Jack pulled his knees up to his chest, his heart beating out of control. He pushed his small body up against the wall of an abandoned building. The sound of approaching footsteps echoed throughout the dark alley.
“I know you’re here,” a deep voice growled. “Now show yourself!”
The voice belonged to Robert, a menacing man with unruly hair and a fiery temper. He kicked over a pile of heavy boxes, his face twisted with anger.
Quickly, Jack slipped out his hiding spot, running as fast as his little legs could carry him.
“Hey! Come back here!” Robert yelled.
Jack shoved a nearby trashcan in the man’s way, accidentally dropping four coins that he had stolen. With no time to pick them up, Jack bolted out into the open streets of England, winding his way through horse-drawn carriages and streetlamps.
Slowing his pace, Jack stopped to catch his breath.
Stealing had become a way of life for little Jack. Every day, he went from place-to-place in search of odd jobs. Once he was given the job, Jack would steal from his masters and then disappear, just like he had tonight.
Only tonight, Jack thought angrily, I got caught. He pressed his nose up against the window of a bakery, drooling at the sight of food.
The next morning, Jack awoke on the front step of the bakery. A young woman with soft blonde curls and a rosy complexion approached him, a gentle smile on her face.
“Hello. What is your name?” she asked.
Jack looked at her skeptically for a moment before answering, “Jack,”
“A pleasant name,” replied the woman. She knelt down to look the boy in the face. Her eyes were full of concern.
“Jack, where are your parents?”
“I don’t have any,” he muttered, tears rolling down his cheeks.
The woman was quiet for a moment, and then replied, “What about breakfast? Have you got any of that yet?”
Jack shook his head fiercely, knocking the tears off his face. “Don’t got no parents, don’t got no money, don’t got nothing.”
The woman glanced up at the bakery, then said, “I’d like to buy you breakfast here at this bakery. Would that be okay?”
Jack’s eyes grew wide.
The woman laughed. “Come now, I haven’t got all day! Aren’t you hungry?”
Jack nodded, his stomach growling. The smell of fresh-baked pastries tantalized him.
“Very well then. Let’s go and eat,” she said.
Jack smiled for the first time in a long time. His once-empty stomach would soon be full of food, and his once-empty heart full of joy.