The storm began as I reached the store, lightning carving across an angry sky, thunder rumbling in answer.
The woman at the door, her eyes red-rimmed and bloodshot, freed a shopping cart for me.
Another flash, followed immediately by booming thunder, and the store lights died.
I returned my cart.
"Im sorry." the woman said. "You cant leave."
A white-haired lady, her topcoat bulging strangely, tried to slip out past her. The woman stopped her, too. "Security systems
electric. Til the powers back, no one leaves. Store policy."
Before I could argue, I heard sobbing. A small girl approached, tears on her face
"Whats the matter Hon?"
"My mommys gone."
I kneeled down by the little girl. "Your Mommy is gone. She is probably here in the store somewhere. Its okay sweet heart.
We will find your Mommy."
The little girl smiled up at me through her tears.
I took a tissue out of my purse to gently wipe her tears away.
"My name is Rebecca. What is your name." I smiled at the little girl.
"My name is Anna. Im four years old. You smell nice, Rebecca."
I turned to ask the store clerk if she remembered seeing the little girl and her mother.
The store clerk shook her head. "There are a lot of people that comes in and out. I have never saw the little girl before
" Do you have any flashlights? Can you get me a flash light?"
She got me a flashlight and some batteries. I took them and put the flashlight together. The flashlight was purple. I told
Anna that my favorite color was purple. She smiled and said, "Mine too."
I saw a man walk toward us. He said, "Maam, let me walk with you. It isnt safe to walk around here in the dark."
I gave him a funny look. I said, "I think that I will be OK."
"Maam, " he butted in. "It will make me feel much better. I would hate to see something bad happen to someone that is nice
and pretty as yourself."
I reluctantly agreed. The store clerk said, "Seth is all right. You wont come to any harm with him around. He isnt married
either." She smiled.
Seth picked up Anna and said, "Lets go find your Mommy."
As we walked through the store, Seth and I began to talk. He said "You arent around from here. Where did you come from?
"I m from a little town in North Carolina. I am a freelance reporter. I was passing through when my car broke down."
"Mommy and I move around. We really dont have a home or a daddy."
My heart went out to the little girl. A child shouldnt have to go through that. .
We walked through out the store, but we couldnt find Annas Mother anywhere. The lights came back on suddenly. I had to
blink several times to be able to see.
Anna yelled out, "There is my suitcase." She ran to it and brought it back to us. Seth opened the suitcase. There was a
doll, a change of clothes in it, and some papers. Seth took out the papers. Anna sat down to play with her old ragged doll.
I read the papers over Seth shoulders.
Seth looked up at me with tears in his eyes. "Well, what are you going to do?"
With tears running down my face, I said, "I dont have a choice; I fell for her from the first moment that I saw her." I
"I know how you feel." He smiled looking from me to Anna.
I leaned down to Anna. "Sweet heart, your Mommy wants me to keep you for a while. Will that be OK with you?"
"Yes, my Mommy said that you will let me live with you. That you will be my new Mommy. Are you going to be my new daddy,
too?" She asked.
Seth rubbed her head and said, "I think I might. do just that." Then he pulled us both in his arms.
None of us saw the young teenage girl slipping out the back door with tears running down her face.