© 2012 Terry

The story you are reading is fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are purely from imagination and are for pleasure and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locality is entirely coincidental.

I hope you enjoy this story. If you do please let me know.

It was her birthday. They were having a party later that day. Her mom said she had a special surprise for her, "Look after your brother till we get back."

Josh was your normal boy in every way. He liked all the usual, computers, DVD's, and video games. But most of all he loved being outside playing football or baseball. Josh loved his sister and really looked up to her. He especially loved her when she played outside with him. Margaret loved everything that girls do, but she was all tomboy when it came to her brother. Margaret grabbed Josh's hand and out the door they went.

Her torment wouldn't go away. Margaret was a good girl, at least she thought she was. Things had been fine until . . .?

She took him to the park and turned her back for a minute . . . just one minute. She loved her brother, she really did, but Josh had suddenly disappeared. While trying to find him, she heard someone shout, "There's a body in the lake." She panicked. She felt worthless. "A mistake!, that's what I am!" She ran, and ran, and ran. At 12 years old it seemed that she couldn't - just couldn't do anything right. Why couldn't things be like when she was little? When she was younger, her mom and dad would take her to the park, fun-fair, even the open-air pool. Now hope rested on second best.

After exhaustion took over, she slumped to the ground and cried.

She hadn't been home in two weeks and it showed. Her clothes looked more like dirty rags than the clean clothes that she was used to be.

The day seemed different, but how? The only thing that could change would be the amount of food she'd find. It was cold. Be-told it was getting colder. The light was fading as the night drew in. After walking all day she was getting tired. There had been more of a famine than a feast over the last few days. After searching through the trash and waste bins, the most she could find was a half eaten apple and a few slices of bread, mouldy at that, but she was beyond being fussy. It was December in Utah. During the summer months it gets warm, really warm. But when winter comes, it can get as low as minus 20 below. And it felt like that right now. If it wasn't for trying to find food and water, she'd have nothing to do. Lonely and cold, she just wanted to die. The alley was silent, a ghostly silence. She'd been walking all day; the weariness was making her so tired. She sat down on her usual step and leaned back into the doorway to rest and get some long awaited sleep. Hopefully, her last sleep. The nearest thing to comfort she had was an old blanket that she carried wherever she went. The blanket had seen better days. It was worn and had many holes in the fabric. But as people say, 'sometimes we have to be thankful for what we have - and beggars can't be choosers'. Looking out into the darkness there was an eerie silence. She longed for her suffering to end. 'Maybe this is what I deserve?' Her thoughts were like the night, 'dark'. As she bit into the half eaten apple, maggots crawled out, she spit out the contents and threw up what little weight was in her belly. While lying under her blanket, hoping for the night to take her, she heard footsteps. It went quiet, then the footsteps could be heard again. A shadow appeared near where she lay. This scared Margaret and she squealed.

A tiny figure appeared where she lay.

"Are you my family?"

Margaret held her hand to her mouth at the sight she saw. The boy could be no more than 7 years old. His clothes were hanging from his body. Even through the darkness she could see that the boy was dirty and unkempt. "Go away, I don't know you."

"May I sit down? I'm really tired."

"There's no room. Can't you see? I have no food. Now go away." The boy turned, tears glistened in his eyes. Walking away, he stopped and turned slowly. He looked at the girl. She looked again at the boy with a tinge of guilt. Looking at him, she could see that the boy was out on his feet. But she couldn't help him, she couldn't even help herself. The boy turned and walked away, quietly sobbing.

Margaret lay in her doorway trying to sleep. But no matter how hard she tried, sleep wouldn't come. It wasn't the cold that kept her awake - it was the guilt. How could she have been so unkind, cruel even? Risking what was her own bed, she went looking for the child. She went to places not safe to walk, let alone search. She looked in dumpsters, doorways, and even a church. As she was leaving the church, she looked toward the front. She wanted to pray, but no words came out. What could she say? Turning around, she walked from this sacred place.

The clock ticked and time went by. Walking back to her place of rest she heard crying. There in the alley was the boy she had turned away earlier. She walked to the boy and sat beside him. "I'm sorry, really sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

Looking at him with a face filled with concern, she leaned across and started stroking his hair. She then picked him up and started to rock back and forth, humming a tune, trying to make him feel better. Lying silent for awhile, lifting his head, he looked at her, tears still slipping down his cheeks.

She just sat, holding the boy, running her fingers through his hair. Using a finger, she wiped away his tears as they fell. He kissed her, then she started to cry.

"When I used to cry, my mommy would pick me up and tell me everything was alright, then give me a hug. It was nice."

"Don't be sad," she said as she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tightly. After trying to catch a breath, he asked her to let go.

Getting up, she held her hand out for the boy to take. He slowly grabbed her hand and she led him to her home - her doorway. It was odd. He seemed so at ease around her. After they sat down, she felt him shiver from the cold. She pulled him close enough so that his little body could get some heat from hers. Sitting there, she looked down at the boy. "My name's Margaret," she said with a smile on her face. "What's yours?"

"I don't know," he said with a look that had so much sorrow her heart felt like it had been taken away.

"Where's your mommy? Your daddy?" The boy started to cry. Tears streaked down his face. "Tell me what's wrong. Please."

"I don't know who I am." He scrunched up his face, then his mouth started to quiver.

Looking down at his feet, he started to speak. "I remember it was my sister's birthday . . ." Then he fell silent again. She was going to speak when she heard him snore. She held him and rocked him. 'Why', was the only thought she had. He looked so fragile, so soft. While he rested, she wondered how many times since he'd been out here had he relaxed, even slept. It was for sure he hadn't gotten any love.

