After meeting a lonely girl in the park who claimed to be waiting for her mother, the janitor was shocked to see her sitting on the same bench the next day and immediately reported it to the police.
Albert Fairchild worked as a custodian in a beautiful old Victorian park downtown, and he spent a lot of time turning it into a paradise of pleasure. It’s a place where lovers meet, where people come to enjoy nature or get peace.
He enjoyed his work. Every day he strolled through the park, cleaning the driveways, emptying the trash cans, and making sure everything was perfect. Twice a week city gardeners came to care for lawns, trees, and plants.
While walking around the park one afternoon, Albert spotted a little girl sitting on one of the benches, quietly coloring in a picture book. She couldn’t have been more than four or five years old, and what caught his attention was that she was all by herself. Albert scanned the area, but he couldn’t find her parents. He realized that something was amiss.
Albert walked up to the little girl and said hello. “Hey there, miss. What are you doing out here all by yourself? Are you trying to catch some fairies?”
The little girl raised her head and replied to Albert, “You’re a stranger, and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
Albert nodded and said, “You’re right, you shouldn’t talk to strangers. But you can see that I’m not asking you to go anywhere with me, and I’m not offering you candy. I just want to know where your mom is and why you’re all by yourself.”
“I’m waiting for Mom,” the child said. “She had a job interview across the road, and she asked me to wait here for her. Mom said not to talk to strangers and not to go anywhere. I have my juice and a snack, and she will be back very soon!”
Albert frowned because it was not safe to leave a child alone in a public park. However, he knew that single mothers who have no means or family sometimes have to do the best they can. This mother seemed to be unemployed and desperate. “What’s your name, little miss?” asked Albert. The girl looked at him and replied, “My name is Margaret.” “That’s a huge name!” exclaimed Albert. “It’s three times bigger than you!” “My mother calls me Meg,” she said, laughing. “And I DO NOT believe in fairies!” Albert was shocked and clutched at his heart. “I’m surprised, little Miss Meg!” he laughed. “I believe in fairies. In fact, I see them all the time! I have to chase them away from the fountains because they insist on showering and breaking rainbows!”
Meg was grinning. “That’s a LIE!” she giggled. “That’s BAD!”
“Well,” Albert said. “I have a lot of work to do, but I’ll be keeping an eye on you, making sure the fairies don’t pull your pigtails. If you need me, Meg, just holler, and I’ll come running, OK?”
Albert walked away, but he kept looking back over his shoulder. He wished he had a little person like Meg in his life, a little granddaughter, but he knew it was impossible.
He couldn’t help but stop working and cry silently as the little girl reminded him of his own granddaughter and the tragic event that had shattered his life.
Five years ago, Albert was a police officer who cherished his job more than anything else. At home, he was a devoted and affectionate husband, a fond father, and a delightful grandfather. “But if it wasn’t for that day…” Albert recalled the tragic event.
It was a beautiful Sunday in May of that year. Albert’s family was setting out on a long-awaited vacation by the seaside in the nearby town. He had taken a week off to have fun with his family.
Albert still remembered his granddaughter Emily running back inside to bring her teddy bear, Chelsea. “How happy she was that morning!” he thought. Her laughter still haunted him because he never got to see her again.
Albert was an excellent driver and was supposed to drive the family on the trip, but a sudden call from the station interfered with the plans. “I’m on my way,” he spoke.
“I got to go. I got an important lead for an investigation. You guys get going. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow evening!” he told his family. They were disappointed, especially little Emily. She wanted to sing songs and play with Albert.
“Sweetie, Grandpa will be there tomorrow. It’s just a day!” Albert and Emily blew endless flying kisses as the minivan sped past the gate.
Albert left for work immediately, and it was almost time to return home in the evening when he got a call from the city station.
An hour later, he was taken to the morgue in the city hospital. His heart dropped when four stretchers were wheeled out, the last was Emily’s. His whole world was destroyed in a car crash. “The minivan lost control and rammed into a truck, my condolences,” a doctor told him, patting his shoulder.
Albert’s family was gone in the blink of an eye, and they were never coming back. No more joyful moments. No more trips. And no more hearing the loud voice of his granddaughter shouting, “Grandpa! I’m home!”
Albert couldn’t forgive himself. “I should have driven the minivan. I shouldn’t have let Josh drive,” he thought and cried over a million times. But nothing could change what had happened.
“Jose, I should’ve canceled that trip. I should’ve never let them go,” he cried at the funeral, placing Emily’s teddy bear, Chelsea, on her grave.
Days turned into months, and months turned into five years, yet the same questions kept tormenting Albert. However, he had learned to accept the harsh reality that his family was gone forever, and nothing could bring them back.
The job he once loved as a cop had become a constant reminder of his tragic loss, and he found himself unable to focus on it. As a result, he quit and started working in the park, where he hoped to avoid anything that would remind him of his past.
Suddenly, a gust of wind brought Albert back to the present, and he wiped away his tears.
The evening sun irritated his teary eyes as he looked around for the little girl. “Where is she??” he exclaimed when he saw Meg was not in her place.
