Victoria patted the earth below where she had planted one of the seedlings she’d harvested from the blackberry bushes in one of the gardens down the street.
“There now, we can have some fresh fruit soon!” she said dusting off her hands on her dirty jeans.
“You talk funny!” a small voice said behind her.
Victoria spun around and saw a young boy standing there. His clothing was in disrepair and he looked a little dirty.
“Well, that’s because I was speaking English,” Victoria said, once again in German.
“Ah, I’ve learned some English in school.”
Victoria looked around, “Where are your parents?”
“Ain’t got none,” the boy replied.
“Oh? I’m so very sorry. What happened?”
“Don’t know about Papa, it was just me and Mama for a long time.”
“What happened to your Mama?”
“She got some pox on her and a high fever. We didn’t have money for a doctor so one night she went to bed and the next day she didn’t wake up.”
The boy sniffled loudly and wiped his eyes. His stomach also grumbled loudly.
“Hey, are you hungry?”
“Here, come with me, I’ve got a few things you can munch on while we figure this out.”
Victoria’s heart was breaking for this little boy. While the circumstances were a little different than hers and Sophie’s, this poor boy was also alone in the world with no family and no one to care for him.
“So what’s your name anyway?” Victoria asked the boy as they made their way back to the camp.
“I’m Victoria, Josef. My sister Sophie is just ahead here.”
“You have a sister?”
“Yep, and we don’t have any parents either,” Victoria began to worry a bit that she was giving too much away.
“Hi Tori! Who’s this?” Sophie said as she tumbled out of the tent.
“This is Josef and he’s going to have dinner with us.”
“Hi Josef, I’m Sophie Harkins. Nice to meet you!”
“Hi there.” Josef said shyly.
“Sophie, show Josef how we wash up,” Victoria threaded a few fish on sticks for roasting.
The kids bounded back both looking a bit more clean. Sophie and Josef sat side by side on chairs and were rattling on like good friends in no time.
“Here we are, let me get this fire going and we’ll roast some fish.”
After full bellies and Victoria made sure Sophie’s homework was complete she sent the kids to bed.
She let Josef take her sleeping bag for the night as she knew she had a lot of thinking to do anyway. She’d snuggle in with Sophie later. The girl didn’t wake up for anything.
The next morning Victoria rinsed some blackberries and a few apples in the pond. When she got back to camp the kids were both waking up.
“Here you two, have some fruit and get ready for school.”
“I don’t go to school,” Josef said a bit defiantly.
“No? Hmmm, I thought you said yesterday that you learned English in school.” Victoria said a bit confused.
“I went to school where I used to live before Mama got sick is what I meant. I don’t go here.”
“Oh, well then. I’m going to take Sophie to school today. You’ll come with us. I’ll see about getting you started there.”
“But I don’t wanna! I like not going to school with all the rules, and be quiet and stop running!” Josef wailed.
“It’s not bad Josef! Mr. Hunter is fun and he lets us take care of the animals in the classroom!” Sophie said encouragingly.
“Yes, and we get to play outside at recess,” Sophie said.
“Ok, maybe I can try it then. For today anyway.”
“Good, now, both of you eat your breakfast.” Victoria went and washed up quickly and tried to figure out how she was going to enroll a kid she didn’t even know his last name, had no documents for and didn’t even know before last evening.
“What have I gotten myself into?” Victoria moaned.
“Josef Harkins,” Victoria said answering the question about full name to the receptionist in the school admissions office.
“Ok great Miss Harkins, we can start him in Grade 4 with Sophie,” the receptionist replied while wiping away a tear. “Poor little man,” She looked at Josef sympathetically.
Victoria left the admissions office stunned. Apparently her quickly imagined story about Josef being her cousin and his father dying in a house fire worked. The admissions office bought the whole story, while sad about the lie, it helped that the receptionist had a brother that died as well. Victoria had forged a letter with signature from her parents that explained that they didn’t have Josef’s records yet, but would supply them when they arrived. Victoria explained that her mother traveled extensively with her job and her father worked nights and wasn’t able to get in during school hours due to his sleep schedule.
“Now be a good boy today,” Victoria had to pry Josef’s fingers from her own.
Josef nodded at Victoria and she could see the poor boy shaking. “You’ll be ok and have so much fun today!” she whispered. She hated to leave him but Sophie would show him around and she had to make her way to the high school. She was nearly an hour late. The school had already rung her phone once, but she let it go to voice mail.
Victoria left school that afternoon and stuffed the truant notification in her bag. “One more of those and my parents will have to come in for counseling.” She whispered angrily.
She waited outside the grade school for her sister and Josef so she could catch the bus home with them.
“Tori!” Sophie bounded out of school and hugged her big sister. “Josef won the spelling bee today!”
“Did you Josef?”
Josef smiled proudly. Victoria ruffled his hair and the three went home together.
As the bus let them off, Victoria took Sophie’s hand and reached for Josef’s. He paused a moment before taking it and walking with them.
Victoria chopped up some onions she had harvested nearby and roasted them with the fish. She added the last of her salt and pepper to the fish and tossed some berries in a tin can and set them down at the edge of the fire to get hot and bubbly. They could pretend the berries were a compote for dessert.
As the kids did their homework side by side, Victoria frowned. She’d traveled down this road too far already to trust Josef on his own. What might he say to someone if she turned him in to the authorities?
No, she couldn’t let him go on his own. She turned to the kids and smiled.
“Hey Josef, would you like to stay here with me and Sophie?”
“Boy would I!” Josef rushed over and hugged Victoria. “Just like a family!”
Sophie smiled at Victoria.
The family became three.
A/N – I have taken on the optional negative flavors in my game. Per the rules, once every game week something negative happens to your family. This was my first roll and I got the add a child to your family! So welcome Josef!