The Lottery

Diary of Mica Crane

I've run away.

I'm writing this down in case—in case something should happen, and I don't reach my destination. I have to make sure that someone knows about the Angel House. Someone needs to know about the Lottery.

It's a surreal feeling to leave home for the first time. Well technically, this is the second home that I have had to leave home, but it's the first time I've been outside the walls of the Angel House since the day that I arrived.

It's quiet here. The only sign of a human presence is the steady rumble of the train and the cold silver tracks, which cut a path through the forest and mountains like a winding snake; its sharp, silver tongue guiding my way. A nearby crabapple tree vaguely reminds me of Adam and Eve, and I wonder why this comparison never struck me before. Probably I wasn't looking for it. It seems I have had my eyes closed to quite a few things lately.

The Angel House, for example. I think it's true whoever said that ignorance is bliss, for that's when I was happiest there. I still remember the first time I saw those high stone walls and the brilliant green vines that crept over antique windows and touched the rooftops.

It was through a cracked train window, in a car full of frightened and exhausted children, that we all laid eyes on the South Gate train station. We were all so young then, I don't know how many of us understood why we were there. I think Liv did, though. Olivia—wise beyond her years. She held her backpack tightly in her lap, even after I came and sat down next to her. Through all the confusion, I noticed her blue dress and white stockings were dirty, and her dark blond hair hung halfway out of her ponytail so carelessly.

My mother would have had a fit if I left the house looking like that, and I told the little girl so. A surprised expression crossed her face at the sound of my voice. She looked up at me with sad, brown eyes, the same color as the trees flying past us outside.

"Mine would too," she agreed and went back to staring at her lap.

I leaned over and saw her name stitched crookedly into the brown fabric of her backpack. "My name is Mica," I said, and a small smile flitted across her face.

The rest of the ride passed in companionable silence. It wasn't until we were standing on the platform, being ushered through the South Gate, that Liv spoke again.

"Do you know how long we're going to be here?"

"Until our parents come to get us, I suppose."

Women, young and old, all wearing severely structured skirts and blouses were greeting everyone that walked through the gate. I scooted closer to Liv as we passed an elderly woman sporting an unforgiving expression, her gray hair pulled tightly into a bun high on her head. She didn't smile and shake hands with the children like the other women. Instead, she held her gnarled hands in front of her, staring down her nose at us, like she smelled something displeasing.

"I don't think they're coming back," Liv said quietly.

I pretended not to hear her.

A young supervisor named Claudia showed me, Liv, and four other girls to a brick building stained from age and weather. Little statues of owls loomed over every door, keeping a watchful eye on the grounds. There was a common room inside with plush chairs and couches and a fireplace that looked so much more inviting than the seats on the train.

We weren't allowed to stop there, though. Claudia led us up a flight of stairs to the first floor of dormitories.

Once we had unpacked our meager belongings, Claudia sat the six of us down to play a 'get to know you' game. This was the first opportunity I had to study our supervisor. There were many thoughts that crossed my mind, but I remember the strongest impression she made on me: Claudia was pretty.

She had a kind, round face with clear, blue eyes and soft, brown hair that curled slightly around her shoulders. And she was always smiling. Nowadays, I have doubts that plague my mind. Did Claudia smile because she was not privy to the darker side of the Angel House, or did she smile in spite of what she knew?

Claudia sat us down in a circle on the floor between the two rows of beds. She passed a rubber ball to a frizzy haired girl with a big nose.

"Let's say our names and something interesting about ourselves." Claudia touched Big Nose's hand gently.

Big Nose wiped her palms on her pants and fidgeted with the ball. "I-I-I-I'm Ed-d-den."

She blushed furiously and passed the ball to the blond girl next to her, who was doing little to mask the smirk on her face. Eden's ruddy complexion extended down her neck. Claudia had the decency not to point out that she hadn't stated something interesting about herself.

The rest of the girls introduced themselves as Heather, Lola, and the blond's name was Danni. I can't remember what anyone said about themselves, except for Liv.

"My name is Olivia," she said in her soft voice.

"Nice to meet you, Olivia. Can you tell us something special about yourself?'

Liv shifted uncomfortably. "I'm an orphan."

The smile on Claudia's face faltered. The air felt as if it had been sucked out of the room. You could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet. The suffocating silence was shattered by Danni's scoff.

"That's not special." She didn't bother to elaborate, though. Nobody did. We weren't ready to call ourselves orphans yet. The funny thing is I don't think anyone besides Liv ever acknowledged the fact so bluntly.

It was at that moment that Liv's words struck me, though. My parents were gone. My mom would never again tuck in my shirt or lick her finger to wipe dirt from my forehead. My dad would never again ruffle my hair, or look at a cut on my knuckle and ask very seriously, "Do you think you'll recover, or should we take the whole finger off?"

That night, after supper, Claudia tucked us all into bed. I think she must have noticed how pale I had become since that afternoon, because I was the only one besides Eden that she kissed on the cheek. I could almost picture that it was my mother's voice that whispered, "Sweet dreams."

I cried all night.

I know this all seems depressing, but things did start to look up, to the point where we barely ever thought about our parents anymore. As shallow as it sounds, we had other problems to worry ourselves over.

"Eden is sitting by herself again." Liv and I were in the library for mandatory study hours.

My heart started racing, anticipating Liv's suggestion that was sure to follow the observation that Eden was alone once more. I glanced around trying not to be too obvious about what I was doing. I didn't see Danni or Lola nearby, but Heather was at a table with two girls from the same dorm building just a few feet away.

"Would you be mad at me?"

"Why would I be mad?" I said snappishly. "You can do whatever you want." Liv cast her eyes down demurely, and I immediately felt guilty. After all, she was only trying to be nice, unlike me, but Eden was a magnet for ridicule. Between her hair, her nose, and her stuttering, the flow of nicknames and insults were endless. I was only eight years old at the time, and at that age, self-preservation is all about not getting caught in the crossfire.

Eden glanced over at us, and I wondered if she had heard our whispering. She stumbled to her feet, knocking her chair over in the process. Muffled giggles and snickering could be heard in that corner of the library. Eden righted the chair with trembling hands, and then hurried off between the book shelves. Suddenly, I wished that Liv hadn't asked for my permission. Still though, I didn't go after Eden.

But neither did Liv.