It was never easy making friends, when she was young. Her family lived out in the middle of nowhere on a farm that had long since gone to seed. Her daddy was a drunk, and her momma didn’t much like to leave the house, and her sister ran off when she was eleven years old. If Anna wanted to go to school, which most days she did, she had to get herself up and walk herself down the long dirt road to the bus-stop.
The other kids laughed at her, of course. They laughed at her tangled hair and hand-me-down clothes and the fact she didn’t always get to bathe because sometimes the water wasn’t running, but Anna didn’t care. School had books, and hot food, and so many things to do. And it wasn’t home, which was best of all. But she was lonely too, especially since her sister ran away. So she took to talking to the snakes that lived in the tall grass, to the birds in the trees, and the foxes too, when the had the time. Then one day she realized that sometimes they’d talk back. Not all of them, of course. But that old hoot-owl would sit and listen to her, and even come down to let her stroke its mighty wings, and the snakes, well, one day they just started crawling up her legs and asking to be held, and how could she refuse. They would weave through her hair and lick at her ears, and one day she got in trouble at school for letting a little copperhead ride in her bag on the bus.
Then one night, after momma and daddy had argued themselves into a stupor out in the living room, Elizabeth came home. It’d been three years since she’d vanished into the night, and since everyone else claimed that she’d never even existed. She walked right through the door, tall and beautiful and wrapped up in a clean black dress that covered her from its pointy hood to its sweeping train. She gave Anna a big sandwich and a little smile and explained that she’d been at school, and if Anna liked she could come away too, and leave behind the crumbling house, and the dirt road, and the children who taunted her and called her names. She had something special in her, and there were there were others like them who knew it, and thought it was grand.
So Anna went with Elizabeth,who introduced her to an named Mr. Boyd from the DSO and Madam Diamonde from the Laveau Academy, but she never forgot her Momma and her Daddy. They weren’t great parents, but they were hers, and Anna Gaunt believed in family, even if Elizabeth wanted to forget.