Was She In Danger?
After realizing that the girl might be a minor, the manager’s mind began to race. In how many horror stories had he heard about kids in peril of all kinds?
In addition to this, there were numerous reports of kids getting into mischief throughout the region. In front of him stood a youngster whose name he hoped didn’t fit into any of those categories. His ignorance of the situation made him nervous.
When Hunter learned that he would be promoted to manager at the grocery store, he was filled with pride and a sense of achievement.
He had been with the company for over a year while attempting to care for his family and to finish school. He was only twenty-four years old and felt proud of his achievement. He had no idea what dread and intrigue awaited him at the store.
Throughout Hunter’s life, having a routine has always been the norm. Most mornings he spent with his girlfriend, who was studying to be a nurse, as well as their daughter.
He would go to school around noon, and afterward, he would get to work. He would then return home for a peaceful evening with his lovely family. He believed that everything in life was ideal. But everything would soon change.
Everything changed when an incident occurred out of the blue. As a manager, Hunter inspected everything in the store to ensure it was operating properly.
He had established a path that he followed, making sure to assist anybody in his route, whether they were employees or clients. On one of these outings, he would have his one-in-a-million chance encounter with the girl.
A Good Start
It was a quiet day for Hunter; he spent breakfast with his family and then made his way to classes. He had already reported to work at midday and was prepared to begin his shift.
The morning had been beautiful, but the rest of the day would be a dark, dreary mess. Even though Hunter had never been particularly superstitious, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen.
Getting Everything Ready
Hunter prepared to begin his inspection of the shop. He verified the day’s agenda before lining it up with his daily routine after having a few amusing back-and-forths with his coworkers.
His rounds began once everything was in place. His patrol had only lasted fifteen minutes when he saw something that stopped him in his tracks.
He Saw Her
A young woman was standing in front of a cashier in one of the breakfast aisles. She seemed out of place, with her head concealed by a hoody and her outfit consisting of faded jeans. But Hunter was aware that he couldn’t evaluate someone just on the basis of their appearance.
He returned to his workplace, which was nearby, to check the day’s recordings. He gasped when he saw what the camera captured.
The girl had been exploring the store for about two hours, according to the video. She eventually stopped in front of the stacks of cereal boxes because she seemed bewildered by everything. She was also scrutinizing her environment as if something were amiss with her.
Hunter walked over to her, hoping she wasn’t trying to start any problems. Although he noted that the girl appeared to be an adult from a distance, she was actually younger. He had to be cautious around her.
He became agitated as soon as he realized the girl was perhaps a minor. It seemed as if he had heard countless horror stories about children who faced all kinds of uncouth danger.
The neighborhood was full of stories of troublemaking kids. It was Hunter’s hope that the kid before him would not fall into either of those categories. There was no way he could have known what he was about to encounter.
Keeping Her Composure
Hunter quickly made his way back to the girl, who was wearing a stuffed satchel that she had swung to one side. She browsed the aisle of cereals with her fingertips and chose one, but she didn’t put it in her cart.
After taking a moment to scan the area, she stopped dead in her tracks when her eyes rested on Hunter. She appeared to regain control as Hunter approached her and put the box of cereal back on the shelf.
The girl stepped away from the shelf, turning around as fast as possible. But Hunter dashed to her before she walked away, asking her to stop.
The girl turned around, looking up at Hunter with interest. He didn’t want to ask her what was in her bag, but he knew he had no choice. If someone acted suspiciously in the store, it fell to him to get to the root of it. Maybe they were in danger – or the danger themselves.
Checking The Bag
Hunter introduced himself to the girl, asking her to accompany him to his office. He hoped to at least search her bag in private so that the public wouldn’t harass her with cameras and the like.
The girl agreed to the offer, but instead of following Hunter, she opened her bag before him. What he saw inside made his brows furrow. Was it a joke?
What’s In The Backpack?
The girl held her bag up to Hunter. Inside, there were several tattered textbooks. There were notebooks and pens as well.
But as Hunter returned the bag, smiling as he was glad the girl wasn’t engaging in any illegal activities, she asked him something that set the alarm bells right off again.
“I need help,” the girl said, her voice a whisper as if she wasn’t sure if talking to Hunter was the right thing to do. “What is it?” Hunter asked as he walked the girl away from the aisle.
He could see the worry in her eyes. She slung her backpack off her shoulder, opened a side pocket with shaking fingers, and pulled out a worn and folded piece of cardboard.
The girl slipped Hunter the note, turned around, and walked away. Hunter’s eyes widened when he saw a cardboard cutout of a photo with the words ‘Call 911’ and an address written on the back.
Hunter spun around to ask her what was going on, but she was already gone. A fleeting thought passed through his mind as he thought that this must be some kind of practical joke. But then, he saw it.
The Milk Carton
Hunter saw the milk carton that the nervous girl had picked up and put back on the shelf – it was jutting out among the other cartons so it looked out of place.
