Photography is Laura’s first love, and she’s hired to photograph a bunch of school students one day when she meets a little girl who seems to hold secrets in her eyes. When Laura approaches her, the girl’s wounded fingers send chills down her spine.
Laura sighed as she sipped her wine and glanced at the photographs on her study room wall. The sunrise in the Sahara Desert, the neoclassical architectural styles of Athens, and Zurich’s ethereal beauty. Her pictures were her identity, her passion.
When Laura first married her husband, he was so in love with her art and interests. He wouldn’t stop telling her how she deserved to be a successful photographer one day and needed to focus on her career. But years later, things changed.
Now Laura’s passion was nothing more than a pastime for Roger. “Passion doesn’t pay bills, Laura! If you want to support us, you need to go out and make a living!” he would remind her.
Laura tried. She worked at a small private firm for a month but couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t her calling. It wasn’t photography, nor was it capturing the serene aspects of nature surrounding her. So Laura left the firm job and began accepting photography gigs for weddings and other social events.
Time ticked by, and Laura’s passion for photography never dissipated. But at times like this, when the wine started to kick in, she reasoned Roger wasn’t all wrong. She loved what she did, but it had not made her wealthy or famous. Was there a point in pursuing something that wouldn’t bring you recognition or money?
“Yes, there is a point,” a voice inside Laura’s heart said. “There’s a reason why you’re doing it, and you must not stop, at least not now.”
So brushing aside her worries for the millionth time since Roger stopped appreciating her talent, Laura returned to her laptop and resumed applying for part-time photography jobs, the wine glass now resting near the screen.
One job advertisement Laura came across that night was for photographing a bunch of school students. Well, I’ve never done something like this! It might be fun! she thought.
Laura uploaded her portfolio and all the required information, and the next morning she received an email that she would need to visit the school the following Thursday. A part of her wanted to tell Roger she was going to click school kids, something she’d never done before.
But she didn’t tell him. “Your story is only interesting to you, Laura. Not everyone will appreciate it!” she told herself, giggling as she finished her wine.
The following Thursday, Laura packed all her photography equipment, hopped in her car, and fed the school’s address into her GPS as she grabbed the steering wheel. A loud chattering of squeaky voices and the gentle breeze right outside the school gates made her smile as she parked her car and got down.
When we help someone in danger, we are indirectly helping ourselves.
It had been years since she had been around kids. Laura approached the receptionist and informed her that she was there for the class photographs. The woman directed her to a hall and asked her to wait.
“Alright. Thank you,” Laura told her with a smile before the woman walked away. Then she took a look around the massive auditorium. The receptionist had said the students would arrive shortly.
So Laura began setting up her camera and adjusting the lighting to ensure the pictures were flawless. As she looked into the camera for a test shot, she noticed a little girl, no older than ten, walking into the hall and taking a spot on the bench arranged for the photo shoot.
“Hey!” Laura smiled as she looked up from the camera. “I’m guessing you’ve come for the class photo! I’m Laura!”
The girl raised her head to look at Laura but said nothing. “Are you OK?” Laura asked as she approached the girl who was staring into her lap.
Laura crouched down to face the girl, and her smile faded when her gaze was fixed on the girl’s fingers.
There were fresh dark red bruises and cut marks on them.
The girl hastily hid her hands in her jacket pockets when she noticed Laura staring at her fingers. “I’m Allie,” she said softly. “Are you the photographer?”
Shocked and unable to comprehend how a young girl’s fingers could’ve been hurt like that, Laura blurted out, “Who harmed you? I mean, what’s wrong? Is there anything you’d like to tell me? Look, I know we don’t know each other, but are you in trouble?”
Allie shook her head, but Laura saw anxiety and pain in the little girl’s eyes. “Nobody hurt me,” she said. “I–I’m fine, Laura.”
“I saw your fingers, honey,” Laura said gently. “Would you please show me your hands again? It’s OK; I’m not going to hurt you.”
When Allie slowly removed her hands from her pocket, Laura’s eyes teared up. It was not just the girl’s fingers that were bruised.
