I ran down the stairs to Elaine. Her stomach was hurting and she was calling for me.
She was shivering, holding her water bottle and blanket tightly. The tears seem to spill out of her eyes. There was no emotion, just the tears chasing each other down her pale light brown cheek.
She was brought to our door by someone who knew about our work in Malabon. Her older half sister came with her that first day and as mysteriously as she showed up, she suddenly left. We knew nothing of Elaine’s history or her current situation except that it was made clear she was very sick and unwanted.
It was a Friday night, the rain was pouring, Her fever was raging and she was shaking. Just skin and bones, she couldn’t walk. Her eyes flitted from face to face. She hardly had strength to speak, much less fight the meds I quickly started her on. She was terrified that first night, fort sure. I stroked her head and rubbed her tiny hands, whispering that everything was okay. Only once would she look at me.
She has been here exactly one month, tonight. The rains are pouring outside again. But she is tucked into a little bed in the corner of a room now. She is able to walk and she laughs the most beautiful laugh. But she seems to be burdened tonight, as I give her meds to stop her tummyache. I sit with her for a while and stroke her head. We are friends now and she seems to trust me.
Mama used to care for me. I have always been sick. I only went to grade one but I was too sick. Then mama threw up blood and they rushed her to the hospital but she died before they got there. That was two years ago, I think.
Her frail little hand came up and brushed at the stream of tears.
Then my auntie’s wouldn’t feed me. They didn’t want me. I was so weak. And then I got so sick and then my sister didn’t want me and someone told them to bring me here to you.
Then suddenly she flung her tiny arms around around my neck. If you didn’t take me, I know I would be dead. Her little body heaved with sobs. That’s why I’m so thankful to you for letting me stay here and for taking care of me. I’m so thankful.
- Her tears burned my neck and I could hardly speak. I held her tightly, wishing I could take away her pain and lonlieness and make her know she was safe and loved.
She settled and I layed her down to sleep. She snuggled under the soft green and pink blanket I had given her.
She is so tiny. Everything about her is fragile, almost breakable. Her eyes are deep and speak of things I cannot even imagine. She holds my eyes until I smile and tousel her hair. It’s okay, I reassure her. Sleep now.
She is only 9 years old and she has hurt enough for a lifetime.