Rose kissed each little face as it passed her to go to bed. The children were tired and smelled sweet after their bath.
‘Can we have a story?’ little Anna asked.
‘Of course darling.’ Rose pulled the children’s favourite book off the shelf. The story spoke about mommy duck, daddy duck and their little chicks. Rose knew the children loved it because they didn’t have a family and it saddened her. Settling down surrounded by little ones, Rose read the story, smiling as her own chicks fell asleep one by one. After she had covered them all, Rose crept down to her room.
Rose pulled her shoes off rubbing her feet. Each day at the orphanage was different, trying and emotional but incredibly rewarding. The children were all abandoned. Some were adopted but had to pass Rose’s strict application system before she would release one of her flock to a family. She hated taking a child back once adopted but wouldn’t hesitate if she felt that the child was unhappy.
Little Anna was her favorite. No that wasn’t right, they were all her favorites, Anna just had a special place in her heart. She was tiny and shy, the type of child who should have had a home, family, a big brother. Rose gave her extra attention to help her thrive but Anna pulled into herself more and more each day. Rose was worried.
‘Anna darling are you ok?’ Rose asked. She waited until they were alone in the lounge, Anna sat on the spotless but well-worn green carpet reading a book. Looking up at Rose, her big eyes showed sadness and it broke Rose’s heart. She knelt in front of the child, taking her hands.
‘What is it Anna?’ 2 fat tears, plopped out of Anna’s eyes and her lip shook. Anna shook her head, unable to speak. Rose hugged her tight, determined not to let this angel be sad.
They rocked together on the floor until the little girl’s tears turned to hiccups and Rose’s apron was soaked. She took the little girls face in her hands and waited.
‘Why… why…’ she hiccupped again. ‘Why didn’t my mommy want me?’ Fresh tears poured down her face and Rose’s heart broke.
‘No. That’s not right Anna. Your mommy did love you.’
‘But she threw me away.’ Shocked Rose shook her head ‘No darling who told you that?’
‘Tyron, he’s in my class.’
Rose shook her head again and jumped up.
‘Come with me.’ Anna clutched her hand as they walked to the front door, going out into the cool evening. The porch led into a small garden haphazardly decorated with flowers. The children loved working in the garden and it showed. Rose turned to the little girl.
‘You see these 2 baskets?’ Anna looked.
‘They are baby baskets. The mommies that can’t keep or don’t want their babies put them in one of the baskets.’ Anna nodded.
‘These baskets look the same don’t they?” Anna checked and nodded again, not seeing any difference.
‘Well they are very different Anna, do you know why?’ She shook her head.
‘This basket’ Rose pointed to the one on the left ‘is for the children that weren’t wanted.’ She indicated the other. ‘This one is for the children that were loved and wanted but couldn’t stay with their mommies.’ Anna’s eyes widened, she stared at the baskets, then at Rose, too afraid to ask.
‘You want to know which basket you were in?’ Rose asked kindly taking Anna’s hands in hers. Anna held her breath, her big eyes shining with unshed tears.
‘You were in this one.’ She pointed to the basket on the right. Anna’s breath caught in her throat and her mouth dropped open.
‘I…I was?’ Rose nodded.
‘Anna your mommy loved you and wanted you but she couldn’t keep you.’
‘Why? I was little I would be good and not cry…’ More tears flowed and Rose hugged her.
‘Darling she couldn’t keep you. I don’t know the reason but it must have been a big one. She knew you would be safe here with me. I love you. From the second I saw you, I loved you. Your mommy gave me a gift.’ Rose pointed to the little girl’s chest and she rushed into her arms again.
‘My mommy wanted me but couldn’t look after me?’ Rose nodded, feeling tears on her chest again. ‘And you could?’
Anna stared at the baskets.
‘How do the mommies know which basket is the right one?’
Rose smiled. ‘This basket is under cover. So its shaded in the sun and the baby wouldn’t get wet if it rained or get cold from the wind. It’s also further to walk which means the mommy risks getting caught leaving her baby but she was willing to do it. Only a mommy who loves their baby would think about that before choosing this basket.’
Anna’s big eyes turned to Rose, she smiled, really smiled for the first time in ages.
‘I love you mommy-Rose.’
‘I love you sweet Anna.’
The little girl skipped inside and Rose watched her go with tears in her own eyes. Every child in her orphanage would hear that story at one time or another.