Freya waited in hope for Ruth’s return, but he never came back, and her heart was heavy. Every time the wind shook a window, she’d jump up and open it right away to check if it was him knocking. Just looking at the pigeon sitting by the window made her eyes well-up with tears. We were supposed to be together.
On rainy nights, Freya’s body curled up and shivered in fear. She felt deep loneliness in the dreary, almost empty, massive stone building. Her patience was wearing thin because Sophia was annoyed with everything she did, and her constant bad temper made life miserable.
Ultimately, Sophia, who’d failed at her business, gave up on running the orphanage. Some time ago, even Shiloh had stopped visiting, which was worrying. Freya lived in a state of permanent stress because she didn’t know what the future held, and she was also concerned about Ruth returning to this empty shell of a home.
She didn’t trust others, but Ruth’s promise had been unforgettable; he’d told her to wait for him here. But perhaps it was a good thing that he didn’t return, and she just hoped that he was doing fine somewhere else. The orphanage had never been a good match for young, weak Ruth anyway.
As she laid on her bed, alone in the darkroom, shadows fell over her eyes, and she turned her back on a bird flying away from the window. She knew that she had to let go of the memories of their time together, and she cried herself to sleep; Ruth must’ve lost his way.
It was overcast the morning that Freya left the orphanage, and she stood outside on the ground, which was damp from the rain the previous evening. She stared up at the orphanage building, with mixed feelings, as she’d never left for an extended period before. It was a large, grey old building with a gloomy atmosphere, and although her memories were of hunger and bitter-cold nights, she still felt lonely when she thought of leaving for good.
“Hey, Freya!” She remembered Lotty’s voice that used to get on her nerves. And also, how in such a short time, Ruth’s angelic face had grown into that of an adult. But it was time to bid farewell to the old stone house and all the memories of her unpleasant childhood. As she headed towards the street, she never once looked back.
“Hello,” Freya said meekly, and she climbed into the carriage, looking frightened. The ever-changing landscape outside the window was unfamiliar, and she felt afraid during the entire journey.
“Why do you look so stunned?” As soon as she got in the carriage, Sophia, suffering from severe motion sickness, had nagged Freya while she looked out of the window with a blank expression on her face.
“Sorry,” Freya replied softly, not wanting to talk to anyone.
Freya’s original living space had been composed of single stories, so when they entered the capital, the three-story-high buildings intimidated her. I think my neck will break if I look up too high. Freya was curious about who had constructed such buildings. And she also wondered why there were so many people in the capital. The idea of having to start a new life in such a confusing place scared her, and she wondered what the future held.
The carriage came to a stop in a dark neighborhood, not far from a brightly lit, busy area. Standing in front of a building with red lights, Freya trembled at the gloomy atmosphere unique to the alley. Unexpectedly a fat rat crawled over her feet, and she shuddered.
“What are you doing just standing there? Get your bags and get a move on,” Sophia said coldly.
The smell of an unknown dark perfume lingered as she entered the building, dragging a bag that was bigger than her body. As she inhaled some more, she smelled old cigarette butts and stale sweat. What in the world is this place?
What surprised Freya were the familiar faces inside the building. The women, who cleaned the floor, or sat in the small room applying heavy makeup, were from the same orphanage as Freya. She had heard about people leaving for the capital, so she was glad to meet them here. Freya soon drew attention from them, but they were not close enough friends to greet each other.
Someone called her name, and she turned around to see Lotty, her eyes wide with shock, standing with a duster in her hand. Freya was relieved to see that the child that had disappeared had been in the capital this whole time. She hesitated for a moment before Sophia’s scolding fell on her.
“Why are you dragging your feet!?” Sophia shouted.
Freya had to pass through the corridor without saying a short hello to Lotty before entering a small room with her large bag.
“Auntie, should I take care of your bags?”
“No, leave them. I won’t be in this place for long.”
Freya thought that perhaps something wasn’t to Sophia’s liking, but she shrugged her shoulders as she looked around at the bright wallpaper and the comfortable-looking bed. Freya liked this new place that was much more luxurious than the bare bedroom at the orphanage. So she couldn’t understand Sophia’s reaction.
“Who am I to stay in such a place? Yuck!” Sophia said, sounding disgusted, and she soon got ready to leave.
Left alone in the room, Freya discovered a small window, but she wasn’t quite tall enough to look out of it, so she dragged her bag over and stood on top of it. Then, she grabbed the window crank and turned it with all her might, but perhaps it hadn’t been opened by anyone in a long time because it was tightly closed. After wrestling with the handle for some time, it finally opened, making a loud creaking sound, and bits of rust fell onto the windowsill. Feeling excited, she stuck her head outside, but there was another similar-sized building across the tiny alleyway, and she was disappointed by the view.
“Will I end up cleaning and running errands in this place too?” Shifting her eyes from the filth that littered the ground, Freya raised her head from the alley, where the sunlight barely entered, to the walls of the other dull buildings.
“So, there are pigeons here, too,” she said dismally, as she noticed the white bird droppings on the sides of some of the walls. It made her think of Ruth, a boy who yearned to see birds flying freely in the sky. “I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t come here together.”
Freya missed him, but in a way, she was also relieved that she couldn’t see him. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t worried about him. Although Freya didn’t know him that well, the boy had numerous skills, and he’d taught her a lot. She hadn’t known that when candles didn’t catch light under fire, she had to dig out the wick with a knife, or when receiving bread, she had to tear off a small piece and store it as emergency food.
“Freya,” Ruth had said so tenderly. She remembered his smiling face looking at her, and she felt a pang in her chest. Meeting Ruth had felt like a dream at times, and she habitually reached up to touch the necklace around her neck that he’d given her. The moon-shape, symbolizing Diana, was in her grasp, and soon the feeling of uneasiness faded away.