The little girl stood outside the church dressed in a green velvet gown, and carrying a white furry muff to keep her hands warm. On her feet she wore white boots. Long blonde hair showed beneath a fluffy white hat. A warm red cape covered her shoulders.
She was hesitant about walking up the steps to go inside the church. She knew her father was there with his family. She had never met him. He had left her mother many years ago, not wanting to be a father when he found out that he was about to become one.
Janey had nobody now. This morning, when she awoke, she found her mother lying on the kitchen floor and she wasn't breathing. She had dialed 911 and an emergency crew had come and taken her mother away. One of the men had asked Janey if she had someone with whom she could stay. Janey had heard the horror stories of foster homes so she had lied and said yes.
After they left, Janey got dressed in the clothes her mother had bought for her at a thrift store so she would have something festive to wear for the holidays. She carefully combed her hair, and then she went to confront her father.
Now she was afraid. Inside the church, she realized he would be sitting with his wife and Janey's younger half-brother and half-sister. She wondered if he would accept her into his life or turn her away. As she hesitated, a kind woman came along and took her hand and led her into
Janey recognized her father from an old picture her mother had kept on the bedroom bureau. There was an empty space on the pew where his family was seated. She cautiously headed in that direction and sat down.
During the church service she kept glancing at the man, wondering how she should bring up the subject of her prediciment. When the service ended and her father's family got up to leave, she followed them out to the refreshment table. She approached her father and smiled at him.
He smiled back, not knowing he was smiling at his daughter.
"I need to speak to you," she told him.
"What is it you need little girl?"
"Please, could we talk alone for a moment?"
"Well, I am with my family. You are welcome to sit with us and discuss whatever you think you want to talk about."
"But sir, I am your family too."
An expression came to his face that made her think he had noticed the resemblence to someone from his past. "Are you Janey?" he asked.
"Where is your mother?"
"The ambulance took her away this morning. She won't be coming home." Tears began to roll down Janey's cheeks.
"Janey, can you go to your grandparents' home?"
"No sir, they both are gone. I have nobody."
The man was nervous. How could he explain this pretty little girl to his wife and children? But he had grown up a lot over the years, and he knew he could not abandon her as he had done some years back. He invited her to come home with his family so they could sit together while he explained the situation.
His children were excited to have a big sister. His wife was somewhat reticient. This was quite a large secret he had kept from her, and she wasn't at all sure she wanted another child to take care of.
Janey could see that she might not be accepted and started to cry again. It looked like she would have to go to a foster home afterall. She got up to leave. But she was far from her apartment and noone would be there, she reasoned.
Her father stopped her. He looked at his wife and told her that he was bringing Janey there to live, and that she, his wife, would just have to accept the situation.
His wife reluctantly relented.
Janey and her father drove back to the small shabby apartment that she and her mother had shared for so many years. She cried when she realized she would never see her mother again, but she gathered up her toys and clothes and put them in plastic grocery bags.
Janey's father made arrangements with the apartment manager to send the rest of Janey's things to the Salvation Army, and after that, Janey and her father drove back to his house.
Janey was given a cot in the den to sleep on because there weren't any spare bedrooms.
Janey vowed, in her ten year old way, to make herself useful and not be a burden to her stepmother. She helped with the dishes, she helped to clean house, and whatever else needed to be done.
Christmas Day, Janey awoke to find the family gathered in the living room around the Christmas tree. She had no presents for anyone, but there was a present for her. A shiny new bike with a red bow! She had never had such a splendid present.
After the holiday break, Janey's father registered her at the neighborhood school. It wasn't long until Janey had new friends. Her stepmother began to realize what a help Janey was with the chores and with the other children. Janey was not a burden; Janey was an asset.
© Sharon (Sunyskys1943@aol.com)