Why am I loved, after all that happened?
rating: +15+x

The place where it all began.
A convent that also served as an orphanage, on top of a hill coated with poppies and daisies. A place where good faithed women took care of the most vulnerable left behind, the outcasts of society, without receiving anything in return. Little ones coming and going as the years passed, satisfied with this new chance in life.
But it was never the same when a certain child was taken in from the rubble. And people began to notice.

"Such a nice afternoon, isn't it, Sister Lee?"

"I- Mother Llanos! Oh, sorry, I didn't hear you."

"It's okay Sister, I should be the one apologizing for startling you. Do you mind if I join you here?"

"Hm…
No, not at all, Mother. Suit yourself. Though I'm not good at conversing I'm afraid."

"I don't mind, dear."


"Tell me, Sister. What is it that worries you?"

"I'm— pardon?"

"Forgive me again for prying if I'm doing so. You're new in here, and I like to make sure everyone is comfortable."

"I'm— uh, doing fine in that case, Mother. Well, taking care of the children is tedious, especially the younger ones, but it's just a task I was willing to take and got used to quickly."

"That's good to know. But, then, why are you here all alone, with your thoughts?"

"… Does that have to do with me being worried about something, Mother?"

"I ask because I'm exactly the same, Sister Lee.
But of course, you don't need to answer if you don't want to. God knows I keep things for myself and Him only, too."


"… It's about her."

"'Her'?
… Oh, wait.
I see. What happened this time?"

"She hasn't eaten anything in four days, Mother. Just now, it took two people to force-feed her and she could eat nothing but a spoonful before the nuns lost their patience and let her go."

"My…"

"I found her in her bedroom earlier, crying under her bed. She also refuses to go outside of her place most if not all of the time, something out of character for her. And she wasn't really talkative with other children before, but it got worse these days."

"And why is that?"

"Hm?"

"No animal bites without a reason, Sister. If anyone knows why she acts like this, is you."

"Me?"

"You've been quite keen-eyed on her, Sister. Much like a personal guardian angel, as others have compared you with.
But, of course, I'm only speculating."

"…"

"Am I mistaken?"

"She got rejected again. By Miss Johnson, that one widow that came last week. Both talked, a lot, and looked like they clicked quite well. I think she hoped she'd be the one. Turns out the feeling wasn't mutual."

"Oh… that poor baby."

"Yes. Sad indeed. She looked so happy. The look in her eyes when she saw her leaving with a different kid was…
I can't describe it, really. It's one of those things you think about from time to time. And when you do, it ruins your mood."

"Ruins it enough to need a break in a balcony, alone with your own thoughts."

"… Yes, you can say so, Mother."


"And—
… what about you?"

"Hm?"

"Before, you said you and I were the same-, that's why you guessed something worried me when you saw me here all alone, correct?
What troubles you, Mother?
Um, if you want to say, that is."

"…Ah, I'm just worried about the future, Sister Lee. The orphanage has seen better days, and so have I. Tiredness, that is all.
Even so, I'm not afraid. I have lived a good life helping the best I could, making the Lord proud as well as making sure you and the rest have a good road to follow once I'm gone."

"I-?! Mother Llanos, are you-"

"Oh? Oh! Oh dear, I said I'm old, but it's not my time yet! I meant when I leave."

"… Leave? Are you… retiring?"

"… For the lack of a better word, you can say so. The more technical answer would be moving to a different place belonging to the mission. But since that new position gives me less responsibilities than having to manage the convent and orphanage… heh, you can compare it to retirement.
…You seem concerned about it. Are you okay?"

"It's just… this was a bit of a shocker, that is all. But I hope it goes well for you, Mother."

"Thank you, dear. It will, I'm sure of it. And please, call me Mercedes, we don't need to act so formal while having a conversation on the balcony."

"Uhm… Very well. I'll keep it in mind."


"Ah, it's getting a bit late. Time flies."

"Indeed."

"Dinner will soon be ready. I'm heading out to make sure everything is well. Do you want to come with me, Sister?"

