I remember, when I was a small child Dad would tell me stories about his travels in Europe when he was in and just after college. He studied ancient cultures in college, the Vikings were his favorite. He studied abroad in Norway and spent every summer on Viking dig sites and in Scandinavian museums, when not camping and hiking the forests. I miss looking at his photo albums, so many pictures of places he’s been and people he’s met. He even met my mother while on his first hiking trip though the Scandinavian forests. He was camping near a small town, (I can no longer recall want its name was) when under the light of a full moon he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen strolling through the forest. Before he could call out to her she disappeared into the night. Dad said he thought he had seen a wood elf and went back to his tent. A few days later when he went back into town, he saw her again at the market buying food. He went up to her and tried to ask what her name was, but she did not speak English at the time. He tried to use his language guide book, but he failed so badly, a shop keeper had to step in and translated what he was really trying to say and not calling her a fish. For Dad it was love at first sight, but it would be many years before he could tell her. When he got back to college first class he took was Scandinavian languages, it was on his to do list of curriculum but she inspired him to focus on it first. Every summer he would camp in the woods where he first saw my mother and once he was officially studying in Norway he was back to that village every weekend he could. Mom thought he was a weirdo at first, but as he got to know her better and speak sensibly she fell for him as well. She would go visit him at college and sometimes at the digs. The digs had a tendency to creep her out, but she claimed that dad would get the most adorable look on his face when he gets excited. (I think she said that to make Dad blush, he would turn so red that his whole face and neck would turn red). They got married after Dad graduated from college. They traveled all over the world together till Mom was pregnant with me. She had learned English from him so they decided to move closer to his family, (I guess Vermont was as close as he wanted to get. I never met my Uncles or Grandparents till much later. I guess connecting with his family didn’t go as well as he hoped.). A few years passed and my brother Mikey was born. We traveled around quite a bit at first, but as I got to school age Dad insisted that we stay in one area. Mom wasn’t too thrilled about living in suburbia Vermont. If we were to settle down, she wanted to do it back home near her family. I didn’t know why at the time this would cause so much argument between them. All I knew was to take Mikey and hide when they would fight. Mom would get this wild look in her eyes and would revert back to her home language. Things would often go flying. Mom had a temper to match a Furry.
I remember the last night. Mikey and I were already in bed when the fight started. I don’t know what it was about at the time, but it was the worst one I ever heard. They were in the kitchen, I could hear dishes shattering. I crept out of bed to check on Mikey, he was sound asleep so I climbed out the window of my bedroom and into Dad’s garden. It felt like a sanctuary there and the sounds of the fight were muffled. Suddenly there was an explosion from the house. The Kitchen area looked like a bomb had exploded. I couldn’t get in the house from any of the doors, so I climbed back up the tree and into my room, the hall way was already on fire, down stairs was an inferno. I tried to get to Mikey. I could hear the fire engine and sirens, I knew help was coming but I had to get to Mikey. As I opened the door to his room another explosion shook the house. I held on to the door for dear life. The smoke was thick but in the dark room I could see Mikey hiding under his bed crying. I start to run towards him as I felt hands grab me around my waist and pull me away from my brother just in time to see the floor beneath him give way and drop him with the bed on top of him into the fiery inferno below. I kicked and screamed trying to escape my rescuer, but to no avail. At some point I blacked out. He took me out of the fiery hell pit that was once my home. The house burnt to the ground along with the garden. The fire fighters were hard put to keep the neighbor’s houses from catching on fire.
I keep a copy of the report. It’s surprisingly easy to figure out what happened with hindsight. The house had been a fixer upper when we moved in and Dad tried to do all of it him self, even the gas and the electrical wiring. We also kept propane and gas cans in the garage for camping events. Dad loved taking my brother and me out on his ATV
. The garage was next to the kitchen and below Mikey’s and my rooms. Mom must have thrown something that messed with the gas stove and caused it to leak while arguing. They probably didn’t even notice the smell. Then something caused a spark. I don’t know what. Either something was thrown, or Mom tried to make some tea. I don’t know. What I do know is that they didn’t survive the explosion. Mikey died of a broken neck, from the bed and fall crushing him. At least he didn’t suffer slowly in the fire. I didn’t even notice that when the last explosion hit I was on fire. The back of my night gown had caught on fire and the polyester fused to my back as it burned. I don’t really remember any of that. I was in the hospital for weeks before they found a relative to ship me off to. Dad had a brother. I was still in a daze for a long time after the fire. I wasn’t with “family” very long before I was shipped off to an orphanage in New York. I can’t even remember much about Dad’s brother or his wife. Never knew their names and just called them Uncle or Aunt. I remember them arguing about me with the Child Protective services. They didn’t want any thing to do with me. They kept referring to Mom as an outsider. I thought they didn’t like Europeans or something like that. (I didn’t know Mom wasn’t human). They flatly refused to pay any the hospital fees and did not take me to a doctor for any follow up appointments that I needed. I was still in a lot of pain from my back and they often would strike my back when they did not like something I did or did not do.
One stormy night a strange man showed up to the house and Uncle and &Aunt looked relived. I could have sworn that when they opened the door lightning flashed behind him. He was the scariest man I had ever seen, tall, thin, gray, solemn, and had a cold air of death around him. (He looked like the reincarnation of Judge Frollo from the Disney movie to me) He wore a long black coat and a black hat, I thought death had come for me and they had told him where I am. Before I could get my feet under me to run away they grabbed me and shoved me at him. He took a steel hard grip on my arm with one hand, while taking a fat envelope with the other. I panicked. I screamed and kicked and fought as hard as I could to get away, but my Uncle backhanded me across the face so hard, I blacked out. I woke up in the back seat of a car and the Gray Man opening the door to drag me out. I was conscious but my mind was numb with fear. I did not know where I was, but was convinced I had been sold to the Gray Man. After hauling me out of the car and into an old building he pushed me towards an equally gray woman, who led me down dark halls and tossed me into a room full of sleeping children. She told me to go sleep in an empty bed, and then shut the door behind me. I quietly did as I was told. My mind racing so bad I couldn’t have slept even if I wanted too, that and the large welt on my cheek my Uncle had given me. I waited in the cold dark room waiting to see what horrors would befall me by dawn. I am pretty sure that my Aunt and Uncle told Child services that I ran away, if the ever checked up on me.
When the shock wore off and I realized where I was, I was angry. Angry and hurt and felt that I should have died in the fire with the rest of my family. I quickly became the monster child of the orphanage. Even when I didn’t do something wrong it was blamed on me any ways. I learned there were multiple hells, and I had been through three of them in less than a year, Pain, Abandonment, and Agony. I believed them when they told me that no one would want me. I was too scared to be pretty enough to adopt, too stupid to make it though school and become something better, too lazy to even car about trying. By age 7 I had given up on the world. By the age of 9 I had a gang of fellow misfits I considered friends, as we would terrorize the school, orphanage, and neighborhood that we lived in. Until the Rhoads came to the orphanage and saw something in me that none of the other potential parents ever saw.