The single father of a nine-year-old schoolgirl follows her out into the woods and discovers she has been keeping a whole secret life from him.
Peter West had been raising his daughter Beth on his own since his wife Dana had passed away when their little girl was just three. For Peter, his wife's death at the age of 28 had been a terrible blow and one he never quite got over.
Peter dedicated all of his generous and loving heart to raising Beth. At nine, she was the image of her mother, with all of her father's compassion and empathy. Peter's only worry was that the woman who cared for Beth after school had started complaining about her.
After a few weeks, Peter followed Beth into the woods. | Source: Shutterstock.com
"Beth is always late from school," Mrs. Muller complained. "Every single day she's late, and she always comes home all dirty! I'm getting too old for this job, Mr. West. At the end of the school year, you'd better find a new babysitter!"
Peter frowned. "I'll look into it, Mrs. Muller," he said, and that evening, he sat down with Beth and they had a talk. "Now Beth," he said seriously. "Mrs. Muller says you're always late home from school. What's going on?"
Sometimes love comes into our lives in the most unexpected ways.
"Nothing, Dad!" Beth answered. "I went to Gwen's because we're working on a history project together." Peter was relieved until the Parent's Night at school, where Beth's History teacher raved about the project she and Gwen had made LAST TERM!
Peter had raised Beth on his own. | Source: Unsplash
Now Peter was really worried. Beth had never lied to him before. He picked up the phone and called Gwen's mom who confirmed that Beth hadn't been to visit in over two months. So where was Beth going? Peter was determined to find out.
The next day, he didn't go to work and when Beth's school let out, he was outside waiting. He watched from across the street as his daughter left school and walked across the sports field and into the forest.
His heart pounding, Peter followed Beth into the forest. Fifteen minutes later, they came into a clearing where someone had set up a tent. There was a carefully banked fire outside.
Three pieces of wrought iron had been driven into the ground to form a tripod from which an old copper kettle hung simmering. Someone was living here in the middle of the woods. Then his daughter walked into the tent and walked out with his ax!
Mrs. Muller complained that Beth was always late. | Source: Unsplash
That was when Peter saw that to one side of the clearing someone had been putting up a wattle-and-daub shelter. Three of the walls were up and standing, and the third was well on the way to being completed.
Beth had walked into the woods again and came back with a switch of long willow switches which she began to strip efficiently. He was about to walk up to his daughter when a voice interrupted him.
"Beth," a feminine voice said. "Have some tea first before we start on the wattle!" A slim, petite woman about Peter's age walked out of the tent, walked to the kettle, and poured some tea from the steaming kettle into a battered tin cup.
"Who are you?" Peter blurted to the pretty woman, who was neatly but poorly dressed. "What are you doing with my daughter?" In her fright, the woman dropped the kettle and spilled all the tea.
Peter called Gwen's mother. | Source: Unsplash
Beth spun around and saw Peter. "Dad!" she cried. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm the one who should be asking that!" Peter said angrily. "You've been lying to me for months, Beth. What's going on?"
Beth flushed, then said bravely, "I'm sorry I lied, Daddy, but you wouldn't have let me come. This is Drew. She works at the school as a part-time janitor. She lost her apartment and was going to live in a tent in the woods behind the school.
"So remembered that week we spent in England last summer at that Medieval camp? And how they taught us to make wattle-and-daub walls? And I thought: I can make Drew a house -- and now it's nearly finished."
There was a tent in the clearing. | Source: Unsplash
Peter saw Beth's shining face and he couldn't stay angry. "Honey," Peter said gently. "You were worried about your friend, but you should have told me. Besides, Drew can't live here. There's no water, electricity, or sanitation. This is NOT the middle ages. Besides, this is government land. You can't just build here without a permit."
Drew and Beth looked at each other and Drew said gently, "I hadn't thought about that. Your dad is right, Beth. But don't worry, I think I can get a place at the downtown shelter when winter comes."
"Or," Peter said as a brilliant idea occurred to him. "You could come and live with us. We have a guest room with a private bathroom. Mrs. Muller is retiring and you could become Beth's babysitter.
Drew had been living in the woods. | Source: Unsplash
"And since you WORK at the school, you can make sure that Beth comes home on time. What do you say?"
Drew was smiling happily and Peter noticed that she was really VERY pretty. Beth threw her arms around him and gave him the biggest hug.
Two years later, Peter sat down and had a talk with Beth and told her Drew wouldn't be her babysitter anymore. She was getting a new job. Drew was going to be Beth's new mother.
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