Finny watched out the top floor, dining hall window. She was meant to be watching out for Anneka arriving so that she could run downstairs and meet them at the door.
What she was actually watching right now, though, was a bunch of her fellow inmates playing in the junkyard across the street from the front of the orphanage.
The junkyard was the playground of the younger kids,
the ones whose imaginations could still turn a hastily built mish-mash of bent rebar and broken pallets into a mighty fortress to be defended against the combined assaults of monsters
and mutants. Finny had helped defend the place many times and would have been doing so today if she hadn't agreed to show Joe's kid what the orphanage was like.
And she was getting paid for it! Enough so that she could finally get rid of the orphanage issue blue dress which she had been wearing since losing her favourite top breaking into Joe's factory.
Now she would hopefully be able to buy something that was actually new,
rather than something that had been donated by someone whose son or daughter had grown up or been eaten by a bear or some such.
Finny had never had a piece of clothing that was new. In her lockbox was a pile of drawings of what she hoped she would be able to buy with the money Joe was going to pay her...
actual real pay, not just treats, sweets and 'extras' that they got for working in the factory.
Payment for that went to the orphanage and resulted in marginally better food and much-needed repairs and stuff.
A lot of the kids just did only one week at the factory, which was enough to get the much-appreciated extra blanket that came as their very first 'pay'.
As she watched, Finny kept an eye on the Union patrols that ambled up and down the streets. Most of the guards were okay with the kids playing in the junkyard.
Some of them, though, probably out of boredom, took it upon themselves to chase them away. Playing 'escape the guard' was almost as much fun as playing defend the fort.
Except, if you were unlucky enough to get caught, then you tended to end up with a twisted arm and a box around the ears.
Then sent on your way under dire threat of what would happen if they ever caught you again blah blah blah.
Finny was smiling, happily remembering the many times she had taunted the Union guards from the safety of the other side of the fence,
having escaped through the smallest of gaps in its poorly maintained slats.
It was the purest chance, then, that she happened to notice the two figures walk past the entrance to the junkyard.
She had expected a car, not Silja holding Anneka's hands with the little girl sitting astride her neck, casually walking down the sun-baked street.
Finny leapt for the stairs, jumping the last half of each flight of steps as she raced for the front door.
Finny reached the final flight just as Miss Maisy was opening the front door to a smiling Silja and, holding her hand, a shy three-year-old Anneka.
Finny jumped the last six steps and landed on the tiled floor of the entrance hall with all the noise her too-big-for-her boots could create.
Enough, in fact, to send Anneka scooting behind Silja's legs. Even Maisy flinched and whipped her head around to see what part of the building had collapsed this time.
Silja bent sideways to squint around Maisy to see.
Embarrassed under Miss Maisy's disapproving glare, Finny stood up red-faced from the gravity-imposed squat and shuffled forward the few steps to stand next to Miss Maisy and stare at her feet.
There followed a few moments of awkward silence when Silja and Maisy glanced at each other, both wondering if this whole thing was going to work.
Finny looked up. She too was starting to get the feeling that the chance of her earning her pay today was shrinking with every passing second. Anneka was peeping out from behind Silja's thigh.
Finny lifted a hand, waved her fingers at the little girl and held her breath. Anneka watched her with the openly appraising stare of the under-fives.
Then a small hand appeared and little fingers wiggled back. Finny smiled and held out her hand.
"Wanna come see?"
Now it was the turn of the adults to hold their breath. Anneka looked up at Silja, eyes asking both for permission and approval that this was the right thing to do.
Silja smiled down at her and nodded. Anneka slowly slid around Silja's legs and stepped away from the safety they provided.
She took Finny's hand and allowed herself to be led a few steps into the cool gloom before looking back one more time.
Silja nodded confirmation and used Icelandic, her and Annie's 'secret' language to reassure her.
"I'll come soon. Ekki hafa ahyggjur, Annie. It's okay."
Reassured, Anneka allowed herself to be taken towards the stairs.
Finny held her hand and preceded the toddler, going up one step and waiting for Anneka to negotiate it before moving up another one.
From the doorway, Silja felt the first pang of concern for Annie and worry about Finny's ability to protect her charge. When Annie wobbled Silja took a half step forward.
But the little wobble had made the perceptive Finny aware of the possibility of Anneka slipping, and so she changed her tactic and now stood behind Anneka and helped her climb from there.
Silja relaxed. She and Maisy exchanged relieved grins. This might work after all.
Silja and Maisy started to climb the stairs just as Finny and Anneka made it to the top.
Silja saw Annie turn her head to look for her and so smiled confidently back up at the anxious little face.
Reassured, Anneka let Finny lead her through a set of swing doors into the girl's dormitory.
"This is where I sleep. Well, me an' all the other girls. The boys aren't allowed in here. My bed is over there, c'mon, I'll show you."
Anneka followed Finny past the rows of different sized beds until she stopped at one and sat down on it. Anneka wondered how Finny knew which one was hers; there were so many beds!
Finny tapped the thin mattress with her hand and then helped Anneka climb up beside her. Maisy and Silja hung back by the door.
"See," Finny said, pointing down the long room. "All the older girls sleep down there and..." She turned, and Anneka's head followed the pointing finger. "...
all the littlerer ones sleep down there. I used to sleep down there when I first got here. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle now."
Anneka took in everything Finny was saying, comparing it and adding it to the world she knew. Questions started to form behind the brown, knowledge-hungry eyes.
Of course, being three years old, there was no guarantee that the questions were going to relate to whatever it was she was being told.
"Is that lady your Momma?"