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Владарг Дельсат

Finding the Ground Beneath the Feet

New life

I suddenly realized that I was alive and opened my eyes. Something was beeping to my left. It meant I was back in intensive care. I was breathing easily, and the oxygen was slightly buzzing in my mask. I thought it meant something too, but I wasn’t sure what exactly. The mask suggested that I was dead. I knew I was going to die soon, I had known that for a long time, and… I didn’t care, I just wanted it to be quick because I was tired. I remembered that my name was Mariana. It was the name that my parents had given me… Tears came to my eyes, and I felt like crying.

There was some time left before the doctors arrived and learned everything from the monitors. Katya’s dad used to tell me that monitors can tell you about everything. When someone dies, everyone starts to fuss around, I remembered… But there were no doctors yet, so… I didn’t know what that meant. Could it be that I just died for a while? Then they were going to come now. If I died… Why did they bring me back? What for? I felt like crying again, so I went on remembering how it all had started.

I was about five years old when we noticed that I got bruises out of nowhere. Then, suddenly my fingers started hurting. They would bend backward and hurt for some reason. I was a little girl then and didn’t understand that it was better to hide that, so I complained to my mother. Mother got worried and took me to the doctor. He examined my arms, looked into my tear-filled eyes indifferently, and said that it couldn’t hurt like that and that I made it up to ask for something. Mum got very angry and brought me home, where she took off my… well… everything to hurt me with some kind of stick. I bled because my skin was very thin: you could see all the veins through it, especially on my chest. It hurt a lot, and of course, I screamed. But after the stick, it hurt less where it always used to hurt, for a brief period, of course, so I realized it was the right thing to do. If I had known how it would all end…

Before I went to school, I did everything to keep myself from crying out in pain. Later on, they started punishing me with a wide belt that didn’t make me bleed, but it also hurt a lot. On the other hand, it didn’t hurt so much to pee afterward. I’d always been small – even now I look eight years old, although I am thirteen, so I guess they didn’t hit me too often, just a little, so I wouldn’t make anything up. When I was eight, I even started to like being punished because it was easier to breathe after that. I no longer resisted and willingly came when they wanted to discipline me.

There was a girl called Katya in our class, her dad saved my life. I never understood why, though. Katya also had thin skin and bent fingers, but they believed her, and when I complained about my pain, they sent me to… a psychiatrist. Of course, now I know that it was a psychiatrist. But back then, I was excited about the doctor, and I told him everything, and he… He lied to me. The doctor said that I would get better and wrote in his papers that I imagined things and that I was to be treated with injections. The injections were very painful, even more painful than a belt. But after the injections, it was easier to breathe, and my fingers didn’t hurt so much, so I cheered up. Katya told her dad about me. He talked to my parents, and they got angry. So I didn’t go to school for a week because the belt broke something, I had a fever and… I don’t remember. I asked Katya to tell her dad not to talk to my parents because it hurt a lot. My friend cried. She asked me to show her the… result, so I did it. Why not? That’s when she started to cry. She’s lucky to have such a dad, and I’m…

Then, I was ten, and in the classroom I had… I’ll tell you in the right order. It was because of that test: I got an F because I couldn’t remember anything and I could hardly breathe. The classroom was stuffy, so I was short of breath as if I was being strangled. I was afraid to complain. The teacher said that I was lazy and that she would keep an eye on me. I didn’t understand what that meant because I tried to breathe better and couldn’t do that. Katya got worried as well and asked me to call her dad. The teacher was afraid to say no to her because Katya’s dad was very frightening for the school. Then the teacher came back, and I couldn’t breathe, and she slapped my face, I think, and told me not to fake it. The last thing I remember was seeing Katya’s dad. He understood I was dying and brought me back to life. Then there was the hospital.

The doctors at the hospital also saw that I was sick and did something that stopped the pain completely. I never came back home. When I found out that my parents… I… It’s hard for me to talk about it, honestly. It turned out that I wasn’t their own daughter, I was adopted, and they… They said they didn’t want to give their lives for… for someone like me. On that day, I died for the second time. My parents abandoned me and threw me out of the house like I was a kitten while I was in the hospital. And then there was an orphanage for such as… disabled. It was very sad there. They took care of us, but there was no Mum there.

That’s when I really wanted to die, but Katya and her dad managed to find me. Katya was in a wheelchair because she could no longer walk. I could. Walking was very painful, but I walked – anything but not a wheelchair because girls in wheelchairs were treated here like…

«Mariana, do you want to live with us?», Katya’s dad asked, and I cried, but for some reason, he wasn’t allowed to take me.

My friend cried too, but the angry women wouldn’t let them take me away anyway. It was because of some numbers. I had to stay in the orphanage where no one wanted me, although Katya and her father came to see me… I was told that Katya’s father didn’t have enough money for both of us. At that moment, I hated the mean women who counted the money and didn’t see me behind it or something else… Did they really think I felt better there, where no one wanted me?

There was a library at the orphanage, so I read books there. One of them really fascinated me. It wasn’t about a girl but a boy, and nobody wanted him just like me. That boy, Willy, lived in the orphanage, and they hated him there and didn’t like him. As for me, they just didn’t like me, but nobody cared. In the book, there was a nanny – an angry woman who liked to beat Willy. He didn’t like it, I don’t know why… I would have agreed to be beaten just to feel needed. Then, it turned out that Willy was chosen to be taken to the magic academy, where they taught everyone to heal. I suppose they could take me too – the academy was magical, wasn’t it? I thought I was wrong to think it was just a fairytale because Willy’s mum and dad got in someone’s way. They were killed for it, but the boy wasn’t killed for some reason.

There were a lot of stairs at the academy, and some ’fenke’ would throw Willy down the stairs – he must have wanted to kill him, but I didn’t understand who it was or why. I’m not very clever, really. They knew that at school too, that’s why they called me bad words and «cripple’, but I knew I was going to die anyway, so it didn’t matter. Sometimes I wanted to be Willy Schmidt or Ingrid Schiller from the book because they were friends and, most importantly, they weren’t in constant pain. Also, I wanted to see the Grasvangtal Academy, to learn what the Forest of Fairy Tales and Mount Rübetzal were all about. It must be very beautiful. This book became my favorite, although it was about Germany, where I’ve never been and never will. Because I will die. I was told so – every day could be my last, so I waited for it because I didn’t have the strength for anything else.

I was disappointed in everything… Yesterday, I think I died again. I don’t remember what happened yesterday, but it doesn’t matter. For too long, the only friends I had were books. And Katya, of course. I read book after book as if I was carried away to other worlds, but apparently, my time had come. I knew I was going to die…