Albert Fairchild was the custodian of a beautiful Victorian park in the heart of the city. He spent his days ensuring that it was a little piece of paradise, a place where couples met, and people could connect with nature or find some peace of mind.
“I love my job,” Albert thought to himself as he walked through the park. He was raking the paths, emptying the bins, and making sure everything was perfect, just as he always did. The city gardeners came twice a week to take care of the lawns, trees, and plants.
One afternoon, Albert noticed a little girl sitting alone at one of the park’s picnic tables, coloring in a picture book. She couldn’t have been more than four or five years old, and he couldn’t see her parents anywhere. “Something’s not right,” he thought.
Approaching the little girl, Albert asked, “Hello there, little miss. What are you doing out here all on your own? Trying to catch the fairies?”
The little girl looked up at Albert, startled. “You’re a stranger, and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she said.
Albert smiled and nodded. “You’re right, you shouldn’t talk to strangers. But 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 alone.”
“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. It wasn’t safe to leave a child unattended in a public park, but he knew that sometimes single moms with no resources or family had to do the best they could. “What’s your name, little miss?” he asked.
The girl giggled. “My name is Margaret,” she said.
“That’s a HUGE name!” exclaimed Albert. “It’s three times as big as you are!”
The girl laughed. “My mom calls me Meg,” she confessed.
Albert nodded. “Meg it is, then,” he said. “So, what brings you to the park today, Meg?”
The girl looked down at her feet. “My mom had to go to a job interview,” she said. “She couldn’t find anyone to watch me, so she left me here.”
Albert felt a pang of sadness in his heart. “I see,” he said, trying to sound cheerful. “Well, you’re not alone now. You have me to keep you company.”
The girl smiled at him, her eyes sparkling. “Do you believe in fairies?” she asked.
Albert chuckled. “Of course I do,” he said. “In fact, I see them all the time! I have to chase them away from the fountains ’cause they insist on taking showers and breaking the rainbows!”
The girl was grinning from ear to ear. “That’s a LIE!” she giggled. “That’s BAD!”
Albert laughed. “You got me,” he said. “But I do promise to keep 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?”
Meg nodded, still smiling. “OK,” she said.
Albert walked away, but he kept glancing back over his shoulder. He wished he had a little person just like Meg in his life, a little granddaughter, but he knew it was not to be. As he resumed his work, a single tear rolled down his cheek as the little girl reminded him of his own granddaughter and the tragic accident that had taken her life.
Five years ago, Albert was a devoted police officer who had a strong passion for his work. Although at home, he was an affectionate husband, a caring father, and a doting grandfather, he loved nothing more than his duty. However, Albert’s life changed forever on a fateful day, which he often reminisces about.
The day was a pleasant Sunday in May, and Albert’s family was excitedly leaving for their long-awaited vacation by the sea in a neighboring city. Albert had taken a week off work to enjoy the trip with his loved ones. He still remembers his granddaughter Emily’s joyous laughter as she ran back inside to retrieve her favorite teddy bear, Chelsea.
Despite his excitement for the trip, Albert refused to relinquish the driver’s seat to his son-in-law Josh, who urged him to rest and enjoy the journey. Albert was determined to drive, but his plans were abruptly interrupted by a sudden call from the station.
“I’m on my way,” Albert spoke. “I have an essential lead for an investigation. You guys get going. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow evening!” he told his family. Emily was disappointed and longed to spend more time with her grandpa, singing songs and playing.
“Sweetie, grandpa will be there tomorrow. It’s just a day!” Albert reassured her.
As the minivan rushed past the gate, Albert and Emily blew countless flying kisses. Albert hurried off to work while looking forward to returning home in the evening. However, his world turned upside down when he received a call from the city station later that day.
An hour later, he found himself at the morgue in the city hospital. His heart sank as he watched four stretchers being wheeled out, with the last one carrying Emily. A car crash had destroyed his entire world.
“The minivan lost control and collided with a truck,” the officers explained, trying to console him. But for Albert, there was no solace. His family was gone, and nothing could bring them back. No more laughter, no more vacations, and no more hearing his little granddaughter shout, “Grandpa! I’m home!”
Albert couldn’t forgive himself. He kept thinking, “I should have driven the minivan. I shouldn’t have let Josh drive it.” He cried a million times, but nothing could change what had happened.
At the funeral, he lamented to his best friend, “I should have canceled that trip. I never should have let them go.” Placing Emily’s teddy bear, Chelsea, on her grave, he wept uncontrollably.
Days turned into months, and months turned into five years. The questions still plagued Albert, but he had learned to accept the harsh reality. His family was never coming back.
