Chapter 22: At the orphanage
The day had finally come for the Volunteer Club’s visit to the orphanage, just before summer vacation.
Today, everyone managed to gather on time, which was quite an achievement.
Telencio also seemed to have passed his makeup exams safely and was yawning as usual.
By the way, Lena-sensei was planning to join us towards the end of the day.
“Oh my, oh my, welcome! Thank you as always.”
The familiar Director was already there to greet us. She was a lovely elderly lady with a charming smile and a person of great character who had earned the trust of the children.
“Director, thank you for having us again today.”
After greeting her, led by the club president, we began our usual activities.
We all walked together towards the back room, which also served as a dining hall.
It was usual for the children, aged around 7 to 13 years old, to burst into excitement the moment we entered the room.
However, today, we noticed that their attention was immediately drawn to one person, and they all blinked their eyes in unison, wondering who the stranger was.
“Who’s the new person?”
The children were staring at Camilo. Unfazed by the attention, Camilo smiled with ease.
“I’m Camilo. Can I join you guys from today?”
“Sure! We all love you guys!”
Their straightforward conversation made me feel warm inside.
Camilo was invited by the children and immediately joined their circle. Wow, he has a talent for this.
“Hello, everyone. Have you finished your homework?”
“Of course, look!”
When Crustia-san asked, Berta, the most energetic one, showed her homework notebook.
Everyone sitting around the table pulled out their notebooks and handed them over.
“Good job, everyone!”
When the club president received their homework with a smile of appreciation, everyone looked proud.
I smiled too and began checking the children’s homework together with them.
It’s been said that it will still take some time before all these children can attend school.
There is a gap in education due to poverty, and for children living in orphanages, many of them end up never attending school and spend their whole lives that way.
That’s why we come to teach these children at the orphanage.
We can only come about once a month, but we believe that it’s better than doing nothing and can help their future.
“Well then, I’ll go see the older kids. Leticia-chan, why don’t you teach the little ones how to read and write.”
Under Crustia-san’s direction, I started studying with the little girls.
Even the youngest ones have started to learn the letters, so it’s a good idea to start practicing writing words.
Berta seems happy as she writes the letters. When I ask what’s going on, Berta strokes the word “restaurant” she wrote with care.
“Recently, I can read the signboard of the store. Thanks to Leticia-chan and everyone.”
Since I started coming here, I’ve realized how fortunate I am.
It might be hypocritical of me, but I want to see this smile.
I don’t care about atonement, I just want to be of help in any way I can.
“That’s because Berta is doing her best. If you work hard, you’ll be able to read books too.”
“Really?! I’ll do my best!”
Seeing Berta’s lively and childlike smile, I laughed from the bottom of my heart.
After the study time, it was free time.
The energetic kids were playing in the garden, while the quieter ones stayed inside.
Crustia-san had just headed to the kitchen with the older girls to make sweets. I was embroidering with the girls, while Luna, the club president, and Camilo seemed to have joined a game of hide-and-seek.
“Hey, Kaizen-obake! Let’s play catch!”
(TL: Obake: some kind of yokai.)
Despite being mostly indoors, Telencio always seemed to attract the attention of active boys.
Without trying to hide his exasperation, Telencio pushed the boy’s cowlick.
“…Isn’t calling someone Kaizen-obake terrible?”
“But, you only play Kaizen! I want to play catch!”
The children gathered around, shouting “Me too, me too!”, and dragged the “Kaizen-obake” towards the orphanage.
I don’t have time to help because I have to teach embroidery to three children. Hang in there, Telencio!
“Leticia-chan, it’s not working here.”
“Which one? Let me fix it for you.”
The rabbit embroidery on the apron is so cute. I have to do something before it becomes a squirrel.
As I worked on it for a while, the window of the dining room facing the garden opened.
Camilo peeked in with a wry smile. It seems he was found out quickly.
“Man, this is tough. I underestimated the kids’ search abilities. They could become dragon knights in no time.”
“Fufu, maybe so.”
Camilo seems to have blended in completely on his first visit.
Even though he’s an only child, he seems to like children. He was so good at playing with the lively boys as if he was used to it.
…Come to think of it.
Did Camilo have children in his previous life?
Faced with a long-standing question, I couldn’t help but fall silent.
No, if that were the case, he wouldn’t propose to me.
He’s not the kind of person who would pretend that the child he was supposed to have had never existed.
Then, what about marriage?
That’s not even a question. Camilo is so handsome and kind, it’s not strange for him to have a beautiful wife.
I think it’s obvious.
Why am I in so much pain…?
Perhaps he noticed that I looked pale, Camilo tilted his head quizzically.
This is not something I should ask him directly right now.
So I laughed to cover it up and deliberately changed the subject.
“I was impressed by how well Camilo has fit in.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, you look like you’re having a lot of fun.”
“Well, that might be true. I’m actually gaining a newfound respect for Leticia.”
When someone looks you straight in the eye and speaks straightforwardly, it’s hard to know what to do.
I’m not a good person at all.
I didn’t even know about the orphanage.
When I first became the queen, I never thought that there would be people who want to study but cannot.
“Camilo is someone who can help many people in a bigger way. I, on the other hand, can only do small things.”
“That’s not true. You can still make a difference in many people’s lives. That’s why you’ve worked so hard to study.”
As I stumbled through words to hide my embarrassment, I received another big affirmation.
I felt my heart warming up like never before.
I can tell from Camilo’s eyes that there is no flattery or lies.
So, as if pushed forward, I found myself blurting out a dream that I had never spoken about before.
“I…I once thought that I wanted to open a literacy class that anyone can attend.”
There is an educational disparity in this country based on wealth.
Ever since I became active in the Volunteer Club, I’ve been thinking about opening a literacy class.
But I also knew that it was an unrealistic dream.
I wished to find a job and live a modest life in the future. It was clear that I lacked everything — money, place, time, and more.
“Wow! Are you going to open a classroom, Leticia-chan?”
“That’s so cool! I want to attend!”
The girls stopped embroidering and their faces lit up all at once.
I never expected them to be so happy with my irresponsible words. The blurry silhouette of a dream that existed only in my mind seems to take shape when I see their smiles.
“That’s so like you, Leticia.”
Even Camilo shows me a gentle smile.
“Yeah. I’ll support you, no matter what.”
My heart is filled with warmth and excitement.
I don’t know if I can really do it, but it’s so heartwarming to see that the children and Camilo have given me the push I needed.
I manage to control my trembling voice and finally express my gratitude.
The incident happened on the way home.
When Lena-sensei arrived, she suggested that it was time to gather the club members and head home.
The boys came running, swinging a tree branch.
“Luna, watch out!”
Realizing that they weren’t looking ahead and Luna was in front of them, I instinctively stepped forward.
As a result, I collided with the boys, causing my glasses to fall off.
Listening to the sound of my partner hitting the ground, I caught sight of Luna in my unobstructed view.
She looked at me with round eyes, just like when she used to be a maid.
Did I mess up again…?