Are you still there? Has anybody been trying to help me get out of this godforsaken place?
Now where did I leave off last time...?
I'd just had my first meeting with Sister Bernadette, which didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped, then Sister Ulalia walked me back to the dormitory they'd stuck me in.
"Go wash up, Keilani," she told me, "and I'll leave these on your bed." She'd brought along the armload of spare clothes, though I already knew they weren't going to be a perfect fit. Saint Sebastian's had to make do with what they had.
Like me. Only I didn't have much LEFT. I'd had damn near everything taken away from me in the last 12 hours: My job, my freedom, even my adulthood!
Sister handed me a towel, some soap, and a half-empty bottle of cheap shampoo, and sent me into a small tiled room with changing benches and, further in, a group shower area with faucets along both walls. It was empty, as the other girls had already washed up and gone down for breakfast.
Good, I thought. Something had to go right sooner or later.
"Mahalo," I said, thanking Sister, although I really didn't have much to be grateful for.
"And don't try sneaking away," she added, crushing my feeble hopes before I even had time to detail an escape plan. "I'll be right down the hall."
It wasn't an accusing tone. Of all the nuns I'd encountered here, Sister Ulalia seemed to be the nicest. But like all of them, she sincerely believed I was an abandoned 12-year-old who belonged at Saint Sebastian's Home for Orphans, Neglected Children, and Problem Girls. And she'd witnessed my previous behavior firsthand, in Sister Bernadette's office.
So I sat and undressed, pulling off the saddle shoes, blouse and pleated skirt that damn social worker Gail had dressed me in when she brought me here. There was still a bit of sand between my toes from the previous night on the beach. A shower would be refreshing.
I stared at the shampoo bottle a moment, debating whether to even use it. My hair felt really grungy, but I didn't want to make it dull with this cheap crap, and there wasn't any conditioner. Cursing my bad luck for the hundredth time, I decided I'd go ahead and use it. But my long, shiny hair was going to end up with split ends, I was sure.
I gasped as the first blast of spray hit me... The water was COLD! After the initial shock I realized the rest of the girls in my dormitory, and the others throughout the building, had probably already used up all the hot. Jesus, I was on a fucking tropical island, and this place didn't have enough warm water!
Under the icy shower I scrubbed myself morosely, reflecting on all the degradation I'd suffered. I'd been spanked two times in two days, for being "naughty". Which basically meant trying to tell everyone else I was actually an adult, then getting pissed off when they were too stupid to realize I was telling the truth. I felt like I was regressing, becoming MORE like a little girl by the minute, so I took the opportunity to undo the childish pigtails. They certainly weren't helping my battle.
My battle. Already I was accumulating scars. Carefully I washed my right knee, which was still sore from where I'd scraped it trying to escape Gail. Then I craned my neck around to inspect my backside. The sharp needles of spray stung where Sister Bernadette's switch had found its mark mere minutes ago. I thought I could see a red welt. Closing my eyes, I leaned my head back against the wall and sobbed in silence as the frigid water fell down on me.
Having a good cry made me feel better. I stayed in there for 20 minutes, until Sister Ulalia wandered back in. Her interruption startled me, and I threw my hands over myself indignantly.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Keilani," she said, averting her eyes politely, "but we really don't have much privacy around here."
Yeah, no shit, I thought. Awkwardly I nudged the faucet off with my elbow, trying to stay covered.
"I've laid out fresh clothes for you," she continued. "They're labelled with your name." (Christ, just like my parents did when I was in grade school!) Sister continued, "Put your dirty ones in the basket at the foot of your bed, and they'll get washed up."
With some trepidation, I dried off and went to inspect what I'd be wearing while I was here. It was actually marginally better than I'd dreaded. There was a nightgown, a couple of extra blouses, clean socks, a longer skirt, and -- thank AKUA! -- some plain cotton underpants. Still a far cry from the skimpy thongs I was used to, but at least I wouldn't have to wear those awful ones with the smiling flowers anymore!
The downside, as Sister had said before, was that the skirt wasn't a perfect fit. It was about a size and a half too loose around the waist, causing it to slip down my narrow hips and reveal my underwear from above, instead of below like the shorter skirt. I found if I tucked it into the elastic waistband of my panties it would stay up better. I had to remember to ask Sister for a safety pin.
