I’m In Second Grade At 14 And Here’s Why…

April 11, 2020

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Veronica’s story is about how she came to be a second-grader at the age of 14.

Veronica’s Mom was born in the country and she had five siblings. As soon as she graduated middle school, her mother told her to book it to the city and stop being a freeloader. Of course, if the girl were even remotely interested in studying, she’d go to a vocational school and learn a useful occupation. But all she had on her mind was marriage. She found a part-time job as a street sweeper’s assistant because there wasn’t really any other option for a semi-literate country girl.

Early in the morning, as she was starting her shift, she saw a young man with a smashed face lying flat on his back upon a bench. It was unclear whether he was deeply asleep or if he had passed away. She approached him and shook his shoulder gently. Her attention was welcome and the man struggled to get on his feet. The girl helped him walk to his house nearby and then to his apartment.

The stranger’s home screamed neglect. Nobody had mopped the floors or cooked food there for ages. It smelled stale and dirty and abandoned. The man collapsed onto the sofa and promptly fell asleep. The girl proceeded to clean the apartment for about three hours. When the owner woke up, he looked around him in surprise and suggested that she stay at his place. She had nothing to lose and nowhere to go. That was how her dream of marrying a city man with his own place came true.

They were hardly happy. Mom didn’t hold her job as a street sweeper for too long. She didn’t enjoy getting up early and she enjoyed pulling her weight at work even less. Dad wasn’t a very responsible person either. He was lucky to inherit the apartment from his parents but he didn’t like working, or, as he put it, “slaving away for The Man”. He scraped by on irregular gigs, unloaded delivery trucks for supermarkets or did the heavy lifting for furniture stores.

When Veronica was born, they were really pressed for money because none of them had a full-time job or stable income. Dad got microloans all the time. The interest rates were unbelievable and his debt was growing in leaps and bounds. As a last effort, Dad took the last of the family’s savings and went gambling at cards. Not only did he lose everything but he also ended up with a huge gambling debt on top of his microloan debt.

One day, Dad came home and told Mom to get Veronica and whatever belongings they could carry. They left the city in the middle of the night to look for a better life. Dad sold the apartment to cover some of his gambling debt. Veronica was 5 at the time.

They walked for a long time until they reached a thick forest with no human settlements nearby. That was where they made their new home and that was how Veronica went from a city apartment to a mud hut in the boreal forest. She had salvaged an ABC book and a book of fairy tales from her previous life. She was hoping she’d learn to read one day.

After a while, their life got pretty okay. They always had food: “bounty of the land”, as Dad used to say. Mom actually picked up because Dad’s debt didn’t stress her out anymore. They preserved lots of berries and mushrooms for the winter. One day, they heard tractors roaring nearby: they were harvesting wood. Dad asked if they had work for him and they did. He earned enough money to buy flour that lasted the family until spring. Mom baked flatbread on a makeshift stove. Veronica learned her ABCs In the first winter and learned to read a year later. She read her book of fairy tales to tatters and she was yearning for knowledge.

3 years later, Veronica’s brother was born. Veronica hoped they’d return to the city and she’d go to school. Unfortunately, the baby was healthy enough that they didn’t need to. Veronica’s parents deprived her of school, classmates, and everything else that is the life of a normal child.

5 more years later, the boy got sick. He had the symptoms of a common cold for a while, then he started choking, his lips went blue, and his little hands were cold. He was generally skinny, probably due to a lack of vitamins. He didn’t look 5.

Veronica’s parents reluctantly returned to the society but didn’t go as far as the city. They occupied an abandoned house on the outskirts of a village. They claimed to have been homeless because of a fire. Veronica’s brother spent 3 months in a hospital recovering from protracted pneumonia. And Veronica went to school. She had to study with first-graders at 13 but she didn’t care how out of place she looked. She was delighted to have people to talk to. Veronica’s in second grade now, she’s a straight-A student, and the occasional tease from her peers doesn’t bother her.

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