“Dawn! Come on now, do hurry up and come for breakfast, or you’ll be late for school!” Miss Brown called out for her nine year old daughter, swallowing the lump in her throat. She was a woman in her early thirties, with brown curls that fell up till her shoulders and hazel eyes that held unexpressed emotions that had all been bottled up inside. Her husband, Robert, had left her for another lady about five months back.
“He’s gone for a trip, darling, a long trip,” would be the reply every time Dawn longed to meet her father.
“Well, when is he coming back? He promised to take me to the ‘Walsmorth Show’ after I came back from school. But he had already left when I came back. There’s a magician in the show, momma, will you take me there since daddy isn’t here right now?” would be Dawn’s usual, innocent reply.
“Well, why don’t I show you a magic trick instead?” her mother would ask, amusing her daughter with various tricks like pulling out coins from behind her ears, grabbing ribbons out of the thin air, and so on.
“Oh goody, momma, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the magician!”
Miss Brown had to move into a smaller place with Dawn after Robert stopped paying for the rent. Their previous house was located right at the center of Stoneybrook. It had a stunning red-bricked roof, which looked rather catching to the eye when a layer of snow gathered on it. Dried up leaves gathered in the garden in autumn. Miss Brown would go off to work at the library after dropping Dawn to school. Trying her best to save every penny that she could, she would walk 7 kilometers from the library to the school, to pick up her daughter. Most of the days, she would find Dawn in the playground, perched on the highest branch of the tree, looking at the grand sight from up above that she was not able to see from her microscopic height. The house they had moved into was rather small, but cozy. It hardly had any furniture, just a bedroom, a kitchen and one bathroom. The bedroom had two beds, half of the size their previous beds used to be. The bathroom didn’t have any bathtub like their previous one. There was just a shower and a small basin with a bar of soap and a couple of sachets of shampoo. But inside the four walls, there was the familiar smell of Miss Brown’s lasagna that was her speciality, and the love that made Dawn feel home. Dawn had never questioned her mother why they had had to move into such a smaller place. Perhaps she was too young to even come up with such questions. Or maybe, she was far too wise and had seen and understood it all, that all her questions were answered already. The first one seems more probable, doesn’t it? Anyways, back to Mrs Brown. Now, Mrs Brown was a rather sensible woman, she didn’t start drinking and verbally abusing like many divorced women did, she knew she had to be strong for her daughter. But life really seemed to be just held by a single string at that time. Working multiple shifts, paying alone for Dawn’s school fees, and saving up every penny she could was not a very easy task.
“Dawn, come on for breakfast now. Dawn?” Miss Brown bellowed again. Placing the bowl of salad that she had cooked up, she jogged up to her room only to find her nine year old daughter fast asleep, hugging her teddy bear that Miss Brown had actually knitted for her on her fourth birthday. It was a creamy brown colored, six and a half inches long teddy bear with two black beads as its eyes and three small golden stars drawn on its white t-shirt.
“Dawn! Come on now, honey, it’s half past eight already and school starts at nine. Come on now, we don’t want to be late again, do we?” her mother wailed, planting a kiss on Dawn’s forehead.
“Just 5 more minutes, momma!” Dawn wailed rolling onto the other side, her eyes still shut.
“Dawn, you’ll be late if you don’t wake up right away! I promise to take you to the Walsmorth show after school if you get up now,” her mother smiled hopefully.
“Really? The Walsmorth Show?” Dawn asked, opening her eyes in a split second.
“Only if you get up right now!” her mother grinned as Dawn scrambled off the the bathroom, grabbing her uniform in the process.
“I’ll be outside, alright, do hurry up!” her mother smiled going out of the room.
“There! Now, did you brush your teeth properly? Good. Oh, dear my, Dawn! Your t-shirt is all crumpled up, I’ll iron it right away.”
Soon enough, the uniform was ironed, Dawn’s blonde hair was tied up into a thick braid and Dawn’s bag was packed.
“Oh, goody! You’ve made my favourite, momma!” Dawn squealed flopping herself on her usual chair. It was quite a simple salad but to Dawn it was different from any other. It only had half a sausage sliced up into several thin pieces (to make it seem like there were many) and several greens dressed on a couple of pieces of lettuce, all under a sprinkle of olive oil and a generous amount of grated cheese.
