She and I, after that moment, became well acquainted; and, for the remainder of the day, conversed as youth and elder are expected to. I joined her in the kitchen where she formerly put halt to her cooking, and as she rejoined her spoon to a large pot, I sat in a chair and circled the room. It was an old kitchen that was very bright and luminous. The walls were a gentle peach, with flower designs taped around the entire area of the room. The counters and cabinets were filled with either prepared or unprepared food; and/or ingredients to compliment them.
As she poured an orange powder into the large cooking pot, I, being as uninformed as could be, asked when I could meet the other children here at the daycare.
“Ah, you want’a meet them do you?” She asked with her large arms gyrating over the pot.
“I’m just bored.”
“Boy,” her voice tightened, “I don’t want’a hear that word. There’s plenty ta’do around here.”
“Hm?” she brought the spoon up to her lips and sipped the broth, “like helping me make dinner. Here, come grab some of this,” my eyes set on another container of powder, “and pour it in.”
I stepped up on a stool and poured the beige powder in, and even mixed it in my attempt to accompany Mrs. May. Ah, this memory, now that I embrace it with effort, was the only time that she and I were on similar terms. After that, she became quite the burden.
Following my second day at the daycare, for the next two days, I did not go. That Thursday, I had a doctors appointment for a muffle in my left ear and on Friday, my mother decided to take off from work to attend the bills. For the most part, my parents stayed busy and did not have the attention to ask me how my first or second days were, or, what I thought of Mrs. May. So on that Sunday, seeing as how I had to go back the next day, I decided to bring it to their attention.
My mother had her back turned to me as the steam from the stove shrouded her small frame. My father, who was a well read man, skimmed through a newspaper as he sat across from me. I dangled my feet below the table, with my fingers tapping the hard top for attention. My father looked up, placed the paper on the table, and took his glasses from his tired face.
“Is something bothering you, Corvo?”
His eyes widened.
“It’s just that,” I kept my fragile legs moving underneath me as I pushed down on the front end of a fork to make it lift on the other side. “It’s just that you and mom never asked about my first day.”“At the daycare?” He questioned.
My mother, who held two plates in her hands, turned, set them down, and said:
“I’m sorry---we’re sorry honey. How was it? How do you like it so far?”
With my age now, I would not grant them the knowledge since they did not bother to inquire it on their own free time. But at that age, I was seduced by her soft words, and in turn, I told them.
“Well, I guess I like it. I haven’t met the other kids yet ‘cause I was helping Mrs. May cook something.”
“How do you like her?” My father asked with his teeth showing, either from happiness, or the satisfaction of his pasta.
I drove my fork into the messy Spaghetti that idly steamed in front of me, then twirled the fork with two hands.
“She’s okay. I don’t really know her yet. She’s a little scary.”
My mother sat down with her plate, then appointed her soft eyes to mine as I explained. My father reevaluated the paper, seeing as how I was comfortable with being at the daycare. For now, they’d hear stories of my well being, but soon, as my childhood developed, the stories would change.
The next day, my parents dropped me off at May’s daycare, and with that, marked my third day there. I walked in on a rainy Monday, and was greeted by May herself, who waved at my father as they drove off. I breezed past her without her knowing and shed my jacket onto a coat hanger. My boots stayed on my small feet as I walked into the kitchen, since it was the only room that I was comfortable with and somewhat accustomed to. When I sat down, I glanced at my trail only to see a set of mud prints that led to my feet.
“Corvo!” She called. “Boy, get in here!”
Her voice was high and mighty and to my young mind, harmful. I exited the kitchen, still with my muddy boots, and stood before her.
“Look at the floor, boy. You do this at your house, huh? Track mud all over the place? This place is clean, and I won’t have some youngin’ dirtying it up, ya’hear?”
“Yes,” I complied softly.
“Yes I hear you.”
“No. When I ask you somethin’, I oughtta hear you say, ‘Yes, Mrs. May,’ okay?”
“Yes Mrs. May,” I submitted.
She was wearing a bright yellow dress on that day; this time with a red bow in her strands of gray hair. I convinced myself that no matter what, I would have to stay on my best behavior; more importantly, her good side. I didn’t very much like her yelling at me. So she trailed off to get a mop and a soap-and-water filled bucket so that I could clean my mess. Her footsteps became distant as she passed the kitchen and into another room that I was never able to see in my time there. While I waited in the main room, I heard a subtle movement from underneath me. It would come and go, like the tickle of a hesitant sneeze, but when I decided to really listen, I heard some footsteps coming from the basement.
“You’re lucky boy. I ran out of soap last night,” May came from the kitchen with her purse in hand. “I’m gonna run over to the store just up the street. I advise you to stay put.”
“Okay Mrs. May.”
She started for the door.
“Am I going to meet the other kids today?” I asked.
“You certainly will. Right after you clean all this up!”
She dandily left my presence; left me to sit alone, though the front doors remained locked, and Harrison was always there. I again dangled my feet as they could not touch the floor just yet. I began to hum a song that was hummed to me on nights when I failed to fall asleep. It soothed me, and kept me calm during times of uncertainty. But I muted my throat at the sound of those footsteps again. I had no knowledge of where the basement door was, until, the footsteps reached a climax and a door was opened. It was just down the hall from me. If I leaned over I could barely see it, let alone see who was down there.