"No thank you, I'm staying a bit more if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't hun. Then I shall take my leave.
Oh, before I forget. Your worry about the child is admirable, it really is. But don't torture yourself too much about it. It's completely normal for little kids to act like her, specially when they go through things a child shouldn't go through to begin with. She'll be fine, I promise.
Now, if you'll excuse me…"

"Pamela."

"…Hm? What was that?"

"…You said I could call you Mercedes. You can call me Pamela."

"Oh.
I will Pamela. Thank you for your time, and please don't stay out too long. You'll catch a cold, and we already have enough germs around!"

"… Heh, don't worry. See you later, Mother Mercedes."


Years passed. The child grew, hopeless. But it wasn't time to drown in sadness, it was time to go to school, much like the rest of her peers.
The building was nothing out of the ordinary either. A place of knowledge just like any other. But sadly, her hardships didn't end there. Problems kept on arising until she couldn't take it anymore. She was brought to the teachers' attention, but it was too late. "A lost case" she was, and nothing else…
Or was she?
Was that specific school even the same after it witnessed all that happened to her? After all she had to suffer in silence? Much like the orphanage, the answer was no. And it was made even more obvious this time.

"So, it seems all of us very much agree on everything said regarding Ellsworth. Correct?"

"Yes."

"Mhm."

"I still wished I could've given him a higher mark. The kid is really enthusiastic, you know?"

"We cannot give grades just for likeness, Miss Beckley. That wouldn't be very professional."

"I'm very much aware Mister Abberton. It's just… poor Adam was floored because of these last exams. He has good grades in every subject except mine. I feel he's either too shy or too stubborn to ask for help."

"I concur with Alice. Plus, chemistry is not an easy subject for many children, even those with brilliant notes in other difficult subjects, such as maths, struggle with physics and chemistry. The problem drags along other classrooms, not this one."

"If needed, we could leave this subject for later. Try to fix the contents to make it more accessible for future classes or give out more help."

"Oh, I'd very much appreciate that, Mister Orwell."

"Of course-. Remind me when the meeting is over and I'll see if I can bring the topic to the director.
Now, let's go with… ah, Esposito.
Well… lots of groans and eye rolls I'm seeing.
Look, I get she's a difficult kid, but-"

"Difficult? Difficult? That word doesn't even scratch the surface of what she is. That child is a demon incarnated."

"…Donna, those are really hard descriptors, aren't they?"

"You don't witness my classes. You wouldn't get it."

"I— look, I get Esposito isn't the easiest child to reason and talk with. But still, I agree with miss Beckley. A bit far to call a child a straight-up demon, in my opinion."

"Well excuse me, may I remind everyone present, including miss Beckley, that none of you had the displeasure to be bitten by her?"

"I'm… Donna, please."

"Oh don't 'Donna' me now Alice. She's exactly the same in your classes.
In fact, if my memory serves right, weren't you the first one to complain about her not coming to your classes nor studying or paying attention? For crying out loud, do you remember the exam you showed me? The one where she drew monsters and wrote chicken scratch all over the page? 'Nothing like I've seen before' you said.
I'm telling you. Demon."

"Well…pot calling the kettle black."

"Oh, I beg your pardon?"

"You're forgiven."

"Morris. Perez. Enough.
Donna, I'm aware of the trouble she caused you especially. But this is not any pity feud. Borderline insulting a student in such a manner during a formal meeting like what you're doing won't be tolerated again, no matter how bad they act.
Same goes to you Marcos. Take your passive-aggressive remarks outside.
We have enough trouble dealing with all the infrastructure damage, mass hysteria, and police officers in the area. I won't tolerate anyone trying to act immaturely or make the collective headache worse. Next one trying to do so will have repercussions with the higher-ups. Understood?"

"…Yes sir."

"Yes, mister Orwell."

"Good.- May this not repeat again.
I'll spare everyone here the trouble, given there is a collective agreement in regards to Esposito: erratic behavior towards students and teachers alike, not studying, not doing her homework, not participating in class, constant daydreaming,—- there's also a report of Perez here saying he caught her scribbling graffiti in the gym's bathroom tiles, another one from de la Cruz about sleeping in class… and a report from Morris saying how in the middle of class, she told another student, Patty Baker to be exact, to, quote, 'go get your daddy's money and pay to get your tubes tied since you really want to act like an irresponsible whore'."

