*#4 of the ISMAEL ORTIZ ESCRIBANO series. Extract from my Photography blog, Through Frog Eyes. Each month a guest photographer is featured and a short story is woven around a set of photographs. Please click on the link to read the previous stories and the complete version of the story below.
Luz looked up from her dilapidated and flea-infested orphanage bed and noticed that the light outside was beginning to fade, just like her. Another day was ending and she was still sick. The fever had not broken and she slipped in and out of consciousness. Voices echoed in her head, snippets of conversations picked up here and there, some of concern and others of annoyance. Mother Superior was angry that she was taking so long to recover because that meant additional expenses for medication and doctors’ fees, both of which the orphanage could barely afford at the moment. The children with slight fevers and colds were still assigned chores and sent to lessons, but those like Luz who were incapacitated were confined to the infirmary until such time that they could be deemed fit to stand on their own two feet again. As a frail and sickly child, Luz’s chances of being adopted were low, as proven by the stream of couples who had inquired over the years and never returned for a second visit. Her biological mother had left her at the cloister entrance as a baby, knowing that the city’s red light district was no place to raise a child, and hoping to take her back one day and offer her a better life, away from all the evil. That day never came and Luz had been forgotten and moved down the list of recommended children for adoption, ignored like the cobwebs on the shutters she could discern from the bed.
Angel peered out the door to check if the police car had turned the corner already. He and all the other street children who slept in the abandoned warehouse by the pier had narrowly escaped arrest again. They slept under a different roof each night, and sometimes it wasn’t even a roof, but beneath the bridge or on cold days, inside garbage empty dumpsters. Last night they got lucky and found a building that offered them shelter from the pouring rain and peace from the human predators that roamed the streets. Their little group consisted of boys and girls aged six to sixteen, most of whom had been left on the streets to fend for themselves. Only Angel had left home voluntarily, finding more comfort among the street dwellers than the abusive parents at home. Sleeping on a flattened cardboard box was far more peaceful than the luxurious bed back home because there was no drunken father who would come into his room in the middle of the night. The other children had equally horrific stories to tell, some of them far worse than his. There was safety in numbers and they looked out for each other, scrounging for food wherever they could. At night they gathered at the designated meeting place and shared their offerings as one family. There was always the option of going to a halfway house or a warm meal at the soup kitchens throughout the city, but there was always a social worker on duty who was over eager to take them to social services and place them in foster homes.