Chapter 1. I was abandoned by my family
“Leticia, are you here?”
“Yes, what should I do today?”
Small enough that she barely reached an adult’s waist, and blue eyes painted on a particularly white face.
The child’s eyes twinkled with a solemn look.
Jessie, the owner of the bakery, was looking at her as if she was just the cutest thing as she said affectionately.
“Can you bring blueberry jam to Daniel? He said he wanted to eat some.”
“You’re talking about the bookstore guy, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. If the bookstore isn’t open, you can leave it in front of the door.”
When Leticia was handed the jam by her chestnut colored hands, the little girl’s arms were already full. Jessie looked anxious that she might drop it, but Leticia hugged it to herself as if it was the most precious thing she’d ever held.
“Well, I’m off!”
She curled her small body up in a bow, then dashed off on her short legs. It seemed she wanted to bring it quickly.
“You’ll hurt yourself if you run that fast, Leticia!”
Jessie shouted worriedly at her back, but Leticia was already too far away.
“Sigh… I feel bad for such a young girl.”
Even though most people were still asleep, it seemed that her situation still wasn’t very good if she was showing up so early in the morning.
“She’s eight years old now, right? No, I think she said she was seven years old.”
Jessie went back into the bakery with a sigh. Leticia wouldn’t leave her mind, even while she kneaded the dough.
A few months ago, a family moved into a vacant house that was old, and considered uninhabitable. She didn’t really know what kind of people they were because they never showed their faces properly, but when she saw them moving into the shabbiest house in the village, she assumed that they were very poor.
Then one day, a strange child, who she’d never seen in the village, showed up at the bakery.
Jessie approached and talked to her first since the child seemed to be hesitating.
[What’s wrong, kid?]
When she bent down half-way to meet her eyes, the child slowly opened her mouth, and wiggled her hands.
[That’s not it, I…]
[Can I work here?]
When she’d asked her questions because she thought she’d misheard her, the child assumed she was being rejected and said with a determined expression.
[I can do whatever you ask me to do! I like anything, so…]
As the little girl was talking, she began to tear up, and her clear blue eyes were getting harder and harder to resist.
[Please let me work.]
Jessie gave a short sigh at her pitiful request with a face that looked like she was ready to cry.
Her hair color reminded the baker of a brightly blooming flower on a spring day, but seeing as her hair was messy, it was clear that she couldn’t afford to care for herself or didn’t receive any care from her parents.
‘Is there a reason?’
It was a pity that a child, who should be protected by adults, was trying to find work.
Jessie was the first to suggest she run errands, mostly because she didn’t have enough work for the child to do. When the unexpected opportunity came, the child cried, and said that she would work hard.
Since that day, Leticia had visited many places, including this bakery; the flower shop across the street; the bookstore nearby; and many other places; to help out.
She walked around and performed errands. The money was only enough to purchase a small cookie, but Leticia always said thank you.
‘The young girl is always grateful, even for such a small sum of money.’
It was only later that she heard why the child asked for work.
Her father lived far away so that he could earn money somehow, and her mother was too sick to get out of bed. If it wasn’t enough, she also had younger siblings too. It seemed that the child had decided on her own to work in order to help her family, even if it was just a little bit.
‘I’m proud of you, but I also feel bad for you.’
Jessie clicked her tongue, then began kneading her dough again.
When Leticia returned, she was thinking she should at least give her the bread she baked today.
‘I need to be careful not to drop it.’
After a quick trip to the bakery, Leticia was walking carefully to her destination. She didn’t want to lose the precious blueberry jam just because she tripped over a stone.
‘Blueberry… it looks delicious…’
Even though it was sealed with a stopper, it smelled so sweet that her mouth was watering. Leticia had stopped without realizing it, and was staring down at the jam blankly.
She wasn’t sure when she’d last eaten bread with jam. Wait, had she ever eaten it?
“No, no, no! Get a hold of yourself, Leticia!”
It wasn’t the time to be doing this. Today, she had to somehow make more money by running her errands faster. Leticia, who’d belatedly remembered what she had to do, shook her head quickly and went back to her task.
As soon as Leticia arrived at the bookstore, she knocked on the door. There wasn’t an immediate response, and she was about to leave the jam at the door.
“You’re here Leticia. What’s the matter?”
Daniel, the owner of the bookstore, greeted her and opened the door. As soon as she met his eyes, Leticia blinked and held out the jam to him.
“I’m here to give you the blueberry jam.”
“It must have been quite heavy, but you brought it well. Thank you, Leticia.”
“No, it’s what I had to do.”
Suddenly, something caught Leticia’s eyes.
Daniel followed the direction of her small finger with a curious expression. At the end, books were piled up neatly.
“The letters are blurred and very old, so I put them aside to throw them away.”
“Then, can I have one?”
“You want one?”
“Yes, I think there’s a fairytale book.”
While she spoke, her gaze was already directed at a particular book. However, when Daniel didn’t answer, Leticia looked up at him nervously.
“Can I take it with me?”
“Of course, but you won’t be able to see the letters that well.”
“It’s okay! Thank you for giving it to me!”
Leticia smiled brightly as if she’d never been worried, and only picked out the fairytale.
A low voice called out to her from behind, and Leticia turned her head. As soon as their gazes met, Daniel said.
“The books are going to be thrown away, it’s okay if you take another book.”
“You can have it as thanks for running the errand.”
Daniel presented her a much cleaner and newer book than Leticia was holding in her hands. However, Leticia was hesitant to accept it.