There was a mirror in the bathroom, so I went and checked myself. I still looked like a juvenile in that schoolgirl outfit, but it was a slight improvement from before.
Ordinarily I don't even eat breakfast, but after everything I'd been through I was famished. Saint Sebastian's had a small cafeteria, and I got myself a tray with some fruit, milk, and a bowl of paluoa lūlū. That's a traditional Hawaiian breakfast paste made from flour and water, and a few other things. I'm not sure what, I never really learned how to cook. It tasted good, but its gooey texture only conjured up the popular image of orphanages and gruel. I sat at a table as far away from the rest of the girls as possible, not wanting any attention.
But wouldn't you know it, one of them decided she had to come over. I recognized her from my dorm. She was māku`e, dark-skinned like me, about my height (God I hate being small), but her black hair was cut boyishly short, which looked strange. Most girls here grow it long, and quite a few of the guys do too.
"Aloha," she said quietly, sitting down across from me. I returned the greeting, but really wasn't in the mood to talk. "I'm Oliana," she said, after a moment of awkward silence.
"Keilani," I answered, without enthusiasm.
"It's not so bad here," she tried to reassure me. "You just have to--"
But we were interrupted by two other, taller girls, one native and one white. I recognized the latter, as she'd made a crack about those stupid panties I'd been wearing earlier. I had an unpleasant sensation, a gut instinct that this girl was just plain bad news.
"Mornin', O-lee-anna!" she drawled in a heavy Southern continental accent. Then she whacked her hard on the back in a pretend greeting, as Oliana lifted her juice cup to drink, causing her to spill it all over her front. "Aww, golly," she added in mock apology. "Guess Ah made a mess outta yer clothes, didn' Ah? 'Least now they match yer hair!" And she laughed. Her friend, the other Hawaiian, leaned over wordlessly and took the muffin off Oliana's tray, and started eating it.
Great, I thought, just great. This Oliana girl was clearly at the base of the social tiki at Saint Sebastian's. She was a total pushover, just sitting there taking it. And there I was right next to her, on my first day here.
And the white girl noticed.
"Well howdy, Kay-Lawny!" She extended a hand. "Ah'm Su-zanne, Su-zanne Calloway." And she really pronounced her name like that, you could hear the space between the fucking syllables.
I shook the hand limply, but didn't answer. She already knew who I was, from when Sister Ulalia had introduced me up in the dorm.
Suzanne pulled out a chair and sat in it backwards. "How old're ya, Kay-Lawny?" she asked.
I considered this. None of the adults here believed I was 21, so there was no reason to think the girls would either. And I'd probably make it harder on myself if I kept insisting I was. So...
"Twelve." Then, to make myself seem just a little bigger I added, "Almost thirteen." God it was unsettling, how my "new" age became easier to get out every time I said it. I prayed this wasn't a slippery slope, that this new identity wouldn't take over completely.
"Well, Ah AM thirteen," Suzanne boasted, "an' a half! An' that makes me the oldest in our room. So Ah reckon AH'M in charge of yew."
"Sister Bernadette would disagree," I muttered, stacking my now-empty dishes on my tray. I found myself intensely disliking this girl.
"Y'all bin ta SEE Sister Bernadette, have ya?" Suzanne asked as I stood up to leave. Her expression was mischievously gleeful as she added, "Didja git ya a li'l ol' whack on yer bee-hind?"
And with that she caught the hem of my skirt, reached under and playfully slapped my panty-clad ass.
"Auwī!" I yelled. It was still sore.
I glared furiously at Suzanne, who cackled with laughter. "She done DID, huh?" Then, leaning closer to whisper conspiratorially, "Letcha in on a li'l secret. Ever'body miss-bee-haves, so ever'body gits a whuppin' sooner 'r later. Differ'nce 'tween yew 'n' me, Kay-Lawny? Is Ah LAHK it!"
"Not the only difference, you hick."
She chose to ignore my name-calling, for the moment. "Oh, it hurts lahk a sum-bitch, but Ah think it's mighty excitin' too! An' what's even better? Is watchin' it happ'nin' ta somebody else!"
