Widower Works 3 Jobs to Adopt Stepdaughter, Learns Bio Dad Stole Her from Shelter – Story of the Day

Bernie lost his wife in a tragic accident, but he’s determined he won’t lose his stepdaughter too. He does everything possible to ensure he’ll gain permission to adopt the girl, but then her biological father appears with a birth certificate and a criminal record.

“Try doing it like this.” Bernie took his pencil and quickly sketched a few lines and shapes on a spare sheet of paper. “Once you have the basic shape, you can add in the details.”

Andrea, Bernie’s stepdaughter, scrunched her face up. She was struggling to draw a fox lying on its side. “But I like drawing freehand, Bernie.”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

“And you’re very good at it, but even a great artist will run into difficulties sometimes, and this technique can help with that.”

Andrea lifted her eraser for the umpteenth time and rubbed away her latest attempt at drawing the fox’s hind legs. “I’ll give it a shot.”

Bernie smiled at her. Andrea was a very talented artist for a ten-year-old. She had an almost uncanny knack for producing accurate proportions in the animals she loved to draw. As a professional artist, it greatly pleased Bernie to foster her talent.

“Forget about it, Fred. That’s never going to happen.” Bernie’s wife, Stephanie, ended a call on her phone as she entered the room.

“Everything alright, honey?” Bernie stood to meet her.

“Just work issues.” Stephanie grinned and hugged Bernie tightly. “How are my two favorite artists doing?”

“Always better when you get home.” Bernie kissed Stephanie’s cheek.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Andrea came over then to show Stephanie her drawing. Bernie watched them as he packed away his paintbrushes with an almost unbearable fullness in his heart. It seemed like only yesterday when Stephanie, the beautiful gallery owner, stole his heart, and now they were married.

Bernie woke every morning feeling that he was the luckiest man on earth. The family ate breakfast, then Stephanie went to work, and Bernie took Andrea to school. Afterward, Bernie spent his day painting. Life was perfect until the day Bernie received an unexpected phone call.

“Your wife was in a serious accident, sir,” the nurse on the phone told him. “I’m very sorry to tell you that she didn’t make it.”

In a matter of minutes, Bernie’s life fell apart. One day, he was married to his dream woman, and the next, he was standing beside her grave with his young stepdaughter.

“I want her back,” Andrea sobbed. “It’s not fair.”

“I know.” Bernie crouched down to wrap the girl into a hug.

“I know it’s not the same, but you’ve still got me, honey. I’ll always be here to look after you, I promise.”

Andrea squeezed him tightly and cried into his shoulder. Bernie carried her to the car, and it never once occurred to him that he wouldn’t be able to keep that promise.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

A few days later, Bernie fought back his anger as he stared at the CPS worker across from him.

“I’m all Andrea has left,” he told the woman, “you have to give me custody of her.”

“Usually we would, sir, but your income is too unstable. It’s not in Andrea’s best interests to remain in your care at this time.” The woman gave him a stern look across the table. “Prove that you can provide a stable home, and we’ll be happy to revisit our decision.”

Bernie stepped out into the street in a daze. He’d wanted to get a job when he and Stephanie first married, but she insisted he spends his days painting. Her support had allowed him to do well as an artist but not well enough to gain custody of Andrea.

He thought of his stepdaughter waiting for him to fetch her and felt the last pieces of his heart shatter. Bernie watched the cars whizzing by on the road. He’d lost everything now. The only solution was forward into the heavy traffic and, hopefully, to see Stephanie again on the other side.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

No, he couldn’t do that. Bernie turned away and headed home. Andrea needed him, and Bernie would never abandon her.

The next day, Bernie started applying for every job he could find. Within a week, he got a part-time job packing shelves at a grocery store. Then the car wash on the corner hired him to help out on weekends, and a few days later, Bernie got an evening job working the cash register at the cinema.

Bernie worked like a dog every day and came home exhausted every evening. He didn’t have time to paint anymore, but he didn’t care. The last thing Bernie did every evening was to press his fingers against the photo of Andrea on his bedside table.

“I’m coming for you, Andrea,” he’d whisper.

“Just hold on. One day, I’m going to bring you home.”

Bernie met regularly with Andrea’s caseworker in the following months. She was pleased with his progress and arranged for Bernie to visit Andrea at the children’s shelter.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

When the big day came, Bernie dressed in his best clothes and made sure he arrived early. He wanted to make a good impression, but it was all for nothing. The people working at the shelter were frantically running about when Bernie arrived.

Something was wrong. He saw it in the staff members’ fraught expressions. When he spoke to the woman staffing the front desk, he discovered that fate had dealt him another terrible blow.

“Andrea is missing, but our people are doing everything they can to find her.”

“How could this happen?” Bernie demanded. “She’s supposed to be safe here!”

“She had a visitor earlier,” the woman replied. “A man claiming to be her biological father. We let him in to meet her, and the next thing we knew, they were gone.”

Bernie slumped against the wall. Andrea’s father? That made no sense. Stephanie told him the man vanished after Andrea was born. It seemed unlikely he would return now. The truth was clear: some stranger had entered the shelter under false pretenses to kidnap Andrea.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

“How long ago did this happen?” he asked.

“About an hour ago. Our staff is searching the building, and we’ve notified the police. We’ll find her, sir.”

“You should never have lost her in the first place,” Bernie replied.

