She came as a surprise. A little girl, five or six, tears flowing down her face. “Where’s my mommy?”, she wailed. Living on the streets, I’d seen homeless kids before, but not like her. Without saying anything, I lifted her onto my lap, held her warm hands.
I woke up the next morning, her curled up in my lap, head on my hip. I nudged her.
“Are you okay?”, she nodded, lip trembling. “What’s your name?”, I asked.
“Echo”. She lifted her gaze, wide eyes searching. She threw her arms around me. I hesitated, then hugged her back.
“It’s okay.” I whispered. “What happened to your mommy?” “Mommy took her pills and left,” she muttered, crying silently.
Each day, we’d futily search the streets for Echo’s mom. After one particularly long search, she leaned her head on my shoulder and asked; “When are we gonna get a home?”
I sighed. “Soon, I promise.” “It’s okay,”
She smiled. “You’re better than any house I could ask for.”
It was terrifying, yet amazing. I stood in front of a scorched-brick governement building, knowing I might leave a homeowner, well, at least temporarily.
Echo pulled on my jacket. “No matter what, we’re still best friends.”
“Always.” I agreed, trying not to let her notice my fear. Later, I emerged from the elevator.
“Did we get it?” She shouted, jumping around.
I inhaled, “No”.
Her face fell, tears cascading silently down her face.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Soon, I was crying too. “Look at me. It’s gonna be okay.” She nodded. “Echo” I smiled, wiping the tears off her wet face. I took her hands in mine. “ We don’t have a house, but we have a home. Echo, you’re my home.” She threw her arms around me.
“Always”, she laughed.