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PHOTO BY ELLY AMELIA
MY BABY IS JUST A STEP AWAY
BY MARIA JESSICA

One peaceful night ruined in just a second. A thief came into my lovely home, shot my wife and kidnapped my one and only daughter. She’s only three years old. I called the police and we desperately searched for her. But we couldn’t find her or her track. My Tiffany was gone. My wife had 8 stitches and our hearts were completely broken, forever until we find her. We waited and hoped that someone would call us, demanding a ransom for Tiffany. But there wasn’t one. My baby, where are you?

 

17 years later…

 

“Good morning!” I say to everyone in the office.

“Hello, Steffi!” as always, Jaden answers my greeting. This office is full of straight and plain people. I’ve been here for 6 months and my best friend here is only Jaden. But I love my job!

Well, hello. My name is Stephanie. Yes, just Stephanie because I have no last name and I’m eager to have someone who would give me a last name, hihihi. Okay, stop. My closest persons always call me Steffi because Stephanie is too long to say. I’m a passionate fashion stylist and designer for a big clothing line called Pamela – that’s our founder’s wife’s name. I’ll tell you a little story about her. They said Pamela Williams was the founder, but something bad happened to their family so Pamela retired earlier and her husband Mr. Edward Williams, our big boss, continued this business and left his high position from another company. But he’s a great humble man who’s really clever, and this online shop that has many stores in many cities now is a success.

I was a fresh graduated girl that had luckily met Mr. Williams. He saw me drawing designs at a small clothing store that he and his wife just by chance visited and they hired me. So here I am!

Today, I will make 20 special designs for Christmas Edition. Guess I’ll be going home late today. The drawback of working in a big company: deadline. Really dead if you crossed the line. I’m planning to make 3 standout designs than are better than the others.

“Hi Steffi, drawing right now?” Oh, I don’t like this voice. It’s the voice of Michelle.

“Yeah.”

“Good luck, Stef! But mine will be better, like always.”

I have no energy to have a war with her. She always thinks that I am her rival, although we have 3 designers here. We each have to make 20 designs every season and the CEOs – including the legendary Pamela – will pick the best designs.

Oh my God! It’s already 9 pm! Okay, I have to stop telling stories and work my last 3 designs here.

“Hello, Steffi,” I hear a familiar heavy voice of…

“Hello Mr. William!”

“What are you doing? It’s already late, Miss.”

“Oh, I’m finishing my job, Sir. Three left and will finish it soon.”

“You know,” he pauses, “If my daughter’s still with me, she would be the same age as you.”

“Oh? Where’s your daughter, Sir?” I immediately regret asking my question. “I’m sorry, Sir.”

“No, it’s okay. I lost her 17 years ago. She was kidnapped by someone and I couldn’t find her. Her name is Tiffany.”

Listening to his story makes me speechless, it makes me want to cry.

“Sorry, Steffi. I didn’t mean to make you feel sorry. I didn’t know why I told this story to you. I never did.”

“It’s okay, Sir. Well, I really hope you’ll find her…”

“Thank you. And, how are your parents?”

“Mmmm, I don’t have one, Sir. I just remember I was in a very awful place with many children there and I ran away when I was 7 with my best friend. Someone said it’s child trafficking. I was so lucky, Sir. Then we live at an orphanage for 11 years and left when we finally had a place to live and settle. Well, I have a sad story of my life too, Sir. I believe that your daughter really wants to meet you, because I do want to meet my parents too.”

“Yeah. I miss her so much.” I see Mr. William’s eyes start to tear up, “Okay, you can continue your work, Miss!”

“Aye, Sir!”

I feel sad for him. I think I know the sadness because I don’t know what it’s like to have parents.

Finally, I can finish my work at 10 o’clock! I organize my files on the desk and ready to go home. The best thing of working in a big company is: they give you a place to live close to the office, a cozy little apartment. So as soon as I arrive at home, I take a bath, pray, lay my weary body on my lovely bed and sleep. Tomorrow, I will fight for my presentation.

 

***

 

“No baby, where’s my babyyyyy!” screamed Pamela after unconscious for an 8-hour surgery.

“I’m sorry I haven’t found her, honey… I am sorry…”

“You have to find her! YOU HAVE TO! I want my Tiff! I want her!” she cried and cried. Edward hugged her tight and cried too.

He pushed the police to find her daughter but there’s no result. Her wife was crying every single day. His heart was broken into pieces and tinier little pieces.

 

***

 

I’m almost late for my presentation! I run to my desk, grab my file holder and rush to the meeting room. Everyone is here. And… there’s Pamela! She’s still beautiful at her age. 

“Stephanie, you’re the first,” says my project manager.

Okay, Steffi. Get a hold of yourself. You’re going to present your masterpieces and… Wait, where’s my 3 masterpieces? They’re not here! It’s all gone!

“Steffi?” Mr. William calls my name, looking confused.

“I… I am sorry but I lost my 3 designs. I put it here last night and…”

“Stephanie, please?” Pamela firmly asks me to start my presentation.

Okay, I have to keep going even there’s tears in my eyes. I present my design and luckily they say they really like it.

“Good job, Stephanie. Now, Michelle please.”

Michelle takes her papers and wait… I know that paper. IT IS MINE!

“Sorry for interrupting, but those designs are mine, Michelle.” I say while taking those papers from her.

“Hey! Those are mine!” Says Michelle, trying to grab the papers back.

“No!” I grab it again quite strongly.

“STOP IT GIRLS! STEPHANIE, GET OUT OF THIS MEETING ROOM!” says my project manager. I cry and immediately get out of the building. I can’t believe she did that. I can’t believe she stole my designs! WHYYYY! Why the world keeps stealing things from me? It stole my unknown parents, my childhood, and now my designs. What happened to my life?

