Rose worked hard. The women gave her fabric – too small for their chubby babies stuffed into their cotton. Pull, tug. Her arms ached and burned, stretchy and loose like the clothes when she finished with them. Her work was paid with not telling the guards- no, don't tell them about the grubby girl curled up in her corner. Whose eyes were as large as saucers, the whites yellowed from malnutrition – hush and keep silent when they ask.
The men asked her to wave her arms up and down, to do jumping jacks. The extra weight made her spine sag and bend at odd angles. Their laughter was met with glass bottles filled with strange, sour liquid that Rose would lap up too fast for their comfort when they offered it to her.
She's sad, that one. But don't tell the guards, no. They'd take her away. I think she's happy here.
Rose was cold. So cold. All the time. Her baby blanket was too small, too shrunken to cover her spindly body. Her skin was creamy white.
So beautiful. Quite wasted on her. That's to say, why can't our regular girls have such skin, such hair, such a face. Would be prettier if someone fed the thing.
Rose's ears were attentive to these noises – what were they saying? Words? Confused. They didn't sound like Mama and Papa. Not like rows darleeng but like dertee creechur.
Was that her name? She didn't know. Ow, her head hurt. She was tired. Sleep – no, too chilly. Will get still, stiff. Like Alex. Not like Alex. Alex was like the other people. Not like Rose. Rose remembers the screams.
Waht iz that own hur bak? Tayk hur too thee speshulist.
Iym soree mam, but she's betur own thee streetz.
Rose remembers school when she was two. Dog, cat, mother, father. No – Mama and Papa. They're by Rose's bed with her brother. Bruther. His name was Baby.
Bee niyz too baybee. Kis baybee.
Their words spun and warped in her mind. Her hair was longer now. Mama didn't take the sharp thing, the peen, and put it up on her head. No bruh to make her head prickle. Coldness now. Laughing now. People like Rose. She makes them smile. Their teeth are nubs.
She's horibl! Wat's rong with hur?
Rose reaches out her hand, fingers open to grasp the bred, to take it and quickly pull back her hand to her mouth to eat it. To chew the hard, crumbly stuff until it was mush. Then swallow.
The lump on her back hurt. Her extra arm hung limp until she moved it. Her ears were deformed, not like them. The other people. Rose wanted her Mama. Rose wanted her Papa.
She adjusted the payper over her, and closed her bright green eyes.
Sleep like Alex now.