I'm not exaggerating. I swear to God that's really how this girl talks.
She went on: "Some-tahms? Ah lahk ta git mah-self inta trouble, jus' so's Ah git me a spankin' from Sister." She turned to the other Hawaiian girl next to her. "Ain't that raht, Makala?"
This other girl nodded, expressionless. Almost as an afterthought, Suzanne gestured and added, "This here's Makala. She's thirteen too."
Makala hadn't spoken a word yet. "Can she talk?" I asked Suzanne. "Or is she the brains and you're just the waha nui?" In my language that means, roughly, "big mouth". Immediately I regretted the taunt, feeling even more like a child for using it.
Suzanne looked to her companion, not certain what I'd just called her. She saw Makala's eyebrows furrow in a small frown, and understood she'd been insulted, again. I realized I'd just made at least one enemy, possibly two.
"Yew'd best mind yer manners, new girl," she warned, glaring. "Cuz lahk it er not, yer stuck here with us." She let those words sink in a moment, then stood up again. "We'll be seein' yew 'round, Kay-Lawny." Makala followed her to another table.
Well, needless to say, that spoiled my breakfast. I dumped off my tray and stalked toward the exit. Oliana caught up with me in the hallway, and I tried to tell her that I didn't need her help, I could take care of myself.
"If that were true you wouldn't be here," she replied, not understanding my situation at all. "But don't worry, I'll show you around. Just behave in front of the Sisters. And watch yourself around those two. Believe me."
Great, I thought. Just what I needed. The loser girl being my friend.
Oliana showed me the way to class... Saint Sebastian's also doubles as a school, the Sisters teach the orphans and the girls who get sent here after being kicked out of the public educational system. There were quite a few empty seats among the rows of one-person desks, so I chose one away from the teacher's. I sat and looked all around at the room, and tried to forget the unpleasant experience in the cafeteria. But it wasn't long before Suzanne entered, Makala in tow, and spotted me in the back.
"Y'all're in mah seat," she said.
"I don't see your name on it," I answered.
"Let's us git one thing straight, Kay-Lawny," said Suzanne, leaning on my desk with both hands. "Ah'm older'n yew, an' Ah'm bigger'n yew."
That's two things you stupid bitch, I thought. And she was only half right. Admittedly the girl was tall for thirteen and a half, five-four at least. And even through her clothes I could tell the outline of her figure was already more developed than I'd ever gotten. But this spoiled little brat was NOT older than me, I reminded myself. She only thought she was.
Her mouth was still running: "Yer lahf at Saint Sebastian's kin be nice 'n' quiet, er we kin make it a fuckin' NAHT-MARE. If'n yew cross me? Ah'm gonna GIT yew. Mebbe while y'all're slumberin' at naht. Er mebbe on the play-ground, when the Sisters ain't lookin'."
Now I'm not a fighter, but Suzanne certainly looked like she could handle herself if it ever came to that, plus she had Makala as backup. Not wanting to cause a scene (and end up with yet another spanking), I wordlessly slid out of the desk and moved to the next one.
"That'n there's Makala's," Suzanne added.
So I moved again, to one in the corner. Suzanne looked triumphant, knowing she could push me around and get away with it. I cursed myself for not standing up to her, and hoped I'd get another chance to redeem myself. Onipa`a, as my people say. Be steadfast. Sort of like "sticks and stones", only a lot more mature. I needed more mature right now.
Class started, and we all sat and listened to one of the Sisters teach, and took notes. There was none of the freedom of the college classes I was used to. You had to raise your hand and wait to be called on before you could talk. If you had to go to the bathroom during class, you had to announce your intent in front of everyone, and get permission to get up from your desk. If you got called on, you had to go up to the board and answer a question, with the whole class staring at you. God, I'd just gotten out of this crap a few short years ago, and now I was neck-deep in it again.
Worse was the fact that I knew all the subject matter already, having been through it the first time. It was all review, easy review, and I found myself consistently bored. But you had to pay attention anyway because Sister had a ruler that she'd rap sharply on your desktop if she caught you dozing off. And she did it a couple of times, with girls in the front rows. For the most part the Sisters were nice, caring people. But the fact that they had the power to punish me, to instantly bring my new juvenile identity to the forefront, was intimidating and quite unsettling.