"…Oh."

"My."

"Ouch."

"Hmph."

"Heh. The kid's creative, gotta admit."

"Perez."

"Right, right, my bad, mister Orwell."

"… Very well.- If that is all…
… Actually, I have another inquiry here before we move on to the next student. Mister Abberton?"

"Yes?"

"If this report is not mistaken, you seem to be the only teacher here who differs in opinion. You even graded Esposito higher than what you'd expect."

"Yes."

"He… What?!"

"Samuel. What grades did you give her?"

"An S and an A+"

"A WHAT."

"You heard me, miss Morris."

"But…—"

"Donna, let Sam explain himself."

"There is nothing to explain, Mister Pierce. The child works well and is attentive in my classes. So I reward her with the grade she deserves, simple as."

"You also wrote in your report that she has a brilliant future ahead with enough perseverance."

"That'd be correct, yes."

"I… Are we talking about the same kid?!
Attentive? Works well? Really now? She pretty much needs a muzzle around people and you go and tell us she has a brilliant future ahead? That girl isn't right."

"Miss Morr—"

"It is okay Mister Orwell. I can handle it myself.
I'm aware Esposito isn't a favorite. Nor a role student, as her behavior outside of my class isn't one of excellency. I'm aware of what she does and what she did to my colleagues.
I said before no child deserves to be graded out of pure favoritism nor hatred. And I still stand by that.- What I wrote in the grades for both literature and history class are purely objective: she studies and puts interest in the subject,- I give her a grade reflecting her work. However, I stand for something else more subjective that could be argued in the observation: Esposito is neither a bad student nor a bad child at all.
And to look no further… Miss Morris, you said in your report Esposito said something incredibly vile to another student in class. Do you know why?"

"… Because she is rude?"

"Because, Miss Morris, Patty Baker, the student you defended in your report, among other things, had previously broken her notebook and flushed it down the toilet. And don't pretend to be surprised. Both Baker and Esposito were sent to the principal over that incident after a fight broke and Baker admitted she started it. Esposito told me myself. We all were informed formally, and we have been warned by her over and over again that more incidents like that or worse have occurred. Only for her to be ignored most of the time, and patience isn't eternal."

"… Mister Abberton is right. Sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to add: Barbara isn't treated well by her classmates. I had to put order in class several times because other students, Patty included, had been harassing and laughing at her every time she asked a question. I can see why she'd fall silent and be mad at people.
Her upbringing makes matters worse, both in the bullying and how she acts."

"We have said how her situation isn't an excuse for her behaviour before, Alice. Several times."

"But can somewhat explain it, miss Morris. With all her experiences regarding both adults and children her age, is not only justifiable, but understandable for her to snap. I talk to her after class.- Often, in fact. Those conversations are the reason behind both the brilliance comment and my opinion about her not being a bad person. One may argue pity could be involved, but ultimately, my remarks are sincere.
The point is, there is nothing wrong with this kid. She just needs a push and some help in subjects she clearly dislikes. She may not be what we'd refer as a 'normal' child by our standards, whatever that means, but she's nothing but a thirteen-year-old who is going through rough times and would act like any thirteen year old without a bigger influence would, and one that has proven to me that she has potential to go far if she puts interest in something."

"… Thank you for your input, Abberton. Any further comments and observations?
None, it seems. Very well, next one."


The little changes the caretakers made after having their eyes opened were fruitless. One night, the child escaped.
She ran. And ran. Away from the place she used to call 'home'. Away from the place she used to call 'hell'. Why would she want to stay in either? She was almost an adult now. An unwanted one. Sooner or later, both places would get rid of her, she just did them a favour.
But when she thought hope was lost… It appears she found somewhere to stay.
A place of pure wonder. Full of people like her, greeting her, being understanding and receiving her with open arms.
But was this enough for her to be saved? No matter how welcoming the experience was, she believed the answer was 'no'. And thus, she kept on and lived her life, uncaring about herself and others.
For now.

