The thing that students didn’t understand, Maureen mused, and then, in her mind, corrected herself. One of the things students didn’t understand is that a two-year-old was still plenty aware enough to notice things, and a three-year-old even more so.
One of the things two- and three-year-olds noticed was when some of their peers left the school, and others didn’t. They noticed when Adorlee and Aceline’s mother came to visit, and Harvey and Miliana’s mother didn’t. They noticed gifts and new clothes and special attention paid – and it gave them a standard against to measure the attention their own parents gave them.
Shiva’s three had packed up their belongings and cheerfully hopped into a car with their mother. Mea’s four had done the same. Mabina’s had never lived in the creche; Eriko and Callista took their children and fled.
Ivette’s children and Xaviera’s older two watched this with interest, never asking why they weren’t going, what was going to happen. And then Anwell came for Ivette’s Lidah, and then Adrian for her son (his son) Oliver, and that left of that year Harvey and Miliana.
They didn’t say anything that year. They went back to playing, and that was fine. They didn’t say anything the next year, when Wren and Rowan, Lydia and Eris, Genevieve and ‘Lisha all took their children, or the next year, when Manira left hers.
It was the end of year eleven, when Miliana was seven, that she crawled up into Maureen’s lap and asked the impossible question. “Lady Maureen?”
“Yes, sweetness?” She was a beautiful girl. Her parents were both lovely; it remained to see whether the poison in both of them would be carried in her as well.
“Condwiramur and Sprout’s mom, and Laima and Ama’s, they came and took them. But not everyone’s mom or dad takes them.”
“That is true.” Maureen had had this conversation before. Not many times, but she imagined the number would keep going up.
“My mom doesn’t love me, does she?”
“I do not know what is in the core of your mother’s heart, Miliana, and no-one but she can truly know that. What I know is that she and I spoke when she left, and the felt that you would be better served – safer, warmer, happier – here, where you had grown up. She wanted you and Harvey to be happy and safe, Miliana.”
Those weren’t the words that Xaviera had used, but they would do. Maureen finished with some that were entirely her own. “And we wanted you to be cherished, and warm, and safe. We wanted you here, in the creche, with us.” Maureen placed a careful kiss on the girl’s forehead. “We wanted you here.”
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