Chapter 1: Abandoned

Sharon glanced around hoping that no one had seen her as she tugged on the arm of the young girl that she had trailing behind her. She had been nothing but a mistake from the moment that she had decided to steal the young girl from her crib more than four years ago. The girl's fifth birthday was coming up and Sharon, for one, just couldn't muster up the energy of pretending that she was celebrating the day that she had allegedly given birth to the brat anymore. That was why she'd decided that the best thing that she could do was just be done with her once and for all. Oh it's not like Sharon could just take the rugrat back to the same hospital that she had first gotten her so this one would have to do.

Thinking back to that day, Sharon figured that she should have taken the other one instead. The woman had two babies so she could spare one but obviously taking the girl had been a mistake. Maybe Sharon should have taken the boy instead. Then maybe she wouldn't have ended up with a colicky, needy, child who was never satisfied no matter what was done for her. On top of that, the girl talked to herself. Constantly talked to herself. But it was never in a way that she could understand. The child's speech was completely indiscernible. That was all Sharon needed around the house, a kid who was already bonkers. She couldn't deal with her anymore. Not to mention, the girl was getting close to school age. How was she supposed to enroll her without a birth certificate? No, it was time to cut her losses and leave the babbling brat behind.

Walking up the small sidewalk, Sharon watched as the various people milled about as they entered the hospital; a hospital that she could have been working at if it weren't for the fact that she hadn't been able to use her license since that day that she had the wild and undeniable urge to snatch the child that she was now leading into the waiting room.

Sharon looked toward the nurses with longing. She had once been a wonderful nurse. She'd worked in the Maternity Ward and she'd helped countless babies be born. But then she had lost her own baby when she had only been four months pregnant and she had gotten so angry with the world. Every day that she went to work she saw reminders of what she wouldn't have. Shortly after she'd lost the baby her husband had left and she was left with nothing; nothing at all.

Then it happened. The day came when she saw the woman who had not just one but two babies. How could her baby be taken from her but this other woman was given two? No, it hadn't been right. She deserved to have a child just as much as that woman had. When she was given the woman as her patient to tend to while she was in the hospital Sharon felt that it was fate. Fate was giving her a chance to have her child that had been ripped from her.

Sharon had gone to the woman's room and looked at her holding the girl as she waited for the release forms. Sharon had told her that the babies would need to be checked one last time and took the girl while telling the mother that another nurse would be in for the boy shortly. It had been too easy. She had been able to walk right by the guards in the wing since they knew very well that it was her job to transport infants. Then once she had gotten past them it was a simple matter of taking the small I.D. bracelet off and ducking out a side door that the other women used for their smoking breaks.

Of course that day started her roller coaster of a ride; constantly looking over her shoulder, wondering if that day would be the day that she would be caught. Changing her name and moving with only what she could pack in her car. At the time it had seemed worth it. Now looking back, Sharon wasn't so sure. Nor was she sure why she had kept the first name for the girl that her mother had given her but Sharon felt that if anyone ever saw her now no one would even dream that this would be the same girl who had been stolen from that small country hospital nearly five years ago.

Earlier this evening Sharon had told Kira to wear her best clothes and had gotten the old worn out coat that in a few weeks would be too heavy for the spring weather and wrote out a note and put in Kira's pocket. In the note it had Kira's birthdate (April 19, 1959) and the name that Sharon had given her after she had taken her. She allowed her to keep the name her mother had given her, Kira, but she would be her Duchess.

Once Sharon and the girl were in the waiting area of the emergency room, Sharon turned to the girl and told her that she was going to the bathroom. She also told the child not to move until she got back. The young girl then climbed up in one of the plastic chairs and sat as Sharon wove her way through the busy waiting room. Taking one last glance, Sharon turned toward the door and walked out of the hospital without Kira.

Kira sat in the waiting room for six hours that night before anyone noticed that she was alone and had been for quite some time. She had been told to stay put and that's exactly what she had done. Even after she started to get hungry, Kira didn't leave her chair. Nor did she try to sneak to the bathroom herself when she started to feel an uncomfortable pressure in her bladder. She just knew that if she went to the bathroom that her mother would be waiting for her and punish her for leaving her seat in the waiting room.

The small girl stayed in her seat still waiting for her mother to return when finally she hadn't been able to hold her bladder any longer; still, she stayed in her seat. It was only after others who were sitting nearby had noticed the girl's soiled clothing and reported her to the front desk and a security guard came over to talk to her, did she move. She was asked to stand up and she did, afraid of what the man would do to her for wetting the seat and herself. But she had done what her mother had told her to do; she hadn't left her seat.