On the evening, Mr. William calls and invites me to have dinner at his house along with Pamela. I guess he feels bad for what happened yesterday. But the day has just gotten worse, because right after the lovely dinner, Pamela fires me.

“She is lovely dear… I love her. Why do we have to fire her? Deep in my heart I believe that what happened yesterday wasn’t her.” Mr. William says to Pamela after Steffi just left.

“I love her too, honey, and I didn’t officially fire her. I’ll call Stephanie and Michelle tomorrow. I knew Michelle stole her designs.”

“So why didn’t you say anything about it?”

“I wanted to see her anger and how she managed her anger. I wanted to see if I can trust her with something bigger than this. And I definitely can. I think she can handle anything.”

“I agree.”

“Now, I got to pee.” Pamela gets up from the sofa and head to the toilet.

When she washes her hands, she sees something on the side of the sink that shocks her to the bones. It’ a piece of jewelry that she well-recognized, a half Christmas tree pendant.

“HONEEEY, COME HERE!” Pamela shouts to Edward.

“What?”

“T… This piece of pendant… don’t you remember? We gave this to our daughter and put this pendant on her bracelet?”

Edward takes the little pendant and tries to remember every detail of the day when he bought that pendant. It’s a Christmas tree pendant that can be divided in half. A gift he bought for their little Tiffany for Christmas.

“We kept the other half right?” says Pamela while running to her closet and opens all of the boxes there.

“FOUND IT!” she quickly unites the pendant and it’s a perfect fit! “Oh my, is Stephanie our daughter, honey? Is she?!”

Edward is speechless. He wonders himself, is she? Have they finally found their long lost daughter? And Stephanie would be the perfect daughter.

 

***

 

“Hi, Steffi, Michelle.” says Mr. William

“Hello, Sir,” We answer together. Michelle shows a smirk to mock me, but I don’t care at all.

“Please sit down ladies. Watch this.” Mr. William turns on the TV screen and presses the play button. It’s a CCTV video, showing me drawing my sketches and finally showing Michelle stealing my files. 

I see Michelle’s hands and mouth are shaking.

“I saw you opened Steffi’s desk, Michelle. I just didn’t have negative thoughts at that time. It’s very disappointing. How come you don’t have the attitude of a good designer?” Says Mr. William, “We respect you, but we can’t tolerate something like this. Michelle, you are fired. And Miss Stephanie, you can sue her if you want to.”

Michelle is looking at me with tears in her eyes.

“I am so sorry Mr. William and Steffi. Please forgive me. Don’t sue me. I need my future. Please don’t.” She’s begging and begging while holding my hand.

“What if we were in the opposite position, Michelle? You will definitely sue me because you want me to be gone, right?” I ask.

“I… I…” Michelle’s lips are shaking. I believe she wants to say yes.

“But I’m not going to. I’ll ask Mr. William to only fire you in good terms. Could you, Sir?”

“And why is that, Steffi? Explain to me.” Asks Mr. William.

“Because she can build a better future and I believe she will change. This can become a lesson to be learned by her.”

“Thank you, Sir. Thank you, Stef. It means a lot. Please understand that I was so desperate to be recognized by the CEOs.”

“It’s okay, Michelle.”

I exhale a long deep breath. A sigh of relief. That’s the perks of forgiving rather than holding a grudge.

“I have something that belongs to you,” says Mr. William after Michelle left, reaching something from his pocket, a silver pendant or some kind.

“I don’t think that’s mine, Sir.”

“Didn’t you leave this at my house last night? Pamela found it on the sink right after you left.”

I’m kind of confused at what Mr. William is talking about.

“You see, I gave this tiny half piece of pendant long time ago to my daughter when she was just three years old.” Mr. William’s eyes are full of tears while he opens his other palm, “And Pamela and I kept this other half.”

“I’m so sorry, Sir.” I can’t believe my eyes are tearing up too. “I wish it was mine… I really do. But it’s not.”

“Then who does this belong to?”

“Excuse me, Sir. That’s… That’s mine...” Says the girl with the oh-so familiar voice.

“You… you’re my Tiffany?” Mr. William asks in disbelief, he looks so confused yet thrilled that he finally finds his daughter. His face lights up, his arms wide open, ready to hug her long lost daughter. “Michelle… Tiffany?”

“I’m sorry, Sir. I’m so sorry for my bad behaviors all these years. I… I just felt that I was never enough. I never knew how it felt to make someone proud, so I wanted to achieve something for once in my life.”

“All is forgiven, dear. I’ve found my daughter. I’ve found my daughter!”

Mr. William and Michelle hug so tightly, looking so genuinely happy. For a second, Mr. William looks at me and says, “I’ve found my daughter! Because of you, Steffi.” He then continues, “How can I not realize? All this time, my baby is just a step away.”

He and Michelle invite me to their family hug. I’m so happy looking at the family that’s brought together. And come to think of it, if I didn’t come to Mr. William’s and Pamela’s house for dinner then they wouldn’t find the pendant that was accidentally thrown at my coat pocket when Michelle and I had a fight. Seeing a family whole again is one of the best feeling I’ve ever felt, and hopefully someday I’ll find my own.

“Thank you so much, Steffi. You’ve brought us a miracle. This is the best gift we could ever have for Christmas.”

 

“Forgiving doesn’t make you weak; it sets you free. And the most important thing is to have an attitude of gratitude for everything in your life.”

 

Story by Maria Jessica

Illustration by Elly Amelia