The door swung open and out came a person of my size. The child looked around, closed the basement door behind them, then went into the loud room that was referred to as the “playroom,” where all of the other children were. I sat up straight again and began to sing my song. The door opened a second time, but this time, sprouted a tall man, wearing a suit and tie, along with a shrivelled smile. Harrison opened the door to the playroom for several minutes, then walked over to where I was sitting.
“Corvo,” he held his palm to his chest, “I didn’t see you there. Does Mrs. May know you’re here?”
“Yeah. She went to go get soap so that I can clean my mess up.”
He looked down and saw the now dried mud tracks that almost blended in with the hardwood floor.
“Leave your shoes on the carpet next time,” he taunted.
I smiled, mainly because Harrison was nice to me. His smile made me feel comfortable; and I knew that it made all of the other kids feel exactly the same. Even though it was my third day, I trusted Harrison.
“Get this cleaned up so you can meet the other kids. I’m sure they’ll like you just as much as I do.”
“Okay Mr. Harrison.”
“Thanks bud. And remember, you can always call me Harry. I’m your friend.”
Oh, how the wolves have a habit of wearing sheep’s skin. He nodded at my compliance, then, with a nonchalant movement of his hands, zipped the fly of his pants up to his belt and smiled once more before leaving to the playroom. I’ll remember that gesture for the remainder of my time, for it sparked my curiosity, my determination to venture, and, the discovery of a terrible secret.
I thought little of it then and if I did ask myself questions, those questions withered away when May came through the door with two plastic bags in her chubby hands. She wasted no time in mixing the soap with some water in a large blue bucket; nor did she lack speed when it came to grabbing the mop and showing me the proper motion in which to mop correctly. Soon the house became swamped with a pine scent and the complement of lemon. My head was sweaty, but I was not tired. The size of the mop simply required extra effort.
So as promised, May prepared for me to meet the other children. No, she did not dress me up, or comb my hair, or put in good word, or anything at all. She simply assured me that everything would be okay then led me to the room. I most vividly remember the sounds of that room where the other children entertained each other. As May guided my body towards the room with her firm palm on my back, the sounds of loud screaming and complaining breached from the doors’ cracks and openings.
My chest began to sense that in that room, I would immediately draw attention upon my entrance. So, with me being only a few feet away from the wooden entrance, I stopped abruptly. May looked down as her knees dug into my back momentarily.
“What is it?” She asked.
“I changed my mind.”
“What do you mean, you changed your---like you have a choice, boy!”
Before I could reply, not that I even wanted to, my back was nudged by her knee. She opened the door, and with that, marked my entrance to a new world. Harrison was sitting down near a table and held a book as many children gathered on a carpet around him. They pushed and kicked and screamed and laughed and spoke and pulled hair and fought softly and jumped and everything else you could possibly think to disrupt a good book reading. The suited man, with the book in his hand, sighed angrily, then turned to the sound of May and I walking in.
When her large body filled the doorway so that no outside light could get past her, the crowd of smallness went silent. Their large, wondrous eyes, searched hers’ to see if they were in some sort of trouble.
“So when I walk in it gets quiet huh? That it? It shouldn’t be that way, y'know. Harry is just like me. You should listen to him, just how you listen to me.”
“I don’t understand why they’re like this on Monday mornings,” Harrison rubbed the back of his neck.“I don’t neither. Act right children, or dinner’ll go to Corvo and myself!”
The kids, their eyes, set on me, like I was to give a speech. One lonely girl in the back of the crowd bravely asked who I was, to which May replied viciously that she should not speak unless permitted to. At that point, I could see that May demanded, deserved, and most definitely received, respect. I was stuck to her large thigh as she kept the children quiet.
“This is Corvo,” her voiced nearly echoed, “he’s new but that don’t mean nothin’. You all should treat him like you would treat your best friends, ya’hear?”
“Yes Mrs. May,” they harmonized.
She ducked her head towards me, then gently parted her lips.
“You’ll be fine. Learn their names, so that anyone gives you a’bother, you come tell me.”
“Yes Mrs. May,” I conformed.
“Oh,” she giggled, “I didn’t ask a question Corvo. You could’ve just said okay.”
It was a nice moment, but a brief one as May left the room to go prepare breakfast for the youth. Now I was in the jungle, as I called it later. Left to socialize with territorial children, dominant children, children who liked to testify against others, and children who, for the most part, actually wanted to commit to talking to me.
Harrison whistled me over as he flipped through the pages of a large picture book. The children, after being addressed by May, sat reticently in front of him. I found a cozy spot next to a small, dark haired girl with violet glasses and a wild set of teeth, tucked inside her downy cheeks. She noticed my sitting, and to my luck, did not squirm at the thought of being near the new kid.
“What’s your name again,” she squinted with her glasses completely on the bridge of her nose.
“That’s a weird name.”
I looked away from her, as again, my name had been shot down by a stranger.
“Yeah I know. What’s your name?” I asked.
“Lady,” her whisper elevated.
“I know,” so did mine, “but what’s your name.”
“My name is Lady!”
The children laughed as Harrison took his eyes from the book, and grinned at the culprit.
“Yes, we all know who you are Lady. No need to remind the entire group,” he laughed as she sourly crossed her arms.
She adjusted her glasses so that they were now covering her eyes. For the rest of the reading, Lady did not bother looking over at me. That was my first impression.