Kelsie wrote this short story at age 13 for a school assignment.
A small girl sat on the steps of the baker’s doorway, eating a small golden pastry. Her wild red hair flew softly in the cool Roman breeze, and she lifted a skinny hand to brush away a small strand of hair from her face. Her dress, faded to the point of no color, was hanging in rags around her dirty, bare feet.
The baker walked outside the shop, and looking down, saw the little girl at his feet.
“Go home now, little one,” he said. “I won’t have vagabonds hanging around my store!”
The little girl looked up, startled. Then, jumping to her feet, she dipped her head in respect, and grabbing the bag of food she had just purchased, she ran up the road and disappeared down an alleyway.
As she ran down the alley, a golden-haired boy of about thirteen stepped out of the shadows.
“What you got there, Marina?” he asked, looking curiously at the bag in her hand.
“Oh it’s you, Aurelius!” she cried, hugging her elder brother around the waist. “Look! I found a denarius on the street, and I bought some food for dinner tonight!”
She handed the bag of food and a couple of coins to her brother, and they walked together to their home, a blackened house on the outskirts of the city.
It had been seven years since their parents had died in a fire, and Aurelius, having their only living relatives across the sea in Sicily, had decided to live inside of this old, abandoned house and take care of little Marina, who at the time was about two.
Living out on the street in this city was sometimes easy, yet sometimes not, for they lived in the beautiful city of Pompeii. The year was A.D. 79, and though normally a peaceful city, Pompeii had been having small earthquakes the past few days.
As Aurelius and Marina sat down to eat dinner, an earthquake shook the house, causing a small handful of dust to settle on their heads. A crack shattered a side wall, and the warm August breeze filled the room. Aurelius stood up and went over to a cabinet, taking out a small blanket. He placed the blanket over Marina’s shoulders, and they continued their meal.
Marina coughed as she bit down into a dry, crumbly piece of bread.
“I can’t stand only eating bread everyday!” she complained, looking through the bag of bread and pastries on the table.
Aurelius stood up abruptly, taking Marina’s hand and pulling her to her feet.
“I agree, sis. Tomorrow let’s wake up early and go fishing.”
With that, Marina sat back down and gobbled up her food. That night, she got ready for bed earlier than usual. As she snuggled down under the covers of their only bed, Aurelius sat on the couch and softly hummed the lullaby their mother used to sing to them. Soon Marina fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, Aurelius was awoken by Marina jumping up and down on his knees.
“Wake up sleepy! You said we’d go fishing today!”
“I’m up, I’m up!” he groaned, as Marina giggled.
Aurelius sat up, nearly knocking Marina to the floor in his haste.
“Let’s go then!” he said, grabbing his father’s fishing nets.
“Yay!” Marina yelled, jumping up and down in excitement.
“Calm down!” Aurelius laughed, “or you’ll scare all the fish away.” And the cheerful twosome walked out the door.
Several miles away, Mount Vesuvius, the volcano overshadowing Pompeii, rumbled slightly.
Back at the beach, Marina looked up at a strand of smoke coming from the volcano in confusion.
“Aurelius?” she asked, “Isn’t the volcano dorman?”
“You mean dormant?” Aurelius laughed. “It is, but sometimes it smokes like that.”
Aurelius pulled a handmade raft from behind a large bush and set it in the water.
“Well, let’s go!” he said, setting Marina on the raft. Pushing it out into the water, Aurelius pulled himself up on the raft and grabbed a paddle. Using it like a pole, he pushed them out into the ocean.
At that moment, Mount Vesuvius began to rumble. Ash went flying into the air, along with dust and fragments of rocks. A blast of warm air sent the raft and its occupants gliding further into the ocean. Marina and Aurelius watched in horror as their home, the beautiful Pompeii, was covered in ash.
Aurelius held tightly to Marina as the current pulled their raft deep into the Tyrrhenian Sea, away from their now-destroyed home, away from everything they had ever known. They both cried openly, the salty air stinging their faces.
Two days later, the brother and sister washed up on the shores of Sicily, hungry and thirsty – but still alive. A passing sailor found them lying on the beach. Seeing the shape they were in, he took them to the city’s doctor. As soon as he brought them inside the door, a nurse began crying and ran to them. This was their aunt, Acadia, who had moved to Sicily with her husband several years ago. Taking full charge of the children’s care, she adopted them into her family.
Aurelius and Marina lived the rest of their lives happy, part of a family.