Beatrice to the stove.
When she reached for the plates, Tara automatically put out her hands to take them to the table. Surprised and pleased, Beatrice gave her the duty with a smile.
“Thank you, Tara.”
For the first time in a long time, Tara started to believe that there was some good in people as she witnessed a family bond that could be seen through their laughter. The natural flow of having dinner with your family was not lost on her, rather she was lost in it.
After dinner, Tara helped clear the table and they gathered around an old piano where Matthew played beautiful songs and sang in his deep baritone voice that displayed passion for the music. His fingers danced lightly over the keys and his body seemed helpless to the sway of the melody and harmony that filled the small home.
The music swirled about in her head as Lily led her up to the sleeping room. It had two narrow beds made up with clean sheets and a bedspread of thick colorful wool. Suddenly, Lily hugged her tightly.
“I’m glad you’re here, Tara. I always wanted a sister and now I got one.” she told her squeezing Tara’s body with all the strength the thin girl could muster. Happiness pricked her deep then and an overflow of hope brought on a drowsy smile. Lily looked up at her and smiled.
“Let’s get to sleep. We have to get up early.” she quickly kissed her on her cheek and bounced off to her bed.
Tara soon did the same and laid there looking at the bright moon that shone through their wide open window. Night had been the hardest time when she lived at Saint Mary’s, a lonely time when you felt more alone than during the day. It was then that you remembered that you were not wanted or needed. In this small home with strangers who chose her to be part of their family, this night was the beginning of many other nights that would hold the meaning of family and love.
Julia Manuel on Poem #4 ingridfalconi on Poem #4 Julia Manuel on Poem #4