One perfect day

One perfect day

A Chapter by John

There is one thing most orphan children love to dream of, and it is finally getting out. Many of them spend a great deal of time daydreaming about it, trying to imagine how they’d feel, what they’d do, and wondering at all the new experiences and people that awaited them outside. For Sabah, Nailah and James, their first day had been off to an awesome start, with Mr. and Mrs. Ellwood coming by first thing in the morning, in a van that seemed to be brand new. The children had very little in the matters of material possessions, and each carried only a few changes of clothes and other basic items used in the orphanage.

     Each of them gave Andressa and the other caretakers a tight hug, leaving some of the more emotional ones in tears.

     “You all take care, okay? And if anything bad happens, you will always be safe here,” Andressa said as the van pulled over, her admonishment making little sense for the children. Mrs. Ellwood opened the door and went to greet the children and the caretakers, thanking them profusely. Behind the wheel, her husband waved warmly at them.

     “So, is the wonder-trio ready to leave?” Mrs. Ellwood asked, facing her new adopted sons and daughter. They all screamed a passionate ‘Yes!’, which left her wondering if the caretakers, wouldn’t take that unshakeable readiness to leave badly. She banished the thought and helped the children into the van, waving a final goodbye at the caretakers.

     As soon as the van got moving, the children turned to their new foster parents with such glimmering eyes that Mrs. Ellwood couldn’t suppress a smile. “I think you want to know where we’re headed but…I won’t tell so easily. How about we make a game out of it?” At the mention of a game, the children nodded approvingly and elbowed each other, clearly showing a sense of competition.

     Pleased with their reaction, Mrs. Ellwood went on; “It goes like this, I will give you a hint related to where we are going. If no one gets it right, I will say another one, up to three times. The one who answers correctly first gets something special from where we’re headed. How about it?”

     “It seems like a good game. Another chance to leave these two in the dust!” Nailah proclaimed proudly, earning sneers from her brothers. Sabah, on the other hand, looked at Mrs. Ellwood suspiciously.

     “What’s wrong, Sabah? Don’t like the game? We can always change it!” she responded defensively, unsure of why she reacted that way.

     “No, I quite like it, but I was wondering what would happen if we lose three times.” He explained his uncertainty, and his foster mother was more than happy to answer.

     “Well, at the end of the day, if you all manage to answer everything, regardless of who wins, we will take you to the best ice cream shop in town. Now, if you lose it…no ice cream.”

     “Or maybe we will go and eat by ourselves while you three watch! Hah!” Mr. Ellwood said from the front of the van, laughing, “And boy is that ice cream a thing from another world. Just thinking about that perfect creamy deliciousness makes my mouth all watery. You would not want to miss it for anything. So make sure you put those heads to work!”

     At the mention of their final reward, the children started thinking to themselves. Sabah quickly got the idea of the game. The three of them could compete between themselves, but at some point, they might have to let go of their barriers and work together lest they lose their trip to the ice cream shop. Unfortunately, he knew that his two idiotic companions would never agree to work together, no matter the prize. He’d either have to outthink Mrs. Ellwood and make sure he could win alone, or somehow bring them together. He quickly opted for the first option, judging it the easiest to work with. He was ironing out the details of what he’d do when Mrs. Ellwood gave them their first hint.

     “Sameness becomes uniqueness,” she stated, happy to watch the looks on Nailah’s and James’ faces go from expectancy to puzzlement to utter desperation in a couple of seconds. Only Sabah’s stayed the same, serious from the beginning, while his mind raced and tried to find the answer. A moment later, the other two children also recovered and started to think.

     “Darlings, we are getting close to our destination! You should answer short�"” The car suddenly braking interrupted Mrs. Ellwood.

     “Sorry! Damn nutjob jumped in the middle of street,” her husband screamed from the front.  Mrs. Ellwood, Sabah and Nailah were held by their seatbelts but James, who forgot his, was thrown to the seat in front of him, falling next to Mrs. Ellwood. He shook his head in confusion, looking at his friends on the other side, and suddenly his eyes grew big, almost as if they were about to pop out.

     “Clothes!” he yelled, “We’re going to buy clothes!”

     Sabah and Nailah followed his gaze and looked at each other, noticing that they were wearing the same outfit, given to them at the orphanage. “Very good, James, though I suspect we have my husband’s excellent driving skills to thank for. Still, you’re correct!” She helped him straighten himself and reminded him of the seatbelt.

