The Little Girl Found
An old couple come across a traumatized young girl who has no recollection of who she is. Slowly the tale unfurls.
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They had been in the habit of going for morning walks for the past decade, but it was the first time that something like this had happened. When Mr Jatana had settled in this small, quaint hilly town ten years ago with his wife, it wasn’t easily accessible by road, and had nothing to recommend it to the gaze of the tourists. This had gradually changed, and now their refuge was witnessing an increasing influx of travellers who were bitten by the wanderlust bug and wanted to explore the lesser-known regions. These travellers were mostly young bag-packers who wanted to hike and camp. They generally stayed the night here and were never seen again, probably because they had moved on to the nearby areas which were supposed to have better views as well as better amenities. The couple didn’t mind these young bag-packers but, of late, these people had become more and more careless. They would litter the pristine meadows where they camped with plastic water-bottles, discarded food packets and once, someone had even left an entire tent behind.
Perhaps that was the reason for Mr Jatana’s anger when his wife pointed out a yellow plastic covering lying in the bushes a few feet below the road. When they reached closer, they had realised that there was a human form lying under the yellow plastic sheet. It seemed to be a girl of no more than twenty years of age. She was huddled under the plastic but was not unconscious as they had first thought her to be. They had both been very cautious in approaching the girl lest they scare her, but she had simply seemed grateful upon seeing someone come to help her. There was no doubt that the girl had been in some kind of an accident.
Of course, they had brought her home with them. She could not tell them who she was, where she was going and what had happened to her. She was miraculously unhurt on the outside but was shaken and unsure, almost on the verge of tears. Not being able to remember who you are, leave alone how you came to be lying in the bushes will do that to you, thought Mrs Jatana, as she handed the girl a steaming cup of chai and took another for herself from the tray that Mr Jatana had just carried in from the kitchen.
The girl cradled the cup between her palms but did not take a sip. As Mr Jatana sipped his tea, he could almost see the wheels churning in the girl’s mind. Should I trust them, she seemed to be thinking. Mr Jatana sighed. If a respected retired couple couldn’t be trusted by a young girl they had just saved, what was this world coming to? “I think we should go to the police, Jatana ji,” Mrs Jatana broke the silence. Her gaze was directed at the girl even though her words were addressed to him. Was it just her imagination, or had the girl trembled a bit at the mention of the police?
“I’m not sure, Mrs Jatana,” Mr Jatana said thoughtfully, “but perhaps you are right. Given that you remember nothing about what happened or who you are, we have no option beta but to involve the police.” He looked at the young girl as he spoke the last bit.
The girl seemed even more troubled at his words. She kept her untouched tea on the table, covered her eyes with her hands and started to gently shake back and forth on the sofa. Mrs Jatana made to get up to sooth her, but just then the girl stopped. She was not crying, but her eyes reminded them of a deer that had once ventured in front of their car. They had managed to avoid hitting it, but the panic and confusion of the deer’s eyes had haunted them for days. The girl’s eyes had the same look.
“I know you are right, uncle,” the girl finally spoke, “but I am scared. What if nobody comes forward to claim me? What if I don’t belong to this place and was the victim of an accident? What if…what if I am sent to an orphanage?” She seemed on the verge of tears but bit her lip and continued before Mr or Mrs Jatana could tell her that she was imagining the worst, that nothing of this kind would happen. “Will the police even try that hard to find my…my family? Please uncle, please aunty, can I stay with you for a few days? Inform the police but please don’t leave me in their care, please, please?”
The elderly couple seemed moved by her words and looked at each other. Mrs Jatana said, “Okay beta, we will do that. Uncle will call the police soon. But drink your tea and perhaps have something to eat before they arrive.” The girl’s relief at these words was visible. She sank back in the sofa as she nodded gratefully and began sipping her tea.
It took her less than a minute to become limp. Mrs Jatana leaped up and took the cup from her before a single drop of tea could be spilled on their expensive new sofa. She then turned to Mr Jatana, who looked rather contrite. “This was careless of you, Mr Jatana. How did she manage to get away from the basement? Thank God, the drugs we gave her yesterday were so potent that her mind was still blank, and that we discovered her before anyone else. If this happens again, we will be out of this business and see the insides of a jail. Come on now, give me a hand in lifting her. My back is not what it used to be ten years ago.”