When Asiaq opened the door to the dormitory, she felt afraid. Two days of strolling up and down the quaint streets of the small fishing village hadn’t eased her mind, nor had the meeting with the social worker.
The other children at the home had been victims of the earthquake, but most of them had now been reunited with relatives. “The girl” was different – they found her on the beach when she was a baby, wrapped in a blanket in a rowboat.
“Maybe the person who left her there hoped a fisherman would find her and take her in. People often hope someone like themselves will take care of their child, so maybe she was a fisherman’s daughter. We call her Marina. You can see her now.”
The room was so austere it was chilling, and all the beds but one were covered with white sheets. In the middle, at the back of the room, sat Marina quietly, not moving a muscle, and waited for them.
Asiaq swore she could hear her and Damon’s hearts stop at the same time. She didn’t know what she had expected – perhaps dirty toys, a dirty little face, a girl in an old-fashioned uniform. Not this perfectly clean, almost empty room.
There were no lights on during the day – “to save electricity”, the social worker explained – and if the child had any toys, they were stowed away. A few halfhearted attempts at beautification had been made, with colourful butterflies and rainbows on the wall, but somehow they made the room feel even emptier.
“Please don’t leave me here. Take me with you”, the little girl suddenly said, in clear, distinct Fharhondian Simlish.
Asiaq and Damon were both so stunned they had no idea what to say.
“Can I hug you?” she proceeded, turning to Asiaq, and without a word Asiaq leaned forward and felt a very small ribcage heave rapidly under her arms. The girl acted calm but her heart was raising. Her tiny arms felt surprisingly strong around Asiaqs neck.
“What’s your name?” Asiaq asked sheepishly, although she already knew what she was called. But she just shrugged apologetically – apparently she didn’t understand.
“I don’t like to live here. I don’t want to be alone.” she answered instead. Suddenly Asiaq understood that she didn’t actually speak Fharhondian, she had just rehearsed a few phrases to absolute perfection.
“She doesn’t understand you, Damon.” Asiaq said quietly, leaning against the door post. She felt a sudden urge to burst out of the room, but hovering close to the way out was all she could do at the moment.
Damon still didn’t seem to get it, because the girl’s accent was so perfect it seemed incomprehensible that she didn’t actually speak the language. She had a variety of phrases prepared. Damon asked her if she was looking forward to school, and the girl replied she was alone and had no friends.
Asiaq shut the rest of the conversation out, it was too eerie. Like listening to a recording. Even if it was all true, it just felt so staged and creepy. She had no room to move in this situation, so she turned to the window and looked out at the sea. Far away on the other side was Fharhond and their own beautiful little girl, playing horse with her grandfather probably.
Why would she need another child, anyway? She already had everything she could ask for.
They were going to stay for dinner, so they got to meet the housekeeper as well. She was a warm and friendly type, which put their mind at ease at least a bit for Marina’s sake. The feta salad was good, but Asiaq feared it was what Marina ate every day. She did look small for her age.
“Please excuse Marina, she has a bad habit of staring. She’s just excited to have visitors”, the housekeeper smiled. There were no implications in that last sentence, and Asiaq was thankful for the small courtesy.
Everyone knew why they were here and everyone was hoping desperately for her and Damon to take this girl home and make her their daughter. Even 15 seconds of pretending they were just visitors felt like a relief.
Asiaq’s bad conscience made it impossible for her to stay at the table, so she excused herself and went looking for the bathroom. “It’s up the stairs to the left, dear”, the woman called behind her.
“She’s nice”, she thought to herself, “seeing her every day can’t be so bad, and she’ll start school soon, make new friends, and she’s obviously smart…”
Who are you kidding? her inner voice boomed, you have to take her home now.
Frustrated, Asiaq demanded a room closer to the sea. Damon realized immediately that she felt tied, that she wanted control over something small because she had no control over the larger issues. He admitted to himself that he had some second thoughts as well.
“We don’t have to adopt her. If you really don’t think it would work out.”, he said. “I mean, the rehearsed speech was a little creepy. Maybe you’re right. There’s something a little off about her.”
“I dunno”, Asiaq replied after a long silence, “it caught me off my guard, the whole staging. I mean I’m pretty sure she staged it herself, sitting on the chair in the middle of the room like that. And her little parrot speech. But even so, she’s not lying. She is all alone, and it must be terrible for her. In a way, you can’t blame her for playing on our emotions. She’s desperate.”
“I think we should try. I mean, I think we should take her home. She’s almost the same age as Eira. I always imagined she’d have a baby brother or sister, but why not a big sister? I think they would really connect.”
Damon nodded thoughtfully. It made sense, even if bonding with this 7-year-old would take some time for them, the girls would probably become close in no time. Children had it easier that way.
“Ok then! We’re going to be parents!”
The little you saw of the “fishing village” “near Monte Vista” was shot on location in Positano (by Remmo) and I was about to show more of it but I think I’ll just fly them all home instead. I highly recommend Positano though, it’s beautiful and very playable, and feels “lived in”, and the families have pretty interesting non-slider genetics – no pudding faces. I use Positano for my ISBI and I’m on generation 3 now with no lag!