     “We are about to get to the store, children. Each of you can choose four t-shirts and four pants, skirts or shorts, whichever you prefer. Oh, and a pair of shoes would be nice. James, since you won, you can choose an extra t-shirt.” James smiled happily, though he was not that sure what to expect from buying clothes.

     A moment later, Mr. Ellwood parked the van next to a two-story floor that bustled with people coming and going, each of them packed with bags. The signboard in front of the big metal doors read ‘King’s Clothing’. Mrs. Ellwood opened the door and they all got out of the car and into the building.

     “Alright, children,” she began before they entered, “down here, they have shirts, t-shirts and shoes, and up on the second floor, pants, shorts and skirts. As you can see, the store is filled with people, so make sure you don’t get carried away, okay?” She reinforced that by taking the hands of both boys into her own. Mr. Ellwood did the same with Nailah, and they all went in.

     The inside of King’s Clothing was, for the children, as if buckets upon buckets of colorful paint had suddenly been hurled into their world of shades of grey. Back in the orphanage, everyone had dressed in the same grey t-shirt with light blue pants. Howbeit, they found themselves in a completely new universe, surrounded by sights and smells they had never felt. Sabah and James rushed to a section where a myriad of other boys gathered, dragging Mrs. Ellwood along. Nailah, trying to act more mature, asked Mr. Ellwood to take her around so she could see everything. Neither boys or girl had any idea what they wanted, as this was their first time faced with such decision, and the sheer amount of options made their task of choosing clothes that more challenging.

     After a trying twenty minutes, James and Sabah emerged from the mess of boys with their shirts. James had chosen ones depicting rock stars and superheroes, also carrying an extra shirt, whereas Sabah had chosen to stick to solid colors without any picture. He wanted two white ones and two black ones, but Mrs. Ellwood convinced him to go with colored ones as well. They found Nailah and Mr. Ellwood on a bench, talking. In her lap, she had only black t-shirts, mostly with skulls and webs. The three of them had decided to get matching sneakers, white with streaks of blue and red all over them.

     “And after all the trouble of convincing Sabah, I have to come face-to-face with this…” Mrs. Ellwood sighed as she saw Nailah’s choice of clothing, but said no more, letting her reproachful look fall on her husband. They went together to the following floor, where things went by in a faster pace, and it took them only a few minutes to reach the cashier. After paying, the children went into fitting rooms and changed out of their bleak clothes before leaving the store.

     “Happy and comfortable in your new clothes?” Mrs. Ellwood asked as they got into the car, receiving positive answers from all of them, who now dressed in their own choices of clothing, looking very distinguished. “Good. Then it is time for our second destination �" and hint. I have four legs but I never walk,” after saying it, the children once again started to grind those words in their heads. A couple of minutes went by and no one had arrived at an answer and no idea where to start. “Shall I give you another hint?” Mrs. Ellwood smiled. They didn’t want to give in but no one seemed to be making progress, so they agreed that she should. “I may be covered in flowers, but I have no soil.”

     At saying that, Mrs. Ellwood expected the children to be even more confused but surprisingly, they all yelled “Table!” in unison.

     “Oh, my. That was unexpected! How did you figure it out?” she asked, puzzled by their quick answer.

     “The table where we ate at the orphanage was always covered with a flower-themed cloth. Andressa used to call it our little garden. Guess we all just kind of associated it with the hint,” Nailah answered and quickly continued with a question, “Does this mean we all win?”

     “Sure does. We are going for lunch now; I bet you’re all starving. I know I am!” Mr. Ellwood answered from the front. “I’ll take you to one of my favorite restaurants here. Since you all won, you can have an extra helping of whatever you want. Have you pups ever eaten Chinese food?”

     “No, we haven’t, but one of the other orphans has, and he says it’s delicious. Kept going on about it whenever food wasn’t good back there,” Sabah answered for them. Eating was one of his favorite things to do and he couldn’t wait for whatever new flavors were to come.

     The car went on through the city, and the kids paid close attention to everything that went on outside. Most of the streets were busy with people going about their daily affairs, but sometimes they passed through places that looked almost abandoned. The heat outside was as bad as usual, and most people wore long sleeved clothes to protect them from the unyielding sun, especially at noon. Even though they were probably far from the orphanage by now, many of the people on the streets reminded them of the passersby they used to see daily. Beaten people, trudging through the day, earning just enough to keep them going. None of the children wanted to live like that, and seeing it was a constant reminder of it.

