Skye ran up the steps of the girls building at St. Agnes Orphanage with her backpack on her back and holding the garbage bag of clothes. She opened the door to the room marked A that she would be sharing with seven other girls. She looked around for an open bunk and spied the only one on the left side, marked number five, a top one. She sighed. Skye hated top bunks. She moved over to it, set her stuff down and climbed up. She used the sheets folded on the bed to make up her bed and threw the well worn fraying blanket over the top sheet and grabbed the pillow and threw it up to one end. She jumped off the bunk and grabbed her stuff, throwing the backpack on her bunk, and then opening the two small drawers labeled with the number five and started putting her clothing from the garbage bag into them. She grabbed the new sneakers and threw them up on her bunk intending to find a hiding spot, before one of the other girls took them from her. It was always best to not advertise you got new or nice stuff with you when you came back. Skye always came back.
After hiding her sneakers and backpack securely on her bunk, she shuffled off to the bathroom to place her toothbrush and hairbrush in their spots, using the marker in the bathroom to mark her number five on them. The nuns liked everything in order and would be checking soon to see that she complied with the rules. The bathroom they used had four showers, two sinks and four toilets. Rooms A and B shared this bathroom. Sixteen girls, ages 8-10 used them. They divided the girls by age. The upstairs section housed the older ones ages 8-12. Four rooms, two baths, and thirty-two girls. Rooms C and D had the older ones, the 11-12 year olds. After you turned 13, you went to the other building up the block. The youngest ones had the bottom floor. The boys' building was across the parking lot from them and set up the exact same way. This was Skye's second time in the bigger girls' section, since she had recently turned 8 years old.
She left the bathroom and stood in the hallway. It had been over 4 hours since she had left the Stuarts' house and her tummy was rumbling. She hadn't eaten breakfast, only had time to gather her stuff, while her social worker waited to bring her back to St Agnes. She had been driven back in bad traffic, she knew it was bad, cause Miss Kate kept cursing about it and cursed about it being a Saturday and her day off too, so it took a while to get back to the orphanage. Then Skye had to sit through the paperwork and getting told off by Sister Anne for being bad and being sent back. So it was already after eleven in the morning and Skye was hungry. Lunch was not served until 1:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays so Skye decided to sneak into the kitchen to grab an apple.
She ran down the steps, exited thru the side door and walked the few feet to the main building that housed the offices and cafeteria. She almost made it inside before Angie and Rhonda blocked her way. They were older than Skye and they always went out of their way to be mean to her. Skye's best chance was for someone to walk by. Of course that never happened. Not with Skye's luck. She gazed around contemplating her chance of escape. Rhonda stepped further into Skye's space taking away the running away thought. Skye was now effectively boxed in. She could not believe she let them do that to her again.
"Lookie here Ang. Slant eyes is back. That did not last long, what 6 weeks? No one likes you, do they?" Rhonda emphasized her words by pushing Skye's shoulder. Hard.
"Well, no one likes a 'dummy' to be in their family. Or a kid of unknown origin. What are you Mary Sue?, chink or what?"
Skye swallowed hard but said nothing. it never helped to say anything. Sometimes it just made it worse. Rhonda waved her hand up and down in front of Skye's face.
"You hoo. Hey dumbass. Answer her. Are you Chinese? Japanese? Oh wait. You wouldn't know since your parents dropped you off here without even a name."
Skye could never figure out how by pointing out she was an orphan made her worse then them. They were at St Agnes without parents too. But she still said nothing. She merely gazed around again trying to see if anyone else was around. Nope.
"So Mary. Get anything good? Anything new? Your fosters buy you something? Maybe if you tell me," at this Angie pushed closer to Skye and grabbed her arm, "just maybe I'll be nice and let you go. If you tell me."
Skye knew she should have told her. She knew that pushing back would get her hurt in some way. But she was so tired of being pushed around and being laughed at and being teased so she shook off Angie's arm, reached up with her other arm held in front and pushed Angie and backed up a step, trying to turn and run. But Rhonda was too quick, as Skye felt her right arm getting grabbed and next thing she knew Angie had punched her in her face. Feeling Rhonda grab her other arm she struggled against her and swung her body to her left into Rhonda but lost her balance and fell sideways off the porch as Rhonda fell next to her.
