A 5-year-old girl was crying at home, waiting for her mother to return from grocery shopping, when she heard a knock on her door. She rushed to the door, expecting to see her mother, but it wasn't her mother who had come to the house.
When Joan Miller's husband divorced her and walked away from her life, she did her best to raise their daughter Ella alone. Ella was just 4 that time, and while she didn't really understand why her daddy just left one day and never returned, she was happy that she had a mother with her who loved her and cared for her.
Joan was a school teacher at Foothill High School in Manhattan, New York, and she was as popular among the students as she was among the staff members. She was a wise, kind, empathetic, and open-minded person, so she was labeled as the "cool teacher" by her students, and their visits to her house every Christmas and on New Year had almost become a ritual.
One evening, when Joan was leaving home for grocery shopping, she decided not to take Ella with her because it was extremely cold outside and the little girl had recently fallen sick. "Ella," she said. "Mommy will be back soon from grocery shopping. Since Mrs. Hall and her family are on vacation, there's nobody at her home, so until mommy comes back, don't go anywhere, okay?"
"But mommy," Ella cried. "I want to come with you. I don't want to stay home alone."
Joan smiled at her. "It's freezing outside, honey, and if you listen to mommy, she'll get your favorite cookies and chocolates! Also, how about pizza for dinner when mommy gets home?"
"Pizza? Promise?" Ella asked cheerfully.
"Yes, Ella. Make sure you don't leave the house while I'm away, okay?"
"Okay, mommy!" Ella said as she waved goodbye to her mother and closed the door behind her.
Ella agreed to stay back after Joan convinced her | Photo: Pexels
When Joan left the house that evening, it was snowing heavily, and it was already 7:30 p.m. by the time she arrived at the supermarket. It took her another 30 minutes to finish the shopping, and when she returned to her car to drive home, there was a sudden announcement about a snowstorm hitting their place. Joan, worried about Ella being alone at home, now didn't know what to do.
Strong winds carrying snow were already sweeping through Manhattan, forcing pedestrians to flee to the nearest store for safety, and some vehicles had come to a halt as their windshields were completely covered in snow, reducing visibility to zero. But Joan decided she'd have to take the chance.
Almost 2 hours had passed since she'd left home, and she knew Ella would be scared alone at home. So she accelerated the car and drove as fast as she could, but as she was taking the first turn after the supermarket, she failed to notice the car approaching her, resulting in a massive collision.
Back at home, Ella was busy watching TV and didn't realize when two hours had passed. It was only when her stomach started making noises due to hunger that she realized Joan wasn't home yet.
Joan got into a car accident on her way back | Photo: Pexels
Joan had left a spare phone at home to call her in an emergency, but when Ella tried to reach her, the call did not connect because network services were down due to the bad weather. In the end, she didn't have any option besides waiting, but when another hour passed and Joan didn't arrive, Ella began crying. "I'm hungry, Mommy," she sobbed. "Please come back soon."
After a while, Little Ella went to her room and brought her doll to the living room because she was afraid to wait alone. "Lily," she said softly to the doll, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Mommy is not coming home. I'm scared."
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Ella wiped her tears and ran to the door, jumping in happiness, "Mommy! You're back!" But when she answered the door, she was baffled.
"Hi, Ella! I'm Catherine. Can I please come in?" A young girl introduced herself.
"I'm sorry, but mommy is not at home," Ella replied. "She told me not to talk to strangers. I can't let you in."
Ella met Catherine | Photo: Unsplash
The young girl sat down on her knees to face Ella and said, "Your mommy is in the hospital, Ella. She couldn't come home on time, so she sent me. I am one of her students." Catherine showed Ella a picture she'd taken with Joan one day in school.
"But mommy…" Ella frowned. "What happened to mommy? Is she sick?"
"How about we have something to eat first and then talk? I got some delicious pizza for dinner."
"Okay," the little girl replied, and Catherine followed her inside. She made Ella sit at the dinner table and arranged plates for the two of them.
"I don't want anything. I want mommy back. Will mommy be okay?" Ella asked with a mournful expression as Catherine served her a slice of pizza.
"Yes, Ella," Catherine said. "The doctors are looking after her, and tomorrow morning we can go see her. But won't your mommy be sad if you don't look healthy and happy? And kids should never skip meals! Finish your dinner fast, so you can go to bed early and wake up on time to see mommy, okay?"
Ella's lips tilted into a smile, and she reached for the pizza slice. "Can you read me a story before sleeping?"
Catherine read Ella bedtime stories | Photo: Pexels
That night, after Catherine fed Ella, she helped her change into nightclothes and read her a story from her storybook. The next morning, when Ella visited Joan at the hospital, she couldn't stop talking about Catherine. "Mommy, Catherine looked after me just like you. Can she stay with us? She read me stories too!"
Joan and Catherine burst out laughing. "So, did you thank Catherine for looking after you when I wasn't at home, Ella?" Joan asked.
"Oh, no! I forgot! Thank you," Ella told Catherine with a smile.
"It's okay, Ella," Catherine said. "By the way, I'm going to spend some more time with you until your mom gets well. Doctors have said she'd need to stay in the hospital for a while."
"Now, can you please wait outside for a while, Ella? I need to talk to Catherine about something," Joan said.
Ella obeyed her like a good girl and walked out of the room. Joan turned to Catherine and motioned her to sit beside her.
Joan was hospitalized after the accident | Photo: Pexels
"Thank you for taking such good care of Ella, Catherine," she said, holding her hands. "Fortunately, I had a diary in my purse with your phone number written down under emergency contacts because you live close to my house, so the cops could easily find a number to contact, and they called you after I was rushed to the hospital with the help of a passerby. They left a while back, and I believe after getting discharged, I'll have to meet them and get done with some formalities as I was responsible for the crash. Please take care of Ella until then."
"It's fine, Mrs. Miller. I have no problem taking care of Ella. She's a really sweet girl."
"But please don't miss classes because of me. I'll tell Ella's class teacher to arrange the school bus for her for a few days, and after you return from classes, you can stay with her."
"Sure, Mrs. Miller. Take care of yourself and get well soon."
After leaving the hospital, Catherine dropped Ella off at her school and then went for her classes. After she returned, she spent time with Ella, helping her with her homework, baking cookies with her, and reading her bedtime stories at night.
Almost two weeks passed like that. When Joan returned home, she was still using crutches, so Catherine helped her around the house. One day, Todd, Catherine's father, came to see Joan after Catherine informed him that her teacher was ill.
Todd was a single father and widower who was frequently away on business, so Catherine stayed with her grandmother. After meeting Joan that day, something clicked between the two, and he began paying frequent visits to her home with Catherine. With time, he fell in love with Joan, and the two decided to get married. Ella was overjoyed when she found out Catherine would become her sister, and they are now a big happy family.
Todd and Joan got married | Photo: Pexels
What can we learn from this story?
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