She’d also turned the carton around so Hunter could clearly see the photo on its side. It was a black and white photo of a young girl – no older than three. And It was the same photo she had just slipped into his hand. There was something about the girl’s eyes staring back at him that turned his blood to ice.
The teen girl was 17-year-old Ruby Larsen. She had her world turned upside down when she spotted her own face on a milk carton when she was just 10 years old.
It was that photo that made her suspect she was living a giant lie and eventually seek help. After years, she’d finally realized the truth and worked up the courage to approach someone about her unbelievable situation.
Growing Up In Isolation
Ruby wasn’t an unusual child – she loved to play and was naturally curious about the world around her from a young age. However, Ruby hadn’t been brought up like other kids.
Despite the fact that Ruby had never been to school or socialized with other kids her age, she had no idea how different her upbringing really was. That was until one fateful day, more than a decade later.
Ruby lived with her parents in Hawaii on the tiny, isolated island of Saipan. The island had a small population of around 60,000 – in fact, many people outside Hawaii were oblivious to the island’s existence.
Ruby was never allowed to go outside, and she was home schooled. Nevertheless, she trusted her parents and had no idea what she was missing.
Moving To Arkansas
After living on the island during her formative years, Ruby and her parents moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The little girl loved the town, even though it was very different from the basic life she had grown to know.
She still wasn’t allowed to interact with the outside world much, but there was one place she was allowed to go.
The Grocery Store
On rare occasions, Ruby was allowed to go to the grocery store with her parents. She loved the colorful aisles of produce and all the eye-catching packaging.
On one such occasion, when she was 10 years old, she was in the cool refrigeration section looking at the yogurts, ice cream, and dairy cartons when something happened to catch her eye.
A Life-Changing Discovery
As Ruby was taking in all the sights of the dairy section and enjoying the refreshing, cool relief from the outside heat, her eyes were inexplicably drawn to one particular milk carton.
At first, Ruby was enamored with the girl in the black-and-white photo who stared straight back at her from the carton, but she wasn’t sure why.
Her Own Face
The girl in the photo was much younger than Ruby – she must have been around three years old. But, the longer Ruby stared, the more she began to recognize her.
Suddenly, it dawned on her that she was staring at a younger version of herself. Mesmerized, she waited for her father to come over to the dairy aisle, hoping he would be as delighted as she was. Puzzlingly, all he did was buy the milk carton for her. He didn’t say a word.
Her Secret Treasure
Ruby’s father made her promise not to show anyone the milk carton – not even her mother. Her father cut the photo out for her and she loyally kept it a secret, but took it everywhere with her.
But as she grew older and entered her teenage years, the uneasy feeling that started out as mild curiosity grew into a terrible gnawing in the pit of her stomach. She knew something wasn’t right.
Turning Her Life Upside Down
When she turned 17, Ruby was occasionally allowed to go to the grocery store on her own. On that fateful day, she watched everything she thought to be the truth turn upside down, shaking the world she once knew.
All it took was that one visit to the grocery store for her to suddenly question everything and everyone she trusted in her life.
A Terrible Realization
Wandering into the dairy aisle, Ruby found herself speechless when she saw her own face staring back at her on a milk carton with one word written in bold: ‘Missing.’
It was the same photo she had in her backpack. After all those years of keeping the photo a secret, the truth felt like a punch in the gut.
Working Up The Courage
Ruby found herself wandering up and down the grocery aisles for hours, deliberating about her next course of action. Her palms were sweaty and her heart raced when she pulled the secret photo out her backpack and wrote on the back.
She didn’t have the courage to give it to anyone in the store, so she planned to leave it in front of the milk cartons where someone would spot it. But she changed her mind.
Changing Her Mind
A long-forgotten memory had surfaced as Ruby paced down the aisles. She had never remembered much about her early childhood, but there was something there.
But Ruby couldn’t go through with it. She slipped the photo back into her backpack. She knew that there would be huge repercussions for her actions at home – and what if she was wrong? But then, a man approached and made the decision for her.
The Manager Approaches
A man walked toward her as she was staring at the milk carton in her hands again, so she quickly put it back on the shelf. From an outsider’s perspective, she knew she must be behaving suspiciously.
She knew what he was thinking and quickly slung her backpack off her shoulder and opened it to prove she wasn’t shoplifting. But there was something about the man’s eyes that made her decide to give him the photo.
Calling The Police
After turning to see that the girl was gone, Hunter called the police without a second thought and gave them the address on the back of Ruby’s photo.
Ruby’s “parents” were promptly arrested, and the police were able to track down her biological father. She was right – she had been lied to for most of her life.
It happened when Ruby was just three years old. Her parents were embroiled in a bitter custody dispute when her mother refused to obey the court ruling and fled with her child.
After 14 years of living with her mother and stepfather, Ruby was reunited with her biological dad because of a twist of fate and Hunter’s gut feeling.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.