She was supposed to be dead, that much Mami knew. After waking up in the burning remains of her home and the memory of her brother leaving her in a safe spot, Mami was surrounded by corpses. They seemed to all have collapsed chests and Mami didn’t want to think about how it happened. All she remembered was an attack, being chased after her parents were killed, then hiding. After that everything was fuzzy. Mami looked around and began to cry. Her home, her friends, her family, all gone. No one she could see was alive.
Mami began to wander the ruins of her home.
“ENMA!” Mami called
“ENMA!” Mami called louder
Still no answer.
“PLEASE! WHERE ARE YOU!” Her cries increased.
“Enma.... I need you... please...” Mami sank down on to her knees and sobbed. The sun began to rise, coating the destruction in red hues. Mami looked out at her home, now mere rubble and wondered, “Why us?”
By the time Mami arose from the ground, the sun was high in the sky and her stomach was protesting the lack of food. Mami walked on unsteady legs in hope of finding some source of food.
After what seemed like hours for Mami, she comes across the remnants of what used to be a kitchen. After some searching, Mami manages to find some unopened granola bars in a toppled cabinet. While the bars are practically dust Mami eats them regardless. Mami knows that she can’t stay in the ruins of her home anymore. There isn’t enough food or freshwater for her to survive.
She remembers the days that she and Enma would sneak out and go exploring in the woods, sometimes her Mama would join them and teach them about nature and how to use the world around them. Mami looks at the sky to see the sun already beginning to set and decides to leave tomorrow.
Mami finds herself back at the place Enma left her to hide and feels the familiar sting if tears. With a quivering lip, Mami lays down in the blanket filled nook and cries herself to sleep, not for the last time.
Not a week later when Mami finds herself at a nearby town and curling herself into a ball in some alley does the situation really hit her. Her home is gone. Her family is gone. Everything that made her life what it was is gone. Mami is alone.
In the days following her realization, Mami is an empty shell of the person she used to be. She doesn’t smile. She doesn’t get angry. She doesn’t even cry. She’s... empty.
Day after day she numbly wanders the Italian town begging for food, water, or money. Once the begging isn’t enough she starts to steal. She’s horrid at it. It takes a month for her to move to a bigger area, the town just isn’t big enough to survive.
Mami is in Salerno next. The port city is bigger than she’s used to. One of the largest places she’s ever been in before and gets lost often. Not that she has a specific hunting ground, so to speak, it’s just some areas are better than others for surviving.
It takes Mami months to survive on theft alone and when it does happen she feels strangely liberated.
Winters are rough. The cold air blowing off the coast chills Mami to the bone and more often than not she finds that other homeless children will cuddle up to her at night. She is reminded of her brother and cries on those nights, but tears are better than freezing. She persists.
“I will not die. I’ll live for everyone.” She repeats her mantra on the worse nights.
Mami is five when she learns how to beg. Mami is six when she begins to steal. Mami is seven when she knows who to steal from and who not to.
“ GET BACK HERE YOU BRAT!”
Mami runs as fast as her child's body allows before collapsing in an alley thinking she made another successful steal.
“You... hand the food over and no one gets hurt.” Mami foolishly glares at the panting man and hold the apple closer to her body.
The man lunges at Mami and, with more strength than one would expect, kicks her in the chest. Something cracks and Mami cries out in pain. The man continues to wail on her until he’s out of breath before he leaves. He never took the stolen apple back.
That night Mami finds a man with a missing leg and he patches her up for the price of her apple.
“Now watch closely.” He begins to wrap her chest. “Wrap flat and firm, not too tight. Go above the broken rib and wrap ‘til yer below the rib.” Mami slowly sat up next to the man.
“Remove the bandages often take a few deep breaths before putting ‘em on again. Come back once a week with food and I’ll do a check-up on yer ribs.”
Mami nodded and winced at the pain every so often.
“Yer a strong one y’know. Most men would be wailin’ away for their mama by now, but here yea’ are takin’ it like a true warrior! Hah!”
“Why- How do you know how to do this?” Mami looks at the scruffy man with a curious face.
“ Was a Military doctor. Sailin’ around in the war treatin’ all sortsa wanna-be hero. Stupid bastards, the lot of ‘em.”
“Ah.” The two didn’t speak until morning. Mani re-wrapped her ribs under the careful eye of the Military doctor and once she was given the okay, left for the week.
After six weeks and six days of bringing the doctor food, Mami was proclaimed, “Good as a clam” whatever that was supposed to mean. That didn’t mean Mami stopped her visits though, every week Mami would come with some food for the both of them and they’d talk about whatever came to mind. Never their past though. They had an unspoken rule that they don’t ask about each other’s past. All they knew was that he was a Navy Doctor and she wasn’t from Salerno. They didn’t know why they were on the streets and they liked it that way. Not even their names were shares.
On one spring morning the now eight Mami had brought the usual food offering to the doctor and Mami had a thought. Over the three years Mami had been on the streets she was kicked, punched, cut, and otherwise beaten.
“You were in the Military, yeah?” Mami interrupted the silence that hat fallen between them.
The Doctor only raised a brow in response.
“Could you train me? I’d bring more food of course! And I’d work really hard! And- and I could protect myself better- I could protect you! No, you are probably fine b-” Mami missed the amused smile the Doctor had as she rambles on.
“Of course you’d say no, what was I thinking- I’ll go n- what.” Mami stopped and looked at the Doctor once more.
“ I said, sure kid. I don’ mind. Passin’ on my skills to the next generation and all that.”
She gaped. “Really?”
“Keep askin’ that an’ I’ll change my mind.” Mami shut her jaw with a click and stood up straight and gave a mock salute.
He smirked. “ Imma Doctor not a Captain! Besides you’ve got the arm up. If I’s a Captain I’d punish ya’ fer that.”
They laughed together and Mami felt something she hadn’t in a long time, joy.