Anna lay shivering in the alley. She had to get up to help Mom; but maybe a little rest first wouldn't hurt. She adjusted the crumpled newspaper that acted as a pillow and curled up into a small ball. No. She had to get up; had to help Mom. But she was so tired. So, so tired...
Anna felt a presence around her; she awoke with a start and froze. She was supposed to be helping Mom. Someone was walking in the alley. She couldn't move right now. Anna held her breath, and tried to control the shivering, hoping whoever was in the alley wouldn’t noticed her. The footsteps grew closer, and she sensed a shadow falling across her. She braced herself for whatever was about to come. Anna felt something fall across her body. The cutting wind suddenly stopped rushing against her rough skin, and warmth began to fill her body. The footsteps faded away.
Anna reached for whatever was draped across her. A... blanket? If this person had a blanket, maybe... Suddenly wide awake, Anna leapt to her feet, ran to the end of the alley, and peered out. She saw a lone figure walking slowly down the sidewalk with something draped across his arm. She ran toward the figure.
"Sir? Sir? Mister?"
The figure turned. She held up the blanket. "Sir, did you..."
The man walked closer to her.
Anna, unable to restrain herself, ran towards the stranger and threw her small arms around him.
"It's my mom. She... she... Her friends..."
"Take me to her. What's your name, child?"
"It's okay, Anna. Can you take me to where you last saw your mom?"
Anna nodded and grabbed the man's hand. "It's the drugs. She took too much this time. I tried to talk to her, but..."
"Shhhh. It's okay, Anna. Just show me where she is."
The two walked in silence, Anna with the blanket wrapped around her frail body and sniffling occasionally. "Here," Anna pointed down the alley.
"Mom? Mom? Are you okay? Can you hear me?" Anna ran to her mom's crumpled figure and shook her. "Mom? It's me, Anna. Mom?" The man knelt beside her and Anna looked into his eyes. "Is she..."
The man silently picked up the woman's wrist and felt for a pulse. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1. "Yes. I'm here in an alley at..." The man ran out of the alley and up and down the street in both directions. "...between Fourth Street and Pine and Fifth Street and Pine. There's a woman and her daughter here, and the woman is passed out after an overdose on something. Please get someone here quickly.... The second alley after Fifth and Pine as you head towards Fourth Street, right by..." He ran back towards the alley. "...by the old Prime Time Brewery."
Anna lay by her mother. "Here Mom, you can have this," she said, laying the blanket on her. The man returned to the alley and handed Anna the last blanket, which was still draped across his arm. "It's going to be okay, Anna. People will be here soon to help your mom."
They soon heard sirens in the distance, and the two stood out on the sidewalk by the alley entry, waving their arms. The ambulance appeared around the corner and came to a stop, and they led the emergency workers to Anna's mom.
They got to work quickly, and one of them knelt beside Anna.
"Her name's Anna," the man offered.
"Anna," the Paramedic said, "Can you tell us what you mom took? It's very important so we know how to help her."
"She's always talking about needing her 'baby,'" Anna whispered.
"Marijuana," the man called to his partner.
Soon, the workers loaded Anna's mom into the back of the ambulance, as the man held Anna. "It's okay, Anna. I’m going to take you to my car, and we'll go to the hospital. They'll help your mom there."
Anna nodded and allowed the man to pick her up. As he loaded her into the car, Anna was no longer cold. In fact, her heart burned hot with something she never knew she could feel for a stranger. Was it... love? Could she really love someone she had just met?
"Yes," Anna whispered, as the man carried her into the ER. A strange feeling of peace fell upon her, as the sleep she fought earlier overtook her body.
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