Still, the next few days passed without any major incidents, mainly because I kept my mouth shut and did what was expected of me. The thought of punishment held me back... God, was I caving in already? The plan was to just hold out, make it to the weekend, when Sister Bernadette had promised someone would take me to my house. That's when I'd finally be able to prove to them that I was actually a grown woman.
For the most part I gradually adjusted to the new routine, but I still missed my old life terribly. Surfing. Hanging out with my friends from college -- Akela, Naia... and Kahoku. Even my old job. I would've given anything to have that fatass in the luau bar tease me again. I'd take him over Suzanne's bullying any day.
God, Suzanne. Although she didn't really do anything those first few days, aside from throwing a few taunts and sneers, the smug smirk on her face always suggested she was thinking of ways to get under my skin. Makala, for her part, seemed content to play backup thug, never saying anything but going along with Suzanne's act. I kept telling myself that I was grown up, I was above such things. But it still deepened the sense that I was reliving junior high all over again, and I could never completely ignore that little inner voice pounding in my mind, screaming that I didn't belong here.
At last came Saturday morning, and Sister Ulalia's wake-up bell. This was the day Sister Bernadette had said someone would take me to my house. I'd dressed under my nightgown the night before, so I was at her office door at 7:05, rapping eagerly. She didn't answer right away, so I kept at it.
"It's me, Keilani Akana," I called out. "Can we PLEASE go to my house like you said?"
The door opened and a flustered Sister Bernadette appeared. "Hu`omanawanui!" she chided, "Patience, child!"
She invited me in to sit, and I did, positioning my rear as far away from her punishment switch as I could. I fidgeted, on pins and needles, as Sister busied herself with some paperwork for awhile before finally informing me that Sister Ulalia would be taking me. I was pleased to hear this, as I'd come to like her best out of all the nuns at Saint Sebastian's. If I could sway her onto my side, there was a chance she could help me convince the others.
"So... Sister?" I asked as we drove through quiet neighborhoods on the way to mine. "You must at least sort of believe me? About being a grown-up?"
Sister Ulalia dodged the subject by changing it. "You shouldn't bite your nails, Keilani."
I stopped mid-bite and thought, shit. I hadn't even realized I'd been doing that. It's a bad habit I never outgrew, brought on by stress, now further adding to the illusion of childhood.
As soon as Sister stopped the car I ran up the wooden steps to my front door. Thank AKUA the spare key was still hidden under the potted palm. I'd had days to plan out what I'd do once I got back here. First step, get proof that I was, in actuality, really, truly, an adult.
"I'll be right back," I said as I headed up to my room. My chest was pounding, I was so anxious to get Sister out of here and pick up my normal life again.
License was in my purse, I knew. Purse was... where? Not on my bed... Not under my bed... Not hung over the doorknob... Closet? No.
"Fuck!" I swore under my breath. Where was it?!
I tried to retrace my steps from a week ago. Akela and I had gone out partying, I'd driven. We'd stayed out late, and I hadn't bothered to get gas before I came home. Mom and Dad were kinda pissed about that.
Shit. I must have left my purse in the car.
The car which my parents had left in. Which was now sitting at the airport. In Honolulu. Clear the fuck on the other side of the island.
Son of a bitch. Son of a goddamn, motherfucking BITCH!!
Everything connecting me to my true age was in that purse, everything! My license, my U of H class schedule for the fall semester... I knew I had to have a birth certificate, but I had no idea where it might be. At that moment I realized that all I had to prove who I was were my looks, which so far hadn't been very convincing, and a few government-issued documents. That is really, really scary.
It almost killed me to go back downstairs. I took each step at a honu's pace, trying to think of a way to explain that I couldn't find my ID. A way that wouldn't look like my childish bluff had just been called. This was not going at all like I'd envisioned it.
Sister Ulalia was busying herself looking at the family photos around the room. "You have a message, Keilani," she said, indicating a blinking light on the phone.
I literally DOVE for it. Had my parents tried to reach me while I'd been locked away at the orphanage?
There were two messages:
"Aloha, 'Lani, it's Akela!"
