The woman hurried along the path by the woods with her little five-year-old girl in tow, struggling to keep up with her mother’s long strides. The tall woman was a beauty. Her long, thick, jet black hair framed her perfectly sculpted face like velvet drapes. Her eyes were an intense shade of ice blue, something which her daughter had inherited from her. Combined with her slender figure, pale skin, and full, red lips, she wouldn’t have seemed out of place on a throne of ice, with a delicate tiara perched on her head.
But at the moment, there were pink patches of exertion on her cheeks. She kept checking the watch on her wrist every now and then, looking around herself furtively. She was sure that this was where the address had directed her, but her destination was nowhere in sight.
“Where are we going, mum?” panted the five-year-old Amora.
“I heard that there’s a lovely ice cream place somewhere around here, right by the woods. It’s magical. You’ll love it!” her mother replied.
“Yay! But mum why do we need our suitcases to go to the magic ice cream shop?” asked the little girl, referring to the trolley bags both she and her mother were pulling along behind them.
Amora’s mother’s lips curled into a small smile.
“You’ll find out soon enough, sweetheart. And tell you what, you can even put some ice cream tubs in your bag so you can eat it at home too!”
“Really? Then let’s walk a little faster! When are we going to get there?”
“Oh, I don’t know, honey. Mum’s a little lost right now. But we’ll find it, don’t you worry!” said Amora’s mother.
She was getting more frustrated by the second. Where was the darned place? Why did it have to be right by the woods? If she didn’t hurry, she’d miss her train, which would result in her missing her flight. And that was something she couldn’t afford. She had spent months planning this.
The two of them stumbled along for a while, with Amora’s mother occasionally glancing behind her to see if she was keeping up. According to her watch, she had little over an hour left to catch her train. And to top it off, it was a dull and cloudy day; the dense and rolling clouds were growing ominously darker by the second.
Amora’s mother knew she had to hurry and get out of here as quickly as possible, else all her hard work and months of planning would come crashing down.
After what seemed like an eternity, Amora’s mother heard something other than the faint rumbling of the thunder. It sounded like loads of children were laughing, crying, screaming, and creating a racket. Sure enough, a little further along, she spotted a large bungalow with a heavy iron fence around its perimeter.
From far off, it looked beautiful and majestic with the woods in the backdrop, but as she got closer, she noticed a lot of other things that she hadn’t from afar. The whitewashed walls had yellowed in many places and some of the paint had even begun to peel a little. Large sections of the iron fence had turned brown with rust. Amora’s mother could tell that the area around the house had once been a beautifully maintained flower garden – there were even several benches by the hedges in the front of the house. But neglect had caused the place to become run over by weeds and wildflowers, giving the place a slightly wild look.
The place sure did look like all the photos that Amora’s mother had seen online, albeit a little shabbier. But the writing on the rusted iron arch above the huge gates confirmed that she’d found the right place.
Mr. Woods’ Home for Orphans.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
Amora’s mother had less than forty-five minutes to catch the train.
“Mum, my legs hurt!” Amora whined. “Why is it so far away?”
“I know, sweetheart. I’m sorry. Why don’t you sit down and rest here for
a while?” Amora’s mother told her, leading her to one of the benches, making sure there was no one in sight.
Amora scrambled up onto the bench looking exhausted and panting heavily. Her hair was sticking to her forehead with sweat. Her mum knelt down by her side so there faces were at the same level.
“Now, will you wait here while I go and look for the ice cream shop?” Amora’s mother asked her.
“But I want to come too! I’m not tired anymore,” Amora replied, already beginning to climb down from the bench.
Her mother gently pushed her back onto it and said, “Mum’s got to find the shop first! And it may be quite far from here. I’ll go look for it then come and get you, alright?”
“But…” Amora began, pouting.
“Amora?” her mother said, looking at her sternly.
“Wait right here, okay? Don’t go anywhere, you might get lost. Amora, promise me you’ll wait here and won’t run away no matter what happens?” her
mother asked her, looking at her intently.
“I promise, mummy,” Amora said meekly.
Thunder rumbled. It still sounded distant but was a lot louder this time. Amora’s mum glanced up at the steel grey sky and sighed.
“Amora, it’s very important that you stay right here until mum comes back. But if it starts raining before I return, go to the porch of the house, alright? But you mustn’t go anywhere else. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, mummy. I promise,” said Amora, and help out her little finger for her mum.
“There’s my good girl,” her mother replied, smiling. She had thirty-five minutes left. She had to get started. “I’ll be right back with the ice cream.”
She got up and turned to leave when Amora said, “I love you, mummy!”
Her mother froze for a moment before turning back around. She crouched down and brushed Amora’s hair out of her eyes and looked intently into her blue eyes; her own eyes.
“I love you too,” she said, holding Amora’s face and kissing her gently on the forehead. “Pick out an ice cream flavor, okay?”
Amora watched as her mother walked away, happily dreaming about her sweet treat. Just before Amora’s mother went out of her sight, she turned
around to wave at her and yelled, “Stay right here!” Amora waved back.
Amora’s mother had less than thirty minutes now. She’d probably never make it. The moment she was out of Amora’s sight, she broke into a sprint.
Amora, being the good girl that she was, waited patiently for her mother to return. She waited. And waited. And waited.
But her mother didn’t return.
It went from late afternoon to late evening but she didn’t even get up to check out her surroundings, though she did flinch occasionally when the thunder rumbled, glancing up at the sky worriedly, wondering if her mum was okay. When it started to drizzle, Amora still didn’t move. She was frightened and the thought of asking help from people she didn’t even know terrified her. But when the rain got heavier and faster, she had no choice but to run to the porch of the bungalow, but she was too intimidated to knock.
The rain was coming down in torrents when Emanta, the warden, found the five-year-old curled up on the porch, soaking wet and fast asleep. Her cry of shock and pity wasn’t heard over howling wind. She bent down and carried the little girl inside, which was to become her home for the rest of her life.
Amora never truly became a part of the orphanage. It took her a long time to adjust to this new life but she never really fit in with the rest of the kids. She refused to be put up for adoption once she realized what that was. She’d scream and yell and put up a fierce fight saying that she couldn’t leave – her mum had told her to wait, she was coming back with her ice cream. That she’d promised her mum she wouldn’t leave. There were days on which Emanta would have to hold Amora for hours on the end and reassure her that she doesn’t have to leave, she could wait for her mother here as long as she liked. When Amora would declare that her mother was going to come back for her with ice cream from the magic shop, with absolute faith in her eyes, Emanta didn’t have the heart to tell the innocent, wide-eyed girl that her mother was never coming back.
As she grew older, even after she found out there wasn’t and there never had been an ice cream shop near the woods, it was a long time before the threads of suspicion began to creep into Amora’s heart, but every time, she’ would convince herself that she was being stupid; of course her mum was coming back! She had asked Amora to decide on an ice cream flavor! Why would she have done that if she didn’t mean to return? Something terrible must have happened which prevented her from coming back.
Maybe she had gotten very lost. Maybe she met with an awful accident so she just needed time to recover. She would come looking for her daughter the second she was back on her feet. And when she did, Amora would be there to greet her. So she kept waiting.
From that day onwards, Amora became the girl who waited.