1356, January 31:
Today’s my 12th birthday, one of the nicer sisters at my orphanage, St. Paul’s, has given me this parchment and a few pieces of charcoal to practice my writing, she told me to hide them and never tell anyone. I hope I don’t waste it much. Other than this few pieces of paper, I got my customary daily lashes, “being 12, from now on, “, sister Mary explained, “you will get 12 lashes instead of 11. For your sins.” I hope they won’t find out my other sin.
I can barely write this down, as I had suffered all 12 plus 30 lashes, though it felt like a hundred. They saw me near the tree, again. They warned me that the tree is wicked, but I don’t believe them. Pray this stays with me. Let no one sees what’s being written down in my delirious state. I love the tree, she takes care of me, like no one ever did, as long as I could remember. It tells me things… I better stop.
I lost my only friend Paula today to fever, at least that’s what they told us, though no one else has gotten sick. I only just talked to her yesterday and she seemed dreadfully burdened. She was not herself lately, she would not tell me what’s the matter. I think she might have taken her own life, like this other girl Josephine from the year past. It’s not safe here. The tree says so.
I heard screams last night, they had to come from Father Joseph, our paster. The terrible screams echoed in the chamber where all of us orphans huddled. No one dared to move. I could hear my heart beating like a march and the muffled cries from the children around me. I just let my mind wander. The tree comforted me as I entered a dream-like state. She said, “it’s OK, you are safe.” So I fell asleep.
We buried Father Joseph today, in the graveyard in the back of the church. I could almost see the tree from where they had made us sing hymns and look sad though none of us felt sad. Quite the opposite. Father Joseph was not a good man. He once drowned a kitten right before our eyes in order to kill our “sinful joys” that he said must come from the Devil. I sang hymns to the tree instead, praying that man had gotten what he deserved.
I couldn’t help myself, I went to the “garden” today. To the others, it’s a just patch of green between two graveyards in the back of the church and it’s forbidden ground, but it’s my sanctuary. The tree is in the middle of that green. She calls me. She gives me comfort, freely. She keeps giving me the will to live. I fell asleep leaning against her. She tells me secrets. She says Paula is in peace now, so is Josephine. And she said Father Joseph belongs to the Black Church now, and will never hurt another kitten, again.