"And Naia. Where've you BEEN? Nobody's seen you anywhere! We went by the kalapu pō and some of the girls said you got fired!"
"Ask her about tomorrow!"
"We're going to the dragon boat races tomorrow, you wanna come?"
"Kahoku's gonna be there!!"
"Naia says Kahoku's gonna be there. You could finally ask him out! Okay, call one of us back, okay? Aloha, 'Lani!"
I almost busted out bawling right there, I missed being with my friends so much. But the next message was even worse:
"Aloha, Keilani." (It was Mom.) "I guess everything's fine with you, since you haven't called us. But we've had a little change of vacation plans. There's just so much to see and do here, and it takes so much longer to drive between places. So we've decided to stay an extra month so we can see everything we want. Just wanted to let you know so you didn't worry. I know you won't mind, and I'm sure you can handle things, you're a big girl now. See you in August, Keilani. Aloha wau iā `oe."
"Aiā!" I moaned, burying my face in my hands and whining. "`A`ole-`a`ole-`a`oleeeeee!"
"Something wrong, dear?"
Sister Ulalia was standing right there, and she'd heard the entire message. God, why did Mom have to use that "big girl" line?!
"Don't you worry, sweetheart," she told me, looking exasperated. "As soon as your parents get back, Sister Bernadette will set them straight. I swear, they are the most negligent, irresponsible..."
"No!" I tried to explain, "That's not the problem! The problem is I really AM old enough to be here on my own, but no one at Saint Sebastian's believes--"
"Keilani, we've been through this before. You can't stay here alone." Sister thought for a minute. "What about your older sister? Could you stay with her?"
"Whoa, wait, WHAT?!" I protested. "I'm an only child!"
"Now don't lie, dear. I heard the message her friends left for her. Lani, they said her name was. And I saw her in some of your pictures out here. Is she away at college?"
Inside, I was SCREAMING in frustration. My friends affectionately shorten my name like that, but "Lani" by itself is a perfectly legitimate Hawaiian name. And the pictures she was talking about...
"No, that's ME! I mean, yeah, these were when I was little, but these other ones are me too! Look at the faces, they're freaking identical!"
"Well of course you look alike, dear, you're sisters!"
And just like that, I suddenly had an older sibling. I tried to think of some way to use that to my advantage, but couldn't. If I pretended to call my "big sis", then Sister Ulalia would just stay with me and wait for her, and end up catching me in yet another lie. Calling Akela or Naia and asking them to pretend would mean everybody I knew would soon learn about this degrading situation.
Then I spotted the list of numbers my parents had left, showing their itinerary, and I snatched it up. I tried the place they had marked with today's date, but with the changes to their travel plans they hadn't arrived there yet. So I left a message for when they did, asking the guy to tell them I was in trouble, and I needed Mom and Dad to come back home right away. I didn't hold out much hope that they'd get it, the way things were going. It seemed to please Sister Ulalia, though. I kept the list with me so I could keep trying numbers back in Sister Bernadette's office.
Because, God dammit, it looked like I was going back to Saint Seb's again. The only remaining task was to get me some clothes that were my size, as the orphanage didn't have any to spare. Back upstairs, I fumed silently as I pulled outfits out of my closet and dresser and stuffed them into a pair of Duffle bags. As I worked my mind started formulating a plan. I resolved that this nightmare was going end, right HERE, right NOW.
"Um, Sister? Can you get my toothbrush for me? It's the green one." I pointed down the hallway, to the bathroom.
"Of course, dear."
I stood and watched her go. When she reached the end of the hall, I closed and locked the bedroom door. I tore open my window and hauled myself down the wooden trellis outside, with one of the bags of clothes in tow. I dropped the last four feet to the ground and started running, trying to think where I could go. Then I spotted the wooden shed in our yard, raised up on concrete blocks to keep the bottom from rotting during the rainy season. It would be a tight fit, but I'm small so I knew I could do it. She'd never think to look for me under there.
Just to make sure, I opened the gate at the back of the fence, to make it look like I'd gone through. Then I got down on my hands and knees and pushed the bag of clothes into the narrow space between the shed and the ground before crawling under myself. My schoolgirl uniform was getting dirt on it, but I didn't care. I had good clothes now, my clothes. I figured while Sister went looking for me, I'd slip away and make for the beach, where I could hide in a changing stall until the coast was clear. Then I could stay with Akela or Naia until Mom and Dad got back home.
