Hi everyone! This is my first real writing post, so feel free to comment suggestions if you think it could be improved! I started this story a looong time ago, but found it the other day and thought it had potential… it’s not close to being done yet, but this is a start!
A young girl waits beside her village’s well. It’s crumbling badly, and moss creeps over its edges, fed by the stale water within. Every morning, the girl is sent to fetch a bucketful from the well, and bring it home without spilling a drop.
She doesn’t know why her foster parents take this job so seriously, because fresher water came from the sky daily. Everything from the well tastes froggy, and slips off the tongue. It leaves a nasty flavor behind, reminding you of your poverty.
Look at you, the well-water sneers. Can’t even afford good water.
The rotting wooden bucket doesn’t improve matters. But money must be saved for more important things. Coins are to be spent on cheap silverware, and oil for lamps. Not things you can make yourself.
Wastefulness is an unspoken sin.
This is something the girl (and every other child in her village, and part of Ireland) was taught early on. The first rule adults speak of, in this weak place, is not the Golden Rule, but conservation. That, and the punishment you will swiftly receive if failure to comply occurs.
Here, conservation is everything.
“Save that bread. Enough crumbs make a meal.”
“That’s perfectly good fabric; those scraps could make half a dress.”
“Goodness gracious, what in heavens are you doing? Don’t ever wipe the coal from your boots again, now I’ll have to pick it from the rug. We could rekindle the fire with that.”
And so on.
It doesn’t make for a pleasant lifestyle.
But, these people, it’s all they know.
The girl’s name is Kerenza, and she’s lived with Mrs. Lynch and her deaf husband, Mr. Lynch, for almost seven years. When she was five (mere months away from turning six), her father left for America and never returned, and her mother suddenly took ill and passed, leaving their only child behind.
There were no next of kin.
If Kerenza had been older, and her eyes sharper, when she died, she might have noticed the swelling of her mother’s midsection, and the oddly delicate was she carried herself.
I believe she would have been a lovely older sister.
But. Things were as they were. And with no one else to turn to, the government (who had far greater worries than a familyless child) sent Kerenza to then-newly wed Ciara and Liam. The beauty of marriage still lingered, and such joy had opened their hearts to anything.
For though they coddled and looked after the young girl, a certain bitterness was always there. And who could blame them? They’d barely been aware of the girl’s existence prior to her arrival in their home, and the couple’s history with Kerenza’s parents wasn’t entirely clean.
Eventually, the initial happiness of a child in Ciara and Liam’s house faded, then went completely. As Kerenza grew older, she required less care, but more of everything else: more living space, more food, and, worst of all, an education.
There weren’t any schools for miles around, and the tired couple (who now bickered regularly and scolded Kerenza to rid themselves of the anger that plagued them) certainly didn’t have time for homeschooling silliness. Such a thing was unheard of.
What strong, unbroken young Kerenza needed was hard work. Lots of it.
For little girls and little boys require breaking in. Like plow horses; discipline is key.
Breakfast and supper for a tiring day’s labor. One potato slice for a cow milked. And so on. How else would Ciara and Liam manage? They barely had enough to feed themselves, and now a rapidly-growing child desperately needed the shirt off their backs, among other things they couldn’t possibly give.
Nourishment was only one.
But true and unbent affection trumped all. A warm bed and cozy fireside were only daydreams, not hankered after nearly as much as parental adoration.
Children need to be loved, in order to properly flourish.
Which is why Kerenza turned out the way she did.
She hides it well, but Kerenza is desperately angry at the entire world.
“Do this; do that.” That is all she hears, day after day. Not a word of thanks at the end of it, mind. She and Ciara Lynch are similar in this way, not that she will ever admit it.
Kerenza’s demure expression melted off her face, as if the bucket has washed some repulsive well-water down her skin and scrubbed away false layers of contentment, like the chalky makeup Mrs. Lynch wears on “special occasions.” The only occasion special enough for Ciara to do up her hair and wear decent stockings will be Kerenza’s funeral, she knows.