Albert couldn’t concentrate on his job. Being a cop, something he loved, now served as a constant reminder of his tragic life. He eventually quit and took care of the park, keeping himself away from anything that reminded him of his loss.
Albert wiped away his tears as a gust of wind snapped him back to the present. The evening sun stung his teary eyes as he scanned the park for the little girl. “Where is she??” he exclaimed, noticing that Meg wasn’t in her usual spot.
He frantically searched the park for Meg, but she was nowhere to be found. “Maybe her mother came to get her,” he thought to himself. Convinced that Meg had gone home, Albert finished up his work and headed back to his own home.
However, the next morning, when Albert returned to the park, he was surprised to see Meg sitting in the same spot, wearing the same dress, and clutching her teddy bear. He was taken aback.
“Good morning, little miss,” he greeted her. “What are you doing here so early?”
“My mommy never came,” she said forlornly. “She never came to get me.”
“What happened? Where did you go last night? Where did you sleep?” Albert inquired, concerned.
“At home,” Meg replied, burying her tear-streaked face in her teddy bear. She refused to meet Albert’s gaze and kept scanning the area for her mother.
Albert couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to Meg’s mother. “Hey there, I used to be a policeman. You can trust me, okay?” he said reassuringly. “I’m afraid your mother may have gotten lost in this big city. Can you show me where you live? We’ll find your mother, okay?”
But Meg wouldn’t budge. Her faith in her mother’s eventual return kept her rooted to that bench.
“Meg, I know you’re scared, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. You can trust me, alright? What’s your mother’s name?”
When Meg revealed her mother’s name to Albert, she struggled to pronounce the surname. Knowing he needed the full name to search for her online, Albert asked Meg to repeat it multiple times until he eventually guessed it could be ‘D’Cruz.’ He suggested they go to Meg’s home to find her mother, to which Meg agreed.
They soon arrived at a tarp tent located beneath a secluded bridge, which Meg pointed out as her home. Upon inspecting the tent, Albert realized Meg and her mother were homeless, and the tent barely had any belongings aside from an old mattress and camping stove. Although he initially considered the possibility of Meg’s mother abandoning her, something didn’t add up for Albert.
He asked Meg how long they had been living there, to which she replied, “a few weeks.” Meg recounted how they once had a big house, but men in uniform had come and thrown their belongings out after her mother didn’t give them money. This prompted Meg’s mother to bring her to their current location.
Despite searching the tent for clues, Albert couldn’t find anything that would lead him to Meg’s mother. He asked if Meg had her mother’s photo, but she said she didn’t have it as it was with her mother.
Albert was unsure of what to do next. “I can’t leave the girl alone here,” he thought to himself. Before he could decide on a plan of action, Meg spoke up.
“Can you take me 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 didn’t know what to do but ultimately agreed to take her back to the park. Once they arrived, he sat her down on a bench. Knowing that Meg hadn’t eaten all day, Albert offered her his lunch.
“Mommy told me not to eat from strangers,” Meg said hesitantly, but the smell of the pie was too tempting to resist.
“It’s really good. If you don’t want it, I’ll eat it all,” Albert joked. Meg finally took the lunchbox and began to eat the pie.
As Meg ate, Albert continued with his work nearby. Hours passed, and as the sun began to set, Meg’s mother still hadn’t arrived. Meg burst into tears, and Albert’s heart ached for her. He couldn’t bring himself to leave her alone again.
“Would you like to come home with me tonight? We can come back tomorrow and wait for your mother together,” he offered.
Meg agreed, and they went to Albert’s home. Once there, Albert contacted his former colleagues in the department for help in finding Meg’s mother.
“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 relayed the information he had gathered from Meg.
However, Meg’s descriptions of her mother’s name and appearance were vague, and Albert could only make out a name and surname using Meg’s broken spellings. He wasn’t sure if it was correct.
“When will mommy come?” Meg asked Albert, with a worried look on her face.
“I’m not sure, sweetie,” Albert replied, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “But don’t worry, we’ll keep waiting for her.”
Meg nodded, still looking uncertain, and went to change her dress as Albert had suggested.
As Albert prepared dinner, Meg ran around him, laughing and humming along to the music playing on the gramophone. Albert couldn’t help but smile, enjoying her company.
Later that night, Albert was on the phone with his colleagues, trying to find any leads on Meg’s mother. He was getting more and more anxious as time passed and there was no news.
“No luck so far,” one of his colleagues said, sounding disappointed. “We’ll keep looking, though.”
Albert hung up the phone and let out a deep sigh. He didn’t know what to do next.
The next morning, he woke up in his armchair, feeling stiff and exhausted. He quickly checked on Meg and was relieved to see she was still asleep. He got up and started making some coffee.