When she was asked where her parents were Kira merely pointed toward the bathroom's general direction. A nurse went to check the bathroom but of course no one was in there. A fruitless search was made of the waiting area but once Kira had been taken to get cleaned up and the note was found in the pocket of her coat it was quite clear that the girl had been abandoned.

Calls were made and a social worker soon showed up to take Kira to a group home until a more permanent place could be found for the small child who refused to speak to anyone. It would be weeks before Kira was sent to her first foster mother; a woman that would forever haunt her nightmares.

Kira looked around wide-eyed as she climbed out of the car and glanced up toward the large house that she'd been taken to. It had a yard and a few broken toys out front but no kids were playing with them. A couple were sitting on the porch cowering in the corner while a few more were watching Kira from around the corner of the house. In total there were five other kids living in this house, all girls younger than ten.

Hearing the screen door creak, Kira looked up to see a middle-aged woman with a hard face come walking out to greet the social worker. The adults spoke in hushed tones for a few minutes before the woman turned her attention toward Kira.

"Well young lady, do you suppose you could give me your name?"

Kira bit her lip as she realized that the woman was talking to her. She felt scared and she didn't know why. She didn't want to stay here but she didn't have a choice. Momma had gone away. She didn't know why either. She'd been a good girl. She tried to do what she wanted. Still, it hadn't been enough. Now the woman with a cold stare was looking down on her and all she wanted to do was cry.

"She hasn't spoken to anyone else since she was found. Her name is Kira Duchess. Or at least that's the name that we were given when she was abandoned." The social worker pulled out a copy of the small file that had been started on the girl. With only a name that had obviously been faked and a birth date, there hadn't been much to put in the file just yet.

"She doesn't speak?"

"Oh, she speaks alright, just not to anyone else. Only to herself and almost no one can understand her when she does," the worker shook her head as she handed off the file to let Selma Wilson read it. "She's an odd one this girl. I somehow doubt even you will be able to reach her. But if you can, I'm sure that we could possibly find her a more permanent home."

"Well, I don't plan to have my record broken yet. It might take some time but I'm sure I'll have the Duchess here blending in and showing herself to be the model child in no time." Selma reached forward and took Kira's hand as she handed the file back to the social worker. "Come child. I'll show you where you'll be staying."

Kira wanted to pull her hand back but she couldn't. The woman was holding it far too tight. She was then nearly drug inside as the worker left the porch and started toward her car. Panicking, Kira began to holler and scream, she didn't want to be left with this woman. Instead the worker ignored her and started her car up and drove away. The moment that the door to the inside was closed Selma gave a jerk of her hand and brought Kira up short in her hollering.

"That's enough! I'll not allow you to be making that horrible screeching sound!" Kira saw Selma's jaw jut out and her eyes flashed. "Now, I have one rule in this house. I will be obeyed. Whether it be out of respect or fear makes no difference to me but I won't tolerate disobedience. Is that understood?"

Kira swallowed hard as she noticed that none of the children who had been out in the yard playing had come inside with her. Right now she was alone with a very scary lady and she just wanted to get away!

"I asked you, is that understood?" Selma reiterated once more with a bit more force. Practically trembling, Kira nodded. "I can't hear the rattling of your head. When I ask you a question I expect an answer." Selma waited once more before sighing in frustration. "Alright, you've come just before dinner; the bathroom is in the hall. Get cleaned up. But I'll warn you, if you leave a mess in the bathroom, you'll be the one expected to clean it up."

Kira backed toward the general direction that Selma had indicated and hurried to get away from her. Once in the hall, Kira opened three doors before finding the one that led to the bathroom. Inside there was an old sink that looked rusty and an equally old looking toilet. Kira used the toilet then turned the water on and was surprised when it came on full blast and sprayed water all over her. Her dress was soaked before she could get the rusty handle to shut off again.

Timidly, Kira walked out of the bathroom and knew the moment that she'd been spotted by the matron of the house. Selma scolded her for the mess and was ordered to take the wet clothes off right there in the hall and true to her word she turned Kira back toward the bathroom and made her dry the floor up before tossing her an over-sized dress to change into that must have belonged to one of the other girls in the house.

Kira then followed the rest of the five girls who lived in the house to the sparsely furnished kitchen that was only appointed with one large table with two long wooden benches running the length of the table on either side and it had one cushioned dining room chair at the head of the table. Kira watched as the other girls found their places at the table and waited for Selma to allow them to sit. Of the six places for the children, Kira's place would be next to Selma to the woman's right.

"Well young lady, we're waiting."

Kira swallowed hard before taking her place. When the other girls sat down Kira followed suit and waited as food was dished out for the other girls and sent around the table then Selma told them to eat their dinner. Kira looked up from her still empty plate with wide eyes toward the woman that had forgotten to give her anything to eat.

