“Refugee trash like you doesn’t belong here.”
Lena is terrified. The hand that grinds her face into the dirt shakes as its owner laughs at her misery. Her tears mingle in the dirt as it’s slowly churned into mud by the tiny movements. And Lena, tiny little refugee Lena, can’t do a thing to stop him.
Who would help refugee trash like her?
She gets better at hiding just who, what, she is.
It starts out small. She covers the rich Dutch accent of her childhood. She teaches herself how to sew, patching the many holes that mark her worn clothing. She keeps the treasured memories and deep sadness of her homeland right next to the foreign tongue she buries beneath her skin. And slowly, Lena teaches herself to be English.
Lena’s parents are right there the whole time. It’s a mixed blessing. They see the xenophobia that runs rampant through the country and say nothing. But Lena still sees the hurt in their eyes when their daughter starts to divorce herself from her heritage. Lena pretends she doesn’t see a tear roll down her mother’s face or her father harden and turn away the first time she says something in an English accent, but the specter of it still hangs over the shadow of her childhood.
Lena’s grandparents keep in contact, even through the war that rattles their country. Lena can tell they are trying to stay strong, their tired eyes alighting with joy the moment Lena comes onscreen. Her Oma asks how she’s been doing in school, and her Opa persists in telling awful little jokes that make her giggle and groan alike. But the war still shows in their faces. Her Oma grows pale and drawn, and shadows nest under her Opa’s eyes.
Lena knows something is very wrong when the messages from her grandparents grow fewer and farther between. Lena’s parents don’t mention it, but she can still hear the hushed Dutch that darts between them when they think she can’t hear.
“Omnics are marching on The Hague,” her parents whisper.
They don’t have to mention where her grandparents are.