So I waited. My heart was a fucking jackhammer, and I tried not to breathe too loud.
I almost squeaked with terror when a pair of black shoes and stockings appeared outside the crawlspace, directly in front of me. Sister had found me almost immediately. I guess she'd seen where I'd gone from the bathroom window.
She knelt down and peered under the shed. "Come out from there, Keilani."
"No! You can't make me!"
You can't--! God, had I actually SAID that? How immature can you get?!
Sister sighed, stood, and went around to the back, where she reached under and caught me by the ankles. The crawlspace was tiny and incredibly cramped, so I couldn't shift around to get away from her. My hands scrabbled in the dirt but there was nothing to grab hold of to keep her from dragging me out. I tried to kick but there was no space to maneuver. As I slid out I felt my skirt being pulled up, then a sharp poke in my backside from a splinter of wood, which made me yelp in pain.
As Sister stood me up, the oversized skirt, already loose, slid down my legs and fell off, leaving only white cotton panties covering my rear. Sister knelt and picked it up with one hand while holding onto my struggling form with her other arm. She was stronger than she looked, and I found I couldn't break away as she hauled me across the yard with my underpants on full display.
"No! Let me GO! You don't understand!" I wanted to scream, and cause a huge ruckus, but I didn't want any of the neighbors to see me like this!
"Yes, I do understand, Keilani." I ceased my thrashing and she let go of me. "I understand how desperately you want to be 'all grown up' and 'out on your own'. But you should enjoy these youthful years. You'll never have them again."
God, the irony of those words was fucking PAINFUL.
"Where are we going?" I asked as she led me back into the house, and upstairs.
"Keilani, you're filthy," she said. "We need to get you cleaned up."
I looked down at myself and saw dirt and grass stains all over the front of my blouse, my white cotton panties, and my bare legs.
Sister steered me into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Then, right there in my own fucking HOUSE, she began pulling my soiled clothes off me, as though undressing a child who needed help!
"Hey, I can do it myself!" I snapped, exasperated. "I'm not a baby!"
"No, of course you're not. I'm sorry."
At least we agreed on one thing. She let me go, but made no move to leave the room.
"Um... little privacy here?"
Sister Ulalia shook her head, slightly but firmly. "Keilani, I'm no fool. The minute I leave you're just going to lock me out and go for the window again."
"No I won't, I swear!" And I meant it. (Though only because the only clothes I had in the room were the dirty blouse and panties, and I wasn't about to run off in those.)
But she didn't believe me. So what else could I do but undress and take a shower with her standing right there? Granted, Sister averted her eyes politely, but she remained blocking the doorway the whole time. The fact that the situation was awkward for both of us made it feel even worse. Still, it felt nice to get a hot shower after four days of ice-cold. I tried hard to ignore her silhouette on the other side of the plastic curtain.
When I got out and dried off, I began to feel an urge in my bladder.
"Um, Sister? I... have to pee. Do you mind?"
"Of course not, dear," and she turned her back to me, facing out into the hall.
"I meant, can you leave? The room?"
"I'm sorry, Keilani, but you can't be trusted."
"But this isn't a trick! I really do have to go! And as soon as I'm done I'll open it again, I swear to God!"
"Don't swear to God," Sister scolded. "It's disrespectful."
Jesus Motherfucking Christ, I thought. But when you've gotta go...
So I sat, naked, on the toilet, and tried to force out a piss with Sister Ulalia directly in front of me. It was SO humiliating I wanted to cry! Before my parents had left I'd assured them repeatedly that I could handle everything by myself. Now I couldn't even go to the fucking lua without someone right there beside me! I didn't even have privacy in my own home anymore!
It felt like ages, and I'm sure Sister suspected I was just stalling, but it finally trickled out. I closed my eyes and hung my head, my face burning.
After I'd flushed and washed my hands, she led me down the hall -- still nude -- to my bedroom where I'd left the second bag of clothes. The first was still under the shed, but I knew better than to try to talk Sister into going back out there again.
