The third definition, as taken from Webster's Online Dictionary, for wretched:
3: being or appearing mean, miserable, or contemptible (dressed in wretched old clothes)
Along the Rails -- Along the Rails
The children, rag-tag and dirty, kept walking along the tracks. They had no idea where they were going but this path, which was solid before them, seemed as good as any. The youngest, a four year old girl with blond tangled curls, sniffled as she stumbled along. Her brother, a slight seven year old who was light on his feet considering the pack he carried on his back, balanced along the metal rail as best he could. Their older sister, solemn to the point of being grim, held the smaller girl’s hand firmly in her own. She couldn’t have been older than nine.
“Come on, we’ve just got a few more miles to go,” she urged her small charges.
“You’re squeezing too hard! Stop squeezing my hand,” whined the little girl, “It always hurts when you hold my hand. And I’m tired.” She stretched the vowels of the last word for emphasis as only a small child does.
“We’ll rest in a bit.” came the biting reply. “Come on,” her sister said more softly now, loosening her vice-like grip. “We’ll find a place to rest in a bit. I know it’s hard, but we need to keep going.”
At nine years old, she already knew well the art of disappearing. In her own rucksack was enough Oreos and juice boxes to sustain them for the night and through the next morning.
She didn’t know how much further along the tracks her Aunt’s house might be, and she hoped with all of her might they were walking in the right direction.
All she knew was the wretched home they’d been placed in following her parent’s arrest was no place for children, a mere holding pen with rough and brusque adults who hated them so obviously, merely for their lineage, for which they should have borne no responsibility.
All she could hope was that they’d find her Aunt’s house soon, that it was indeed along these tracks as she’d once been told, and that it wouldn’t have been raided as well.
Update: I've written a second part to this ... you can find it here: Along the Rails, Meet Terry