I walk to the plain oak door and hesitate with my hand hovering over the wood. The hallway was dark belying the lateness of the hour with which I had decided to appear. Was it such a good idea to arrive at this time. The darkness held many dangers for someone like her, there was no guarantee that I would not be perceived as one of these.
Softly, my hand fell against the wood three times. So soft that no-one would hear. But she would hear, I knew this well, and she would know what it was. How she would react, would decide what would become of my night.
I heard the lock click and a piece of a child's face appear through the crack. She was suspicious and wary as a dear seeing a lion standing in the open. Whether to fight or flee, she had not decided.
"Who are you? What do you want here? Come back tomorrow." She began to shut the door. Rashly I reached out and held it open, stopping the small girl from hiding. A bad move, because now her suspicions were raised to the point they were on the street.
She did not waste time trying fruitlessly to slam the door. She knew too well her strength was no match for a full grown man. Instead she disappeared from my limited view and I heard the unmistakable sound of a sash window being opened.
"Please. I am here to talk, nothing more I swear." I called, desperate that we should have a conversation. The questions I have to ask are too important to be left unanswered.
She appeared at the crack again. "You know as well as I that there is no such thing as a simple talk. Especially when I have come from the places I have. I know you know this, because you are here in the middle of the night."
"You are right." Her eyes widened at my admission. "I know where you have come from, and I can only hope that where you are headed is far better. Which is why I should not have come because of the risk I pose to you. But I have to ask you questions, questions that only you will understand and be able to answer." I held my hand to my heart. "I swear on all that I am; nothing untoward will take place this night."
The only eye I could see looked my up and down. And deciding I was indeed truthful pushed the cabinet away that was barring the door and opened it to allow my entry.
I stepped in. Careful not to make another rash movement that would have my host run away.
She motioned towards the bed, stripped back right to the mattress, asking me to sit. I did so gratefully, sneaking into a school run by the church was not an easy thing to do. I was especially grateful for the excellent quality of the mattress, which felt as if it were as soft as clouds.
The girl sat in her nest of blankets and linen in the corner. Habits that had kept you alive were not easy to break in a stranger's company. She eyed me from her safe distance. Waiting for me to make my move, good or bad.
I sighed. "I had hoped this would work out differently. But, I understand that was not to be so."
"That is good."
"In that case I shall ask my questions. First; do you wish that your past had never happened. That you could perhaps be a normal child."
"Never. Because wishing for time to unravel only to rework itself into something better for me is wasteful. Besides, what has happened to me, would have happened to someone else. Someone who would never have managed to survive these horrors. Good will come of it in the end."
"Second; are you happy the way things are?"
"I am happy. There is more food, warmth, clothing and goodwill in this one place and time than I have seen in all my life. But the way things are are not the best that they can be; which is why I orrors that will make it better."
"What of those people that you have left behind? Have you forgotten the horrors that they inflicted? And those others that you have helped?"
"I have forgotten no-one. I will never forget what has happened to me as I bear the reminders with me every day If I could have my way, then I would bring those that have helped me, with me to this place. For they deserve it more than I. As for those that have brought me horror and pain. I hate them as is my right, but I will do nothing about them because nothing can be done."
I smiled and stood reluctantly and headed for the door. My questions asked, I was happy to leave her in what peace she could find. Little did she realise, the answer to the third question will be changed by her experiences in this place.
"Wait!" I turned to the girl, standing by the foot of the bed now. "Another thing I have been introduced to is fair trade. You have asked your three questions, in turn I deserve an equal amount."
I smiled to her. The first emotion I had shown since crossing the threshold into her room.
"I cannot tell you my name. As no-one from this world should know it. You will not see me again in your lifetime. Although I really wish we could. And my past will always be my own; as you yourself said it should. Does this answer your questions?"
She nodded aghast. And I turned and walked out her door. I wish I could have taken away her pain. But Samantha's life was her own more than mine, even if she was my character.