“Don’t cry, mommy…”

She was here just a minute ago. And now she’s gone.

I called out for my little girl. But got no response. She had a habit of hiding from me, whenever I left her alone even for a little while. I never understood that. I looked under the sofas, but I knew she wouldn’t hide anywhere that obvious. She was clever that way. I checked in the kitchen cabinets, but there was no sign of her there either. I looked out of the window, but couldn’t see her in the garden. She wouldn’t go there anyway, the wet grass bothered her. I didn’t look for her outside, because I was sure she wouldn’t go out. She never did feel comfortable out on the streets. She was never the adventurous type. Then I looked for her in her own bedroom, but she wasn’t there. I checked her favourite hiding spot in the wash basket, but she wasn’t there either. Now I was starting to get worried.

She’d usually giggle from her hiding spot, just for the fun of it. But today, I could hear no giggles. I’d looked in every room, and every one of her past hiding spots. She was only six. Where else could she hide?… I called her name again, and again. And then rechecked all the rooms. Seriously worried now, I ran to my room to call my brother. And just when I stepped in… I saw her, getting up from the very tiny space behind my bedside table. She was rubbing her eyes, and not looking at me. I called her name, she still wouldn’t look at me. She never avoided or ignored me. Circumstances hadn’t allowed her to. But she seemed lost at that moment. As if she was looking for something, but had just realized that she would never find it. My little girl looked so lost… I knelt in front of her, and forced her to look at me. She just stared back. It was a very mature look for a six year old. I asked her what was wrong, only to be met with silence once again.

I looked at her carefully for a long while… And then hugged her tight. I wanted to comfort her, to take away whatever was troubling her. She wouldn’t tell me what it was, she had gone mute. But I saw it. When I hugged her, I saw her hiding spot behind her. Behind the table, lay a picture frame. Her father. The little girl had hidden behind the table, and that photo had fallen on her. The photo of her deceased father. Tears rushed to my eyes. I hugged her tighter, this time more for my benefit than hers… I pulled back and looked at her again. The troubled look was no more there. She actually smiled at me, “Don’t cry mommy, I’ve cried your share too…”

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