When Selma saw the question in the four year old's eyes she cocked a brow, "Yes. Is there something wrong?" Kira lifted her plate slightly in question. "I can't hear you. If you want something you will need to actually ask for it. I am not a mind reader and I won't play guessing games."

Kira looked around at the other girls that basically ignored her plight of being hungry but not given any food. She didn't know these people and she wanted to leave. Why would the social worker leave her here? She wanted to ask for the food but she knew that she'd always been taught not to speak at the dinner table. Her mother had become angry nearly every time that she heard Kira speak in the months leading up to her abandonment. Was it her speaking that had caused her to go away?

"I'm waiting. If you want food then you will have to ask for it. Otherwise you can just sit there and watch the rest of us."

Kira struggled with herself and mumbled under her breath; much in the same way that she would when she spoke to her imaginary friend, Bo. Still, it didn't seem to be enough since her plate remained empty. The other children quickly ate what they had been given and the moment that Selma released them to leave the table they did so with all the speed that they could.

Once Selma released the last of the other five children in her care she turned to the newly added sixth charge that she'd been given just this afternoon and shook her head. "If you aren't going to eat then you might as well as head upstairs. Elaine will show you where you will sleep tonight."

When Kira looked up in disbelief and appeared frozen in place on the bench, Selma shooed her on. She then began to take up the remaining food from the table and headed out with it and dumped it on the top of her compost pile at the back of the property line. Kira went upstairs as she was told and watched the food being thrown on the pile as her stomach growled.

The next morning, as the other children got ready for school breakfast went much in the same way as supper had the night before; though Kira did attempt to ask for her breakfast just a bit earlier. Still, her request was not clear enough for Selma so it was ignored. Kira sat in her chair with an empty plate in front of her and again watched as the other girls ate and were summarily dismissed just before the school bus pulled up outside to take them away from the dilapidated large house that Selma owned.

Once again, the bitter woman took the leftover food out to the compost pile and then instructed Kira to go out and play as she pulled out a glass bottle from a top cabinet in the kitchen and headed over to couch in the living room. Kira glanced toward the woman as she turned the television on then slipped out of the door as she was instructed to do.

Once outside, Kira sat on the porch and put her hands on her growling stomach. She was so hungry she didn't know what she was going to do. She had no interest in playing with the broken down toys that were left in the yard nor did she think that she'd be allowed back inside anytime soon. After a while the young girl noticed some neighborhood dogs over at the compost pile and they were eating the food from this morning and last night that she hadn't been given. She watched as the animals picked through the pile of leftover food as she felt her stomach tighten at the sight of the scraps being devoured by the dogs.

As the morning faded into the afternoon, Kira waited to be allowed back into the house but each time she tried the doors they were found to be locked. Finally, Kira's bladder let her know that she needed to use the bathroom but it was painfully clear that she wouldn't be able to go inside to do so. When left no other choice, Kira went in behind some of the bushes and lifted her skirt to take care of business. Shortly before the school bus brought the other children home Kira heard the lock to the door click to indicate that it was now unlocked. Kira went inside hoping that perhaps she could get some lunch after having missed two meals but there was nothing on the table.

Once the other girls came back to the house, Kira watched as each handed over test papers and notes from the teachers. When it came Jenna's turn to give her papers to the House Mother, Kira could nearly see the muscles in Jenna's backside clench in anticipation of Selma's reaction to them. Kira watched as the other girls all began to slink off and she joined them just as she heard Jenna begin to cry out in pain. It didn't take much imagination to figure out what was happening in the living room.

Kira hid out along with the rest of the girls upstairs until supper. When the girls were all called to the table Kira saw that Jenna was standing at the end of the table instead of sitting in her place from the night before. Kira sat in her spot beside of Selma and once more the plates were passed around without making a stop in front of her place setting. Again, Kira tried her best to speak up for her dinner but it only came out unintelligible to the woman so Selma ignored her.

She figured that the girl would talk if she got hungry enough. She just had to be firm with her, that was all. When Selma heard the jabber from the four year old she thought that she just might have heard something about wanting some food but Selma was determined that the girl must speak clearly if she wanted to be given any dinner.

When the meal was over Kira was once more dismissed without having had anything to eat and she was nearly panicking at the thought of spending another night hungry. She watched as the leftovers were taken out to the compost pile and then Selma went into the living room to watch her evening programs.

Kira was then left alone as the other girls went upstairs to start on their homework. Peeking around the corner to see if Selma was paying attention, driven by hunger, Kira snuck out of the kitchen door and headed out to the compost pile and found some of the wasted food that had been tossed on top. It was the first time that she'd eaten in over a day and she didn't care that she was only left with the food that had been left behind by the dogs who had already picked through the food.