One of these children was Leeta.
If Edmund had one friend in the orphanage, it was Leeta. Of course, it was difficult to call her a friend, since they never spoke to each other. She never bothered giving him a second glance, while Edmund found little of interest in Leeta’s short dusty hair, and fire-red temper. She was short, stocky, and had a lopsided nose from when a boy twice her age had broken it before she knocked him to the ground and kicked him unconscious.
She had been adopted several times. The first was to a hopeful and well-meaning farmer, the second to a fairly well-to-do shop-owner. Both times, she had returned within the week. She hated family life, she said; too full of rules and they tried to make her wear dresses. Eventually she started to stay adopted for a few months at a time, but she always returned.
“I liked it better here,” she would always say.
She was rough, gruff, and destined for the life of a dock-worker or laborer’s wife, everyone knew. She didn’t seem disappointed with the idea, and had claimed the one pair of workman’s trousers that had been donated to the orphanage. She wore them to breakfast one day, and the entire orphanage had to go hungry after Mrs. Mapleberry decreed that no one would eat until she changed.
Finally, after lunch-time had come and gone and no-one had eaten, Edmund suggested to Leeta that she wear the trousers under one of her long skirts, so everyone could eat.
She had smiled at him from across the table that evening at dinner.
She was a trouble-maker as far as Mrs. Mapleberry was concerned, an instigator and rotten-apple that if left untamed would spoil the entire orphanage. Every chance she got, she would shove Leeta in front of any lower-class parent and go so far as to almost demand they adopt her.
It rarely worked. Leeta had a way about her that gave her ‘airs’ as one prospective parent put it. Somehow, even though she seemed eager to be adopted, her forthright nature and abrasive attitude caused even the most understanding and hopeful parents to shy away from her.
But often times their understanding and hopeful natures would win out, and Leeta would vanish from time to time for a month or two. Every time she did, it seemed to Edmund that there was a new spring in Mrs. Mapleberry’s step, and a glint in her eye. It never lasted, but she didn’t seem to care.
Of course, when Leeta was gone, that meant Mrs. Mapleberry could focus her attention on her second biggest problem in the Orphanage.