     The group arrived at the restaurant while they were having a heated discussion over the best way to eat a hamburger. The boys, Mr. Ellwood included, insisted that the buns were a necessary item for the whole meal. Mrs. Ellwood, on the other hand, wouldn’t yield and kept on saying that the buns provided unnecessary carbs and would only make you fat. Nailah had decided to take a neutral stand, saying both ways were yummy and that’s what mattered.  

     As soon as they got out of the car, the children let an amused sigh escape when they saw the restaurant, as they had never seen anything like it. The entrance had two big pillars with dragons sculpted around them, and a short walkway that led inside, which was almost as colorful as the clothing store had been. The walls and furniture were painted in shades of red and green, and there were many paintings hanging all over the restaurants, picturing what they figured were ancient Chinese stories. The maître welcomed them to the ‘Zhao Palace’ and proceeded to seat them and give them their menus.

     “Eat to your hearts’ content, pups! The food here is all sorts of amazing,” Mr. Ellwood said, already calling for the waiter and ordering for himself without even looking at the menu. They children decided they’d order different things and share their dishes so they could taste more. James went with Sun Quan Pork, described as finely sliced and seasoned pork chops served with bittersweet ginger and sesame sauce. Nailah chose the Fried Shu Noodles; it piqued her curiosity because they were said to be ‘hard, deep fried’ noodles, which she’d never had. It came dipped in a heavy soy sauce with carrots, broccoli, chard and mushrooms. Finally, Sabah decided to go with the Luoyang Chicken, seasoned with black pepper, cardamom and honey, and then fried to form a sticky crust. It was garnished with cold rice noodles in a sauce of fish, sugar and chilies.

     As they began to eat, both from their own plates and their siblings’, the children had to agree that the food was extremely delicious, and quick to dispel the phantom of the orphanage’s food. James’ pork was exquisitely seasoned, with just the right consistency and paired perfectly with the sauce, while Sabah’s chicken had a bite to it that mixed very well with the honey and noodles. However, when they came down to it, it was a unanimous decision that Nailah’s noodles had been the best pick. The sauce was simply wonderful and full of flavor, and the noodles themselves were fun to eat, with their firmness and texture.

     For dessert, Nailah went with a portion of mooncakes while James and Sabah decided to share the fried ice cream, which eluded them as they wondered how it’d be prepared. The mooncakes were filled with a red paste that tasted like nothing Nailah had ever eaten. It wasn’t especially tasty or sweet, but it wasn’t bad either. As for the fried ice cream, it was covered with a deep fried crust made of cereal and bread, which started oozing melted ice cream as soon as it arrived. The boys ate it with an almost religious zeal, and soon there was nothing left in the plate.

     After lunch, they stopped at a square near the restaurant to rest for a while. It was just around 2p.m. and the children were getting lazy after having eaten so much.  The square had benches around it and many trees that provided a much welcome shade against the afternoon sun. They decided to sit by the grass, and soon the children were snoozing against the soft green bed. The Ellwoods decided to leave them be for the time being.

     They waited a good half-hour before waking the children up from their quick nap, and prompted them back into the car. “Where are we going now?” Nailah asked sleepily as she went in, rubbing her eyes.

     “I can’t just tell you, now can I? It’d ruin the game! I’m feeling merciful, though, so I’ll let you know that it’s our last destination, aside from the ice cream shop if you win,” Mrs. Ellwood answered, and continued, “As for your hint, here it is. Pay attention! It is a park, though it has few trees.”

     The hint did not seem to ring any bells in the children, and the fact that they were just coming back from a nap and were having a hard time focusing wasn’t really helping. James was the first to seemingly give up and relax back in his seat, while Sabah looked expectantly at Mrs. Ellwood, waiting for more. “Guess it’s a no-go, huh? Second hint then, Sabah? Nailah?” she complied with a flick of her head. “Be careful with what you eat there; it might just betray you.”

     The second hint made the two kids that were still trying all the more desperate. Sabah had closed his eyes and was rubbing his temples, trying too hard to think of something. Nailah played with her hands as if trying to distract herself from the problem at hand. Mrs. Ellwood waited three, four, and finally five minutes and, receiving no answers, offered the last hint: “It’ll make your stomach squeak and your head hurt, but you’ll love every minute of it.”

     As if quitting as well, Sabah waved his hands in the air and threw himself against the seat. Nailah persevered for a few more minutes, but finally gave a wry smirk of defeat and admitted defeat. “Children, I’m impressed that you couldn’t figure this one out! We are going to an amusement park!” Mrs. Ellwood said, trying not to sound displeased, and then smiled lightly when she saw clarity and shame appear in the children’s faces, reddening them.

