Amelia returned home, only to be greeted by the heart-wrenching sight of a young girl sobbing outside her neighbor’s door. Puzzled, Amelia inquired with the landlord, who confirmed that the apartment was unoccupied. However, to her astonishment, the little girl reappeared, leading Amelia to an unexpected encounter with a person from her past that left her utterly shocked.
“Hey there, why are you crying?” Amelia gently inquired, crouching down to the level of the distressed child standing in front of her neighbor’s house. Although they were strangers to each other, Amelia couldn’t fathom why someone would leave their young child outside, crying inconsolably.
It had been a long day at work, and all Amelia wanted was a peaceful evening at home. However, as she ascended the stairs to her third-floor apartment in Brooklyn, the sound of the girl’s sorrowful sobs pierced through the air. It tugged at Amelia’s heartstrings, compelling her to take action.
“I can’t find my mommy,” the little girl whimpered, her tear-stained face looking up at Amelia. Just as Amelia was about to knock on the neighbor’s door for help, her phone began to ring, interrupting the moment.
“Hold on for a moment, sweetheart,” Amelia said to the child, pausing to answer the call. It was a colleague from work, urgently seeking something for an upcoming project. Engrossed in the conversation, Amelia spoke for about ten minutes. When she finally ended the call, she was taken aback to find that the little girl had vanished.
“Goodness, was she a ghost?” Amelia wondered for a fleeting second, before turning her attention back to her own front door. Unlocking it with her keys, she removed her jacket and began contemplating what to prepare for dinner. Yet, the image of the distraught child lingered relentlessly in her mind.
Reaching for her phone once more, Amelia dialed the number of the landlord, Mr. Crinkle. She had always found him to be a kind and helpful person, someone who would surely provide insights into her mysterious neighbors.
“Hello, Miss Geffen. How may I assist you?” the elderly man greeted her warmly.
“I’m sorry to bother you, Mr. Crinkle, but I noticed a child crying outside the neighboring apartment. I thought nobody lived there,” Amelia explained, seeking clarification.
With a sigh, Mr. Crinkle began to unravel the history of the vacant apartment. “You’re right, Miss Geffen. It has been unoccupied for a couple of years now. There was a young couple who moved in, but tragically, the wife passed away during childbirth. The grief-stricken husband couldn’t bear to stay in that apartment, haunted by memories. Nevertheless, he continues to pay the rent. It seems he can’t let go of it either.”
Amelia was taken aback by the heartrending tale. “That’s truly heartbreaking, Mr. Crinkle. However, I believe the child I encountered has been coming here periodically. Is there any way I can reach the man? I want to be prepared in case she returns.”
“Yes, I have his contact information right here,” Mr. Crinkle responded, sounding slightly sympathetic. He proceeded to provide Amelia with the necessary details. “His name is Mr. Davis, and here is his phone number.”
“Thank you so much for your help, Mr. Crinkle,” Amelia expressed her gratitude before ending the call. She promptly jotted down the information on a small post-it note and affixed it to her refrigerator, ensuring it wouldn’t slip from her mind. With a deep breath, she resumed her evening, determined to carry on while keeping a watchful eye for the little girl’s potential return.
After several weeks had passed, the little girl returned one evening, her cries piercing through Amelia’s phone-induced reverie. Reacting swiftly, Amelia stepped outside to confirm if it was indeed the same child. And there she was, standing right in front of Amelia’s door, her heartbroken wails echoing in the air.
“Well, hello there, sweetie. It looks like you’re back. Does your dad know you’re here?” Amelia asked, approaching the girl with a gentle tone. “Would you like to come inside and wait for him here? I can give him a call.”
The little girl remained silent but followed Amelia into her house. Amelia offered her a comforting meal of mac and cheese and a few cookies. “What’s your name, honey?” she inquired.
“My name is Annie,” the girl replied softly.
“Alright, Annie. Why don’t you go watch some TV while I call your dad?” Amelia suggested with a warm smile. She dialed Mr. Davis’ number and explained the situation, assuring him that Annie was safe at her place. Mr. Davis apologized profusely and promised to rush over immediately.
A few minutes later, Amelia noticed that Annie had dozed off on her couch when someone knocked at her door. “Shh, Annie is sleeping,” Amelia whispered, opening the door. However, as her eyes fell upon the visitor, her jaw went slack, and a flood of haunting memories surged through her mind. “Thomas?”
“Amelia?” the man outside responded, disbelief in his voice. “You have my daughter?”
“Daughter? Oh my, I didn’t even consider…” Amelia gasped, feeling foolish for not realizing that Mr. Davis could indeed be Thomas. After all, she had once shared that same last name.
Fifteen years ago, Amelia and Thomas had embarked on a marriage full of hope and young love. They were just 18, dreaming of a future together. But as time passed, their journey was marred by numerous miscarriages and failed attempts at IVF. Thomas, who had always longed for children, eventually left Amelia, unable to reconcile his unfulfilled dreams. The heartbreak was devastating for Amelia, shattering her world.
But now, standing at their doorstep, Thomas brought a jolt of reality to Amelia’s thoughts. His child, Annie, was peacefully resting on her couch—a child he had with another woman who tragically passed away.
“You have Annie here?” Thomas abruptly interrupted her inner musings.
“Yes, yes. She’s asleep on the couch,” Amelia replied, inviting Thomas inside. He glanced at the little girl, silently acknowledging her presence, before turning his gaze back to Amelia. They both retreated to the kitchen, careful not to disturb the sleeping child.
“So… what’s going on, Thomas? This girl has been coming here alone, and it’s potentially dangerous,” Amelia questioned, scolding him for allowing such a situation to unfold.
“You don’t know everything that has transpired,” Thomas began, a mix of frustration and sadness in his voice. “Annie never knew her mother, and I never told her about her passing. She believes her mother still lives in this building. After her death, I couldn’t bring myself to live here or let go of the apartment. But sometimes, I would bring Annie here when she felt sad. Now, it seems she comes on her own. We live nearby, but I can’t figure out how she manages to escape from our house. Our nanny becomes frantic trying to find her, but today, I was home, and I didn’t even notice.”
“Oh, my dear. You must explain it to her, Thomas, or else she will continue to do this,” Amelia urged, genuine concern evident in her voice. “If it happens again and I’m home, I’ll be here for her. But I can’t always guarantee that. Poor girl.”
“I know, I know. I need to have that conversation with her,” Thomas acknowledged, frustration and gratitude mingling in his tone. “Thank you so much for reaching out to me and taking care of Annie. It means the world to me that you worry about her. You’ve always been wonderful.”
“You’re welcome. She’s a lovely girl. I just wish… well, you know,” Amelia added, her voice trailing off with a hint of longing, unable to articulate her unspoken desires.
Thomas nodded, understanding the depth of her sentiments. However, finding no further words to express himself, he smiled at Amelia and made his way toward Annie. Gently cradling her sleeping form, he whispered a heartfelt gratitude before leaving her apartment. Amelia bid them farewell with a wistful smile, watching them disappear from her life.
Over time, new neighbors moved into the neighboring apartment, prompting Amelia to believe that Thomas had finally found the courage to explain everything to Annie and perhaps begin to heal from his loss. She wished him the best, despite the painful memories of their shared past.