they didn’t look like children, they looked like puppies

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I was with J— in a city that I don’t know. We were staying at B— and A—‘s flat, but they weren’t there, at least at first. I didn’t recognise the flat – it was all on one floor and it didn’t have an amazing atmosphere. J— and I wandered out a back door and went exploring.

Just around the corner, we found an orphanage. It was in a large old red-brick building which used to be beautiful but had become dingy and disease-ridden. Inside the orphanage, iron-barred beds were labelled with tags detailing the diseases of their inhabitants: typhoid, cholera etc. I thought that if my mother knew where I was she’d worry, but I wanted to explore.

There was something emotional about the orphanage. The atmosphere was charged with the old thoughts and feelings of others. I didn’t think the children there were particularly happy. The building seemed to be falling apart and the children were all in rags. I wanted to help.

J— beckoned me into a room and said: “look”. It was a small room with dirty yellow walls, a low ceiling and a dusty wooden floor. There was one narrow bed against a broad window with some old raggy bedcovers in dissarray.

Outside was a large stone window ledge, high up above the noisy street; and on it sat two of the most adorable children I have ever seen. They didn’t look like children, they looked like puppies: a girl and a boy. They were curled up together on the ledge, high above the ground, looking out at the world. The girl had blond hair and was called Evie, and the boy had lovely milky brown skin and dreadlocks – he was called Niall. They saw me and crawled in through the window, their ragged clothes dragging. It was like they already knew me.

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They chatted to me and told me all about their lives. They were friends, who weren’t really orphans at all. Niall had been sent there because he’d written a very intelligent essay using all sorts of big adult words about company mergers and investments, to do with his father’s company – and the doctor’s computers had picked up some trigger words, I don’t know what words, and had incorrectly certified him mad. So he’d gone to the orphanage. Evie had been incorrectly diagnosed with cholera, but she was fine.

I promised them I’d come back to see them. They were so beautiful and sweet natured. I wanted to help.

I went back to B— and A—‘s flat and for some reason I washed my hair in the sink with A—‘s shampoo, while B— was playing with a baby behind me. After I’d done it I realised that A—‘s shampoo had bleach in it and my hair was going slightly blond. I didn’t mind about it that much.

Suddenly Evie appeared and asked me to come to her christening or first holy communion. She was so adamant that she wanted me there, it really mattered to her and I promised I’d try to make it. But when the time came I was watching TV and I felt incredibly lazy. I wanted to go and I kept thinking, “oh, I’ll get up and go in a minute”, a bit like when I don’t want to wake up in the morning.

I saw Evie then in my mind’s eye, though I hadn’t moved. She was waiting outside the church in a pretty white dress with her short blond hair all scruffy. The christening was over. All her friends were leaving with their adult friends and parents and they asked her to come with them but she wouldn’t. She was waiting for me and she looked anxious. I was up now and rushing to her and I don’t remember what happened next. I hope I made it in the end and she wasn’t too upset with me. I hope I managed to help.

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