The Boy With the Golden Eyes
by London Lampy
The classroom door clicked shut as Sister Oakley let herself out. "I can't help having bad handwriting." Jack grumbled, having been scolded by the nun for the mess he had made in his exercise book. "Now that she's gone maybe you could come and help me?" He suggested to Exit, pushing his chair back from the desk to give the other boy space to climb onto his lap, which he did. Not much work got done after that, the result being that when the two girls came crashing through the door to fetch Jack they found him with his shirt partially unbuttoned, Exit's hand inside it and the pair of them engaged in a deep kiss, which finished the moment Dana and Jane clattered into the room. For a moment everyone simply stared at one another, Dana was about to ask Jack what the hell he was doing but before she could speak Jane opened her mouth.
"Jack...Elodie...blood." Jane said, panting between words. Exit swiftly jumped off of Jack's lap, and Jack hoped that his little sister was simply being over dramatic, but feared she wasn't, and he hoped that this wasn't something that Dana had done..
"Jane, calm down and breath." He stood up, stepped toward her and squeezed her shoulder. "What's going on?" He addressed this to Dana as he felt he was likely to get more sense out of her.
"I don't know, she went to see if Father Frederick was back, I waited in the yard for her and she suddenly came running out to look for you, shouting something about Elodie being hurt."
"She's bleeding." Jane exclaimed. "Please Jack, come and help." She grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the door.
All four of them made their way rapidly across the cobbled yard, Jack attempting to re-button his shirt one handed as Jane clung to his arm all the way, trying to explain what she had seen.
"She's lying Father Frederick's rug... and there's blood." Her voice was unsteady.
"Where on her?" Jack asked. "Has someone attacked her? Has she had an accident?"
Dana and Exit jogged alongside them, Dana occasionally giving both him the echoback boy puzzled glances. Jack was pretty sure that once they had dealt with whatever was going on with Elodie Dana fully intended to grill him on what had been occurring between them in the classroom.
"I...I don't know what happened, I just saw her on the floor... and the blood, she's sort of in it." Jane said, her voice close to breaking with emotion.
"In it?" He questioned as they let themselves into the chapel. "Are you sure it's really blood, or even hers?"
"Yes! Jack, she's hurt, she asked for help."
When they reached the office Jack tentatively opened the door, the overhead light was now on and as he stepped into the room he immediately saw what had upset Jane so much. Elodie was lying on the rug in front or the fireplace curled into a tight ball, her face damp with sweat but devoid of all colour, her blond hair clumped together and darkened from the sweat. However the worst part of all was lower down. Elodie's skirt was wet through with dark red and around her where she lay was a drying puddle of sticky looking blood soaking into the fabric of the rug, and the air carried a metallic smell. Elodie's eyes were open, but glazed, and the only sound coming from her was the short, shallow pants of her breathing.
Jack hesitated, uncertain of what to do, she was clearly injured but he couldn't see the source of her injury, it was hidden by her clothes, and he wondered if she had been stabbed. In the end it was Dana who stepped forward and knelt beside the girl.
"What happened?" The dark haired girl asked, all she got in reply was a small shake of the head.
"Should we get one of the sisters?" Jane said quietly.
"No." Elodie breathed as Jack crouched beside Dana.
"Where are you hurt?" He asked her. "We need to put a bandage on the wound, try to stop the bleeding." Nanny had taught all of them what to do in an emergency, on a farm in the middle of the countryside even the smallest children needed to know how to deal with accidents quickly.
"You can't, it's coming from inside." Elodie winced, clearly in pain, her arms wrapped tightly over her stomach.
"What do you mean?" He gently quizzed her.
Dana looked at Jack, her eyes wide. "Remember Ingrid, the woman with the long black hair, the one Nanny couldn't save?" She whispered to him. He did, it had been about a year ago, she had come to stay at the small farmhouse until her baby was born, but something went wrong. Her baby came too soon and never took a breath, then Ingrid began to bleed and didn't stop. The old woman had always tried to keep the children away from the messy business of births, but this had been different. He had helped Nanny carry bundles of red soaked bedding to the end of the field to be burnt, then later helped her dig a deep hole and move the sheet wrapped bodies of the woman and her baby into it.
"Did you have a baby?" Jack asked frowning, he had seen plenty of pregnant woman in his time, and although Elodie's dress was ill fitting he doubted that a swollen belly could be concealed under it.
Elodie groaned. "I had one, but now I don't."
"Where is it?" He looked around the room puzzled.
"Jack." Dana said softly. "I don't think she means she gave birth, do you?" She addressed the last bit to Elodie.
"Mother...Mother knows someone...the older girls use him...it was as bad as they said it was...it hurt so much." Her eyes had become unfocused, and Jack and Dana exchanged glances trying to follow her words.
