Junior school teacher, Miss Evans, becomes concerned about her new student when she notices the girl often wears dirty clothes to school and rarely speaks to anyone. One day, she follows the girl home and makes a shocking discovery.
“We’re joined by a new student this semester,” Miss Evans told her class. “Will everyone please give a warm welcome to Kitty!”
Kitty shrank in her seat as the class greeted her. The young girl’s obvious discomfort worsened when some students asked where she came from and why she was there.
Miss Evans knew the sad story that forced the girl to join their school in the middle of the year. Her heart had ached when she looked at little Kitty’s transfer papers. She quickly distracted the other students.
“I’m sure we’ll all get to know Kitty better over time. Right now, however, it’s time for math.”
The class took out their workbooks with a groan. Kitty remained very quiet. She kept her head down so her dark hair hid her face. Miss Evans crouched down beside her desk.
“Hi, Kitty,” she said.
“I just want to let you know that I’m always available if you need to talk. Changing schools is hard but I’m sure you’ll get settled in soon.”
Kitty glanced at her, and Miss Evans glimpsed her sad brown eyes. The poor child had been through so much!
“Thank you, Miss,” Kitty whispered.
Miss Evans placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder and continued with the class. At the end of the day, she waited outside with Kitty to meet her father. A burly man soon approached them.
“Hi, Kitty,” he said. “Did you have a good day at school?”
Kitty nodded and left Miss Evans’ side to join the man.
“You must be Kitty’s dad.” Miss Evans offered her hand to shake. “I’m her teacher, Miss Evans.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss. I’m Steve.” Kitty’s dad smiled and shook her hand. He then turned to Kitty. “Why don’t you go wait in the car, sweetie? I’m sure you’d like to put that heavy backpack down, and I want a minute to talk to Miss Evans.”
Kitty gave her dad a strange look, but she ran off to an old pickup nearby.
“Kitty’s had it rough the past few months,” Steve said. “I’d appreciate it if you could keep an eye on her.”
“I noted that the reason she transferred here is because her mom passed away recently.”
Miss Evans studied him. “How’s she been adjusting?”
“Some days are better than others. I didn’t see her and Shawna as often as I wanted to since I moved up here for work.” Steve shrugged. “I reckon things will go better once we’re used to each other again.”
“I’m sure they will.” Miss Evans smiled. “And don’t worry, I’ll do everything I can to help Kitty settle in. She earned good grades at her previous school, and I look forward to seeing her get back on track.”
Miss Evans was true to her word. She kept a close eye on Kitty over the next few weeks, and what she noticed concerned her. The girl often wore the same clothes to school. The clothes were usually dusty and stained
Kitty was quiet in class too. On the playground, she sat by herself and ignored the other kids if they tried to involve her in their games. Miss Evans tried to coax her out of her shell, but the girl remained withdrawn until the day she begged Miss Evans for help.
This couldn’t continue any longer! Miss Evans took her phone from her handbag and called the police.
The class had just ended. All the other students chatted loudly as they filed from the room, but Kitty came over to Miss Evans’ desk. She stood there with her head down and her arms tightly crossed.
“Is everything okay, Kitty?” Miss Evans asked.
The girl shook her head. She mumbled a few words that Miss Evans couldn’t make out.
“Speak up, sweetie. I can’t hear you.”
I don’t want to leave school,” Kitty shouted. She lifted her head and stared at Miss Evans with tearful eyes.
“I don’t want to go with my dad. Please, can I live with you instead?”
Miss Evans’ heart broke at the desperation in Kitty’s voice. She moved closer to the girl and put a hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t you want to go home with your dad, Kitty? Is something wrong?”
Kitty hugged herself and looked away. “I don’t like living with my dad. I don’t want to stay with him anymore.”
“Oh, sweetie. I know it must be tough getting used to a new town and a new school. You’ve been through so much, and I’m sure you miss the life you used to have.”
“I miss my mom,” the little girl sobbed. “I miss my room.
“Kitty?” Steve appeared at the door, blocking it with his muscular frame. “There you are. I was worried when I didn’t see you outside.”
Kitty spun and backed away from her father. “I’m not going with you!”
Steve’s face crumpled. “Come on, Kitty. Don’t be like that.”
Kitty’s lip trembled. Tears trailed down her dusty cheeks as she looked at her dad.
“You know I’m trying real hard to be a good dad, don’t you?” Steve crouched down in front of his daughter. “Times are tough now, but everything will turn around someday. You’ll see.”
Steve held his hand out to Kitty. After a long moment, Kitty dried her eyes and shuffled toward him.
Miss Evans wasn’t sure what to make of this situation. Kitty was clearly unhappy living with her dad, but how much of that was due to her grief? She suspected there was something more going on.
“Let’s all walk out together.” Miss Evans stood and offered Kitty her hand.
When they reached the parking lot, Kitty pulled free of the adults and ran ahead to her dad’s pickup.
“I’m sorry about all that, Miss Evans,” Steve said.
“Kitty’s been real stressed lately and she isn’t handling it well.”
