Her name was Violet.
Yeah, like the flower. I was 10 and she was 13, going on 14 — one of the older kids. I’ve always secretly had a crush on her. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the home.. but there’s just something about her – dunno what exactly. But whatever it was, the other guys must’ve seen it too. Yeah, they were always flocking about her and following her around… I used to watch her – from afar. She’d be barefooted, climbing trees or getting into fistfights… her soft cheek smeared with dirt, yellow hair flying in the wind, the hem of her skirt pulled up to her knees as she beats the crap out of Joe or any of the guys. Yeah, she was a wildcat ..and everyone knew better than to mess with her.
With me, however, it’s a completely different story. No one ever talked to me or sat with me in the prayer room or the lunch hall. It’s like I didn’t belong anywhere… I mean yeah, all of us have no families and all but at least everyone was part of a group. Everyone except me. I was too dark for the fair kids, too fair for the dark kids. And they say something about the color of my eyes… ojos del diablo, one kid used to call it. The devil’s eyes. You’d think they’d be afraid to touch me but they weren’t. Joe and his gang would always come up behind me in the bathroom and beat the hell out of me. One time, he held a knife against my throat and threatened to kill me if I ever told anyone. But what he didn’t know was that I would never… the last thing I wanted was to seem more different from the other kids than I already was.
One day the beating got so bad, I ended up with a split lip and a wound near my eye. I had to tell the nurse that I fell while I was playing around with stilts. The nuns were always complaining about how clumsy I was anyway… That night, Violet climbed beside me in bed. She pressed her finger against my lips and told me to keep still… My body burned where hers touched… her knee against my thigh… even the ends of her hair that lightly brushed my arm was enough to make my skin tingle. She told me she felt sorry for me.. and that Joe was a bastard.. and that she was gonna do something to make me feel better. I didn’t know what was happening exactly but when she pulled the string of my pajamas and reached inside my pants, I felt the heat travel up from the sides of my neck to the back of my ears. She started moving her hand and it didn’t take long before a shudder coursed through my body and a self-satisfied smile crossed her lips. I asked her if she’d stay… just ‘til dawn. But she told me she can’t and that it was the first and the last time. She said I better toughen up… get used to being alone. She left my bed and never talked to me again. But I was to think of her the next night.. and the next..
I remember the next time that her gaze met mine. She was in the Mother Superior’s office. They caught her smoking a cigarette in the back yard and they made her kneel on mung beans while praying the rosary. That was the day that I was told that a couple is interested in giving me a home. I would’ve been ecstatic but that meant I’d never see her again. Later that day, I mustered the courage to walk up to her and speak to her. She pulled me aside and the look in her eyes told me that she knew what I was gonna say. I told her we’re gonna run away. Me and her. She shook her head at me and smiled – a slow painful smile. She told me she’d been out there and that it was no place for a kid. She touched my cheek, blue eyes held my green gaze. She told me that she believed in me. And that she has always known that I was gonna be someone. She said there’s no hope for her now — she’s getting older and that no one’s gonna want her. Then she made me promise… said that I was gonna live my life for the both of us. I was to go to school, see the world, fall in love, raise a family… all the stuff she wanted but might never get the chance to have.
I’m standing in front of the old church next to the orphanage that we grew up in. Memories come flooding back. There’s a certain kind of sadness suspended in the air. My wife said it was probably not a good idea… She feared that what I might find might end up breaking my heart… But I had to know…
Her name was Violet. Yeah, like the flower…