"Quite the commotion going on."

"Isn't that the usual? Wanderers come and go often."

"Indeed. I was talking about what happened before."

"Ah, the human child and the animal."

"Yes. Any news about her?"

"Besides the initial shock, I don't think so."

"She was erratic."

"Very much so. She described being chased away from her place. The animal warned her just in time."

"Chased?"

"She heard voices and guns. Heavy yet coordinated footsteps."

"Jailors."

"Your guess is as good as mine. Could be the Bookburners, but those are warier,- for better or for worse depending on who you ask,- meaning they would have shot her sooner. Jailors are prideful enough to use bullets as a last resort."

"Irrelevant-, they were too slow. She opened the Way to safety before she became a number and that is all that matters."

"She did not."

"She did not?"

"An accident, she describes. She ran until she felt the floor dragging her and blacked out. Believed she just hit her head or exhaustion took its toll, but woke up in between velvet and cushions instead of dry leaves and dew."

"Interesting."

"Elaborate."

"Accidents aren't unheard of. Several patrons I've interviewed found the Library by pure chance. But this occasion seems different.
A scholar stumbling across an ancient tome. Grandchildren who found the promised land of tales their elders told them using nothing but spoken descriptions. An outlaw hiding from justice finding their last chance to escape. A person opening a strange door while exploring a cellar. Another eavesdropping in the right place and time. Accidents, much like this one, are the cornerstone of findings. But the situation was different.
This child is no scholar, nor an adventurer, nor a criminal. She didn't read nor heard about this place before. She did not open a Way. Or maybe she did and no one knows how yet. But finding was never in the kid's mind. An accident in the purest meaning of the word.
She did not find the Library. The Library found her."

"The Library wanted her."

"The Library wanted her."

"She's no ordinary child."

"So you felt it too."


"Where is she now, anyhow?"

"Members of the Hand took pity on her,- I believe they're currently showing her around. Most likely helping her. She wasn't in the best condition,- her pet was better taken care of."

"The Hand… sheep with good intentions. She'll be okay. Did she become a patron?"

"I think so. If not, I'm sure she'll validate her card soon enough."

"I hope she stays."

"May I ask why the interest? New patrons appear constantly from thin air, always as confused or more as the last that went through the experience. It happens constantly. But you seem more fixated in this particular child, more than usual."

"I wish I could give a good answer. Morbid curiosity, you can say. Humans fascinate me in a way."

"A reminder of old times."

"You can say that."


"Do you know her name?"

"She said it out loud as needed. But the card given to her was devoid of one."

"… Ah.- Give her time, then. Not the first time it happened, nor the last."


The child survived. And finally, they grew up.
They were not a child anymore. And they knew who they were at last.
It seemed that their life changed to the better too. The Library, as good of a place it was, didn't become their forever home.
Eighteen years. That is what it took for them to find a caring soul they could call a parent. Someone whose love was sincere and reciprocated. And they were forever grateful of him.

… But bad habits die hard. Three years passed since they found the family they wanted. But the seed of doubt still plagued their mind, filling their thoughts like a silent disease.
This was too good to be true.
Were they really saved? Were they even worthy of love?

"… Daddy?"

"Hm? Yes, sweetie, do you need anything else?"

"Uhm, I wanted to ask something before you go to bed.
… Why me instead of-"

"A normal child?"

"…
… Dad, you know I hate when you do that shit."

"I know, I know. I'm sorry dear.
Do you want to talk about it?"

"…"

"Take your time. You don't need to tell me if you're not ready yet."

"…
… Actually, yes. I want to talk now."

"Want to rest your head in my lap while you tell me?"

"…
Yeah."


"Tell me sweetheart, what is troubling you this much?"

"… Well.
Lately, I've been thinking about my life, you know? I thought I got over shit, and I have, but… it's really weird to explain, probably I'm not making sense.
Like… do you know when you feel good and all, but seconds later you dwell in the past out of a sudden and then feel like shit? And is all because you realized you had a shitty past and you can't change the fact you had a shitty past?
And I— fuck, I feel.

