Never say never, that's my motto.
"All right, girl, since you've been so eager to leave, just go already!"
A hand grabbed the back of my coat and shoved me through the open door. The weak January sun was making the snow outside turn into a disgusting gray slush.
I gulped, fingering the strap of my battered leather satchel. Was it too late to go back?
But just as I turned around, the door slammed shut. I stood shivering for a second, my breath visible in the chilly air. Then I pivoted slowly around to look at the wilderness beyond. Buggies clopped past, the shouts of street goers filled the air, and towering brick buildings spread out in a maze of confusing cobblestone roads.
Taking a deep breath, I took my first step forward. Then another. Then another. I kept walking until I reached the property line. The rickety old gate was unlocked. My hands shook as I pushed it open.
I don't remember walking through the gate, but suddenly I was on the other side. The colors of the world seemed to get brighter. All of my hesitations washed away as I realized I was free.
I was free, and I was never going back.
This time, I didn't take tentative steps. I ran; down one street, then another, smiling a mile a minute. Who cared where I went? Just as long as it was far away from there.
At least I wouldn't have to set eyes on Montgomery's Orphanage ever again.
Was I giving up the prospect of a roof over my head and three meals a day? Yes. But Madam Sharon's food wasn't all that good, anyway.
I was finally seventeen. Old enough to leave the orphanage. Old enough to fend for myself.
After I started running, I never looked back. Not once. And I never would again.
But never say never.
Because even though you try, there are some memories that can’t be washed away. They stay there, infesting inside of you like poison. They are permanent stains; reminders of all the horrible things you’ve been through.
Never. Say. Never.
I slowed down for a minute to get my bearings. I was standing in the middle of a tidy cobblestone road. Quaint little shops lined the street.
All was quiet except for the pitter-patter of water coming from the drain spout of a shop called Tanner’s Tearoom. Even the wind was silent, though I could still feel its biting cold though my thin winter coat.
Reaching into my battered satchel, I pulled out a pair of mittens I’d made for myself from a bit of old yarn. They weren’t very warm, but they were better than nothing.
I was considering going into the tearoom to warm up, when a voice called out, “Look out, miss!”
I whirled around and saw a buggy crashing toward me. A boy sat in the driver’s seat, bouncing about and trying to gain control of the reins while the crazed horses barreled toward me.
I gave a yell and darted out of the way, tripping on the cobblestones as I went and falling on my rump. The buggy tore its way down the street, right where I had been standing.
I watched them go a little way farther before the young man finally gained control of his horses.
He sprang down from the buggy and quickly tied the reins to a fence post. I stood and dusted myself off as he made his way back to me.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked. He was around my age, with ruffled hair and brown eyes. He was thin, but looked well fed and cared for.
“I’ve been worse,” I said, smiling shyly.
“I’m so sorry…” He ran his fingers through his hair and looked back at the horses. “That’s the third time this week they’ve run off like that.”
“Really, it’s okay,” I assured him. A gust of wind blew through the street and I shivered again in my thin coat.
The boy seemed to notice. “It’s pretty cold out. Why don’t we go to the tearoom to warm up?”
I agreed and we entered the little shop. A bell tinkled as the door opened, and a woman looked up from the counter.
“Matthew! Now there’s a face I haven’t seen for ages,” she exclaimed. Matthew grinned.
“Has it really been that long, Mrs. Warnigane?” he asked. She laughed and we made our way into the tearoom.
“Now, what can I get you?” asked Mrs. Warnigane. “Specials today are sweetened coffee, peppermint tea, and I have some fresh biscuits in the back if you’d like, though I haven’t made the gravy yet.”
“We’ll take two peppermint teas,” said Matthew. I tensed.
“You don’t have to--”
Matthew smiled. “I know I don’t have to. But I’m deciding to.”
Mrs. Warnigane turned to me. “And who is this lovely young lass you’ve brought with you, Matthew?”
“This is…” Matthew trailed off, not knowing my name.
“I’m Agatha,” I filled in. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Warnigane.”
“What a polite girl! Matthew, how long have you been with this one?”
I blushed and looked away. Matthew’s ears turned red. “We only just met. My buggy went crazy again.” He explained how he’d nearly ran me over.
“Oh, my! Well, I’m glad you’re both all right,” said Mrs. Warnigane. “Here, you can sit at this table here, and I’ll get you your tea.” She beckoned us over to one of the mismatched sets of tables and chairs. Then she headed behind the counter and opened the door to the back.
“Tanner!” she yelled. “Tanner, Matt’s back!”
There was a pause. “Hat’s back? Honey, my hat’s upstairs in the bedroom.”
Mrs. Warnigane laughed. “Tanner, Matthew Hudson is back, and he’s brought a girl!”
A middle-aged man emerged from the door, wearing a grease-stained apron and looking mildly confused. “Matthew’s back? Matthew Hudson?”
“The one and only,” said Matt, laughing. “This is Agatha.”
“Hello,” I said. Then a thought struck me. I always knew I’d have to get a job sometime; that’d always been my plan after leaving the orphanage. But I’d always wondered how. Girls usually didn’t work, unless…
“Mrs. Warnigane,” I asked, “how do you know Matthew?”
“Why, he was Tanner’s assistant, dear,” she said, beaming. “And, well, let’s just say he soon discovered that cooking wasn’t his strong point.”
“Nor apparently is coach driving,” said Matt with a sigh.
“Oh, you’ll find something you’re good at,” said Mrs. Warnigane.
“Huh?” asked Mr. Warnigane, jiggling a finger inside his ear. We all laughed.
“Mr. and Mrs. Warnigane,” I started, but the kind woman interrupted me.
“Please, dear, call me Abigail.”
“Right. Um, Abigail, are you still in need of an assistant?” I asked hopefully. Abigail took a closer look at me, registering my not-so-warm handmade gloves, my satchel that looked like it’d been through a hurricane, and my dirty coat and face.
“Are you looking for a paying job, Agatha?” she asked seriously. I nodded.
“She’s looking for a baying hog?” asked Mr. Warnigane.
“Tanner, she wants us to hire her as our assistant,” said Abigail. She turned to me. “And we happily accept.”
I laughed with relief. “Thank you,” I cried. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Well, it looks like we’ll be seeing the likes of each other again, Agatha,” said Matthew, grinning.
“That we are,” I said. For the first time, I began to see a happy life for myself, here with the Warniganes. With Matthew. Perhaps I could start again.
But what if it all went wrong? What if I never had a happy life?
Never say never, I reminded myself.
And as I looked around at my new family, I felt something that I felt once, when I was very small. A feeling of happiness I thought I would never feel again.
But never say never.