“This man can’t be her father, and if anything has happened to her then I will make sure you pay for your carelessness.”

Bernie rushed from the shelter. He called for Andrea while running up and down the streets. He showed Andrea’s picture to all the shop owners in the vicinity, but nobody had seen her.

A growing panic clenched around Bernie’s heart as his hunt continued. There was no sign of his precious stepdaughter anywhere. He circled the shelter, ranging wider in his search until a police car pulled up beside him.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

“Mr. Bernie Fletcher?” A policewoman leaned out the window to speak to him.

“That’s me,” Bernie replied. “Have you found my daughter?”

“We hope so, sir. A man and a young girl matching her description were spotted near the airport. We’d like you to come with us to identify the child.”

Bernie’s heart turned to ice. As the police car raced toward the airport, a thousand worries circled in his thoughts. Was the man trying to sneak Andrea out of the country? Would they get to the airport in time?

When they reached the airport, the police officers told Bernie they’d escort him to a room where he could wait.

“Airport security is expecting us,” the policewoman told him. “As soon as we find the suspect, we’ll fetch you to identify the child.”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Bernie followed the officers through the sprawling crowds. He studied everyone they passed in an effort to spot Andrea. Suddenly, he glimpsed a familiar pink shirt in his peripheral vision.

“There she is!” Bernie cried and took off for the escalator where he’d spotted Andrea.

Bernie elbowed and shoved his way through the crowds. Ahead of him, the girl turned, and Bernie knew without a doubt that was his little girl. He sped up, never taking his eyes off Andrea, and caught up to her just as the man led her toward a boarding gate.

“Get your hands off my daughter!” Bernie snatched up Andrea and held her tightly.

“Are you okay, Andrea? Did that man hurt you?” Bernie asked.

Andrea shook her head. “It’s okay, Bernie. That man is my dad.”

“It’s true, I’m Fred and I can prove I’m Andrea’s biological father.”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Bernie turned to face the strange man. Everything he’d intended to say died on his lips when he saw the birth certificate the man held out to him. He was Andrea’s father!

“But you left,” Bernie said. “Stephanie told me you walked out on them when Andrea was a baby.”

Fred frowned. “Stephanie didn’t tell you the whole truth. I left because I was convicted of a crime. I got into business with the wrong people, and when they were caught, I went down with them.”

“While I was in prison, Stephanie had her lawyers file papers to revoke my parental rights,” he continued. “I can’t say I blame her. I wasn’t a good person before, but prison taught me that family and the people you love are more important than money and prestige.”

“That’s great, but if you think I’ll ever hand Andrea over to you, then you have another thing coming,” Bernie said, tightening his grip on the girl.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

“I’m her father, and you can’t change that.” Fred gave Andrea a sad, longing look.

“I tried to get her back, you know. When I was denied joint custody, I tried to convince Stephanie to let me see Andrea, but she refused.”

“I know nothing about all of that,” Bernie said.

“I thought as much. I settled for watching Andrea from afar, so I know you’ve been a good father to her, Bernie.” Fred fixed his gaze on Bernie. “I owe you my undying gratitude for that, but things are different now.”

Bernie backed away from Fred. He glanced over his shoulder to see if he could spot the police officers who escorted him there. Bernie didn’t know how things had come to this, but he’d never let Fred take Andrea away from him. He would run if he had to.

“I’m leaving the state and never coming back,” Fred said. “But I couldn’t go without saying goodbye to my daughter. I know she’s in good hands with you, Bernie, and you’ll never let her down.”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Bernie spun to look at the man, shocked at what he’d just heard. “You’re not trying to take her away?”

“I told you, prison taught me the importance of family. You’re all the family she has left now, Bernie, and I’d never dream of breaking that up.”

Fred’s gaze drifted away from Bernie then, and he stiffened. “My time is just about up.”

Fred moved closer and placed a gentle kiss on Andrea’s forehead. “Wherever you go in this world, I hope you’ll remember that your father loves you very much.”

Andrea nodded, and Fred turned to Bernie next. “Take good care of her.”

And with that, Fred was gone. A few minutes later, the police arrived with millions of questions about how Bernie recovered Andrea and what became of her kidnapper.

Fred looked into Andrea’s eyes. The girl was unharmed, and after hearing Fred’s story, he couldn’t blame the man for wanting to spend a few hours with his daughter.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

“He ran,” Bernie replied. “When he heard me calling Andrea, he took off and left her. I picked her up, and here we are.”

Andrea’s bright smile confirmed to Bernie that he’d made the right choice. Later, when they got to speak in private, Andrea apologized for leaving the shelter with Fred. She told Bernie that she wanted to meet her father at least once.

A month later, Bernie finally got approved to adopt Andrea. He immediately went to fetch her from the shelter. When they got home, Bernie found another surprise waiting for him.

An art gallery Bernie worked with had sold one of his paintings, and the buyer left him a note.

‘Thanks for protecting Andrea.’

The note wasn’t signed, but Bernie knew it was Fred’s final message to them both.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Hope shines in even the darkest moments of our lives. Bernie had lost everything and was about to give up on his life, but he knew Andrea needed him, and that gave him the will to fight for her.
  • Blood ties do not always define family. Although Fred was Andrea’s biological father, he was wise enough to realize the bond between Bernie and Andrea was more important in this case.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

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