She came for him at dawn. He heard her cross the room and the little boy waiting to hide, sliding deep under the bedclothes. But there was no escape that way. She ripped the sheets and dragged him sobbing out of bed. He begged and begged all the while as he looked up hopefully, but the look of grim determination on his pale face told her he was going to show no mercy. He struggled to escape, but the hands around his upper arms tightened, their bright red nails digging into the flesh of his skinny arms. He cried out, went limp, and when she changed his grip on her he let go and made a dash for the door.
But he was there, and he filled the opening from top to bottom and from side to side. It wasn’t fair that he couldn’t fight both of them. The figure in the doorway leaned over, his big calloused hands picking up the boy, carrying him out of the room, throwing him onto the bathroom floor and growling, ‘Wash yourself! And don’t you dare try the window. I’ll be here, right behind you.
He looked at himself in the mirror, the man standing behind him with his arms crossed, his blue eyes as hard as ice. The boy’s shoulders sagged, it didn’t help; he would just have to move on. He washed and dried.
It hadn’t been like that at first. At first they had been friendly. The man would bend down and ruffle his hair and ask him what he had been doing that day and he would look at the red face with the warm blue eyes and the friendly smile and tell him everything he knew.
She, too, had been different; she smiled a lot, she had a habit of brushing her blonde hair out of her face which was nice, and best of all, she tucked him in and read him a bedtime story.
But it had all been a farce, a trick, to lull him into a false sense of security, and he had been fooled. But the night before, when she sneaked out for a glass of water, she overheard them discussing his plan to get rid of him. He then tried to escape, but the man caught him and forced him back into his room.
The man led him from the bathroom to the kitchen, where he was forced to eat. She left the room and came back with a uniform and made him put it on. Black shoes, then socks, pants, shirt and jacket, all drab gray except for the symbol on the jacket which was bright yellow. Then she came the cap, also gray, with the same yellow symbol on the front.
With a satisfied look on their faces, they led him to the car. He was tied in the back; she came with him and held her hands eliminating any possibility of escape. Ten minutes later they parked the car and walked to the building. It was now or never, she made a break for it, she could hear the screams and the thud of boots behind him. He didn’t get very far; the man caught him before he reached the corner. He gave up then, but didn’t let them see him cry.
They dragged him past high walls with black railings, to the door that had an arch above it with the same yellow symbol. As he was pushed through the door, he knew this was the end. He joined the line of other gray-clad children and shuffled through the door, which closed behind him. His first day at school had begun.
Worldwide Copyright Fred Watson 2006