After changing her uniform and putting on her sweater, Joy stepped out the back door. She thought she heard whispering. Joy stood there listening when she heard a small ping coming from the dumpster.
Joy moved cautiously and quietly closer when she heard a small child’s voice whisper, “Do you think she will throw some food away soon. I’m so hungry Daniel”
“Hush up Tina, or she will hear you. It won’t be long now, I’m sure.”
Joy’s heart broke at the sound of the precious child’s plea for food. Hurriedly, she walked back into the kitchen and asked Grace if there was any food, already cooked, that she could have.
“As a matter of fact, sweetie, we had a pick up order, which no one came for. If you want it, it is over in the warmer.”
“Thank you Grace,”
When Joy opened the bag, she saw that there were three large cheeseburgers and three large orders of fries. She went to the milk dispenser, filled three medium size paper glasses with milk, putting the glasses into a cardboard cup holder, Joy headed out the back door again. She never saw Grace, Bow her head in prayer. She also did not see Grace walk to the phone and place a call.
Standing near the dumpster Joy said, “I sure wish I had a couple of children to give these wonderful cheeseburgers and fries to. I truly would hate to throw them in the trash; after all, they would probably fall apart and get so nasty. Of course these two glasses of milk would just pour out, and be of no use to anyone.”
After hearing, some muffled whispering, Joy heard a shuffling sound came from the dumpster. Two dirty little heads raised up and peered over at her. Setting the food down, Joy reached up and helped the children down.
“Now, if you two are hungry follow me over to the picnic tables and we will have a picnic. How does that sound to you?”
“Thank you,” the little girl said, hurrying to stay up with Joy.
“You are welcome, sweetheart,” Joy said as she started taking the food out of the bag. After placing the food in front of the children, she stopped them from grabbing the food by saying, “First we give thanks, and then we eat, ok?” Both children nodded and reached out and held each other’s hand. Joy felt her eyes tear up and a lump in her throat, when both children reach out to hold her hand also.
After saying grace, they ate their food and talked. Joy told them her name and found out the children’s names were Daniel Masters, who was eight years old, and his sister was Tina Masters, age five and that their parents had died in a wreck over a year ago. Since then they had been in and out of many foster homes.
“What are you doing here? Surly someone is looking for you,” Joy said.
“We stayed with some people who had a whole bunch of foster kids, but they were mean and would hit Tina when she cried at night. I don’t think they are looking for us, they never even knew our names,” Daniel told her.
“What did they call you then?’
“They called Daniel boy and they called me girl, sometimes they called me cry baby,” Tina replied sadly.
Reaching out and caressing Tina’s tiny dirty cheek, Joy knew she had to do something to help these children. “Well, I am not sure what I must do to help the two of you, but I will do what I can.”
Both children had eaten every bite of the food she gave them. They had also drunk all their milk, and were starting to look as if they were falling asleep at the table.
“Alright, Daniel why don’t you and Tina get in my car, to keep warm, it is the small red car, around the side of the diner and it is unlocked. Both of you look as if you need to take a nap. I will be off work in only thirty minutes. I have the key, so lock the doors when you get in; I want you safe, alright?”
“Yes ma’am,” both children said. Before they went around the corner, she heard Daniel say, “We cannot forget to lock the doors Tina, Joy wants us safe.” Once again, these two little darlings had managed to touch her heart.
“Would you care for anything else,” Joy asked Robert.
“No, thank you. Wait,” he said as Joy put his ticket on the table and started to leave. “How does someone as young as you know so much about raising children?”
“Wonderful parents, sir, simply wonderful loving parents,”
“By the way, my name is Robert. It was nice meeting you Joy. Merry Christmas,” he said as he turned to leave.
“Merry Christmas, Robert, I hope this will be your most blessed Christmas yet.” Joy answered in reply.
Then turning to clear off the table, she found a one-hundred dollar bill under his plate. Grabbing the money to run give it back to him, she turned and saw he had already left.
“What’s wrong,” Nick asked as she ran to the front door.
“Robert left this under his plate, and I was trying to return it to him,” Joy said handing Nick the money.
Nick looked at the one hundred-dollar bill and said, “Joy, he did not accidentally leave this money, it is a Christmas tip for you.”
“I did nothing for him; you had to take him the food, so it is for you.”
Now Joy, do not be so stubborn. There is no way that young man or anyone else would leave a large tip for the owner of a restaurant. Now put this in your pocket and go home. It is already five minutes past eight. I will see you tomorrow at two o’clock.”
“I do not feel right about taking this money, Nick. I can defiantly use it but I did not earn it,” Joy said as she headed to the back to grab her purse and sweater. Thinking about the children in her car, Joy walked out the back door of the restaurant and headed for her red Kia.
When she opened the door to her car, she realized the door was already unlocked. Bending down, she looked into the back seat, only to find the children were not in her car. Joy was frantic with worry.
After spending almost an hour searching every car in the parking lot and everywhere she could think of Joy sat down at the picnic table and started to cry. It was breaking her heart that there were two little children somewhere, all alone and unloved and that she had somehow failed them. Wiping her eyes as best she could she went back inside to call her parents to tell them she would be late and to seek guidance in what to do.
‘What do you mean, you lost two children,” Grace said, waving the soup ladle in Joy’s direction. “As far as I know you do not have any children.”
Nick came into the kitchen, having said goodnight to the last customer and locking up. “Joy why are you still here, I thought you left some time ago?”
Joy told Nick and Grace what had happen when she had gone outside for her break earlier. She related what the children had told her and her offer of a safer place to rest in her car. Once she finished telling them the story. Nick nodded his head.
“Ah yes, I think I understand. If I am not badly mistaken, Robert has a small red car. If he had left it unlocked, then perhaps Daniel and Tina climbed into his car, mistaking it for your car and that is where the children are. I would imagine the moment he sees them, he will bring them right back. We will just wait here for a while longer and see,” Nick told her.
To be continued…