Sister Ulalia dug through what I'd packed. She let me keep a couple of the traditional floral dresses, but frowned disapprovingly at a number of the other outfits. Especially the underwear, black bras and matching thongs, a couple of pieces see-through.
"Oh, no Keilani, this won't do at all. Put your big sister's things away and let's get some of your own."
"I told you before! I don't have a sister! Look!" I said, holding a tube top up against my chest. "These fit!"
Sister wasn't buying it. "Just because you're the same size doesn't mean you're the same age."
I covered myself again, even though she'd seen me naked for like ten minutes already, as she led me back down the hall the other way. Sister Ulalia peeked first into my parents' bedroom, then the spare one we keep for guests.
"Is this your room, Keilani?" she asked.
I was about to restate that the other room really WAS mine, but saw it wouldn't get me anywhere. So I replied with a flat, "Yes."
"It looks so mature for your age, no toys or dolls. You must feel very strongly about being 'grown-up'."
Yeah, no fucking shit, I thought angrily.
"Well then," Sister continued, "let's see what we can find for you to wear."
My heart skipped a beat as she began her search in the closet, which was empty aside from an old cedar trunk. A trunk containing all the old clothes my packrat Mom had never gotten rid of. My childhood clothes! I groaned audibly as she pulled out one embarrassing outfit after another, stuff from when I was ten years younger! Panties, pink with a pattern of rainbows and little red hearts. A pair of overalls with a duck on the front. God, what the fucking hell had I been thinking back then?!
"There is no way in hell I'm wearing those! I'm way too old for them."
Sister stopped her rummaging and smiled patiently. "Yes, I see exactly what's happening here, Keilani. You're trying to fit into this adult role you've created for yourself, so you've 'put away childish things'. That's from the Bible. But so is, 'Honor thy parents'. And right now I am filling that role. Now get dressed, dear."
"No!" I said petulantly. I refused to go along with this shit any further. So I sat on the bed, crossed my arms, and pouted. Just like a five-year-old who wasn't getting her way.
"Then I'll just have to take you back to Saint Sebastian's like that." She pointed at my bare little body for emphasis.
And that got me into the kiddie clothes. Sister was able to use the threat of humiliating punishment to make me do exactly as she wanted. It was un-FUCKING-believable. I felt powerless, like I really was just a disobedient brat.
As we drove back to the orphanage, Sister Ulalia tried to console me. "I know how you feel, Keilani."
I sulked. How could she possibly know how I felt?
"Growing up was hard for me too," she said. "I was the youngest of five in my `ohana."
"I'm the youngest of ONE!" I yelled at her.
"Keilani... I know you're only acting out because you're under a lot of stress right now, with your parents gone. But please... I am trying to help you." Then, "Sister Bernadette didn't even want to let you come back here, did you know that? She said you would only put up another huge fuss about wanting to stay. But I know deep-down you're really a good girl. So I stood up for you. I told the Reverend Mother you'd behave yourself." We were at a stoplight, and she turned and looked directly at me. "Please don't make me a liar, Keilani."
Yeah, that's it, Sister. Lay the fucking guilt-trip on me.
"Everything will work out, Keilani, you'll see. Kālele." Have faith. She gave me what she clearly thought was a comforting smile, but it wasn't.
I think I cried all the way back to Saint Sebastian's. I was utterly devastated. I had thoroughly convinced myself I'd be out of there and back to my normal life at the end of the day. It was all that had kept me going the last few days. Now all that had just been snatched away from me. I'd been hit upside the head with the harsh realization that I was going to spend a very long "vacation" at the orphanage. I wondered how I'd cope now, and how long I could hold out.
The one consolation was the phone list. Yeah, it was outdated, but I figured (hoped?) my parents would still be stopping at all those places eventually. Sooner or later they'd get my message, I just had to keep trying.
Sunday was when things really started to suck.
Up until then I'd been able to avoid taking a shower with the other girls by using that time to make the daily phone call Sister Bernadette allowed me. My excuse was that early morning Hawaii time would probably be the best chance to catch my parents while they were on the Pacific coast. Everyone else would always be out of the kililau by the time I got back to the dorm.
But on Sunday morning, when I knocked on her office door, Sister told me the phone call would have to wait because we all had to get ready for church. So I had no choice.