Albert hastily looked around the park for the girl. But she was not there. “Maybe her mother took her,” he thought. Convinced Meg had gone home, Albert finished raking the lawn and went home.
But the following morning, when he returned to the park, he saw Meg again, sitting in the same spot, wearing the same dress, and holding her coloring book. Albert was stunned.
“Hey, there, little miss!” he greeted the girl. “What are you doing here so early?”
“Mommy didn’t come,” she disappointedly said. “She never came for me.”
“What?? Where did you go last evening, then? And where did you sleep?”
“Home,” Meg replied, resting her teary face on her teddy. She refused to look up at Albert. She was least interested in talking to him and kept looking around to see if her mother had come to take her.
“Hey, there, I’m a former policeman. You can trust me, alright?” he said. “I’m afraid your mother got lost in this huge city. Can you take me to your home? We will find your mother, alright?”
But Meg wouldn’t move. Her strong belief her mother would come for her didn’t let her move from that bench.
“Meg, listen, I know you are frightened. But there’s nothing to be afraid of. You can trust me, okay? Maybe your mother is ill and can’t come for you; maybe she needs our help,” he tried to persuade her.
Eventually, Meg agreed to show their home.
“What’s your mother’s name?” He was going to ask his friends in the police to help him with the search.
When Meg told Albert her mother’s name, Candy, she had difficulty pronouncing the surname. Albert asked Meg to repeat the word several times, because he needed her full name to probe everywhere, including online databases. After hearing Meg out repeatedly, Albert guessed her mom’s surname could be ‘D’Cruz.’
Moments later, Meg led Albert to a tarp tent under a secluded bridge not far from the park’s entrance. “This is my home,” she pointed.
Albert partially understood Meg and her mother were homeless. He inspected the tarp tent that barely had an old mattress and a camping stove with a pot smelling of stale porridge. There were a few old clothes of Meg’s in the tent, but no photos or pictures. At first glance, he thought Meg’s mother could’ve abandoned her. But something still didn’t add up to him.
“How long have you been living here?” he asked the girl.
“Few weeks,” replied Meg.
“We once had a big house. But big, angry men in uniform shouted at my mommy for not giving money. Mommy cried, and even I cried. They threw our things out, and mommy brought me here,” the girl explained.
Albert once again checked the tent for clues but apparently found nothing that could help him find Meg’s mother. “Do you have your mother’s photo?”
“No, I had one, but it’s with mommy.”
Albert was puzzled about what to do next. “I cannot leave the girl alone here,” he thought, and before he could fathom anything, Meg asked him to take her back to the park.
“Mommy told me to wait there and not go anywhere. If she comes, she will scold me. Please take me to the park.”
Albert did not know what to do and agreed. Meg and he returned to the park, and he sat her down on the bench. Albert knew Meg would have starved the whole night, so he gave her his lunch.
“Mommy told me not to eat from strangers,” Meg refused, but her eyes and nose couldn’t deny the delicious aroma of the pie in Albert’s lunch box.
“Ummm, that tastes delicious. Sweet. Ummm,” Albert ate a spoonful in front of Meg. “If you don’t want it, I’ll eat it fully. I can finish the whole pie in two minutes. You sure you don’t want it?!”
Meg grabbed the lunchbox and started devouring the pie. Albert was pleased his trick worked and went on with his work while Meg waited for her mother.
Hours passed, and it was close to sundown, but her mom never came. Meg burst into tears, and Albert’s heart wouldn’t allow him to leave her alone again.
“Do you want to go home with me? We will come back tomorrow and wait for your mother, alright?” he asked Meg. Meg agreed and went home with Albert.
“Yeah, I only know her name is Margaret. But I don’t have a clue about her mother. Could you please let me know? She said her mom has blonde hair, is tall, age must be around 24 or 25, I guess,” Albert informed his former colleagues in the department.
Meg could not spell her mother’s name accurately and gave vague descriptions of her appearance. But Albert could not say anything for sure. He made out a name and a surname using Meg’s broken spellings but was unsure if it was correct.
“When will mommy come?” Meg asked Albert.
“She will come soon, sweetie. Now go to that room and change your dress. You’ll find a lot of clothes in the little cupboard. I’ll make dinner meanwhile.”
Meg returned minutes later wearing Emily’s pajamas. She ran around Albert as he whisked the eggs and giggled to an old song playing on the gramophone. For the first time in five years, Albert never felt lonely.
Albert was on the phone the whole night as Meg slept in Emily’s room. He wanted to find her mother at any cost and was busy working at it with his friends.
“No, pal,” an officer called him late at night. “We even checked reports of murders of young women with similar descriptions and surnames, but no lead. There were no instances reported recently.”
Albert sighed, assured Meg’s mother was alive somewhere. While putting out the lights in Emily’s room, he saw Meg curled up and fast asleep on her bed.
Albert was up until the wee hours, gathering contact details of hospitals in the city. He suddenly woke up when the morning rays irritated his sleepy eyes. He was exhausted and had slept off in his armchair.
“Oh my God, Meg??” he ran to check on her, thinking she would’ve gone to the park alone while he was dozing.
“Jesus, thank goodness!” he sighed when he saw she was still fast asleep.