“What do you put in here, momma?” Dawn asked tucking into her meal and washing it all down with a full of chilled, orange juice.
“Well, there’s lettuce, corn, cheese, capsicum, sausages, cheese and…”
“And what, momma?” Dawn asked looking up taking another mouthful.
“And a secret ingredient!” her mother smiled taking off her apron.
“A magic ingredient? Woah, what is it like, momma?” Dawn exclaimed as her eyes rounded up.
“I’ll tell you on your sixteenth birthday, sweet. Now, come on, let’s go to school.”
But Miss Brown knew very well she wouldn’t be there on Dawn’s sixteenth birthday.
It was a half an hour drive filled with Dawn’s chatters. Before her mother could reply to Dawn, Dawn would start talking about something else. A slight drizzle of rain had started pouring. Tiny drops of water had settled on the windows and were trickling down. Sitting in the backseat, Miss Brown looked out of the window through her tears. Blinking them away, she turned to her daughter and asked “Ready for your new school, Dawn?”
“I think so, momma. But what if I don’t make any friends?” Dawn asked.
“Of course you will, honey! The others will see how bright you are immediately!” her mother reassured, ruffling her daughter’s hair.
“Oh, here we are! Let’s go Dawn!” her mother exclaimed getting down with her daughter.
“This doesn’t look like a school, mother,” Dawn muttered looking up at the brown roofed house. It had a couple of floors and a signboard which read ‘Family Finders’.
But she didn’t receive any reply.
“Momma?” she asked turning around only to see her mother driving off without a goodbye. Dawn stood rooted to her spot as the white car disappeared from her sight.
She stood still for a minute confused and decided to knock on the white-washed door.
“You’re Dawn, aren’t you? I’m Miss Miller. Come on in, dear. We were expecting you,” She was a woman in her late fifties. She had grey curls cut into a bob, and thick rimmed glasses that covered her eyes.
7 years passed by in that adoption center, without Dawn being able to even see a glimpse of her mother. She had a million questions in her mind, all unanswered.
“Happy birthday, Dawn!” Miss Miller wished walking up to her.
“Why, thank you, Miss Miller!” Dawn smiled sitting up straight.
“Miss Miller, may I ask you something?” Dawn asked opening her horse-tail which fell down into golden tresses that fell up to her waist now.
“Go ahead, my dear,” Miss Miller kindly replied, even though she was sure of what the question was going to be.
“Why did my mother leave me at this adoption center, Miss Miller?” she asked, as she felt that familiar lump in her throat.
“The truth is bitter, Dawn, but it can’t be kept from you forever. In fact, your mother wanted you to know about this on your sixteenth birthday. She asked me to tell you to look in the inner side of the white t-shirt of the teddy that your mother had knitted for you on your fourth birthday,” Miss Miller replied getting up.
“Thank you, Miss Miller,” Dawn exclaimed running up to her room, rummaging through her belongings, to find her childhood toy. She inverted the small white t-shirt to find words knitted with green thread on the inner side. The writings said-
Happy sixteenth, my sweet. I had promised to tell you about the magic ingredient on your sixteenth birthday- it was love. Love that made the salad taste different even though it was like any other normal salad. I’m sure you’re wondering why I dropped you off at the adoption center. Dawn, it was because I wanted you to have a better life. After your father left, things haven’t been very easy. I was diagnosed with cancer soon after and I knew I wouldn’t make it. Thus, I had no option but to give you away. I’m sorry.
P.S- Remember when you said you wouldn’t be surprised if I was the magician? I was the magician.”
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Hi Sampurna, this was a sad story and I wanted to know why her mother abandoned her since she seemed to love her daughter. Very good pacing throughout the story to the end. The stitched shirt was a creative way of tying up the story for the reader without being too obvious (i.e. a letter) nice work
Thank you, Noah! I think I mentioned that Miss Brown had been diagnosed with cancer. Knowing that she was not going to make it, she decided it would be best if Dawn was given away to a place where she would have a guardian. She wanted her daughter to have a better life than just to be left all alone.