I haven’t stood in this spot in exactly 13 years, 6 months, and 21 days–my birthday 13 years ago–the day I was taken to England.
My name is Clara Anderson. I am 20 years old and I’ve always been way taller than anyone else I knew. I grew up in Cartly Island, a small Scottish island with only about 15 people living there. I lived in a foster home there, with eight other kids plus Ms. Lucy, the director of the home. Ms. Lucy was nice to everyone and never would get mad or angry about anything.
It was my 7th birthday and we were all tired from the small party we had just had so we all went to sleep, thinking that tomorrow would be a normal day just like all the rest. But that was the night our childhoods were ruined. That was the night that my life came tumbling down.
No one knew what happened to Ms. Lucy after that night, and with me only being a 7-year-old, I thought it was all my fault because it was my birthday. And over all of these years, I had started to believe it was true. I think about Cartly every single day. This all sounds like a story in a book, but it’s not just the story of my terrible childhood.
After 13 years, I finally was allowed to come back, after begging and begging my “parents”. I was so excited to finally be here again–so eager to find Ms. Lucy and everyone else I had known as a child. Mackenzie, my best friend from the foster home, had come with me. We were staring at the sea surrounding us, my long dirty blond hair blowing in the wind.
“What are we going to do first?” Mackenzie said being a very chatty person.
“Should we go find Ms. Lucy or explore the island?”
“I say we go find a room to stay in first, and then we can make plans.” I responded.
“Sounds like a plan!”
“Then let’s go.”
We walked to the center of the island where the town was, hoping maybe someone would remember us. When we got there every building, person, and thing reminded me of what had happened to us, the 2 men, the ship, every last We found the inn, the only place with rooms on the whole island.
Mackenzie and I had only been in here once, the night that the fire started in the kitchen. (It hadn’t hurt anyone or damaged anything). We walked in and the lady running the front desk screamed, “I can’t believe my eyes! Is that you Mackenzie? And what was your name?” This was Lisa, known for being the loudest person in all of Cartly.
“It’s Clara ma’am. We would like to stay in a room.”
“Well by all means. I’ll have to tell Lucy the great news.”
Mackenzie spoke up. “Do you mean Ms. Lucy?” she said enthusiastically.
“No, no, I’m talking about Lucy Stuart, the old manager of the fish shop. Who is this Ms. Lucy you are talking about?”
“Ms. Lucy, the headmistress of the foster home.”
“I think you must be mistaken. The headmistress is Mrs. McCleary. There never has been any other Lucy’s on this island except for old Lucy Stuart. I think you might just be confused. How about a visit to Lucy’s room?”
“No, you’re wrong. Ms. Lucy was the leader of the foster home. She was as real as you and me.” I said. By the look in Mackenzie’s eyes, I could tell how nerve-racking this felt for us both, having just been told that the person who had taken care of us and loved us didn’t even exist. We followed Lisa and walked up the stairs.
We walked past the three rooms, one of which we had stayed in all those years ago. When we got to the door where Lucy Stuart was staying, Lisa knocked on the door and waited patiently. It seemed to take forever for it to open, but when it did, my heart started to beat very fast.
“Yes?” Lucy Stuart said in a rough voice. “Hello Linda, who are these 2 children?” I guess everyone in an old lady's world is a child. She was covered in wrinkles from head to toe and her gray hair was shining in the light. The way she smiled with her whole entire body reminded me of Ms. Lucy, but after all of these years, I couldn’t recall any other feature or trait about Ms. Lucy. I didn't have any photos or drawings.
“It’s Lisa, and this is Mackenzie...and what was your name again?” I guess forgetting names is just a thing in the adult world.
But I decided not to complain and just said, “It’s Clara, nice to meet you."
“Ms. Lucy will do fine.” Mackenzie and I both looked at each other, never forgetting the name we had said so many times years ago.
By the time we had finished talking, it was dark outside, completely ruining our plans to explore. We both decided to go to sleep.
One thing about Cartly, is that very few people actually come here, meaning there are only about three rooms in the inn, and one was filled my Lucy and the other one by Lisa. Mackenzie and I would have to both share the other small room.
We talked for a while both wondering what she had meant by the fact that there never was a Ms. Lucy.
We got up bright and early the next morning and went to go talk to Lisa. “Good morning Mackenzie and...” She stuttered for a second, “I'm sorry but I keep forgetting your name.”
“It’s Clara.” I said, “We were just about to go explore the island.”
“Ok, be safe.” She said as we walked out the door.
We had been walking around for about an hour now, everything reminding me of the night more than 13 years ago. My life flashing back, the long boat ride, the houses we were taken to. And then we got there, the old children’s home, looking like it hasn’t even been touched. Now looking at it, I wonder what happened to all of the other children. The only person from the home I had seen in all these years was Mackenzie. We decided to go inside, chills running down my spine.
Nothing can explain what just happened I have nowhere to go, every time I close my eyes I can see it.
After what seems like ages I decide to go back to the inn. I can barely walk, breathing hard. When I finally get there Lisa is eating lunch.
“Sweetie, what happened to you?”
I mutter back, “Ms. Lucy. Mackenzie. All of the other children.”
“Honey, what are you talking about? And where is your friend?”
“That’s what I’m telling you. She disappeared. They were all there, and then they just disappeared.”
“Who do you mean by them?”
“All of the children in the home.”
“You and Mackenzie were the only people that ever did live in the children’s home.”
“No there were 6 others,” I said very confused.
“No, only you and Mackenzie.” Said Lisa. “Would you like me to go there with you?”
“No thank you. Not after what just happened.” I said.
“Explain to me what happened.”
“Ok. First, Mackenzie and I walked in. I had turned the other way to look at something, and when I turned back around she was gone. I walked all around the place trying to find her. I walked in the bedroom hoping she would be there, and then I saw them. Ms. Lucy and all of the other children were there.” I started to get very scared “And then they just vanished, leaving Mackenzie standing there. I tried to run for her and ask her what was going on. But then, just like everyone else she vanished.”
I could tell how scared Lisa was, “It was probably just your imagination.”
But we both knew it was not.
Sophia Bryant is 12 years old and lives in Louisville, KY.