A forester suspects something sinister when his food starts disappearing daily, and one day, he sees a shabby little girl hiding in the bushes outside his cabin. That chance encounter leads him down a path he never imagined and changes his life forever.
Abraham was a 43-year-old bachelor who tried everything to please a woman, yet nothing seemed to work. The first thing any lady he went on a date with would notice was his button-popping pot belly and bald head.
The string of rejections undermined Abraham’s hopes of falling in love ever again. Frustrated and disheartened with people judging his looks, he gave up his quest to find true love and focused only on his job. Abraham was a forester, and this job was his first love.
The rustling of leaves, the melodious songs of birds, and the tinkling symphony of cascading waterfalls filled his empty life. He ventured into the town only once a week to buy groceries. But otherwise, Abraham was happy to be all alone, surrounded by the woods and wilderness. However, one day, he discovered he was not really alone there…
“What’s going on? I…I just kept them here this morning, and they’re GONE?” Abraham muttered to himself when he realized two loaves of bread and canned beans were missing from the table in his cabin.
“Please don’t hurt me. Let me go,” she cried.
And not just that, when he checked the little wooden pantry, Abraham’s heart sank at seeing the near-empty shelves. The bacon, burger buns, his favorite meatloaf, sausages, and canned sardines—everything was gone!
“Weird! I thought I had enough food and snacks to last a few more days. I just shopped for provisions yesterday. Where did it all go?”
“Huh, maybe I’m miscounting! Darn…I’m getting older and forgetting things. Or maybe, I’m eating more, and my brain is shrinking!” Abraham chuckled.
But deep down, he knew something was wrong. He peeped outside his window to see any signs of monkeys or food crumbs. But nothing turned up.
Abraham brushed it off and went shopping for provisions to the town again.
“Hey, do you have more canned beans and sardines?”
“Sure thing! Lemme grab ’em for you. And hey, I don’t mean to scare you or anything,” said the grocer. “We’ve been hearing reports of bears breaking into people’s homes. You might want to be extra careful out there in the woods.”
“Bears breaking into homes here in town? Ah, that’s crazy! Thanks for letting me know, pal. I’ll be careful.”
As Abraham settled in front of the fireplace in his cabin later that night, he couldn’t shake the grocer’s words off his head. He watched the local news on his smartphone, and to his horror, grizzly bears were indeed breaking into houses and wreaking havoc in that part of the town.
This unsettled Abraham. He immediately barricaded all the doors and windows with wooden planks to keep himself safe from unwanted furry visitors.
The noisy night settled as owls hooted in the distance, and he fell asleep, waking up at random intervals to check for any sounds outside his cottage.
“Now that’s what I call a roast! Mmmmm…I’ll come back after my rounds,” muttered Abraham the following morning as he sprinkled pepper on a sizzling steak, its juices seeping out and filling every nook and cranny of the cabin with a mouth-watering aroma.
But when he returned a couple of hours later, he was stunned — the juicy steak was gone.
“What the hell is going on? Who stole my breakfast?”
Abraham then checked for the spare key he had hidden in a secret spot, and to his shock, even that was missing.
“An animal stole my cottage key to get in? That’s ridiculous! What am I even thinking? How can an animal—”
Just as Abraham cautiously looked around for traces, he heard a rustling sound in the bushes just a few meters from the doorstep.
“What is that noise? Did someone just break in?”
Abraham saw a silhouette of something diving into the thickets and hurrying away on all fours.
“Maybe it’s just an animal? But how did it break into my cottage and steal my food? And where’s the spare key?”
As Abraham bolted toward the bushes and parted them, he stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes bulging with horror.
“Hey, wait right there…STOP!”
As Abraham approached closer, he saw the sun-tanned face of a frightened little girl hiding behind her tangled locks. Her big brown eyes stared back at him in shock.
“Please don’t hurt me. Let me go,” she cried.
“Stay there! I won’t hurt you.”
But the girl was too terrified, and with each step Abraham took nearer, she stepped back, dropping the steak roast and bread from her grip.
“Please, sir. I won’t steal again. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. Please let me go…”
She reminded Abraham of the wild kid Mowgli from old storybooks. Her soft voice, tanned face, and tattered clothes raised several questions in his mind.
“Listen, child, calm down, alright? I won’t hurt you. Who are you, and what are you doing all alone here?”
The girl wanted to run. She didn’t want to trust Abraham. She was in a tough spot where she couldn’t trust anybody. But when her eyes met Abraham’s, and she heard his caring voice, she broke down.
“My name is Millie. My mama and papa died in an accident last year. I live with my Grampa. He fell down from a tree while collecting forest honey…Grampa is sick and is always coughing. He can’t walk and is in bed all the time…And we are hungry, and there’s no food at home.”
“So, is that why you come here every day…to steal food?”
With eyes downcast, the girl nodded.
“I was looking for wild berries to eat. One day, I saw you taking food inside your home. Grampa and I were so hungry, and the rain destroyed all the berries. Monkeys ate all the fruits here. I couldn’t find anything to eat. So I started stealing food from your house for Grampa and me.”
Abraham’s heart sank when he realized that the disappearing food from his cabin was not due to a thief or wild animal but a naive little girl trying to save her grandpa and keep him from starving.
