It was a gorgeous spring morning; the sky was as clear as crystal and birds were singing gaily as they flew through the air in playful games of foul tag. Below were the sounds of happy children playing games of their own on the playground in the back of the orphanage in a small town just north of Newberg, Oregon. Children of all ages, from the age of four to the age of seventeen, ran about happily playing their games, walking around with friends, or swinging on swings and making things up as they went.
It was a good day for all because that day was adoption day. This was the day when parents would come flooding in to inspect children, find the ones that they wanted, and fill out paperwork to adopt the child. Every child was hopeful that they would find a new set of parents. To them, the orphanage was great, but it was nothing like having a real home and real parents. Even the older children, though they knew deep down that they would never be chosen because they were too old, hoped and wished for someone to come and adopt them.
Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best, with strict orders to keep clean so that they would look presentable in the sight of the new parents that were coming to adopt them. Days like this were few and far spread, so the children were careful to keep clean as told, and when the parents would come, all would be on their best behavior.
The only two who were not so excited about adoption day were Catherine and Joseph. They had been best friends since they met at the orphanage, more like brother and sister than best friends. They knew that because Joey was so young, only eight years old, and Catherine was so old, eighteen and the oldest child there, that they would be separated.They knew that anyone would want Joey for a child of their own, but Catherine was too old. She should have been out by now, with a job and place of her own. But the orphanage could not see her leave on her own, especially since she and Joey were the only friends that each other had and they seemed to be attached at the hip. Besides the fact that Catherine was great with the kids and always did a wonderful job on chores. The owner of the orphanage had decided to keep her there and have her work there until she could find a place of her own, if she wanted.
Joey and Catherine were at the swing set, Catherine pushing Joey on the swings and Joey laughing and squealing with delight. Had they not known better, one would have thought they were mother and child. But their looks gave them away immediately; Catherine had long, dark chocolate hair flowing down to the waist of her navy skirt, and bright, hazel green eyes. A smile on her face always, but with a tear deep in her eyes, she was the most beautiful girl in the orphanage. Joseph, on the other hand, was tall for an eight-year-old, and had dark blonde hair, baby blue eyes, and the cutest dimples anyone had ever seen. When with Catherine he seemed happy, like a normal child, but when alone he looked so sad that one would have thought he was about to cry. Though he never admitted it, he missed Catherine when she was not around to play with him, especially since he had no other friends.
“Children!” rang the singsong voice of the head master of the orphanage, “The parents have arrived! It’s time to come into the lobby!”
The children of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities, came running up to the building doors, in two long lines. Joey and Catherine were in the back of the left hand line, waiting anxiously to see who would be adopted today. They were all silent, in obedience to the rule of silence when meeting parents for the first time. The towering green double-doors opened wide as if to welcome the children in to their potential new parents. The children filed in quietly, walking quickly and excitedly to meet the people who might adopt them and give them good homes.
As they walked down the tiled hall, and into the carpeted and finely furnished lobby where dozens of parents were waiting in delight for their new children, the children’s faces lit up with an anxious excitement to meet these new strangers. When everyone was in, some started guessing who would be adopted by who, and who would be left at the orphanage. The headmaster came into the room last, and introduced all the parents to the children, and likewise introduced all the children to the parents.
After introductions were made, the children and parents went into a wild frenzy. The parents literally ran up to the children, finding exactly the ones they wanted, hugging them, telling them that they wanted to adopt them, and giving and taking information about the child and the parents to see if they would like their new child or home. Catherine was already starting to hate the day. She knew that someday Joey would be adopted by a good family, and that he would have to leave her, and she hated the idea of losing the only friend she had, who, to her, was more like the little brother she had always wanted in a kind of replacement for the one she lost in her past. She would cry when the idea came into her head that Joey would have to leave, and then push the idea away before Joey could see her cry.
Joey, likewise, did not like the day either. He had a funny feeling that someone here was going to want to adopt him, and he did not want to leave Catherine. She was like a big sister to him, and a playmate. He had no other friends, and he wanted to stay here, where he had at least one. He knew that eventually he would have to leave, but he did not like thinking about it, so he pushed the idea from his mind as soon as it came. Just then, a set of kindly parents walked up to them, staring intently at Joey. They could tell right away that they wanted to adopt Joey, and neither one wanted that. Joey was fully prepared to be the worst little boy he could be, and Catherine was prepared to bargain with them to see if she could come along. Right away, though, Catherine knew that her bargaining would only be a waste of hot air. Just as all the other adoption days, they did not want her, they wanted someone else. This time that someone else was one she was not prepared to lose.
“You’re Joey, right?” said the woman in a tweed jacket and a leather purse, “I’m Mrs. Cartwright.”
“Hello Mrs. Cartwright.” Joey said. He had not wanted to say that, but his subconscious kicked in and he had no choice.
“So polite!” exclaimed Mr. Cartwright, “Joey, we want to adopt you. We have a nice home waiting for you, with a room just for you, and a puppy just for you.”
Joey liked the idea of having his own pet dog, but what he wanted more was to be with Catherine. He said nothing, and only stared at them with a sad little frown on his pink little face.
“What’s wrong, Joey?” asked Mrs. Cartwright.
“He wants to stay here.” Catherine started to explain for Joey, “We have been like brother and sister ever since he came. He does not want to leave me, nor I him.”
The man and woman seemed to think it over for a minute, pondering the dilemma between these two children. They did not want to hurt Joey, but Catherine was too old to take home, and, quite frankly, too old to be in an orphanage. She looked kind and well mannered, but it would be no use to adopt someone who was ready to leave the nest anyway.
“Well,” explained Mr. Cartwright, “I’m sorry Joey, but we can’t. Your ‘sister’ is too old for us to adopt. She would be leaving the house soon anyway. I’m sorry, but you are just going to have to accept that she would have left soon, anyway.”
Joey’s eyes started to well up. The twinkling of a child’s pure tear was just noticeable as he turned and ran off to his room. The parents were about to run after him, but Catherine stopped them.
“One thing you must know about Joey is that he is a big boy. He does not want to be seen crying, and when he is upset it is best just to give him space.” Mrs. Cartwright did not appreciate being stopped or told something she might have already known, but she knew Catherine was right. Boys that age did not like to be bothered when they were upset.
“Well, thank you, whoever you are. Perhaps there is more you can tell us about our future son.” Mrs. Cartwright said. She knew very well who Catherine was, but she still did not like the way she and Joey were attached.
“Sure.” Catherine said. She knew that there was nothing she could do now, but her heart still ached like crazy because she knew she was losing her little brother.
Perhaps, she thought to herself, this is for the better. They could take really good care of him, and make him forget all about me. If they could do that, then he would not be hurt.
“Let’s meet in the dining room. There is more room and privacy there.”The two followed Catherine into the large dining room, where a gigantic oak table and fine oak chairs awaited them. Catherine sat to the left of the head of the table, and the couple sat across from her. As the three chatted about what Joey likes, what he does not like, what he is afraid of, and so on, Joey was in his room weeping bitterly. He did not want to go away from his big sister, but he knew that there was nothing that could be done. He had somehow known since he awoke that morning that this would happen, and he hated himself for knowing. He had a bad habit of always somehow knowing what was going to happen, before it happens, and to him it was a curse.
He knew that Catherine was going to cry when he went away, because he had seen her crying by herself once and knew what it was that made her cry. The only comforting thought in his mind was that he would never forget her. No matter how the new couple tried, they could never make up for Catherine or make him forget about his big sister.