Tales from the commune pt.7

It’s my birthday today, I am turning 10! Two numbers instead of one, finally! Since there are 100 people in the home we usually celebrate with our signs. There is a celebration every month for all the Capricorns, or all the Aries and we’ve already celebrated all the Gemini’s but, since this is a special birthday I’ve been getting gifts! My mom got special permission to take me out of my class and we went on a walk to a store where she bought me ice-cream! We sat on the sidewalk and ate it before we came home, I can’t tell anyone about it, but it happened.

I live in a room with 12 other girls, all around my age. Rejoice is the oldest and she is 13, Christina is 12 and she is horrible. She hates me and makes fun of me all the time. She told everyone in the home I had worms so people started avoiding me in the hallways and calling me worm girl. I don’t have worms.

Because it’s my birthday I get to stay up late so I’m waiting for my mom in the dining room when Auntie Maria walks up to me and says “I have a surprise for you”. Maria is my favorite auntie, she has a strong accent and thick red hair. They said she came from Brazil but had to leave her kids there because she was being rebellious. She’s here to learn how to act better, but she’s always acted nicely towards me. She’s never hit me and she’s always smiling at me and showing me pictures of her kids, saying she misses them and can’t wait till she’s allowed to see them again.

From behind her back she pulls out a small package. It’s white and covered with pink strawberries, I don’t know what it is.

“Open it and smell” She says

I do and right away I know, it’s Chocolate!

“Can I have one?” I ask

“You can have the whole thing, Happy birthday darling” she kisses me on the head and tells me to hide the chocolate somewhere safe; we both know she wasn’t supposed to give it to me.

After hanging out with my mom an extra hour for my birthday, I take my chocolates to bed and put them under my pillow. The older girls are awake but it’s dark so they didn’t see me.

The next day I wake up, and after breakfast it’s time for me to start cleaning. I go downstairs and hear one of the girls in my room talking about how Christina has special chocolates. That’s weird, I think… I have special chocolates too, and I bet mine are better because they are strawberry chocolates. I finish my job of cleaning the downstairs toilets and am on my way back to my room when Teresa, a girl from my room pulls me over and shows me a small triangle with a brown chocolate base, and a strawberry top. One of my chocolates. “Where did you get that” I shriek, that’s mine!

“No, it’s Christina’s ! She was passing them out to us if we promise to be her friend.”

“No they are mine” I insist and run into my room, I see Christina standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by girls promising to be her friend in exchange for chocolate, my chocolates.

“those are mine!” I cry as I try to take them from her. She moves them away easily, she’s much taller than me.

“No, these aren’t yours because you shouldn’t have them!

“They were a birthday gift, give them back!”

I keep on trying to reach for them but her newly bribed friends are pulling me off, and one of them has called my teacher, Auntie Lena.

Lena shows up and demands Christina give her the chocolates. Christina hands them over

“I found these under Angel’s pillow, she was trying to hide them so I confiscated it”

Lena praises Christina for her effort then pulls me into her room. I’m afraid she will beat me but instead she asks:

“I know you didn’t get these yourself, who gave them to you”

Through tears I tell the truth, “it was Maria, it’s for my birthday” I sob, “I never had any gifts before”

Lena is a rough teacher but she also a mom and feels sorry for me in this moment, she hands me back the chocolates. Through tears I look in the box and count, there are 4 left. This is somehow crushing because I have enough to share, but everyone in my room is Christina’s friend. Lena tells me to stop crying, and that she has to tell on Maria. I beg her not to but she says it’s out of her hands and Maria should have known better.

“This is why she was moved here, because she breaks the rules and she needs to learn” I cry because I think that Maria will never forgive me or get to see her kids again.

A few days later I am playing on the porch alone when Maria sits down next to me “Hey” she says. She is smiling so I hope that she’s not mad.

“I heard about the chocolates” she says through her accent. “Did you get to eat any of them?”

“I ate four” I confirm “they were so yummy.”

“I’m sorry I told on you”

“oh Honey, it’s okay”

She kisses my head again then looks around and hands me a small black plastic bag. I look inside, It’s more chocolate!

“if anyone asks, say it’s your dirty tissues” she tells me with a wink. She tucks the wrinkled bag into my pants and tells me to go hide it somewhere safe.

I can’t think of anywhere that is safe, the bed is the only place that’s mine… then I remember, the toilets! It’s my job to clean them every day and no one looks there! I rush to the downstairs toilets and find my cleaning supplies, they are in a bucket under the sink. I take my little bag of chocolate and tuck it behind my cleaning bucket. No one will ever find it now.

For the next two weeks I am thrilled to do my chores after breakfast, I even get praise from Lena for being enthusiastic about cleanliness. My birthday celebration lasts much longer this year, and I am thankful to have at least one friend, Maria.

I grew up in an apocalyptic cult. I tell those stories.