"Do you mean Mother Hardigan sent you to him?" Dana said, stroking the girl's forehead while Jack wondered if the nun had known where Elodie was all along.
"No...not the nun...Mother...don't tell him...he'll be angry I can't work..."
"Elodie, you need to see a doctor, we need to tell someone you're here." Jack interrupted, she seemed to be fading fast and he was growing increasingly concerned for her.
"Where's Father...Father Fredrick?" Her eyes closed then fluttered open again.
"Here." Came a voice from behind them, and they all turned to see the priest standing in the doorway. "What's going on?" He pushed into the room without waiting for an answer and when he saw Elodie curled on the rug he grabbed Dana by her arm and roughly pulled her aside to take her place by the girl.
"What have you done to her?" The priest roared at Jack, who rapidly stood and backed off.
"Nothing." He held his hands out in front of him in a gesture of innocence. "Jane came to see if you were back and found her here like this, we've been trying to find out what's happened to her."
"Is that true?" He softly asked the Jane, who gave a small nod in reply.
"Then who is responsible?" He addressed the small group, Dana having stood and joined Jack, clearly wanting to put some distance between herself and Father Frederick.
"I think..." Dana started uncertainly. "I think she's been into the city to..." She groped to find the right words. "To see a doctor, or someone...to...she says she was pregnant...but now she's not."
The priest stared at Dana. "No..." He said, shaking his head. "Elodie...tell me that's not true."
He looked down at the blond girl for confirmation, but none came, her eyes were closed and she appeared to have slipped into unconsciousness.
Jack lay in bed staring into the darkness, unable to sleep. After Elodie passed out he had been sent to find Mother Hardigan, who in turn sent Sister Macintosh out for the the doctor, and before he could arrive the four of them had been told to go, with instructions to keep what they knew between themselves. They had sat in the classroom together quietly talking about what had happened until a nun ushered them off to their respective dorms. They were all shocked and unsettled by the incident, Jane most of all. It had taken some effort to explain to her exactly what they thought Elodie had had done, with Jane finding it hard to believe that anyone would do such a thing. Exit also questioned why she had gone to Father Frederick's office and not to one of her friends for help, a question none of them could come up with an answer for, beyond Jane's assertion that it was because he was "really nice".
Jack also privately felt that he should have made more of an effort to find out what Elodie had been planning to do with the money he had obtained for her, although what he could have done if he had know he wasn't sure. He doubted that he would have been able to bring himself to inform one of the nuns, and he also doubted that he could have stopped her either.
Turning his head Jack looked at the bed to the left of him, he could make out little more than a vague shape under the covers in the gloom. Sliding out of bed he knelt on the cold lino floor between them.
"Are you asleep?" He asked quietly.
"No." The shape rolled over and resolved itself into Exit, his eyes wide and black in the dark. Jack manoeuvred himself into the small space formed by their beds and the wall and rested his head against the thin mattress, reaching over to take the other boy's hand, lacing his large fingers between the smaller ones. He stayed like that long past Exit's breathing evening out into sleep, and it wasn't until his feet turned numb from the cold and he began to shiver that he reluctantly returned to his blankets.
"Hey, Shithouse!" Jack looked up from the pile of leaves and street debris that he was pushing across the cobbles with an ancient stiff bristled broom to see Fletcher hurrying across the yard, holding something wrapped in paper in his hand.
"Guess what I got here?" He waved the small parcel at Jack.
"No idea, my winnings?"
"Ha, not yet, still working on that one. It's a roast beef sandwich, a proper one with lots of filling, mustard, tomato, the works, nice pink beef too, none of the grey mystery meat crap they give us in here, all on soft fresh bread."
Jack stopped sweeping and frowned at him perplexed. "Good for you, why are telling me?"
"Do you want it?" Fletcher grinned and raised his thick eyebrows.
Jack did, very much. He had been more or less permanently hungry since he came to the orphanage and any extra food was a bonus, but the thought of something that actually tasted good made his mouth water and his stomach growl.
"Yes, but I assume you want something from me in return." He couldn't imagine the blocky boy doing anything without some ulterior motive.
"Too right I do."
"I'm not fighting again, I told you that."
"Nah." Fletcher waved his free hand to indicate it was nothing to do with that. "What I want is information, you know, knowledge is power."
"Let me guess, you want me to tell you what's going on with Elodie." Jack leant on his broom.
"Sure do Shithouse, I know you saw her, and that monkey boy and your sisters were there too, and I know she's been sent to hospital, but I don't know why, and I don't like not knowing stuff."