Albert then contacted every hospital in the city to find out about Meg’s mother. He even reached out to a friend in the morgue, but nothing helped. Nobody had heard about the woman with his description and surname.
Albert was puzzled about what to do next. “Cops will hardly try and carefully look for a homeless woman. And if I have to send her to a foster home, she’ll likely never see her mother again,” he thought. Then, Albert realized that the only reliable way to help Meg was to search for her mother on his own. It was not for nothing he was a cop for 30 years.
Albert brought Meg to the park every day and sat her in the exact spot her mother last left her. He asked his friends to watch over her while he searched for the missing woman. Albert knew he could not do all this while working, so he took a few days off.
He first started visiting all the homeless shelters in the city and neighboring towns. “Her name is Candy D’Cruz… Do you know someone with that name?” he asked almost everyone he encountered.
He checked with all the offices that had a “We’re Hiring” sign to find out if Meg’s mother had, by chance, attended any interviews. He even checked in several refuges he knew of, but nothing turned up. Nobody had seen a woman with the name Candy D’Cruz.
Albert even searched on social media and showed Meg the photos of several women with similar names, but none of them was her mother. He checked every street and traffic camera near the park but could not find a clue.
A month passed, and Albert almost lost hope of finding Meg’s mother. All his attempts were fruitless. But Meg never gave up and refused to do anything other than visit the park daily, waiting for her mother from dawn to dusk.
“How will mommy find me if I’m not there,” she often argued with Albert. One morning, as they left for the park, it started snowing.
“Sweetie, I’ll take you to the park tomorrow. You’ll catch a cold, it’s snowing,” Albert told Meg, but she was stubborn.
“No, we’ll go and wait there. Mommy will come,” she said.
Albert could not convince her. They took a bus to the park as they could not walk in the rain. The route was longer and passed several stations. And while crossing one such station, Meg started shouting.
“There she is! There is Mommy!”
Albert was startled. “Where??” he rose from his seat. He thought she’d confused somebody else for her mother but still asked the driver to stop the bus.
Albert quickly helped Meg out of the bus and hastily looked around at all the women he noticed. “Where is she??” he asked her.
Meg tugged his arm to a billboard on a sidewalk and pointed, shouting, “There…That’s my mommy!”
“Where? Which one??” Albert asked her.
“There…the second from the left…She’s my mommy…She’s my mommy!!”
The words on the billboard read: “Do You Know Me? Please Call On This Number” next to the name “Cadence Delacruz.” He gasped after learning Meg’s mother’s name was Cadence, not Candy.
“What is written there?” Meg interrupted.
“It’s an advertisement for lost people,” he told her.
“What is that? What does it mean??”
“It means we are going to find your mother!!” Albert carried Meg cheerfully as he called the number on the billboard.
“City hospital,” the attendant answered. “Yes, she was admitted here.”
When they got to the hospital, they were told Meg’s mother had already left. “Mommy has gone? Where did she go?” Meg started to cry.
“Sweetie, hold on…One second,” Albert comforted her.
“How did she come here? What happened to her?” he asked the nurse.
“She was brought here with a severe head injury over a month ago. She’d suffered from a traumatic brain injury that caused amnesia,” the nurse said.
“Where is she? We want to see her,” Albert asked her.
“She needed expensive treatment. She was in a coma for a few weeks and could not recall anybody when she woke up. Nobody came to take her. We even advertised her name and picture, but nobody turned up. She was discharged last week and sent to a shelter for the homeless.”
Albert was afraid Meg would lose her mother again. He then rushed to the shelter with the girl.
Meg clutched Albert’s little finger as she looked around for her mother. Then she ran as fast as her little legs could carry her toward a bed in a corner.
“MOMMY!!” she cried and ran to her mother. “Mommy, where did you leave me and go?”
Cadence had a photo of them together and remembered Meg was her daughter as soon as she saw her and heard her call her mommy.
“I don’t know, sweetie,” she burst into tears.
Albert was speechless and moved at seeing Meg laughing and crying with her mother. “You need to come with me,” he interrupted.
“Where? And who are you?” Cadence asked.
“I’m Albert. I’m a janitor in the park. I found your daughter…” he paused. “I’ll explain everything later. You and Meg need to come home with me now.”
Albert took Cadence home and offered to stay in his house as long as she wanted.
It took several months before Cadence could recall some crucial moments of her life. Being around her daughter helped her to a great extent. Gradually, Cadence remembered everything, and Albert was curious to know how she had hurt herself.
Cadence recalled that fateful day and broke down.
“I was going for a job interview. I left my daughter in the park because I thought leaving her alone in the tent would be unsafe. I told her to wait there until I came,” Cadence revealed.
“I remember I slipped and fell in the underpass. My head hit the edge of the staircase, and I blacked out. When I woke up, I was in the hospital. I could not remember anything.”
“I’m glad you are safe, my dear. And I’m really happy Meg found you. She missed you so much,” Albert teared up. Cadence and her daughter lived with Albert until she found a job.
A few months later, she dated Frank and married him. Time passed, but Meg and her mother never forgot Albert. They became a part of his family and constantly visited him on the weekends, and every summer, they even vacationed together by the sea.