Siala's Orphans

Chapter One

The morning sun shone directly on my face as I drifted slowly from a dreamless sleep into consciousness. I squinted my eyes and turned over so the rays lay elsewhere. I hoped my roommate would let me sleep in.

It had been a whole year since my brother and I became permanent residents at Siala's Orphanage. I must say, our lives had taken a drastic turn for the better. A year ago, we were scavenging for food scraps in the slums of Cork, and our clothes were always tattered rags; now we have plenty to eat and then some, and we each have a small wardrobe full of clean, crisp outfits.1

The other orphans were intimidating at first, which was to be expected, since we were new and had no idea what we were in for, while these children had been here longer and already knew the ropes. Eventually, we got to know each of the others, became friends with most of them, and lo and behold, a year later we fit right in.2

My hopes of sleeping in that day were dashed as my roommate barreled into the room and stripped the blanket off of me.

"Wake up, Ciarrai!" My roommate, Liam's sister Bethany, bustled around our room looking for something. I grunted tiredly at her and groped at the floor by my bed, searching for my blanket. When I couldn't find it, I sighed in defeat and lurched to my tired feet. I ambled over to my wardrobe and stared unseeingly at the gowns held within. Still half asleep I couldn't seem to pick something to wear. I heard a faint giggle from Bethany as she appeared by my side, and reached into my closet. It took me a moment to comprehend the gown she had selected, and when I realized which it was, I looked at my friend confusedly. Beth giggled again and thrust the dress into my tired arms.

As Beth continued her ransack of our room, I tried to wake myself up further. I splashed my face with water from the ceramic basin on the washstand in the corner. It was colder than I expected. The shock of the frigid water did the job; I was wide-awake now.

I stepped out of the bright bedroom and into the sitting room shared by all the girls, the elegant gown slung over my arm, my jewelry box in the other hand. The box was small, about the size of my palm. The Old Man had fashioned it for me for my seventh birthday from the root of a felled oak tree.

Oh, how I miss the Old Man!

As I pulled on my many layers, and I continued thinking about the Old Man, a tear escaped from my eye and rolled coldly down my cheek.

The dress Bethany had chosen was my most elegant. Delicate lace embroidered the neckline and the waist of the cornflower blue silk gown, the same shade as Ciarron's and my eyes, which flowed down to my unclad feet. Pale yellow chiffon peeped through the slits in the arms and under the skirts. I truly loved this gown, but it was still too elegant for someone like me. So to reduce the elegance of the dress, I opted to hide some of the lace behind a long brown leather belt. The excess leather hung down my front from my waist, reaching almost to my feet. I knew Beth expected me to wear the matching blue silk slippers, but the flimsy soles on them were so uncomfortable. Instead I wore my sturdy, brown leather boots. Bethany would not be happy about it, but at least my feet would be.

Now completely dressed, I turned my sights on the tall mirror in the corner. A stranger peered back out at me. I still was not used to seeing my reflection. So even after a year, I didn't completely recognize myself. The girl staring back at me was tall, pale, and slender. At least I could finally understand why so many people commented on how much alike Ciarron and I are. We have the same straight pale yellow hair, mine reaching down my back, my brother's only a few inches long. Our eyes, wide and bright, are the blue of the lapis lazuli stone that the Old Man had loved so much.

1 Needs a lot of work

2 So does this

Ciarrai Manning Page 3