Jack considered that despite being told not to tell anyone about the reason for the girl's trip to hospital if Fletcher had simply asked without the bribe he would most likely have told him, but he wasn't about to turn down the sandwich. He led Fletcher to a spot between the wall and the back of the kitchens that was fairly private and out of view of most of the windows.
"So, are you going to tell me?" Fletcher asked, resting his back against the wall and waving the package again.
"Sandwich first." Jack watched it keenly.
"No, info first."
"No sandwich, no info."
"All right, half now, half when you've told me."
This sounded fair enough to Jack and he ate the first half, savouring every delicious bite, while Fletcher observed and jiggled in anticipation. As soon as Jack had swallowed the last mouthful Fletcher started questioning him rapidly.
"Hang on." Jack held up his hand to silence him. "We were told not to talk about this so you're not to go spreading it around or you'll get us all in the shit."
"Mate, have I breathed a word to anyone about you and monkey boy?" Jack had to concede that as far as he knew Fletcher hadn't. "So spill."
"Do you really want to know? It's not pretty."
"For fuck's sake, I went to all the trouble of getting you a roast beef sandwich didn't I?" Fletcher seemed about ready to explode from curiosity.
"Yes, how did you get that?"
"Never you mind Shithouse, stuff they don't have in here, I can get. That's all you need to know." This gave Jack an idea for something he might ask Fletcher about later, after he'd sated the boy's curiosity. "Now tell me what I need to know." So Jack told him, only leaving out the part about what had been going on in the classroom when the girls came running in.
"Shiiit." Fletcher breathed once he had finished. "I knew a girl that died from having that done, she lived downstairs from us. I wonder who knocked her up?"
"She got a boyfriend?" Jack asked between mouthfuls of the second half of the sandwich.
"No, she likes to make the boys pant over her, likes to show off to the other girls how much they fancy her, but I don't think she's interested in anyone that way. Can't blame her really, not after where she came from."
"She must have done it with someone." Jack looked at the sandwich wrapper sadly, it was now empty. "What do you mean, where she came from?"
"Don't you know? She was one of Mother's girls." Fletcher said this as if Jack should know what he meant.
"You don't mean Mother Hardigan do you?" Jack asked. "She said something about "mother" last night, I kind of thought she was rambling, but I guess she was talking about the same woman you are. What does it mean, to be one of "Mother's girls"?"
"Mother's a man, don't know why he's called that, but I can tell you he's a complete evil fucker. I'd rather spend an eternity with Mother Hardigan than five minutes with him, that's the god's truth." Jack was surprised at the other boys vehemence, he was normally cheerfully flippant about almost everything. "He runs a whole lot of businesses in the city, some legit, some not, but he made his money from brothels. Not your regular cat houses and molly houses but ones with children in, both boys and girls, from tiny little ones to our age, and Elodie was one of them girls."
Jack stared at him. "People pay money to have sex with children?" He asked unbelievingly.
"Yep, sick bastards. I've heard that when he gets a new kid Mother holds a virginity auction, sells it off to the highest bidder, but the children never see a penny of the money, not from that or after. He just keeps them till they get too old then kicks them out."
"Is that how Elodie ended up here?"
"No, about a year ago one of the brothels got torched, some of the children got out, most didn't. Elodie was one of the lucky ones, kind of. The cops rounded up the survivors and stuck them in orphanages."
Jack felt a little sick, and a little guilty about his former dislike of the girl. True, she had behaved horribly toward his sisters, but would he have been any better if that had been his life? "That's..." He wasn't sure how to finish the sentence.
"Shitty? Yes." Fletcher sighed. "It's a big bad world out there." He pointed at the wall. "Especially if no one gives a fuck about you. I'm fortunate, I got my dad. He ain't perfect but he kept me safe, looked after me good."
"Yeah." Jack nodded, thinking about how Nanny had done the same for him and all the others.
The bell on the chapel roof chimed, letting them know that lunch had finished and that they should be hurrying off to their afternoon work.
"Thanks for the food Fletch." Jack picked up the broom, and they began to walk together toward the main building.
"Thanks for the info." Fletcher clapped him on the shoulder.
Jack took a deep breath. "Can you really get hold of anything?"
"Try me, what do you want?"
"Erm...some Doctor Lumen's?" He said looking straight ahead, hoping he wasn't blushing.
Fletcher sniggered. "You mean Doctor Lumen's wonder balm of a thousand uses?"
"But that really only has one?"
"Yep, that's the stuff." Jack stopped at a small outbuilding to put the broom away. "Can you get hold of a tin?" He questioned again from the shed's musty interior.
"Shouldn't be a problem, might be for monkey boy though."
"What do you mean?" Jack retreated, shutting the door and wiping his hands on his trousers.
"Well, judging from the size of the rest of you the poor little thing ain't going to be able to sit down for a week after."
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