The child sat on a frayed, dirty blanket, hidden by the stygian night and the shadow of the dumpster. Although it wasn’t terribly cold, she shivered and put her thumb in her mouth. Probably about four or five years old, her uncombed hair hung in tousled tendrils around a face which still had traces of baby fat. At each end of the alley, there was a busy, lighted street and she could hear the cars going by. However she watched only the door across the way, into which her mother had disappeared over an hour ago. Every now and then she gave a soft whimper; even in so short a lifetime, fear and hunger were familiar.
When the door suddenly opened, spilling a blue light, loud voices and music into the darkness, she looked up expectantly, and then shrank back as a man stumbled out, mumbling to himself. Weaving unsteadily, he searched in his pockets. The door behind him slowly shut, and as he found a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, the gloom and shadows returned. At the brief flare of the lighter’s flame, she moved slightly and the man lifted his head and looked in her direction. Although staring directly at her, he appeared to see nothing. Shrugging, he shuffled off down the alley and finally out of sight.
Maya - the child’s name was Maya - leaned her head against the rough side of the dumpster and closed her eyes, drawing what comfort she could from her thumb. With her other hand she fingered the fringe on the edge of the blanket and finally fell asleep.
A hand, smoothing back her hair, woke her and she looked up into a familiar face. Taking her thumb out of her mouth, she smiled with relief. Like a kitten seeking warmth, she leaned into the hand which now gently stroked her cheek.
The man who crouched in front of her was not big but he filled her vision and the night no longer seemed so dark. He reached into a pants pocket and pulled out a package of cheese-filled crackers. After opening it, he gave a cracker to Maya and laid the rest on the blanket next to her.
He watched her eat for a moment, and then turned his head to look at the closed door across the alley. Expressionless, he stared intently, as if he could see inside. Nodding to himself, he stood up and turned back to Maya, who, with crumbs around her mouth, was looking at him.
Smiling down at her, he said “I’ll get her for you.”
The small face immediately showed a fear and knowledge beyond her years and she grabbed his hand tightly, violently shaking her head no. Gently disengaging his hand, he placed it on her head and her agitation stilled.
“It will be alright, Maya. Don’t be afraid for me.”
She watched as he slowly walked to the door and opened it. The blue light again punctured the night and although the music was now muted, it had been replaced with fierce cursing and angry shouts. Maya cringed and placed her hands over her ears.
Two minutes or two hours – time had no meaning for Maya as she waited, never taking her eyes off the door. When it finally opened and the man walked out, she got up and lifted her arms in welcome. Bending down, he gave her a hug.
As Maya stood on the blanket, he took her hand and gently swung it back and forth.
“Little One, the Father loves you and that’s why I’m always near. There is no place I won’t go to keep you safe, no place will I be afraid to enter. That’s a promise.* Do you understand?“ Maya nodded.
When the door started to open, he laid his hand tenderly on her head in farewell and blessing, then turned and walked away into the night.
Maya watched him until she heard her mother’s shrill, cheery voice. She didn’t trust that voice, knowing from experience that the disturbing, temporary euphoria wouldn’t last.
“Maya honey, Mama’s here! You were alright by yourself for a little while, weren’t you, big girl? C’mon sweetie, let’s go home.”
Clutching her blanket in one hand, Maya longingly looked once more into the darkness into which the man had disappeared, and then hurried to follow her mother’s stumbling footsteps.
*Psalm 91:11 For He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee …. (KJV)
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.