On a dark, freezing, lonely night, a teenage girl was walking along an isolated subway station as if searching for something. She looked feeble and her clothes were scruffy. Her hair was tied back into a messy ponytail and she did not have a hat or a scarf to shield herself from the cold. Her expressions were frozen. She was looking around as if she was searching for something. She kept on walking with her hands tucked inside the warm pockets of her worn out, red coat. Her breathing was steady but the cold made it hard.
A passer-by saw the girl walking alone and started walking behind her. The girl realized that she was being followed and abruptly increased her pace, into a queer mixture of frightened, tense and breathless motion. When she felt the stranger getting close to her, she began to run as fast as her fallow legs could carry her. Soon she came upon a tree and hid behind it, catching a deep breath. She could feel her heart forcefully pounding inside her chest. She couldn’t understand what to do. A few moments later, she heard the sound of footsteps getting closer. A faint shadow of a man formed in the dim light of the subway station. She held her breath in the hope that he would neglect her presence.
Why was this guy after her? What did he want from her? Maybe he just wanted to help her out. Or maybe he was just another rapist, kidnapper or perhaps even a serial killer who was after her. These thoughts crossed her fumbled mind as she tried to plan her next move but at this point, she was too afraid to think straight. “I know you’re there.”
The man spoke gently yet the girl remained quiet.
“I won’t hurt you. I know you’re hungry and I have money to buy you something to eat.”
She did not say a word. She couldn’t trust this guy, could she? Even though she was finding it hard to trust this man, her growling stomach thought otherwise. She hadn’t had a nice meal since her adoptive mother died. She missed the taste of her food.
“You can trust me. I don’t have any weapon on me. I mean no harm. I am just here to help you out.”
She saw the shadow raise his hands to witness himself. The girl remained quiet. She was still scared. She just wanted the man to leave her alone.
“Listen, I have been noticing you for three days. You come to this subway station every night, looking for something. And since you don’t look like you’ve had a nice meal in ages, I assume you’re looking for food. I want to help you out…”
The man stopped as if he was waiting for the girl to say something but she was completely silent in return, so he continued.
“….I live close to this subway station. I used to have a family, just like you. But twelve years ago, my wife was diagnosed of cancer. We were poor and could not afford a better medical treatment for her. Her health kept getting worse and six months later, she died.”
He sighed melanchously, then continued.
“We also had a beautiful daughter, just like you. But at that time we were both too young and destitution compelled us to give her away to a divorced woman when she was only two. It was the hardest decision for us to make. A few years after my wife’s death, I found a better job and my hard work and dedication to my work brought financial success. I worked hard, really hard, to make my wife proud. I know you don’t have a family either. And I know exactly what it’s like to lose a family. You remind me of my daughter. I want to help you out for the sake of my daughter if nothing else.”
The girl carefully turned to look at the man from behind the tree. He looked like he was in his late-thirties. He was wearing neat and carefully ironed clothes, and an expensive coat along with a hat and a woollen muffler, wrapped around his neck. Newly emerging wrinckles were visible on his face. He looked at the girl with a stern expression. “What’s your name?” The man asked.
She said in a low, frightened voice. “Maria, look. You can trust me. I have come here with good intentions.”
Maybe she could trust him. He hadn’t done anything to harm her yet. Maybe he was really a good person. The man moved forward and took out his wallet. The girl was standing still, carefully observing every move he made. He slipped out a new fifty dollar note and stepped forward to hand it to the girl. The girl quickly moved back and slid her hands inside her pockets, frightened and nervous. “Don’t be scared.”
The man said in a calm voice. “Please accept this money and buy yourself something to eat.”
He put the fifty dollar note down for her to pick it up later. Then he removed his hat and unwrapped his muffler and placed them beside the note. He smiled at the girl and walked away without another word. The girl carefully watched him as he left. Once he was gone, she picked up the note and looked at it before quickly slipping it inside her pocket. Then she placed the hat on top of her head and wrapped the muffler around her neck. The muffler gave her a sudden feeling of a familiar warmth. She did not know who this man was but she was very grateful to him. She felt her eyes getting teary at the man’s act of kindness. She did not believe good people existed in the world before she met this man. Maybe he was an Angel sent by God or maybe it was fate that lead him in her direction. But she didn’t really believe in miracles.
The next morning, the girl went to a small bakery nearby. She spent the entire night staying awake in the cold and unforgiving night. Her empty stomach didn’t allow her any sleep. She bought herself a piece of bread and some tea to give her a little warmth. She sat in the corner and as she was about to eat, she felt her body giving up against the brutal cold. She was now starting to feel dizzy and her body could not fight against the illness anymore. She fell to the ground and collapsed. A few hours later, she gained back her conciousness and found herself in an unfamiliar place. Not knowing where she was, she suddenly panicked and pinched herslef to make sure if this wasn’t a dream. And it wasn’t. The room was lavishly furnished. There were expensive rugs lying on the floor, fancy curtains hung and clean sheets laid on the bed. Maria suddenly heard the door opening. She felt scared. Soon, the same man she met the other night at the subway station appeared in the doorway, holding a tray with food in his hands. The girl looked at him with fear in her eyes.
“Don’t be afraid, Maria.”
The man walked inside offering her a warm smile. She looked at him, puzzled. The man read her expression and quickly began to explain.
“I went to the station looking for you. I just wanted to make sure that you were okay. But when I couldn’t find you anywhere, I went to look for you in all the nearby places. And I found you in the small nearby bakery, lying on the floor, completely unconcious. I convinced the bakery owner that I knew you and managed to bring you here.”
He placed the tray on the beside table. Her eyes followed his hands and soon she noticed something on the side table. Something she never expected to see. A picture of a woman, encased in an expensive frame. Her real mother. The girl quickly began to search her coat’s pockets and took out an old picture, which was torn at the edges, and showed it to the man. She had tears in her eyes. This left the man utterly shocked. He looked at the girl with surprise. “Where did you get this picture from?”
He asked with a shaky voice.
“My adoptive mother gave it to me before she died. She wanted me to know what my mother real mother looked like.”
“That woman…. That woman was my wife.”
The man said, tears forming in his eyes. His hands were trembling. He looked at Maria. He looked at his daughter. He could not believe his eyes. He could not believe what was happening. Fate brought his daughter back to him. Was he dreaming? He hoped not. He blinked his eyes twice. He was overwhelmed with emotions. Not knowing what to do, he embraced his daughter with a warm hug.
Written by: Tahleel Ayaz