The Girl with the Blue Dress

The Girl with the Blue Dress

Written by Shugri Salh Art by Kaelin Yumi Hall-Gardner

Everytime I close my eyes, I see the girl with the blue dress. Her image haunts me.

I see her sitting on a cement wall, looking over her shoulder at me. Her sun-bleached hair is lit by the falling sun. She looks familiar, but is shrouded in the blurriness of a distant memory.

People surround her in a cacophony of movement and sound, yet she remains still. I can tell that she has not accepted this new world that she has been thrown into.

A sense of foreboding fills her look. The whites of her eyes are glazed with sadness and despair. Her knees are pulled up, in full protective mode. Despite the defensive shield she has drawn around herself, I can see that she wants me to notice her and listen to her story.

I approach her, but like a mirage who broke its earlier promise, she dissipates when I near.

I close my eyes and call to her again.

What happened? How can I help free your spirit?  

Just like that, she comes in to focus.

She tells me she was brought to the orphanage with no explanation.

She feels confused and lost. She wonders what happened to her family and I wonder why they just discarded her like that. She tells me that she tried to escape several times that first day, but like a stray dog, the men at the gate chased her back. When darkness closed in on her first night, she tells me that she and her siblings huddled together and wailed. She thought about her loving nomadic grandmother as she sobbed, wanting to go find her. She was sure her grandmother would have the fire burning to guide her home.

But none of her family members came, only her new blond, blue-eyed caregivers.  

She knows her mother cannot come - she is dead and buried. Her father is already busy with his new wife and family. And her grandmother is far off in the nomadic lands. But where is her rich aunty who lives in this very city?

She tells me that they wailed for a whole month yet no rich aunt showed up at the gates of the orphanage. Her older sisters come to visit, bringing sweets and love, but are too young to take them all in yet..

The tall white man notices the girl with the blue dress sitting alone. Adjusting his camera, he walks toward her.

“Smile for me, Shugri”, he coaxes. Pulled from my sadness, I turn my head to see Nicholas. I know this man. He has been caring for me every day since I arrived, more than my own family. I want to make him happy as well, so I feign a smile as I look over my shoulder.

The next time I call to the girl with the blue dress, she gives me a wide-open smile, spreads her arms to the sky and runs off to play with her friends.

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