I feel like the shitty past… is entirely my fault. I-

I've done bad shit, I know that. Some of that stuff I don't regret, but many of my past behaviors were plain fucking erratic. I see a fourteen-year-old in the mirror and all I can say is just, 'what the fuck are you doing with your life?!' And then I see me and I say, 'what the fuck have you done with your life?!' I can't for the life of me feel proud of that stupid teenager or of myself. I can't. Because I hate myself.
And when I start thinking about why I hate myself, I begin thinking about my life. Dwelling more, and I realise most if not all the problems that happened in my past are… because of me. What I am. Who I am.
I know for a fucking fact none of the harassment, the loneliness, having to live on the edge… I didn't deserve it. I know. But I know for a fact none of that would have happened if I weren't me. And I'm not talking about me running away from my old place or skipping classes. No, I'm talking about myself being the whole—ass root of the problem.

I just… want to know why.
Why, despite everything I've done, do and will do. What happens because of my mere existence. Everything I am.
… why are you still here?
Why didn't you go away even if all I do is put people in danger and anger them constantly?
Why… me, out of all the kids you could have chosen if you even were thinking of adoption? Why not someone better?
Why not someone…

Normal?"


"I- Fuck- God- …fucking dammit. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to cry. I'm so sorry dad, this was not what— I—"

"It's okay. It's okay. I'm here for you. I'm here. I'm not letting you go. Cry all you need, sweetie."

"Please hug me tighter."

"Of course I will. I'm not going anywhere, princess."


"I've always wanted to form a family.
When I first began my job, that is what I thought, actually. 'Work hard and if things work, I wouldn't mind adopting a child.' But the 'when' never came.
I didn't give it much importance. It wasn't really a priority or important goal of mine. It was just a possibility I didn't dislike at all. I didn't want to rush things either, if I adopted when I wasn't in the best position economically nor emotionally, it wouldn't have been right for the child's sake.
So I just waited. Living my life.
And then you came into it.
You took me a while to get used to, but the more time I spent with you, the more I thought about it. The thought I just pushed to the back of my head and forgot, suddenly coming back this hard.
I remembered my wish. I wanted a family. And I wanted you to be part of it.

Since the beginning, I didn't care about what my child may become. How strong, pretty, smart or successful they could be was not my concern. I just wanted a child with a good heart and intentions. Someone I could be proud of and be there for when things don't go as planned. Someone who felt right.
And you felt right.
In fact, you are the best decision I've made in my life, and I wouldn't change you for anything.
I don't care that you're not normal. I don't care if you didn't have the best past. The only thing I care about is giving you all the happy memories you didn't have before we met.

I love you for being you. There's no other answer."


"…
… Dad.
If you said that for me to stop crying… That didn't work, at all."

"I know sweetheart. I love you so much."

"I love you too daddy."


"And… what about my friends? All the people close to me?"

"If they are sincere in their feelings, they think the same as I do. No matter how weird, out of place or unconventional you may be, they all love and appreciate you just for being you in your entirely. And believe me, they do."

"And… if they don't?"

"Well, then they're not worth of being your friends. And if I ever find out they hurt you, I'll personally break in and make them regret it."

"…
You… are joking in the last bit, right"

"…"

"… Dad?!"

"…
Hmm… Maybe."

"I-

… For fuck's sake, I was supposed to be sad. Why am I smiling at that? It wasn't even good."

"Dad charm, you can say."

"Your dad charm sucks".

"If it makes you happy, I don't care if it sucks."

"And you did it again! I'm smiling more! Not fair!"

"All is fair if it means my beautiful princess, my wonderful daughter, my precious little bean is happ—"

"—STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP, YOU'RE PINCHING ME WITH YOUR BEAAAARD"

"My child deserves cuddles. I don't think I will!~"

"AUGH"


"I… Heh, I think I'm feeling better now. A bit, at least."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"Can you stay a little bit longer holding me, please? If that's okay?"

"Absolutely.- I'll be here all you need."

"… Thank you."

"Don't thank me for this, my dear."

"I love you so much, daddy."

"I love you too, Maw. Everyone does."


The answer is yes.

It's what they deserve.

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