Her palms bore scratch marks too.
“Allie, honey,” Laura said, composing herself. “Good, you’re a good girl. Thank you for showing your hands to me. Now, do you want to tell me something? You know, if there’s a really bad person around you? If they harm you? I’ll make sure they don’t hurt you anymore.”
Before Allie could respond, a stream of students and teachers poured into the auditorium, prompting Laura to return to her camera. Her heart, however, was still racing. She knew it wouldn’t calm down until she found out what was wrong with Allie.
Allie was stunning. Her golden curls and blue eyes made her look like a Barbie. She was so pretty that Laura imagined her as a model for one of her portraits. But why were Allie’s eyes so depressed?
A little girl like her should’ve been bubbly and chirpy. A lot of kids were also camera-shy and insecure in front of the lens, but Laura knew that wasn’t the case with Allie. The little girl was deeply anxious and terrified about something.
Laura knew it wasn’t right to pry into the personal affairs of a girl she’d only met minutes ago. But she was determined to help Allie if she was in trouble. Laura wanted to meet Allie’s teacher and ask if everything was OK with the little girl. But she was so preoccupied with the photo shoot that she couldn’t.
On her drive back home, Laura couldn’t get Allie off her mind. She wished she could tell Roger about her, but there was no point. He would brush it off as something created by her overthinking mind. “What a mess!” Laura sighed as she arrived home.
The next evening, Laura was in a park with her camera, capturing nature and the mothers and children playing around her. Once she was done, she strolled to an underground passage, which connected it to the city’s main thoroughfare.
As she walked out of the passage, a sweet voice and the sounds of someone playing the guitar rhythmically caught Laura’s attention. Wow! Who is that? she wondered. When Laura peeked into the passage, she saw it was Allie. The little girl wore a floral dress and was strumming her guitar.
“They all call me bad things…”
“Hey, Allie!” Laura waved to her, and Allie looked up. Then Laura’s phone started ringing, and while she was busy checking it, Allie just disappeared. Laura searched the entire place but couldn’t find her.
Was it all in her mind? Was she hallucinating? No, that wasn’t possible! Allie had dropped her guitar pick in a hurry, and Laura had found it.
Laura was suddenly worried about Allie again. She could sense something was wrong with the girl, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what. There was only one way to know, she decided. She was going to meet Allie again, and she would do it very soon.
The next morning, Laura drove to Allie’s school and told her class teacher she needed to take some shots of just Allie because her photographs had not turned out right. When they were alone, Laura noticed new bruises on Allie’s palms. This time, she would find out what was going on with her.
“Allie…” she said gently. “What’s wrong? How did you get those again? Look, it’s not about the photo, OK? I just wanted to talk to you and know if you’re OK.”
“I’m fine,” Allie said quietly.
“No, Allie, you’re not!” Laura said. “How can you be fine when you keep getting those bruises? You know, the cops can help you, and I can help you too.”
Allie didn’t say a word.
“Ms. Laura, are you done?” Allie’s class teacher walked into the room. “If yes, may I take Allie back to class now? We’re all waiting for her. We need to start the lesson.”
“Oh, yes, yes. Please,” she replied with a forced smile, and Allie was gone. Laura had lost yet another opportunity to solve the mystery of the bruises on Allie’s hands.
As she walked back to her car, a weird anxiety gripped Laura’s heart: What if she couldn’t save Allie from her miserable life? And out of that fear, an insane but helpful idea popped into her mind.
Laura waited for Allie’s lessons to end, and when she saw the girl leaving, she decided to follow her. She saw Allie enter a small but cozy house with white picket fences and a lovely garden.
Laura remained in her car, thinking about what to do next. Suddenly, she saw Allie emerge from the house wearing old denim overalls and holding scissors, then marching to the garden and pruning the rose bushes. Allie wasn’t wearing gloves, which made Laura realize how she got those marks and bruises.
