I curled onto my side, shuddering from the cold air that drew fog from my breath. Just like every night, tears rolled from my eyes involuntarily. Not from sorrow, no-I liked it here more than I had ever liked living in the company of my "family." The tears came from the pain of hunger that clenched my gut as they did night after night.

The dim lighting within the room revealed rows of other shuddering forms, some huddled together to derive some sort of warmth, or to try to, at least. The little girls could fit more than just two to a bed, and most gathered together, hunched inward to conserve warmth. Some of the bigger girls had surrounded themselves with little girls, creating a circle of warm little bodies. But all were careful that they didn't awaken the monitors or any of the teachers.

As the latest arrival to the school, I wasn't welcome in any of the circles. I held no ties to any of them, and they held no obligation to me, only to themselves.

Helen, my one friend, had somehow managed to fall asleep with her bed-mate; I had checked earlier in the hope of deriving comfort from her company.

I tried swallowing air to alleviate the pangs of hunger that overcame me. Giving up, I rolled onto my back, staring up at the cracked plaster of the ceiling.

My thoughts drifted, refusing to entirely yield to the murky, swirling depths of sleep, though they beckoned with warm, inviting arms. From the other side of the room came a hacking cough, followed by a chorus of hushings. I had learned enough to know if a girl awakened a teacher or monitor, it ruined it for all of the girls.

Trying to make pictures of the cracks in the ceiling, I thought of my Uncle Reed. I wondered if he was up there, in Heaven, looking down at me. Was he mad at his wife for her treatment of me? Did he wish he was here, able to care for me? Did he love me? Had he ever?

My thoughts preceded in much the same manner as the minutes progressed. An orphan wants nothing more than to feel love; what human creature doesn't?

XXXXXXXX

Jane, eventually, fell asleep, fresh still on her mind the musings of a lonely orphan.