“I’ve noticed she sometimes comes to school in dirty clothes,” Miss Evans said. “Is everything okay at home?”
Steve’s eyes widened, and he rubbed at his beard. “Yeah. Uh, we’ve had some problems with the plumbing. I swear I’ve reported it to the landlord, but nobody’s come to fix it yet.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“She’s also real fond of those outfits because her mom bought them for her. She, uh, she doesn’t like to change her clothes,” Steve added.
Steve stopped suddenly when they were a few yards away from his car. “I really appreciate you looking out for Kitty, but I think it’s still going to be a while before she gets used to all the changes in her life.”
Steve said goodbye to her then. Miss Evans looked on as he climbed into his pickup. The car growled and spat out an awful plume of smoke when he drove away.
Despite Steve’s reassurances, Miss Evans continued to worry about Kitty. She was no longer coming to school in dirty clothes, but now she was often tardy for school and started skipping classes.
One day, Miss Evans noted that Kitty’s face was pale and drawn. She had dark circles under her eyes and barely seemed to manage to stay awake in class.
Miss Evans was starting to suspect something was very wrong with Kitty and decided that she would get to the bottom of it. She gave the class some work to keep them busy and stepped out to call Steve.
“Hi, Steve. This is Kitty’s teacher, Miss Evans. I’m calling because I’ve noticed that Kitty often seems exhausted at school.”
“That’s because we’ve had to stay up late to work on her homework,” Steve replied. “I’ve, ah, been working late too. That’s why I can’t help her with her homework earlier in the evening. That work is much tougher than what I remember doing when I was her age.”
“Well, if Kitty is struggling so much, then it might be better to get her a tutor. I’ll write down some numbers and give them to Kitty so she can pass them on to you.”
“Thanks, Miss Evans. That’s real kind of you.”
Later that day, Miss Evans was about to lock up the classroom when she noticed a crumpled piece of paper on the floor near Kitty’s desk. She picked it up and found it was the note she’d given the girl with the math tutors’ numbers on it.
Miss Evans was confused. Why would Kitty throw the paper away if she had difficulty with schoolwork? She rushed to the window to see if the girl had left yet.
In the distance, Steve and Kitty were just exiting the school grounds. They were on foot, and Steve carried Kitty’s backpack on his shoulder while holding the girl’s hand. Kitty had her head bowed.
Miss Evans shook her head. Something was terribly wrong with that girl, and she would find out exactly what it was today! Miss Evans rushed out to her car. She was determined to follow Kitty and her father, but they’d disappeared by the time she reached the street.
The next day, Miss Evans was waiting when Steve arrived to pick up Kitty. They left on foot again, and Miss Evans followed.
Father and daughter walked several miles before they reached the old pickup Miss Evans remembered. It was parked in an empty lot near the edge of town.
Steve opened the car and placed Kitty’s backpack inside. He then reached in and covered the windows. Once he’d finished, Kitty climbed into the cab, and Steve shut the door. He went round to sit on the back of the truck.
Miss Evans didn’t understand what was happening. Kitty emerged soon afterward in different clothes. She was carrying the clothes she’d worn to school in her arms. Miss Evans watched as they walked to a nearby laundromat.
Miss Evans crossed the road and peeked through a gap between the old shirts covering the windows. What she saw inside made her gasp in surprise.
This couldn’t continue any longer! Miss Evans took her phone from her handbag and called the police.
“Miss Evans, what are you doing here?”
The teacher turned and saw Kitty running toward her. Steve was a few steps behind, staring at her in shock.
“I’m putting a stop to this.”
The police arrived then. They asked to look inside Steve’s car and shook their heads at the folded piles of clothes, pillows, blankets, and the teddy bear lying on the dash. It was clear Steve and Kitty were living in the pickup.
“It’s only temporary!” Steve turned from Miss Evans to the police as though he couldn’t decide whom to address. “I lost my job because I was injured at the factory, but I’ll get a new one soon! Then we won’t be homeless anymore.”
“I don’t mind it so much, I swear,” Kitty cried. “My daddy brought my pillow and Freckles, my teddy, so I can be happy and I am, I promise!” The little girl grabbed a police officer by the hand. “Please don’t take my daddy away from me!”
“Nobody wants to separate you and your dad, honey,” the police officer said, “but we can’t let you live like this. It’s going to start getting cold soon, and you need a place to stay where you’ll be warm and safe.”
The police officer turned to Steve then. “I’m going to take you and your daughter to a shelter, sir. They’ll help you get back on your feet and ensure both of you are taken care of.”
Steve and Kitty went to the shelter, and Steve was later admitted to a rehabilitation center for his work injury. Meanwhile, Miss Evans arranged a special meeting for parents at the school. She explained Steve and Kitty’s situation to them.
The school arranged a fundraiser for Steve and Kitty. They raised enough money to rent a modest apartment for Kitty and her dad and donated all the furniture and appliances they needed
Over time, Kitty transformed from a quiet and withdrawn child to a girl who was always smiling. She became the top student in her class and went on to earn a full scholarship to college.