Sunday, 11th February 1443 @ 1130 am
Today was Saturday, February the 11th of the Lord's year of 1443 in the 15th Century of Medieval Times, England. This is the town of Arkendale, Knaresborough, quite a distance from the well-known Caves of Knaresborough. I am just a flower girl, working for the Orphanage. I had lost both of my parents which I yearned for their love and care, in a mining explosion accident last winter. Ever since then, I was told to regard the Matron of the Orphanage as Big Mama as she was a very large well-rounded woman…!
You see, this Orphanage not only takes 'care' of the orphans but also takes 'care' to incur permanent injury or damage to their limbs so that they would garner more sympathy from the public. As the orphans hobbled or even pushed on handcarts, those with a generous and sympathetic hearts would not hesitate to drop in a few shillings as part of their donation to these 'poor and disabled orphans'.
I was not made to be one of the unfortunate ones, since, on that fateful day, I had accidentally stepped on a sharp stone and was limping on my good leg as the other one was unable to be put flat on the ground. So, Big Mama and her aides thought that I had already a permanent disability when I was brought in by the 'thoughtful' neighbours of mine. That stone really saved me from being made a cripple for life or lose the function of one of my arms…!
It was just last winter and I had just turned 5.
So here I was, standing at the corner of a greasy spoon that was specialised in Indian and Mediterranean dishes, as I shielded myself against the cold wintry winds that were blowing in from all the open areas. The buildings that I took cover from the harsh winds did little for me as I was dressed in a tattered frock that was one size too small for me and had lots of coloured pieces of cloth that was patched over. The winds were biting mercilessly at my exposed arms and legs that were not covered by anything else. I was only 6 that time and the only way I could survive was to sell these wildflowers to gentlemen who would buy then for a few shillings from me and present it to his lady.
Sometimes, I would earn a few of those coins right to dozens of shillings per day and somehow, I would still be sent to bed without any supper as a punishment for under-accomplishing the task of the day. As you can see, dinner starts at 4 in the afternoon and anything after that would be considered as supper. I do not know the value of the coin as I was not taught how to. As long as I could see its round and flat that was dropped into the basket, I would give away some flowers for the gentlemen or someone who had just bought them.
Most of the time they would not accept the flowers and told me to keep the coins for myself instead. Sometimes there would be other girls that would try to put in the coins inside my frock but unfortunately, the frock had no pockets at all. They wanted to give the coin directly to me instead since they knew that the Orphanage was running some kind of scheme but no one dared to confront the Matron head-on before. Maybe there is, I don't know and I wondered what happened to the person or people who confronted the Matron before this.
*G G R O O K K*
*G G G G R R R R O O O O K K K K*
*G G R R O O W W L L*
"Eh? Yer po'h ol' stomach...! Quit growin', will yer? I already 'ad sumfink ter eat earlier today mornin' and now yor askin' for more, eh?" I was clutching at my stomach with my free arm and was trying to quieten down the growling and the urge for me to eat something, even though its not even dinner time…! Maybe I was shielding myself from the harsh winds too close to the greasy spoon and that's what made me hungry with the whiffs of weird smells but yet appetising at the same time.
I had a few reasons why I had chosen to be in that place. As you can see, I had a few 'friends' of mine that would carry in morsels of food and leave it near my feet so I would be able to share the food that was being served in the kitchens of the greasy spoon. I guessed it was still early in the morning and the greasy spoon had yet to open for lunch as it was a Sunday and most of the townsfolks were still in the church.
I had a knack of talking to my raggedy doll that was made from pieces of hemp sacks and some coloured stones were sewed on it to represent eyes. It had a bobbing head, a pair of short arms, a pair of long legs as well and it used to entertain me for hours while waiting for my parents to return home from their mining. They would leave early morning and return late in the evening and would return with some gruel for me to eat and also would prepare breakfast for tomorrow. Life was hard but everyone was happy. I do not play outdoors as I was taught not to by my dear parents.