"Hey what are you girls doing!" Skye heard Sister Beatrice's voice. She heard a few footsteps running up to them. She looked up into the face a woman she had never seen before. A beautiful face that looked concerned.
"Sister Beatrice, Mary Sue pushed me right off the porch." Rhonda had conjured up some tears and was sitting on the ground holding her arm, which had a small bruise on it.
"Yes Sister, Mary Sue pushed her. For no reason. We were just asking Mary about why she was back and she got all nasty and started pushing us and yelling at us," Angie chimed in trying to look upset.
"Well that's not what I saw." A man's voice spoke. Skye looked up and saw him standing next to the stranger. The beautiful woman nodded.
"We definitely saw this one" she nodded toward Rhonda, "push the little one here," the woman pointed at Skye, "and this one", she pointed to Angie still on the porch. "hit the little one." The man was nodding his consent.
"Yes, as we were getting out of our car we heard yelling and looked over and these two older girls were definitely picking on the little one"
Skye was gobsmacked. These two strangers were defending her. She looked at the woman who smiled at her.
"Are you okay? Mary was it?" Melinda May-Coulson asked her.
"Skye. My name's Skye", she said automatically. She did not realize she had started to cry but felt the wetness on her face. She reached up her dirt covered hand and tried to wipe away the tears. The stranger knelt in the dirt next to her, and touched her face under her eye where Angie had hit her.
"We should get that looked at and you cleaned up. Sister Beatrice, where is your first aid kit?"
Sister Beatrice looked at the couple and back to the girls. She obviously did not know what to do since Mary was being defended by the potential foster couple she was meeting. In Beatrice's mind she was all ready to blame Mary Sue. Whenever trouble happened Mary Sue was usually around. She answered Melinda's question, " In this building, the hallway leading to the bathrooms there is a first aid box on the wall. "You two," she pointed to Angie and Rhonda, "go to my office and wait for me."
Rhonda got up very quickly and both girls ran into the building. Melinda held out her hand to Skye, and after a moment's hesitation, Skye took it. Melinda held Skye's hand and she and Phil walked Skye into the building with Sister Beatrice following them to go to her office.
"I have to see about those girls." Sister Beatrice said.
"We'll help Skye." Melinda offered. The nun looked grateful as she nodded to Melinda and hurried to her office.
Melinda walked down the hall following Skye's lead as she still held her hand. She saw the first aid box and stopped, gathering some supplies from it. Skye waited, bouncing back and forth on her worn out sneakers.
"Come on Skye. Let's clean you up in the bathroom." Melinda turned to walk the hallway toward the room marked 'Ladies'. Carrying the first aid supplies she gestured for Skye to follow her.
"I'll just wait here." Phil said. Melinda nodded to her husband.
Skye pushed open the door to the bathroom and Melinda followed dumping the stuff in her hands on the sink. She turned the tap on, getting the water warm.
"Here, first you should wash your hands." Skye did as she said, running her hands under the water and pumping soap into them. After she finished a few moments later, Melinda grabbed some papers towels and dried them carefully. Skye noticed there were some scratches on her left hand and thought she must have gotten them in the fall. Melinda spread some kind of cream over them and wrapped them gently in a gauze bandage. next Melinda took a paper towel and very carefully cleaned her face under her eye. She put some cream there too and a band-aid across it.
"Now little one, do you hurt anywhere else?" Melinda asked her bending down to her level. Skye shook her head. Melinda smiled at her.
"I don't think we have been formally introduced. I'm Melinda May-Coulson. That guy out there is my husband, Phil Coulson. It's nice to meet you Skye." She held out her hand.
Skye giggled and took her hand and shook. "I'm just Skye."
