“Mommy, I want a better hat,” I whined, as we both sat on our dirty piece of cardboard, out in the cobbled streets of London. The smile left your face, and a bleak expression replaced it.
It was my ninth birthday, and you had gone to the trouble of saving the pennies passer-bys dropped in your cap for months to buy me a present for the occasion. Not that I didn’t like it – it just looked out of place. It was too posh and flowery to wear with my dirty rags. Now I realise what an ignorant piece of crap I was.
“Mommy,” I whined again. You turned around, trying your best to comfort me.
“I want a hat like Mrs Ashton’s daughter’s.”
Mrs Ashton was the neighbourhood snob. She and her husband had seven kids, who were all properly clothed, fed and educated. At the time, Mrs Ashton was god to me. I wished I was her child instead of yours. I watched her drive her children to school every day in her posh car, and I couldn’t help but want the same life for myself – to have access to all the knowledge I could want, to have a full belly all day, to never be cold again.
“Emilia… we don’t have much money. Sorry, mommy can’t get you what you want, but maybe someday, you’ll grow up and earn your own money. Then you can have whatever you like.”
“Even a hat, like the ones Mrs Ashton gives her children?”
“Yes. If you work hard to earn money, you’ll be able to buy hats even better than that.”
“But no hats are better than Mrs Ashton’s. And it’s a shame money can’t buy me back my childhood. Anyway, how am I going to earn money if you can’t even afford for me to go to school? It looks like it’s going to be hard for me, sitting out here looking all grimy, asking for spare change for the rest of my life.”
You sighed, looking down slightly.
“I promise you Emilia, I’ll try my hardest. I will do all I can, but nobody wants to hire a woman with no legs. When you grow up, you will be able to work and earn your own living. You won’t need to sit on the streets forever.”
“Yeah,” I sneered. “You can try, but we’ll never get anywhere. You’re just going to sit here and depend on me to earn money for us in the future.”
“Emilia, it’s… it’s not like I can do anything about that. I’m sorry.”
“I know! You think I don’t know that already? All I can do is wish. Wish I was never born into this world. Wish Mrs Ashton was my mother instead of you. Why did god do this to me? What did I do to annoy him? All I have out here is you, a piece of cardboard and a few pennies. We don’t even have enough change for a bit of bread, but Mrs Ashton’s children can eat all they like. I don’t even have any friends, but each of Mrs Ashton’s children have six brothers or sisters, and they have friends at school too. I know you can’t do anything about it – but don’t you see that I’m angry?”
You blinked twice, and your expression turned solemn, as if you had just heard your death sentence. I wish I could take back what I said. Please forgive me. I was ignorant then.
I sat down and sulked for one last time. Then, I stood up. You looked at me, startled, wondering what I was going to do. I waved goodbye, and began to walk away. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I wanted to search for a new life. Somewhere better than the streets.
“No, Emilia! Please, just give me a chance, and maybe we can…”
You shouted after me, crying and wailing in pain. You wanted to bring me back, but your legless form was rooted to the ground. Desperately, you started to crawl on your hands, bringing yourself towards me. As I looked down upon you, I suddenly felt disgusted by your inhuman form, and I sprinted away in horror. Only now do I realize what an ignorant action that was.
I sprinted towards what I wanted most in the few years I’d been living there; to live in Mrs Ashton’s home, safe and sound. I thought I would try my luck.
I rang the doorbell, and Mrs Ashton came out to greet me. I told her I was lost, and that my parents were dead. I was more than thrilled to hear that I was welcome to stay. She transformed me, and suddenly, I had the life I’d always wanted; the life you were unable to give me. I had never experienced such luxury before; new friends, going to school, great food – the life of the rich, it was.
But the memories of your voice constantly haunted me, a reminiscent of the day I abandoned you; the day I selfishly deserted the person who had supported me from the day I was born. I was ignorant, and I would come to regret it big-time.
I soon discovered there was a reason Mrs Ashton had so many children – all so well fed and educated. There was a reason they kept disappearing. There was a reason more were turning up on her doorstep. If only I had known, I would’ve stayed with you forever, and clung onto you for dear life.
I hope you’re well, with all my heart. Right now, I don’t know where you are – I don’t even know whether you’re alive or dead. But if you’re listening to my prayers, I just want you to know that I’m sorry for being ignorant. I regret everything that I did, and everything that I said to make you feel ashamed. But one thing is for sure; I will never forget you.
And no matter who buys me next…
You will always be my mother.
Written by Rinskuro13