When I was brought over to the Orphanage, I had lost my raggedy doll and I had nothing to keep my mind off. Since I was the only in the family before, mingling around with the other members who were in the same plight of mine took some weeks before I got used to it. But then, I still would love to talk to myself and relate somethings to my make-believe friends as I lulled myself to sleep.
There was during a period when I discovered a piece of bread placed next to my nose as I slept sideways in the middle of the night. I believed an angel had been sent here to give me morsels of food right where I was lying down and sleeping. I was hungry at that time and never thought of anything but popped the piece of bread into my mouth and whispered a squeaky 'Thank you' to the 'guardian angels' that were 'looking' after me…!
It was during one of the months in Fall when we were spring cleaning the Orphanage when I heard some of the girls that shared the sleeping space together were screaming in fright and feeling squeamish after they discovered a family of grey mice. The grey mice were living together inside a cupboard that had been chewed from behind to make a hole for the mother grey mouse to give birth. As I was the latest entrant, I was made to dig through the pile of wood shavings, feathers and other what-not to extricate the family of grey mice family and were told to throw them into the sewers just outside the Orphanage.
I carried the family of grey mice and cannot help but feeling squeamish when I was looking at the newborns and saw that there was not a single hair on its body and was totally naked. The funny thing is – the family of grey mice never even squeaked in fright as I carried them away and they all looked at me with their big eyes and their rounded ears seemed to be perked up the moment I carried the 'nest' out.
*S Q U U U E E E A A A A K K K*
I heard the tiniest of squeaks and I knew it came from the 'nest' that I was carrying in my hands as I went outside, intending to drown them down the sewers and done with the deed. But somehow, I heard both a squeak and someone calling my name.
*S S S Q Q Q U U U E E E E E E A A A K K K K*
Once again I can hear a squeak and someone calling my name ever so softly like the squeak of one of the grey mice…!
"Is there anyone calling me?" I called out but all I could hear was the whistling of the wind that rustled through the leaves.
"Squeak, Squeak, Squeeeeeaaakkk…"
"Over here, Kristobel…"
"Squeak, Squeak, Squeak, Squeak, Sqquueeeeeaakkk…"
"We are in your hands, Kristobel…"
I was shocked and I nearly dropped the whole thing I was holding in my hands as suddenly the 'nest' that I was carrying felt extremely heavy…!
"Squeak, Squeak, Squeeeeak? Squeak, Squeak, Squeak, Ssqquueeeeeaaakkk…"
"Remember those pieces of bread? We are the ones that bring them for you…"
"Wait… You really are the guardian angels that bring me food every night without fail, and not just once, but as long as I was awake, you would put it near my nose? You are the ones that brought it to me? How…?! I mean, why…?! Err… I don't know how to ask you questions, but really, you are the one that brought food for me every night when I was asleep?"
"Yes, yes… We are the ones that rolled the bread and place them next to your nose before I give birth to my babies, and now only my husband does it for you. We love listening to your stories every night, even though you were telling it to no one and as a 'Thank You' gift, we gave you some bread that we rolled from Big Mama's pantry over to you. We also know that you were sent to bed without supper for some weeks already."
"Quick…! There's no time to stay here and chit chat. The matrons and her men would be looking for you if you stayed out too long. There...! There's a tree behind you and there's an old owl's nest inside. Please, Kristobel, place the nest there and we can take care of things from there. We can find our way inside the Orphanage but we cannot bring the nest and our newborn babies up to the old abandoned owl's nest inside the tree trunk."
"Place us there and hurry back. Thank you so much, Kristobel. Our family would always be indebted to you…!" If other people were watching right now, they would be surprised on how come this little 6 year of girl would be talking to a clump of wood shavings, feathers and rags and then be climbing a tree and stuffing them carefully in a hole in the tree trunk.
That was how things got started off by having such 'friends' that helped me out during my trips to collect alms or to sell wildflowers to passersby. Little did I knew that I could talk to these 'friends' as I thought it was a normal thing to do. There was no adult supervision and every day was a routine for me right after a bowl of thin gruel.