     “Guess that means the delicious ice cream is all mine, eh?” Mr. Ellwood butted in from the front. “You still get to have fun at the park though, so cheer up, you ninnies! Ah, and as the wife said, be double careful with the food in these places. You don’t want it coming out through the wrong end, if you catch my drift.”

     They rode through the city a few more minutes before finally being able to see Fantasy Land. However, as they looked closer, they noticed the attractions weren’t moving. The parking lot was deserted and there wasn’t a soul in sight. “Huh, I wonder if they’re closed today,” Mr. Ellwood muttered, taking the car closer to the private parking lot. The gates were closed and had a decrepit look to them. A plate hung flimsily from the gate, with a ‘Closed for Maintenance’ stamped on it.

     “Sorry, guys, but it looks like our last stop is busted. Tell you what, then,” he began as he scratched his beard, “why don’t we go to that ice cream shop and you can have double of whatever you want?” The children, who had started to look genuinely devastated at missing out on the park, cherished the idea, though with not as much enthusiasm as he’d expected.

     When they got to the ice cream shop, which had all the hustle and bustle of a popular place, the children had begun to cheer up, and looked even happier when they saw the place. Mr. Ellwood found a place to park and they got off, the children running toward the shop while the couple lagged behind.

     “What you running for, anyway? We are the ones paying, hah!” Mr. Ellwood laughed, patting an eager Sabah in the head.

      The shop was lined with a long, transparent counter that held more ice cream flavors than either of the children though possible. A small plaque could identify each flavor, and at least a dozen employees ran around the counter, scooping this and that flavor according to their client’s desires. Most of the orders were served in cones and, while big, were very simplistic. Nonetheless, there were times when an employee would run inside the kitchen and come back with dishes that were very elaborate and used the ice cream as a finishing touch.

     Each of the dishes that left the kitchen made the kids hungrier and hungrier, but the line they were in was a long one. It was as if they had to remove the employees from the cashiers to work at the counter, so slow was the line to move. “Where will we go after here?” Sabah asked.

     “Home, I suppose? I mean, when we leave here it should be night already, or close to it. Do you want to leave already?” Mrs. Ellwood wondered as she looked at the sun that started to fade in the horizon.

     “I’m not that hungry, really. Maybe I’ll eat a little bit from these two suckers but I’m not getting anything for myself.,” he answered matter-of-factly.

     “Wow, such a strict boy! Of course, you’re free to do as you wish, but you’re missing out on quite a treat.”

     “Sabah has always been like that. Acts all serious sometimes. Makes me wonder if he’s a serial killer in disguise,” Nailah joined the conversation, teasing Sabah.

     “I-I am not a serial killer, you dummy!” He spoke exasperatedly, losing his cool. Nailah laughed at that and poked him in the cheek with her fingers.

     “You guys will need to rest, ‘cause tomorrow is also a big day for you,” Mrs. Ellwood exchanged glanced with her husband and they both smiled, sharing a secret.

     “Is it going to be like today?” James inquired, barging in.

     “Something like that. You will have to wait and see!”

     They waited for a while more until it was finally their turn to order. Nailah chose a Super Banana Split while James couldn’t resist the Thunder Brownie, which seemed to be made of obscene amounts of chocolate in all its various forms. They got their orders and sat at a table outside, enjoying the cool breeze that came with the dying of the day. Sabah acted as a judge and after tasting both dishes, decided that James’ chocolate obliteration outdid Nailah’s Split. They spent their time laughing and talking and when they got up to leave, the sun had already settled.

     The trip home was a quiet one, and the children were excited to see where they’d be living. When they arrived, however, it was hard for them not to hide their disappointment. Even through the dark, it was easy to see that their new house was very old and badly kept. The one-story house looked almost abandoned. Their reaction didn’t escape Mrs. Ellwood.

     “Don’t worry, children, this house is only temporary. We are refitting ours to accommodate the three of you, and this is all we could get in such short notice. I’m sure it’ll do for a few days,” having said that, they entered the house, which was pitch black, and were led into a big room seemingly without furniture. “We also didn’t have time to get electricity or get you some mattresses. But you can make it through the night, right?” before they couldn’t answer anything, she shut the door and they heard it being locked outside. “Sleep tight!” she said, her voice muffled and already fading, leaving the children to look at each other in confusion.

If their hell had been literal, this is when they would have felt the first stings of the fire.



© 2016 John


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Added on February 29, 2016
Last Updated on March 25, 2016


Author

John
John

Brasilia, DF, Brazil



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Just someone who writes a lot of random stuff... more..

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