A Familiar Stranger

Photo by Sue Vincent

She stood there gazing up at the Wishing Tree.  What was a little girl doing here in the forest all by herself.  She looked no older than ten.  Where were her parents?  He wondered if he should approach her.  Maybe she was told not to talk to strangers.  He didn't want to frighten her.  Suddenly she turned and saw him.  "Mister," she called.  "Could you help me to put this on that branch up there?"

He went over to her.  She was holding a pretty pink shawl in her hand.  "Why do you want to put it up there?" he asked.  "Why not on a lower branch, one that you can easily reach?"

"I want to put it high because it would be closer to heaven where God is."

Her simple answer warmed his heart.  He studied. She reminded him of someone.  "All right.  Show me which branch you want me to put it on."

She handed him the shawl and pointed to the branch.  "That one."

It was a bit high but he could reach it if he stood on tiptoe.  He took the shawl and tied it securely to the branch.  When he was done, he looked at her.  She was staring at the shawl as it stirred in the gentle summer breeze.  A satisfied expression was on her little face.  Again, as he stared at the thick black hair which framed a heart shaped face with enormous hazel eyes, he thought about how much she reminded him of someone he once knew.

She turned and smiled up at him.  "Thank you, Mister."

"You're welcome.  What are you doing here alone?"

"I'm not alone," she replied.  

"Where are your parents?"

"Well, my Mommy went to get a bottle of water from the car ."

"I don't like the idea of you being alone."

"I'm not afraid to be alone," she assured him.  "And Mommy's going to be back any minute."

"I think I will wait with you until she does."

She shrugged.  "Okay."  And turned away to look at her shawl on the tree.

"Madeline, how many times, I've told you not to talk to strangers," he heard someone scold behind him and they both turned.

His eyes narrowed when he saw a tall, slender woman with thick black hair striding towards them.  She stopped short when she saw him.  

"Mommy, this kind stranger put the shawl on the tree for me."

"Hello, Vanessa," he said, staring into her hazel eyes.

Vanessa swallowed hard, her cheeks suffused with color.  "Hello, Nathan."

His gaze shifted to Madeline who was looking from one to the other, like a spectator at a tennis match.  "So, this is your daughter?"

"Yes."

"She has your hair and eyes."

"And her father's coloring."

"Where's her father?"

She didn't answer.

Madeline spoke up then, "We don't know where Daddy is but I wished for him to come back."  She pointed to the Wishing Tree.

He looked at her and it was then that he noticed the birthmark on her arm.  It was red and heart shaped.  His face went pale.  It was exactly like the one he had on the back of his neck.  He turned to Vanessa.

"She has your smile too."

Little Madeline's wish had come true after all, although she didn't know it at the time.


I wrote this in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Wishes from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  

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