Defender

Defender

Her jacket, out at elbows, was far too small, but she didn’t care. Bright butterflies on the sleeves were enough to make the child smile every time she noticed them. In eight years, the value of things is very different from the adult’s values and old second-hand jacket isn’t a reason to be unhappy.

Her elder brother thought differently. Being only three years older, he had accusatory glance, abrupt and wooden movements. On the way to a new school, he found himself thinking that he doesn’t want to go there at all. Other people’s things that he had to wear were penetrated with humiliation and frustration in the parents. Why did they let this happen?! Why didn’t do anything, didn’t foresee, didn’t save?

They lost everything. There had no home, no money, no things. Some people hastily evacuated them together with a dozen other victims from the city dying in the bombings, suddenly attacked by unknown enemy. Big white bus with the crowd of frightened people crammed inside… it was the first step on the difficult path of internally displaced persons. It was very lucky to be alive, but when leaving they suspected that there will be no return: not only the city, but the whole their past life was being destroyed right in front of their eyes.

In hard times a day may seem very long. Living in semi-abandoned barracks, settlers faced extreme poverty: they didn’t have even kitchen stuff or bed linens. Food, brought by volunteers, was only just enough. Many could bear that no more than a few days and intended to return back, complaining loudly and blaming everybody… But was there a place to return to?

 ”There’s only wreckage, ruins and garbage,” their father briefly summarized returning the other day from a trip to the place that once was their comfortable home. Mom looked down, but the boy knew that she was trying to blink away tears: too many bad things happened lately. Well at least his sister didn’t understand what was going on, crying child was really too much. Thus, they lost everything and have to start all over again, and have to do it not in the friendliest place. 

Gripping his sister’s hand, he led her across the road; the school was only several hundred meters away. Everything seemed strange here, even the roads, cars and people… Being eleven he suspected that many hated them. In school, he already had heard the whispers behind his back and sharp buzzwords, the most harmless of which were “parasites” and “traitors”, came to his ears quite often. The guys from his class seemed to be especially rude to him: now and then they pushed him in gym, supposedly by accident, and then stared at him, studying his reaction. But most of all he was worried about his sister: he can stand up for himself, but who will protect her when she is alone among these violent children?

Even from a distance, he saw a group of children on the brink of the school. It was unusual, given that it was only about five minutes until the bell. Coming closer, he realized with dismay that they were his new classmates, waiting for him and his sister. He shrunk into himself and prepared for the worst. When there were no more than a few steps to the group of children, the boy who seemed to be the most malevolent came out from the back. “Hello!” he said with some hesitation, and then added: “We have decided to tell you something.” After a glance on the classmates, he grew bolder and continued, “we’ve got football tournament between the classes, you’re kind of a good player, as we have seen. So do you want to be in our team?”

Two laughing eight-year girls run up to his sister grabbed her by the arm and dragged to the class. “Bye,” she barely said, giggling together with the girls. Watching them runaway, he suddenly thought that today was particularly good day, and that he will be a great defender… in football.

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