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Friday, 17 October 2014

Grace

The Blackwells have always been family to me. In fact, they were the best things that ever happened. I grew up in a modest orphanage somewhere in the county of Derbyshire. Some of the elders said I was abandoned, others said that my parents begged them to take me in as they didn’t have the money to feed me. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t bothered to find out more about my faint-hearted parents who didn’t have the courage to fight for their child. Yet, it made me a very miserable and bitter person.

I was never compelled to search for my parents; but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t desperate for love, for attention, for anything that would fill that unknown emptiness inside of me. The orphanage fed me well and I was in the pink. The elders taught me how to speak, write, and count. They taught me valuable life lessons, but as though they were teachers rather than parents. My peers were amicable and filled with compassion for me; especially since we were pretty much all in the same plight. Yet, they weren’t quite like siblings. I didn’t know what having a sibling was like, but I was certain that my friendships were nothing like those I witnessed at the playground opposite the orphanage. I would peer through the gigantic windows along the corridor with envious eyes every evening to observe the beauty of family, love and joy. The beauty of something I would never have.

Or at least, I thought I would never have.

The 25th of July 2008 - the day that my life was changed paradigmatically. It was lunchtime: baked macaroni and cheese as usual. Miss Joanna, a regular volunteer at the orphanage, ran into the cookhouse and called for me. The glow on her face filled me with anticipation and excitement. “Someone is here to adopt you!” She whispered. She was grinning from ear to ear. I got up and followed her, my rapid footsteps unable to keep up with my racing heart. Adoptions were rare; and even so, I never saw any reason for anyone to adopt me. My track records were bad, probably horrendous in the eyes of the wealthy and cultured families.

I came to a halt upon seeing my potential adopter. It was a young lady; she was probably only a few years older than I was. She wasn’t dressed flamboyantly like all the previous adopters that I had ever seen. Instead, she looked like one of us – plain white T-shirt and khaki pants. It was puzzling. “Jessica Blackwell. You can call me Jess.” She smiled; a smile that overwhelmed me with warmth, that unfathomably filled the previously unceasing emptiness. It felt good, nonetheless, queer. I raised my right brow, indicating my skepticism and doubt. Within minutes of her explanation, I figured that she was sent by her father to take me home. Home.

I glanced at the documents in her hands. My track records! My eyes widened in horror as I realized that she had not seen what was written on them. It’s over. It’s all over. Nobody would want to deal with someone who has issues with alcohol and drugs. I shifted my vision to the floor; disappointment was spelled all over my face. I was prepared to leave the room when Jess took my hand. “Mia.” Her angelic voice that sounded like the tinkling of wedding bells beckoned me to stay.

“My father knows who you are, and everything that you have done. He’s seen it. And he chose you. The decision was made even before I came. I’m only here to take you home. Now, let’s go home.”

The shame I felt was tremendous, but the joy that bubbled from the depths of my heart was greater. “Yes! Let’s go! Let’s go home, Jess!” I exclaimed. I no longer had to rely on alcohol or cocaine to numb me from my emptiness. I had found my source of motivation, my tower of refuge, my resting place. I was free.

August.

September.

October.

The first few months with the Blackwells were perfect. I learnt that they were the wealthiest family in the county. On the first day of my arrival, I thought I had stepped into the Buckingham Palace. Rows and rows of servants greeted me. An intricately designed bedroom was prepared for me and it was as though the designer had fully comprehended the innermost desires of my heart. I was adorned with beautiful dresses and fed with the creations of Michelin chefs. That was how I was welcomed into this kingdom of the Blackwells. Suddenly, my life was whole and complete. Never once did I touch or even think of drugs and alcohol.

Not until the 5th of November. It came all at once – so subtle yet compelling. It was impossible to resist. I had finally decided step out of my new home to pay a visit to the orphanage. It was heartwarming to reunite with the people who saw me through my childhood. Nevertheless, it was incomparable to the deep longing within me to return to the Blackwells. As I was preparing to leave, Holly pulled me into our favourite hideout: our very own secret hideout where we used to have our frequent heart-to-heart-talks. Of course, it was no longer a secret place after we were caught snorting cocaine. She drew out a packet of white powder and forced it into my palms. “Mia!” Butler Keynes called out for me. Confused and taken aback, I shoved the packet of white powder into the inner pocket of my blazer and headed for the door.

I lay wide-awake on my bed that night fiddling with the white packet in my hands. I no longer needed it. I was prepared to toss it into the bin when a small voice whispering at the back of my head captivated me. Within a few minutes, I was in a state of euphoria.

I woke up the next day with a huge sense of dread. The same emptiness I once had had returned to haunt me. As I recalled the series of events that unfolded the night before, I scanned my surroundings for any signs of white powder residue. Nothing. My room was clean and tidy, as though nothing had happened the night before. As I dug further into my memory, it suddenly dawned upon me that someone must have cleaned up after me. NO, NO, NO WAY! Whoever it was, it can’t reach the ears of my father!

“Mia?” It was the voice of the last person that I wished to face. “Can I have a chat with my daughter?” I took a deep breath and embraced myself for whatever that was heading my way – be it the disappointment of my benevolent father or the wrath of a businessman who figured out that he had invested in the wrong person. The creak of the door sounded like a death bell. Father walked in, and following behind him like an obedient little puppy was Jess.

“Y…y…yes? Dad?” I choked.

“At dawn, some of the cleaners found some white substance on your bed. It is my responsibility to report this to the police.” He was as stern as the judge of a court hearing.

“No! Why would you do that?! You can…”

“Jess has confessed that the white substance belongs to her. The police will be here in an hour to interrogate her.” He concluded.

My eyes flared wide open as I shifted my gaze to my sister. All she did was to nod and smile, a heart wrenching albeit sincere smile.

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I visited Jess that day at the prison. It was extremely difficult to see that demure and elegant sister of mine dressed in dirty prison robes.

“Why did you pay the price for me, Jess? You’re so stupid! And… I can’t face dad at home every day knowing that he still trusts me and believes that it wasn’t me… What did I do to deserve a sister like you?” I was torn between guilt and gratitude.

“Mia, you know, the truth is dad knew that it was you. He was the one who sent me to take your place. He loves you just like he loves me and although it tore his heart to turn me in instead, he wanted to show you that he loves you for who you are, independent of what you do.” The collar of my Polo dress was drenched in tears at the revelation of the grace that had been shown to me. Who was I that the high and mighty Jonathan Blackwell would sacrifice his only blood daughter for my ransom?

“Jess… I don’t wanna hurt you or dad anymore. I really don’t. But… I can’t help it. I’ve been trying my very best to stay away from those things but I’m… addicted. What should I do Jess, what should I do…”

I am addicted. It was my first time saying it, or even acknowledging it; and the whisper of it was excruciating. I hated to admit, but I knew it was true. Shameful. Vulnerable. Useless.

I could no longer stifle my uncontrollable sobs. The guards came in to signal that it was time to leave. Just then, Jess shoved a note into my palm. As I shuffled out of the room, I cautiously opened the piece of paper – as though it was worth the inheritance of the Blackwells.

Written in meticulous, cursive handwriting:

Mia,

It’s never easy to completely walk away from your past. It’s definitely going to be a long and tough journey but dad and I are with you. And that is what matters most.

With love,
Jess.
© Melody Sim | All rights reserved.