Melinda took a few stray hairs and tucked them behind Skye's ear. Skye frowned remembering she hadn't had time to brush through her hair cause of the rush Miss Kate had her in. She also had just thrown on one of her hand me down t-shirts and shorts that were too big. Along with her old holey sneakers she probably looked messy and dirty. This nice lady was so beautiful and had very nice clothes. In fact, Skye realized with a start, they must be here to pick up a kid. No strangers ever came to the office to meet with Sister Beatrice unless they were picking out a kid. Skye wondered who0 the lucky kid was. Melinda had straightened up and offered Skye her hand again. Just as Skye was about to take Melinda's hand, her tummy grumbled very loud. Very, very loud. Melinda laughed having heard it.
"I heard that." Melinda lightly poked Skye's stomach. "Someone's hungry."
Skye remembered she hadn't eaten at all today. Everyone was in too much of a rush to remember. "I didn't eat anything."
"You didn't have breakfast honey?" Melinda looked at Skye concerned. Skye shook her head from side to side.
"That's what I was coming over here for before Angie and Rhonda stopped me. I was gonna try to find an apple or something. Lunch isn't till one on Saturday and Sunday," Skye answered sadly.
Melinda glanced at her watch. It was already close to 11:30. "Come on. Let's find you something. Isn't the cafeteria in this building?" Melinda tried to remember from her first time here when they had toured the whole facility.
"Yes." Skye affirmed for her. It's on the right after you go past the offices." She turned to open the door and Melinda followed. Phil was still waiting in the hallway.
He greeted them both. "Hey. Everything okay." Skye nodded and kept walking past him.
"This way." she said. Phil raised an eyebrow at his wife who just motioned at him to follow Skye. So he did. Skye led them to a door, opened it and all three entered.
Sister Maria looked up at the intrusion into her kitchen. There were other workers about, doing their preparation for what Melinda assumed was lunch. Melinda spoke up. "This little girl has not eaten yet today and she is hungry. She needs something to tide her over before you serve her lunch. An hour and half is too long fro her."
Sister Maria shook her head mostly at Skye and walked to her. "Skye, you know the rules. No food except meals. You need to wait like all the others."
Skye hung her head. Her tummy was starting to hurt and felt empty. She turned to walk out the door, when she heard Melinda clear her throat. She looked at Melinda sadly. Melinda looked angry as she stepped closer the Sister Maria.
"I'm sorry but did you not hear me tell you that one of your charges, this little girl is hungry and did not eat anything at all yet today. That is totally unacceptable and you need to give her something right now." Melinda stared at the nun. "How dare you let this child go hungry knowing she missed a meal."
Phil touched Melinda's arm gently, made eye contact and warned her to calm down. Melinda scoffed back at him and gave him a dirty look that also carried over to the nun.
Phil spoke up. "Perhaps the sister here did not understand that Skye missed eating breakfast today and is very hungry and cannot wait till lunch time." Phil emphasized the last few words.
"Or maybe she thinks denying a child food due to no fault of hers is a reasonable thing to do. Which it is not. Now get this child something to eat." Melinda cut right to the chase. She did not mince words preferring to say exactly what she meant. Melinda stared daggers at the nun.
Sister Maria looked at Melinda and in a huff walked over to the fridge to grab a few things. She came back and offered Skye an apple and a juice box. Skye looked at Melinda who nodded at her and she grabbed the items. A teenage worker close by came over and handed Skye a pack of crackers and fruit gummies as well. Skye smiled and took them.
"Thank you." The worker smiled at her and Melinda and walked away. Melinda gave her a grateful look.
"There now that should do it till lunch." Melinda put a protective arm behind Skye's back and ushered her out the door. As she left, Melinda made it a point to give the nun one last dirty look.
Phil rolled his eyes and followed them. He bumped against Melinda's shoulder and whispered to her, "you can't beat up everyone, you know."
She grinned back. "I thought I did the self- control thing rather well. Especially considering she was being mean to my new daughter."
Phil just laughed. He had known from the moment his wife had seen the little girl who called herself Skye laying on the ground with tears in her eyes, that she would be the one coming home with them.