1: Starting Anew

A single day. That's all it takes to turns someone's life upside-down. 

A few hours is all it takes to make a person question their entire life.

A couple of minutes is enough for realization to hit you and for fear to settle in. 

And less than a fleeting moment for it all to come crashing down to an end.

My eighteenth birthday is that day. 

The first few waking hours of this day, are those few hours.

The couple of minutes I spend packing away the rest of my thing in my suitcase are those minutes. 

And the second I stepped foot across the threshold of the orphanage is that fleeting moment.

Independence was said to be my birthday gift. But when independence comes at a cost, is it really worth it?   

... 

The mellow sound of the children's laughter permeating the air, bringing a smile to my face and alleviates the dejection in my heart. With newfound hope, I proceed towards my destination, with a plan in mind and a firm resolution to face the world with my head held high.

I don't have much to call my own, but what I do, is what I've earned through sweat and blood. Walking over to my secondhand Ford Ka, I dump my portmanteau in the backseat and get in myself.

Driving off onto the freeway, I'm crammed with a sense of desolation. No longer will I be able to run across the room to my Leah's and complain about how horrible my day has been nor will I be woken up at two in the morning by the vulnerable caries of the babies in the nursery.

I will finally have my time to myself, the time I do not know how else to utilize. Maybe now I can start to focus a little more on college, after all, it did take a lot of effort to get accepted into one that offered me a full scholarship.

While Leah got accepted into a college in a completely different state, I manage to get one in my hometown. But this left us standing at a crossroad, leaving us to choose between our friendship and our future, but the choice was obvious as well as logical-our future.

"In five hundred meters turn right," the robotic voice of my navigator instructs.

Following the said directions, I pull into a lane lined up with very hostile and worn-out structures. Beggars can't be choosers I remind myself as the voice in my phone directs me to stop after another hundred meters.

Parking my car, the best I can within the small space available, I grab my luggage and lock the car. Taking a deep breath, I brace myself for the challenges my new life has to offer.

Fetching my phone, I ring up the number I noted down from the advertisement I spotted for an apartment that is out for rent.

I had spoken to the landlord a couple of days earlier with some queries and clarification and as instructed by him, I brought the deposit and rent for the first month along with me.

Admittingly I didn't have that much even after combining all my savings from over the years, but one of the caregivers at the orphanage was kind enough to loan me the additional sum for a negligible interest.

The landlord accepted the call on the third ring, instructing me to meet him on the first floor, he hangs up. Clutching the handle of my suitcase in my sweaty palms, I proceed towards the said destination. Ascending the creaking staircase cautiously-afraid that it might give way any moment-I spot a man in the top.

His struct small yet healthy, with a clearly untamed beard spotting visible crumbs entangled to its strands. His blue eyes show prominent signs of cataract while his shirt barely covered his protruding belly. I would put him in his late sixties if not more.

The impatient look etched to his face forces me to hurry up. As I climb the last couple of steps, he lets out a peevish sigh and proceeds without waiting for me. Walking through the dilapidated hallway, I involuntarily scrunch up my nose at the putrid smell pervading the air.

"Don't mind the smell dear, you'll get used to it...well eventually," he assures with a creepy smile sending an uncanny feeling down my spine.

My eyes scanned the encompassing area trying to locate the source of the odor when they land on the piles of rotting garbage right outside someone's door. How can anyone live like this? I ask myself and something in my gut tells me that I'm about to find out.

"And this is the apartment," he announces grabbing my attention.

At first glance, it looks presentable compared to its surroundings. The door however appears to be in its final stages of life where even a single harsh push is enough to knock it down. This doesn't sit well with me, being orphaned due to a house burglary does that to a person.

"Is this door strong enough?" I voice my worries without thinking. The landlord looks at me with a lecherous gaze and the creepy smile curving his lips once again.

"Don't worry sweetheart, no one's going to hurt you here," he says in reassurance yet his tone depicts anything but that.

He tries to reach for my arm, but I step away before he does. Clearing my throat, I unzip my handbag and produce an envelope containing the pre-decided amount. His eyes immediately fixate themselves on the cash-filled receptacle displaying a glint of greed as they do so.

"The deposit and rent of the first month, just like we decided," I say holding it up at eye level. I notice how his gaze follows the envelope, but don't comment on it.

"Fantastic, here are your keys. We can complete the rest of the paperwork inside," he says thrusting a single key into my empty hand.

Opening the door, he gestures for me to enter. As soon as I cross the threshold, I start to doubt my decision. This sudden change of heart has nothing to do with the cozy-looking apartment which takes me by surprise at how clean and presentable it is.

I have never been good at accepting change. Resisting it is like second nature to me. I didn't realize how real all this was until I stepped into this place that I will now call my home.

"Miss Leigh? Or should I call you Faith?" He asks suggestively breaking me out of my trance.

"Huh? Oh um...whatever you're comfortable with," I respond in a soft tone trying my best to ignore his inappropriate advances.

"Faith it is!" He declares and I just go along with it.

"Here is the lease agreement," he says pushing a single paper towards me.

I take a seat on the small couch and take a moment to read the agreement meticulously before signing it and handing it back to him along with the envelope.

"Welcome home! If you need anything and I mean anything give me a call on this number. I live across the hall you can come over whenever. I'll leave you to it now," he says emphasizing certain words that make me shudder in repugnance yet it goes unnoticed by him.

Handing me a piece of paper with what I presume is his phone number scribbled on it in hasty writing he leaves-much to my relief.

Having no interest or motivation to unpack, I decided to explore the unfamiliar locality and get some groceries while I'm at it.

Grabbing my car keys and handbag, I walk out of the apartment ensuring to lock it as I do so completely oblivious to what my future hold for me.


Author's Note:

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter!

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~Kia