“And where did you come from?” an old man bent down so that he was eye-level with her. She looked up at him with wide eyes and shrugged her shoulders in response. She didn’t dare to speak a word.
The old man stood up straight once again and scratched the top of his head. He looked all around, but there wasn’t anyone in sight. He smiled at the little girl again.
“Is your mommy around?” he wondered.
She shook her head.
“Where is she?” he prompted.
She shrugged her shoulders again.
The old man twisted his neck to look over his shoulders and saw someone round the corner on the other end of the street. He squinted his eyes hoping to see that it was a female; maybe looking for her lost child. He frowned once more when he realized who it was. It was no stranger and it was no female. It was his son.
“Dad, I’ve been looking all over for you. You know that you shouldn’t be wandering around the streets alone like this.” His son let out a sigh of relief as soon as he reached the old man.
“Look,” the old man pointed to the little girl, “I found her, but I don’t know where her mother is.”
“Who is her mother?”
“I don’t know that, either.”
The son squatted down on the sidewalk and smiled at the little girl.
“Are you lost?” he asked.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“It seems to me that she is not the one who is lost. Her mother sounds as though she is the one who is lost.” The old man observed. He turned around and started looking up and down the streets with the simple gaze of his eyes.
“Well, we can’t just leave her here.” The son stood up and whispered to his father. “But we can’t really take her, either… that would be kidnapping.”
“It’s not kidnapping if you’re trying to help her find her mother.” The old man retorted.
“What if the mother just ran into the store real quick and told her daughter to wait out here? We’ll take the kid, the mother will come out, and she’ll be panicked because she won’t be able to find her child.” The son explained.
“She should have thought of that before leaving her child in the first place. What if we were actual kidnappers? We wouldn’t be giving this little girl a second thought. We would just take her by the hand and go.” The old man pretended to strut away trying to prove his point.
His son let out a deep breath. He supposed that h and his father could bring the little girl to the police station. It was only a five minute walk from where they stood. He looked down to where the little girl was standing and then tapped his father on the arm.
“Where did she go?”
“You lost her?” the old man came out of his fantasy and looked at the empty spot on the sidewalk.
“What do you mean I lost her?” the son grumbled.
“Well, she couldn’t have gone too far.” The old man scanned the area once more.
“Dad, I feel awful for saying this, but she’s not our problem. Maybe she just left to go back home. Maybe she was wandering around taking a walk like she wasn’t supposed to… like you.” The son explained.
The old man twisted his neck this way and that trying to see if he could spot the little girl once more. He finally let out a sigh.
“I suppose you’re right. Maybe she had just left to go home. Maybe she lives right around the corner.”
“Yes, very good.” The son began to walk in one direction while the old man walked in the opposite direction.
“Let’s check it out just to be on the safe side!” he announced.
“Dad!” his son scolded him.
However, his father was already halfway to the corner and his son had no choice but to follow him.
Together, they rounded the corner and there happened to be the little girl. She was sitting on the front steps of an apartment complex. She looked bored. She looked as though she was waiting for someone. Or something.
“See? She’s fine. That must be where she lives.” The son whispered to his father.
“Hello,” the old man ignored his son and waltzed right up to the little girl once more, “do you live here?”
“Dad, you can’t just go around asking little girls questions like that! You’re going to sound like a creep.” His son scowled.
The little girl nodded.
“Is your mother up there?” the old man pressed on.
The young girl nodded once more.
The old man turned to his son and smiled. “That’s all I wanted to know. Now we can go home.”
The son and his father walked all the way back to their house. When they got there, the newspaper was sitting on their front steps. The old man picked it up and gasped.
“It’s the little girl we just saw on the front cover.”
“What?” the son deadpanned in shock.
“Yesterday afternoon a call was placed to the police due to an odor coming from her apartment. The single mother had died a few days ago and her daughter was still living there.” The old man read aloud.
“That’s awful…” the son sighed.
“The daughter is too young to realize what happened to her mother. Now at an orphanage, she tends to sit on the front steps of her apartment thinking that her mother is still up there.” The old man folded the newspaper and tossed it to the side.
“Well, someone has to explain it to her.” The old man grumbled.
“It’s not your place, Dad.” The son warned.
“I didn’t say that it was. I just feel awful. Could you ever imagine… actually, I do not even want to think about it anymore.” The old man entered the house and sat down in his armchair in the living room like he did most days.
He never rounded that corner again as he was afraid to see the scene again.