The little girl is ashamed of the mud smudging her cheeks, the tear tracks, the grime. Her hair has been chopped off and left in piles on the floor. She is a sheep shorn, a flower tread into the ground. She knows she looks a mess with her muddy bare feet and torn dress, but only knowing can't change how things are.
In the orphanage, other little girls and boys live in similar states of disarray. All wander in hopes of discovering purpose, birds that have fallen from their nests, seeds scattered in the wind. The little girl once lived like this, striving to find purpose in things that never mattered, like her long locks of hair. Like the calm and pretty mask she sets before her eyes at the start of each morning to hide the blackened mess inside, a reminder of the loveliness of the walls around her that bring little more than aches and yearnings for truth.
No more. Earlier this day, the little girl took a pair of rusty scissors and cut each pretty curl from her head, one-by-one. She feels shattered, unlovable, dirty.
Footsteps cause the little girl to look up with surprise. A man stands in the doorway, watching with eyes that burn and heal all at once. "I've come for you," he says in a soft voice.
The little girl shakes her head. She is a glass of water spilled upon the ground, a flower opening to the sun. Does the man not see her filthiness, what she has done to herself? No one should touch her, let alone speak to her so gently, so kindly, but he does.
The man walks into the room with purpose and strength. His eyes gaze eagerly into the little girl's, seeking to break through her masks, for there are many, and into her heart. He kneels on the ground, despite the dirt and filth and shame, and lifts the child into his arms. "I've come for you because I love you. I am your father."
A thrill of joy bursts within the little girl's very being, a hand gripped in love, a ray of sunshine, a laugh as uninhibited as the sky.
As the father carries his daughter away from the loneliness and empty promises of the orphanage, she sees the sky for the first time. The real sky. It is so very blue. The grass is so very soft. The painted walls of the orphanage did little to capture the beauty of the outside world; they seem pale and meaningless compared to all she sees now.
"I want to learn to love like you do," the daughter says.
The father smiles at her. How he delights in her. "My child, I'll show you every day."
Adopted. Redeemed. Embraced into arms so loving that she knows she is no longer broken. The daughter is awed; she gazes around her with wide, clear eyes, no masks to be found.
"I'm so glad you're mine." The father places a flower in his daughter's hair. Her locks are still shorn, but she is beautiful as she frolics in the sunlight that flushes her cheeks. She is already growing, already healing.
The daughter smiles. For the first time in her life, she feels worth. She is pure, a flower tilted towards the sun, a heartbeat, a planted seed that will one day become a towering oak. "Father," she whispers, simply because she can. She belongs.