She looked calm, yet behind her face, I saw a hint of dread, her eyes deep into her head. Her long hair flew behind her as she clutched her knees, my eyes saw a wry smile crack on her lips, there yet not there. She wore a dress of green and orange stripes, and the pale green of dreary dawn made an aura of mystery around her. It made me curious. Who was this girl?
I approached her with caution, but she noticed, got up and ran away. I didn’t chase after her. Early next morning, I went back again to that place, and sure enough she was there again, dressed in that same stripes, the fear in her eyes more, a lone teardrop sliding down her knees and slowly reaching the ground. I approached her again, but this time she did not walk away from me. I sat on my knees next to her and lifted her head. That wry smile cracked on her face again.
“Who are you, dear?”, I asked. She grasped the hand I’d put on her chin. She looked at me and shook her head. “Go away, kind sir. The pain in my heart is too deep, I don’t deserve a helping hand to wipe my tear. I’m a broken girl.” I didn’t know how to pacify her. I let her continue to hold my hand, and with my other wiped her tear. “It’s ok. You can tell me. I’ll keep your secret.”
“I’m Nicky. I was at a masquerade party few days back, with my father. This was my costume, and I was having fun in the party. After I had some punch, I felt drowsy. I felt a hand lead me outside, and I was too dazed to resist. He brought me here, to this alley behind the building. I didn’t know what was happening. My head fell back, and I fell asleep. An hour later, I woke up. I looked down, and saw a gap in my costume, and in me. In shock, I tried to get up, and struggled to the room. No one was there but my dad. He saw me, but walked away from me. I ran and took his hand, but he dragged me out and threw me here. “You’re not my daughter”, he said and walked away. You know that man who got hit by the bus on Tuesday? That was him. I saw, and I ran away. I came back here, because I have nowhere to go. Now I’ve lost my family, and I don’t know who did it to me. I don’t know why I am saying all this to you, but you seemed trustworthy”, she said. I tried to pull her to her feet, but she refused. “No. I can’t let you see where I was vulnerable”, she cried. I told her I’d be back with my wife, who could help her up and went quickly back home.
I returned with Eloise and she talked to Nicky too. She helped her into my coat. She grasped my hand again and squeezed it tight. She was about the age of my daughter, and we took her home, and asked Pia to share her room with her. When I saw her next morning, she was in one of Pia’s dresses. She wasn’t smiling, but her heart seemed relieved of some dread. She came and sat next to me at the breakfast table. “Thanks for being there to pacify me. I wanted to die. Now I’ve some heart to care for me”, she whispered. We took her to the adoption agency, and told them the details. We even told the police too. We left her in caring hands. A few days later, we got a call from them, asking if we would be interested in adopting her. We didn’t have second thoughts. We said yes.
I still see the scars on her heart, but she has Pia to make her smile and care for her now. We wanted to throw the striped costume away, but she didn’t let us. “I want it. It makes me remember the day I lost myself, and the day you found me back”, she said with a smile. We let her. Sometimes, she does cry, but she does it lying on my lap and not alone.
She’s no longer lost. She’s here, she’s loved.. she’s Nicky, my daughter.