She wanted to take it right away, but she didn’t choose this old book because she liked it.
Leticia ended up firmly refusing because she wasn’t confident that she could return the favor she’d received.
“This is really enough for me.”
“Next time, if there’s a book you want to read, please let me know.”
Leticia was already smiling while she hugged the old fairytale book.
Daniel realized that she wouldn’t accept any of his charity, so he helplessly handed her another book.
“If that’s what you want. Oh, and could you bring this book to Lily the florist?”
“I’ll give you the price of the errand in advance, so you just have to deliver it to her.”
“Thank you, mister!”
Leticia bowed to him, and immediately went to Lily’s flower shop. Daniel sighed as he watched her small back quickly move away.
It was normal for a child to play as much as they wanted, but she was already so mature for her age.
“She’s a good and kind child…”
He felt sorry for her, but all he could do for her right now was ask her to run simple and easy errands.
He sincerely hoped that it would at least help the child.
“It’s leftover bread, so take it.”
She went to Lily’s flower shop, delivered the book, then finished the errands to other places. Leticia had been wandering around the whole day, and finally returned to the bakery with a very weak face. As soon as Jessie saw her enter, she held out a bag with bread in it, as if she’d been waiting.
“There’s no one to eat it, so if you don’t take it I’ll have to throw it away.”
In reality, it was freshly baked bread that she’d made today. It was just a lie in hopes that Leticia would take it with little discomfort.
Fortunately, Leticia didn’t notice, and took the bag that Jessie held out to her. She seemed to be thinking about whether she should really receive it.
However, Leticia carefully asked a question, as if she was having difficulty refusing.
“Can I really take it?”
“Yes, but you have to run errands tomorrow.”
Leticia nodded, smiled brightly, and looked at the bread inside the bag.
‘There’s also a cookie that Diana likes.’
She always felt sorry for Diana, who was taking care of their younger siblings because Leticia was running errands. Thinking that this cookie would soothe her a little, Leticia thanked Jessie several times, and went home.
She wanted to eat the bread while she was walking. However, she endured it, and quickened her steps because she knew her younger siblings were waiting for her.
She walked uphill along the path, and finally saw a small house at the top of the hill. Leticia was breathing hard when she finally arrived, she gasped and finally opened the door.
As soon as she entered the house, Diana came running towards her.
“Sister, you’ve returned?”
“Yeah, was it hard taking care of our younger siblings?”
“It was so hard!”
Even before she could ask why it was hard, Diana was pouring it all out.
“Emil kept whining that he missed you!”
“That’s because you don’t play with me.”
Emil, who came to stand next to Leticia, refuted her as if he was being wrongly accused. When they started to fight with each other, Leticia stepped between her two younger siblings.
“I told you both to get along well.”
When the two younger siblings spoke at the same time, Leticia put her index finger to her lips. At the gesture to be quiet, Diana and Emil bowed their heads with tears in their eyes.
“When I’m not around, you have to take good care of your younger siblings. How can you fight like this?”
“I know, but whenever I’m taking care of Xavier and Irene, Emil asks me to play.”
When Leticia opened her eyes wide in surprise, Emil avoided her gaze.
“It’s because you won’t play with me…”
His accusation was half-mumbled, but she understood his desire to play with her, so Leticia stroked Emil’s head.
“Let’s hang out together next time. Can you wait until then?”
Emil, who already felt soothed from her gentle voice, nodded. No matter what anyone said, he knew that Leticia was having the hardest time among all of them.
“Yes, I got it. I’ll listen to you.”
“Thank you, Emil.”
When Leticia smiled at his response, he smiled as well. Then he saw the bag in her hand, and Emil asked.
“Oh, yes! I brought bread.”
“Hey, do you have a cookie?”
“Yes, this is for you.”
When Diana approached and asked, she handed over the cookie. Emil, who saw this, raised his voice.
“Sister, what about mine!”
“You like bread.”
“Why do you only give cookies to Diana?”
“Diana protects the house while I’m gone.”
Emil mumbled his words as if he was frustrated that she wasn’t paying attention to him. Leticia noticed that he was sulking, and calmly said.
“Emil, if you listen to Diana and help take care of your younger siblings, then I’ll bring your favorite bread.”
Emil, who was sticking out his bottom lip in disappointment, cheered up immediately and took hold of Leticia’s hand.
“Then can you read me a fairytale instead of giving me bread?”
“Of course. I brought home a fairytale book, so I can read it to you anytime.”
Emil, who expected that answer, smiled and clung to Leticia’s arm.
“Can you read it today?”
“If you want.”
When Emil heard that she would read it right away, he hugged her arm tighter, and praised Leticia as the best.
That night, Leticia opened the old fairytale book and read to her younger siblings. The tiredness that had been building up throughout the day was long since relieved by the laughter of her siblings.
“It’s a beautiful day!”
She sat down in the field, stretched her arms and legs, and let out a deep sigh.
Having finished her morning errands, Leticia took out a loaf of bread she’d brought with her to satisfy her hunger as well as to take a short break. As soon as she was about to eat it, she felt a presence nearby.
Looking back, she found a boy her age with a blank look on his face.
‘His hair is very dark.’
But his face was white, which was strange.
The child slowly turned his head towards Leticia, as if he felt her eyes staring at him for a long time.
Leticia, who made eye contact while she had bread in her mouth, was unable to hide her embarrassment. She couldn’t help but offer out a different piece of bread when she noticed him staring at her.
“Do you want some?”