Allie scratched herself due to the rose thorns and just brushed it off as if it didn’t hurt her and continued with the pruning. It was then Laura got down from her car and decided to talk to Allie. Why was a 10-year-old like her working in the garden right after returning from school? Were there no elders at home?
“You need to wear gloves, girl,” Laura said, approaching her. “Or you’re going to keep hurting yourself.”
Allie looked up at her briefly, then back at the roses. “What are you doing here?” she asked, her eyes fixed on the roses as she pruned them.
“Can I help you?” Laura asked. “You’re hurt.”
Allie’s eyes welled up. “Why would you help me?”
“Why not?” Laura asked sweetly.
“Because nobody wants to help me,” Allie said as she stopped pruning. “They all call me bad things…”
Allie nodded. “Everyone at school makes fun of me. They don’t want to be my friends.”
“Well, I guess I can be your friend then!” Laura said brightly. “Now, how about you give those scissors to me, and we get you some first aid? Are your parents not home?”
At that point, Allie couldn’t contain her tears. She began to cry as she shared her heartbreaking story with Laura. And before she knew it, Laura was crying too.
Allie’s parents had died years ago in a fateful accident. She was raised by her grandparents and, unfortunately, lost her grandma a year ago. Her grandpa was reeling over her grandma’s death, and he wasn’t in the best of health. He’d had a stroke and was now bedridden.
Allie was only ten years old, but she was wise enough to comprehend that she would be placed in foster care if her grandpa did not recover quickly. The pink, red, and yellow roses reminded Allie’s grandpa of his late wife and comforted him that his late wife was still with him in his heart.
When the flowers began withering, and no one cared for them, Allie had to take charge because her grandpa’s health was worsening. Allie was afraid of losing him. So she tended to the roses in their garden, which were planted by her late granny and gave her grandpa the strength to recover soon.
“Have you been taking care of yourself on your own?” Laura asked Allie as she performed the girl’s first aid.
Allie nodded. “I know how to cook,” she said. “And I found granny’s old instruction book. She wrote down rules about how to look after her plants.”
“What do you want to become when you grow up, Allie? A singer?” Laura asked with a smile. “You play that guitar, don’t you? Here, I found your guitar pick!” she said, returning it to Allie. “You’d dropped it the other day.”
“Thank you,” Allie said. “Music helps me. I don’t get bad dreams, and I don’t cry when I play the guitar. I also play it for grandpa; it helps him sleep. If I don’t play the guitar, I get very sad and lonely, Laura. I think of bad things too…”
Laura held Allie close and said, “You’re going to be OK, Allie. I will help you, alright? Everything’s going to be just fine.”
Laura realized Allie was depressed. The grief of losing her parents and grandmother hadn’t gone down well with her. So Laura decided to help Allie and her grandpa. She began visiting them often, spending weekends with them, and tending to their garden.
Laura also took Allie to a therapist who helped the little girl heal. Then one day, a brilliant idea came to Laura’s mind. She decided to host an exhibition of the photographs she’d taken in Allie’s garden and invited Allie to sing at the event’s opening.
During the exhibition, Laura’s shots drew the attention of a wealthy businessman, and he offered her a $70K contract to shoot his mansion’s massive garden! Laura was over the moon! And that’s where things only started to get better for Laura and Allie.
Allie’s singing teacher was moved by her lovely voice and offered her the opportunity to record songs for their school performance.
Ten years from that day, Allie still can’t get enough of thanking Laura. She is now a successful singer, and her grandfather, who is much healthier, attends all of her concerts.
In some ways, Laura and Allie helped each other grow and heal. While Laura went on to make her passion her profession and slapped Roger’s taunts with her success, Allie could step out of the pain she’d been living in since losing her parents and become a successful singer.
What can we learn from this story?
When we help someone in danger, we are indirectly helping ourselves. Laura’s concern for Allie’s bruised fingers not only helped Allie but also helped Laura acquire inner peace and confidence in her passion.
Sometimes, extending a helping hand pulls a person out of misery. Allie and her grandpa have a much better life today, all thanks to Laura.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.