Sometime later he started to stir. "Well, hi there, sleepy head." Trying to get used to his surroundings, he looked up, a smile came across his face, then he leaned back into her arms. Suddenly there was a rumble that sounded as loud as a lion's roar. She leaned back, pretending to be scared. They both laughed. "Will that attack us?" He giggled. She hugged him as hard as she could.

She only had the stale bread, but he could have it.

She dug out the bread and gave it to him. He took a bite then looked up at her. "Aren't you going to eat?"

"You eat it, little one. You need it more."

He put the bread down. "We both eat." How can one so young be so thoughtful? With that determined look on his face, she put the bread to her mouth and took a bite from it. He smiled, no, he seemed to glow.

They sat there keeping each other warm till first light. Then she picked up the blanket and prepared to move. "We'd better get you cleaned up." Taking him to the park, she ripped the sleeves off her dress to wash him. Dipping it in the lake, she started to wash his hands. He screamed blue murder. "If you're going to your sister's party, you have to look your best." Scrunching his face up again, but being a little trooper, he stood up straight and let her clean his hands and face. She dried him off with the blanket. "My now, there's a good looking boy." He smiled and pushed his chest out with the compliment.

She carried him for awhile, until he started to get heavy. She didn't know where they were going, but she knew she needed to find this little mite somewhere out of the cold.

She put him down, and holding his hand they started to walk. They'd been walking for what seemed like hours when she spotted an old shack. Quickly they ran to get inside from the cold. It was run down. In places the wood looked so dry that if you touched it, it would crumble right before your eyes. But inside was dry. There were chairs, a table, a bed, and even an old metal stove. Cobwebs hung from every corner. The dust was so thick that if you touched it, a mist formed right in front of you. There was cutlery, tin cups, and plates. She looked at the boy. He was staring around the place in disbelief. "It'll be warmer in here than outside in the snow."

Nodding, he sat down on the bed. The dust flew up into the air and made him cough and choke. She laughed. "It's not funny," he said, giving her a look that could turn black into white.

She pulled the chairs close to the table, so they could sit down. She had to put an old box on his chair so he could rest his head on the table. Even before he laid his head on his hands, he was asleep. She put her blanket over him to try and give him warmth while he slept.

She looked around the cabin for anything to eat and found some tins and some matches. Then she went to look outside the cabin for something that could be used to start a fire. Around to the side was a stack of wood covered in snow. It was wet, but she managed to get some that was dry. Taking it inside, she now needed something to start the fire. Spotting some old rags in the corner, she picked them up and nearly choked from the dust that was on them.

"What you doing?" Came a sleepy voice.

"I'm trying to get a fire started. Can you help me?"

He trudged over, waiting to be told what to do. Kneeling down, he kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks," he said.

"For what?"

"For being you." He leaned into her and gave her a hug and another kiss on the cheek.

They lit the rags and put small pieces of wood on top of them. The fire got going. . . but the smell. On the floor they sat as close to the stove as they could, getting as much heat as possible. After a while they lay down and drifted off to sleep.

She woke from a restless sleep to see the boy sleeping peacefully. Kissing the boy on the forehead, she walked away from the cabin knowing the boy would be okay, at least for now.

Not realizing how far she'd gone, she stood on the edge of the ridge looking down. It felt perfect somehow. The bottom of the canyon meant freedom. The light of the moon made the night so peaceful. Shadows danced to the sound of the wind. She heard footsteps, then shouting. Being caught by surprise, she started to lose her balance. She saw the boy running towards her as she fell over the edge. A thud, then silence, then all went black.

She felt someone grab her hand and squeeze, then a light was shining in her eye. She closed her eyes quickly and moaned.

"Bill, she's coming round." She heard a woman say.

Then someone grabbed her around her neck. She opened her eyes as tears fell on her face. "Josh!!" She shouted. "You're okay." She grabbed him and started crying.

He looked at her with the strangest look she'd ever seen. She didn't care. "Please, Josh, I need to breathe."

"Where am I?"

The doctor lifted Josh off the bed and looked at her, eyes so serious it hurt. "You're in the hospital."

"Hospital?" Then she remembered her hope of freedom. "Didn't even do that right." Josh gave her a puzzled look.

"How long have I been here? What day is it?"

"It's now Thursday. You've been here seven days."

With the confused look on her face, the doctor took Josh by the hand and led him out of the room. With mom and dad at either side she couldn't run. Now she was in trouble!!

"Why, Margaret,? Where have you been? Why did you run?"

"I'm a nobody, a mistake, I thought you'd hate me."

"Margaret, what are you talking about? You are somebody, you're our daughter. Your father and I thought you were perfect when you were born, you were never a mistake. As for hating you, we could never hate you, we love you. Why would we hate you?" She said with shock and disbelief, in equal measure.

"Josh!! Josh was missing, then there was the body in the lake?"

With a look of concern, dad pulled her into a hug.

"Oh, baby, you should have come to us first."

"I'm sorry," she said with tears in her eyes.

"I don't know how you ended up on the ridge, but luckily when you fell you hit a ledge. You banged your head pretty bad, but you're going to be okay. What were you doing on the ridge?. "Oh, God, no!!" Then he held her as tight as he could.

Mom took her hand and started to cry. "Why, baby, why?"

I'm sorry, I thought Josh was dead!!" Then she sobbed uncontrollably.

The door swung open. They all looked up. Josh jumped on the bed with a face splitting smile and wrapped his arms around her neck, "I missed you, sis." Then gave her a tight hug. A very tight hug.

"I missed you too, rug-rat." She said trying to breathe.

The following Thursday, Margaret was discharged. That got Josh excited and everyone laughed at his antics.

After the laughter ceased, Margaret would be going home to a very happy family.

'Happy ever after' is never straight forward. What our minds sometimes says is true is not, and because of this we make bad decisions based on these false truths.


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