Hello all, and happy new year! Here is a prompt piece I have done for 16Shards.
She gave me this artwork of hers as a prompt, and this followed. It may be a bit late for Christmas, but the artwork was intended for Christmas too. XD
I hope you like it!
The children ran and screamed, excitement barely contained. The caretakers ran to-and-fro, tending to a grazed knee, picking up books knocked from the shelf, resolving a minor dispute and, most importantly, keeping the tree – and the presents below – intact. Soon they would need to achieve the monumental task of getting rampaging ankle biters to calm down enough for prayer, and then the opening of the presents.
Aryana, the oldest there, joined in too – but was mindful of the little ones, and occasionally aided the adults when she didn’t have little ones hanging on her arms and legs. The thirteen-year-old allowed the joy of the playful kids to drown out her lifelong fear.
“On! You’re it!” Thomas shouted as he touched her, then sprinted away.
“Not for long!” Aryana called, as she stumbled after the boy with John – who had insisted he was not playing – hanging on her left leg. As the chase led them behind one of the many couches in the room, Aryana spotted little Shannon chewing on a crayon. If she was intelligent enough to hide there to do it, could she not figure out that it was not good for her health?
“Shannon,” she chastised the toddler, ignoring the taunting Thomas, “Stop chewing that.”
“No!” Came the response, accompanied by saliva dripping off the end of the unfortunate wax colouring utensil, as it briefly emerged from the mouth.
“If you give it to me, I’ll carry you around for a bit.”
A couple more nibbles, as the toddler weighed the options. Then she offered the slimy crayon to Aryana, who took it, picked up the toddler in one arm, and proceeded to the crayon box after freeing her own leg. For some time, Aryana walked around – going wherever the toddler demanded.
And then it was time for everyone to sit down. The caretakers managed the feat via threats of no dessert that evening. That got the children’s attention. Once there was a reasonable level of silence, the caretakers prayed in thanks for the gifts, so generously donated. As per tradition, the eldest – Aryana – got to choose a gift first. The toys for older kids were always on the left, and the younger toys on the right – although the children had no idea what each one was, as they were wrapped neatly.
Not the biggest one, Aryana told herself, leave that for someone else. Her hand hovered to and fro, over the gifts before her. Wait, was that her imagination – or did that present just jump? She passed her hand over it again. It seemed to jump again, and she thought she heard the faint sound of bells. I guess that I will go for this one. She grabbed the neatly wrapped cube and crawled out from under the tree. It was Brandon’s turn next.
Once each child had a gift, the leftovers now becoming general toys anyone could play with, they opened their presents. Slowly and patiently, Aryana took the tape off the edges of the wrapping paper and neatly unwrapped the present. She could use the paper for something in the future. Under the wrapping, she found a plain brown box with a snug-fitting lid.
She felt her heart rise in the tense moments as the lid lifted, then crash through the bottom of her chest as she saw what was inside. She stared at it. She’d gotten… a big… glass ball. Did that even qualify as a toy? It was way too delicate to keep around here. Along with the drop in her spirits, Aryana’s fear returned.
Was this a sign? Was she destined to never be adopted? To never be loved? She was already far too old to have much chance at being adopted.
She closed the box and put on a smile. She walked into book room and put it on a shelf that no one but her and the adults could reach. She then returned to the little ones – helping them with their toys where necessary. She continued entertaining the children for some time, but lacking her previous vigour.
Eventually, she got up and left the playroom – feeling a bit drained of energy, and headed to the book room. She’d read every book there many times, but she’d pick one of her favourites and read it again. As she opened the door, she was greeted by a yelp of surprise, followed by the sound of a heavy object hitting the floor… yet not smashing. While Aryana stood, hesitating for a moment at the sight of her ball not smashing, Richard scrambled off the chair and put the orb back into its box.
“Shannon dared me to!” came the hasty excuse.
“She can’t even talk properly. Don’t fib. Just tell me the truth.” Aryana held out her hand for her gift.
Richard gave her the gift sheepishly, not meeting her eyes. “I wanted to see what you had gotten.”
“What should you have done?”
“I should have asked you if I could see it.”
“Good. Now go, please.”
With a sigh, Aryana retired to her room – not in the mood for a book anymore. She shared the room with Clare, the second oldest girl. In the room, she flopped down onto her bed and opened her box once again. The glass seemed unscathed. She reached to pull it out of the box. However, as soon as she touched it, a streak of red and white shot out of it. In fright, she dropped the box and sphere onto the bed. Aryana started to scream, but the thing wrapped around her mouth almost as fast as she opened it.
“Shh, don’t scream!” she heard a voice both with her ears and her mind.
A long, narrow face, with a backwards-facing red-and-white horn, long pointed ears and hair speckled with something entered her vision.
“I am your guardian.”
The thing smelt like peppermint. Tasted like it too.
“Promise not to scream?”
Aryana nodded, and gave a muffled, “Mmm-hmm.” Once it was off her mouth, she asked, “What are you?”
“I am the peppermint dragon. I am your guardian.”
“Why are you my guardian? What’s your name?”
“You are a noble and kind soul. You may name me.”
“How about… Rakoi?”
“A good name. I must go now. You will discover more soon.”
The Peppermint Dragon dived back into the glass ball, just as there was a knock on the door.
“Aryana? Could you come please?” the voice of one of the caretakers called.
“Coming!” Aryana replied, putting the lid on the box and sliding it under her arm. She opened her door.
“Come with me, darling.” The adult seemed to barely be containing her excitement.
She followed the caretaker through the passages of the orphanage. They were heading in the direction of the front entrance. This was unusual. They stopped outside the adoption interview room. There waited an elderly man and woman, both with snow white hair. The man had the white stubble of a returning beard, and he had a rather large belly. The woman was clearly very old, wrinkles of years of smiling showing on her beaming face. They both were wearing old wool-knit clothes. The two seemed to have an aura of happiness, and Aryana once again felt her spirits lifted.
“Aryana, this is Mr and Mrs Snow. They’re here to adopt you,” said the caretaker.
The next while was an excited flurry of goodbyes, packing of personal belongs, and staring at her new elderly parents. It did briefly cross her mind that they were rather old, but they looked healthy – even with the man’s stomach – and seemed to radiate energy.
She was led out of the orphanage, and to an odd mint-green car. The tinted window of the driver’s door rolled down. Mr Snow nodded to the driver and said, “To home.”
Aryana was directed to one of the back doors and found herself sitting next to Mrs Snow.
Did the driver have pointed ears?
Once the car had started moving, the lid of her box – which was upon her lap – sprung off, and Rakoi appeared from the sphere once again. It curled up in between Ayrana and Mrs Snow and rested its head on Mrs Snow’s lap.
“Welcome to the family, Aryana and Rakoi,” said the kindly lady. “You have a lifetime ahead of you.”