Still, I put it off as long as I could. While everyone else was in there, I went extra-slow making up my bed and straightening the contents of my drawer. Then I pretended to take a long time in the bathroom and just sat in the stall, my only true refuge of privacy left at Saint Sebastian's. Once I heard the girls coming back out, I took my towel and headed in.
"Better skedaddle, Kay-Lawny," Suzanne teased as I walked past, "or Sister'll haul ya inta church lahk THAT, naked as a jay-bird!"
This brought laughter from the other girls. I seriously doubted it was true, but I wasn't about to take the chance. In the shower area I stripped and soaped up quickly, hanging my towel under one of the unused faucets so no one could take it and leave me naked and dripping. I didn't trust that Suzanne one bit.
And with good reason, it turns out. After I'd dried off and was making my way back to my bed, she and Makala were standing there waiting for me.
"Howscome yew ain't bin washin' up with the rest of us, Kay-Lawny?" she asked, stepping uncomfortably close to me. "Yew think yer better'n ever'one else here?"
She looked down at me from a good six inches above, and I suddenly felt very small and insignificant, standing in front of her in just a towel. The truth is, I really wasn't all that much more developed than any of the girls in my dorm, but Suzanne in particular was starting to noticeably curve underneath her top. When she filled out completely she'd definitely be busty. Hell, I thought ruefully, compared to me she already WAS.
I chose not to answer her question, and tried to push past them to get to my clothes. I figured I'd take them back to the bathroom area and dress in there.
Suzanne had other ideas, though. As I moved between them she added, "Er mebbe yer just embarrassed ta have ever'body see... THIS!"
And before I could react, the little bitch grabbed the towel I had wrapped around myself, gave a hard tug, and yanked it completely off my body! I squealed as I found myself naked in front of a room of preteen girls, all of whom burst into laughter at my sudden exposure.
None of them chortled louder than Suzanne Calloway herself. "Well GOL-LY, if that don't beat all!" she jeered, seeing my flat little ass, robin-egg breasts, and narrow hips. "No wonder y'all bin hidin' yerself from ever'body... Yer SCRAWNY, Kay-Lawny!"
Well since that rhymed, of course it caught on instantly with the rest of the girls, and "Scrawny Kay-Lawny" became my new nickname. They even pronounced it that way, using the same insufferable corn-pone accent as Suzanne. Everywhere I went, so long as none of the Sisters were in earshot, it was "Scrawny Kay-Lawny this" and "Scrawny Kay-Lawny that". Even the younger ones who hadn't started to develop yet and didn't understand the joke, even they joined in the ridicule.
I grabbed the pillow off my bed and held it over my front, even though it was too late, everyone had already seen me. Then with one hand I took my clothes, and, clutching everything tightly with both arms, I padded my way barefoot to the bathroom, keeping my exposed backside turned away from Suzanne and Makala. Suzanne howled with laughter as my face smoldered. From her bed, I saw Oliana watching, looking as if she felt really sorry for me, but also relieved it wasn't happening to her.
As I dressed in the stall, I wondered if I should tell one of the Sisters what Suzanne had done? NO, I decided adamantly. That's exactly how a child would act, and I was NOT a child, dammit! I was an adult, and I could endure this... no matter how mortifying it was.
There were giggles as I rejoined the rest of the group, my face still flushed from the embarrassment. The Sisters led us across the orphanage grounds to a church on the far end. I overheard whispered comments about the towel incident the entire way, and I SEETHED in silence. Ordinarily I'd be BABYSITTING these girls, and they'd be looking up to me as the cool adult with the trendy clothes and driver's license. Instead they were teasing and laughing at me! God, I'd thought I was past all this crap, but the insults are just as hurtful as when you're a kid. I've always been kind of sensitive about my body, and this experience had brought all those feelings to the forefront.
So, that's been my life for the past couple of weeks now. I keep assuring myself it won't last forever, but it's so hard when your every waking moment is consumed by this twisted alternate reality. I can only pray my parents get my distress call soon. They're the only ones I can trust to get me out of here without ruining my real life in the process.
Well, and you, if there's anything you can do? Please??
Will write more when I get the chance.
(Copyright © December 2004 by ToddCheese.)