As he sipped on his coffee, Albert realized that he couldn’t just wait for the police to find Meg’s mother. He needed to take matters into his own hands.
“I’m going to find her,” Albert said to himself. “I don’t know how, but I’ll do it.”
Every day, Albert brought Meg to the park and seated her in the exact spot where her mother had last left her. While he searched for the missing woman, he asked his friends to keep an eye on Meg. However, he realized he couldn’t balance work and the search, so he took a few days off.
Albert’s first step was to visit every homeless shelter in the city and neighboring towns, asking almost everyone he met if they knew someone named Candy D’Cruz. He also checked with every office displaying a “We’re Hiring” sign and searched several refuges, but his efforts proved fruitless. He even looked at social media and showed Meg photos of women with similar names, but none of them was her mother. Despite checking every street and traffic camera near the park, Albert found no clues.
Despite a month passing with no success, Meg refused to give up hope and insisted on visiting the park daily, waiting for her mother from morning to night.
One rainy morning, Albert suggested that they skip going to the park, but Meg was determined to wait there. They took a longer bus route to avoid walking in the rain, and while passing one station, Meg suddenly shouted, “There she is! There is mommy!”
Albert was surprised and asked where. He feared Meg might have confused someone else for her mother, but he still asked the driver to stop the bus.
As soon as the bus stopped, Albert quickly helped Meg off and began scanning the women in the vicinity. “Where is she?” he asked urgently.
Meg tugged at his arm and pointed to a nearby billboard, shouting, “There…that’s my mommy!”
Puzzled, Albert asked, “Where? Which one?”
Meg pointed to a photo on the billboard and exclaimed, “There…the second from the left…she’s my mommy!”
Albert was shocked to learn that Meg’s mother’s name was Cadence, not Candy, and read the words on the billboard out loud: “Do You Know Me? Please Call On This Number.”
“What is written there?” Meg asked.
“It’s an advertisement for missing people,” Albert explained.
“What is that? What does it mean?” Meg asked again.
“It means we’re going to find your mother!” Albert declared, lifting Meg up and carrying her as he dialed the number on the billboard.
“City hospital,” the attendant answered. “Yes, she was admitted here.”
When they arrived at the hospital, they were told that Meg’s mother had already been discharged. Meg began to cry, asking, “Mommy has gone? Where did she go?”
“Sweetie, hold on…one second,” Albert said, trying to comfort her. He then asked the nurse, “How did she come here? What happened to her?”
“She was brought in with a severe head injury over a month ago. She suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused amnesia,” the nurse explained.
“Where is she now? We want to see her,” Albert asked.
“She needed expensive treatment, and nobody came to claim her, so she was discharged last week and sent to a homeless shelter,” the nurse replied.
Fearing that Meg’s mother might be lost again, Albert rushed to the shelter with Meg in tow.
Meg held tightly onto Albert’s little finger and scanned the room for her mother. As soon as she spotted her, she darted towards a bed in the corner as fast as her little legs could carry her.
“MOMMY!!” she cried, running towards Cadence. “Mommy, where did you leave me and go?”
As soon as Cadence saw Meg and heard her call out to her, she recognized her daughter from the photo she had and burst into tears. “I don’t know, sweetie,” she said.
Albert was moved by the reunion and speechless. He interrupted their moment to speak, “You need to come with me.”
“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 to his home and offered to let her stay as long as she needed. He spent all his savings on her treatment. It took several months before Cadence could recall some crucial moments of her life, but being around her daughter helped her to a great extent. Eventually, she remembered everything. Albert was curious to know how she had hurt herself.
Cadence shared her story with Albert, “My husband had mortgaged our house. I was not able to pay the loan after he died in an accident. Our house was taken, and then I rented a small room with my daughter. I lost my job, and my landlord kicked us out for not paying rent.”
Albert felt sorry for her, “I can’t imagine how tough that must have been for you.”
“It was a nightmare,” Cadence replied. “After I was stranded on the street, I couldn’t find a job almost immediately. I didn’t want Meg to live in a shelter for the homeless, so we temporarily camped in a tarp tent under the bridge.”
“But how did you get hurt?” Albert asked, noticing the sadness in her eyes.
Cadence recalled the day she had her accident 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.”
“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’re safe now,” Albert said, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “And I’m really happy Meg found you. She missed you so much.”
Cadence and her daughter lived with Albert until she found a job. A few months later, she met Frank, a widower with two children, and eventually married him.
Cadence and Meg moved into their new house and were always thankful to Albert for his help. He was happy for them, but he knew he would miss Meg terribly. “You know you can always come to visit,” he said to Cadence.
Time passed, but Meg and her mother never forgot Albert. They became a part of his family and constantly visited him on the weekends. Every summer, they even vacationed together by the sea.