He knelt to her level and said, “It’s alright, sweetie. Could you take me to your grandpa? I want to see him.”
The little girl led Abraham to her grandpa’s house, two miles north of the woods. As they stepped inside a shabby cabin, they were greeted by loud coughs from a corner.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. Your grandpa will be okay now. He’ll be in good hands,” Abraham comforted Millie when he called the paramedics.
The little girl looked up at him with big, hopeful eyes, and Abraham couldn’t let her go. When the ambulance arrived, he accompanied her to the hospital, staying by Millie’s side the whole time.
And at the hospital, he met a nurse who introduced herself as Grace. She was kind and gentle, with a warm smile that put Abraham at ease at the very first sight. His heart started aching for love for the first time in years, but he didn’t know how to profess his feelings.
Abraham began frequenting the hospital, feeling a sense of admiration for Nurse Grace. She was young, petite, and beautiful.
But Abraham, on the other hand, was completely devoid of the slightest sense of fashion. And the first thing to enter any doorway would be his pot belly.
He was drawn to Grace’s caring and compassionate nature and thought she felt the same way. But deep down, Abraham was nervous about taking things forward.
“What if she says no?” he panicked. “She treats me as her friend. How do I tell her that I’ve fallen in love with her?”
Abraham wanted to take Grace on a coffee date that day and open up to her, but fate had other plans.
“We’re losing him,” said Grace, disheartened, as soon as Abraham arrived at the hospital.
“The girl is sleeping in the empty ward there. Her grandpa asked me not to tell her if something happens to him coz she would be terribly hurt.”
Abraham dropped the red rose he was holding behind his back and bolted to the ward where Millie’s grandpa was battling with his last few moments.
When our loved ones die, they don’t really go away from us.
As Abraham sat by the grandpa’s bedside, holding his hand, he watched the man slowly depart from his worldly life. And then, the grave silence was broken by Grace’s soft cries. The heart rate monitor stopped beeping, and Millie had lost the only guardian she had.
“How are we going to tell her this?” Abraham broke down.
He felt a reassuring hand pressing his shoulder. When he turned around, Grace stood there, holding a small jewel case and an envelope.
“He left this for you.”
“Thank you for taking care of my little girl. I want you to accept this as a token of my appreciation. It’s an old family heirloom and the last treasure I had saved for my little angel. Please sell it and take care of her. When she grows up, tell her I loved her…More than all the stars in the sky.”
Abraham saw a beautiful vintage pocket watch worth a fortune inside the jewel case. It was made of glistening silver encrusted with rare stones and intricate engravings.
With a heavy heart and a painful sigh, Abraham pocketed the watch. And just as he was about to leave the hospital with Millie, two social service workers arrived to take her away.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Collins. But we cannot allow the child to stay with you,” said one of the workers. “You’re not her legal guardian, and she has to go to a group home.”
“Please,” Abraham pleaded. “There has to be some other way. I cannot send her away. She has lost all her loved ones. Millie needs a family. She needs a home. Please don’t do this.”
“No, sir. We can’t leave her with you.”
“Please, it was her grandpa’s last wish. Please don’t take her.”
The social worker looked at Abraham doubtfully, and just as she approached to take Millie away, a loud voice spoke up from the doorway, interrupting them.
“I think I can help with that.”
It was Grace.
“My late husband and I were licensed foster parents. I can take the girl in for a while until we figure out a more permanent solution.”
Abraham’s eyes refused to blink other than to force out the tears. And before he could say anything, Grace broke his silence.
“I’m okay with a simple church wedding!” she said. “And don’t forget to give me the rose next time. Don’t just throw it!”
Abraham shakily walked toward Grace and hugged her as tight as he could.
“Thank you…thank you so much, Grace. I love you!”
As they left the hospital with Millie, Abraham knew he had a lot of work to do. But before anything else came the most challenging part — Millie’s grandpa’s funeral and how the little girl would take it.
“You mean Grampa is with Mama and Papa? In heaven?” she cried, her tear-stained eyes staring right into Abraham’s later that night after her late grandfather was laid to rest.
“Yes, yes…sweetie. And you know what? When our loved ones die, they don’t really go away from us. You see all those stars in the sky? God has turned them into stars and placed them high above the sky to watch over us!”
“You mean, even Grampa is a star now?”
“Yes, sweetie! Yes! You see that big bright star twinkling over there. That’s your grandpa. And he loves you more than all the stars in the sky!”
Several months later, Abraham found a good deal for the pocket watch and sold it. With that money and his savings, he and his wife, Grace, built a cozy home in the woods, where they started their new life with their adopted daughter, Millie.
And every night, Millie would sit on the lawn facing the cluster of stars, waiting for her ‘Grampa’ to appear, bright and big, to blow him flying goodnight kisses.
What can we learn from this story?
Failure should not be an obstacle to pursuing a new beginning. 43 and still single, Abraham lost hope in finding love. He was a forester and started living in solitude all his life. However, fate had other plans and led him to his ideal love one day.
There can be no other forces as strong as true love and kindness. While Abraham regained his faith in love after meeting Grace, little Millie found a loving family after losing her only guardian, her grandpa. Ultimately, true love weaved the three different people together as one happy family.
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