Alberta’s childhood was far from carefree. Living in a mountain village, she had to trek down to the valley every day for school. Like many other children, she carried heavy loads back home. On top of that, every day after school, she would go to a small shop to buy necessities for her family and elderly neighbor.
Mr. Underwood would thank her for helping him, as he was no longer able to make the journey himself. Despite her difficult life, Alberta brought joy to everyone who knew her. She loved to sing, and her gentle voice was admired by many.
However, her mother Elizabeth often cried when she saw how much her daughter had to shoulder at such a young age. Elizabeth blamed herself for not being able to provide a more carefree life for her daughter.
Alberta moved to the capital to find better opportunities and help her mother. Unfortunately, the big city wasn’t as welcoming as she had hoped. She struggled to find a job and was mistreated at the ones she did get. The last straw was when the owner of the cafe she worked at made unwanted advances towards her. Alberta felt ashamed and embarrassed, especially in front of her mother who had given her all her savings to settle in the city. Months later, Alberta realized that nothing she did pleased her mother and she cried bitterly on a park bench.
A stranger, an elderly man named Mr. Halston, approached her and asked what was wrong. Alberta shared her misfortunes with him and he offered to help her find work as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. Mr. Gilbert, the owner of the house, was looking for a hardworking and decent woman to help with the housework since his wife spent most of her time in beauty salons and shops. Mr. Gilbert was kind and understanding since he came from a simple background himself. He loved his children and spent all his spare time with them. The house was specifically designed for children, with a large garden filled with various children’s slides and swings and an entertainment center for kids. Alberta took a risk and decided to try her luck at the job.
The house where her new job led her was indeed huge and it was immediately evident that it was designed with children in mind. Alberta was surprised to see that all five children were the same age, but Mr. Halston advised her to mind her own business. Alberta was grateful for the opportunity and believed that things would finally start to look up for her.
“This is so, did his wife give birth to all five at once?”
“No, she didn’t give birth to anyone. She doesn’t want to ruin her figure. I’ll tell you a secret, but don’t gossip, keep quiet. There is a dark story here. The wife apparently refused to give birth, but Mr. Gilbert wanted a large family, so he turned to surrogate mothers and hired two women at once so he could have two at once. But they gave birth to five, for one gave birth to twins and the other to triplets. And now he has his own hockey team, we could say. Three sons and two daughters, and he’s their goalkeeper.”
As Alberta listened in surprise to Mr. Halston’s story and looked around, a group of healthy children ran out of the house like little sparrows leaving the nest. Chirping and running back and forth, the nanny came out after them.
“Mrs. Lansbury!” called the gardener to the woman.
The nanny hurried over to them, separating the quarre
ling boys as she went. “Mrs. Lansbury, meet Alberta. She’s a decent, honest girl who needs work and a place to live. I wonder if Mr. Gilbert will agree to take her. What do you think?”
“Mr. Gilbert left this morning and won’t be back until tomorrow. You’ll see then. But today, you can stay in my room if you have nowhere else to go,” offered the nanny.
Alberta gratefully agreed and immediately got to know the children. She noticed right away that the children, especially the girls, were really missing their mother. Kate and Lizzie were initially very shy, but they soon opened up to Alberta and started sharing stories from their childhood. The boys, although they tried to act grown-up, were still playful and soon swarmed around Alberta from all sides like ants gathering around a piece of sugar.
“Just look at them,” Mr. Halston laughed. “You clearly won them over.”
“Of course, you’re not much older than they are,” Dad, Dad!” the children shouted the next morning when their father returned home from his trip. “We have a guest. Her name is so beautiful, Alberta. She’s really nice. Can we keep her here?” they screamed.
Robert Gilbert took the girls’ hiring very seriously. He examined her documents and medical records and asked her many questions about her family, her hometown, and her mother who still lived in a distant village.
“It’s good that you’re willing to work and have a motive, but will you have enough strength for five children? Mrs. Lansbury will need to leave soon, and all five of these wild kids will fall on you. Think it over a hundred times before you agree. As for me, I’m ready to give you a job.”
Alberta agreed without hesitation. She really liked the children. They were so lively and sincere, and she felt like they needed her. The girl hadn’t seen the house owner yet, but she already understood that the woman was not at all concerned with the children. Susan returned home only a week later. During all that time, she was resting with a friend somewhere in Spain. Susan didn’t even approach the children; her gaze slid over them indifferently like over furniture, and Alberta didn’t arouse any special interest in her either. Some girl from a mountain village couldn’t be interesting for a wealthy socialite.
Mr. Halston asked Alberta about the old man, but how did it happen? “Mr. Gilbert is such a kind and responsive person. He loves children, but his wife is entirely different. Do they live together?”
“Dear, you should not involve yourself in the owner’s business, but I wouldn’t say they are very close. I have been working here for so long, and they always lived like neighbors. He takes care of the business, house, and children, while she only takes care of herself. Maybe he was in love with her once, got married, and now they just live together. It happens.”
Albert set aside feeling sorry for Mr. Gilbert and the little ones who received neither love nor affection from the cold, arrogant woman. But no matter how the situation was in the owner’s family, Alberta was doing very well. The boss paid her regularly, and now she could send money to her mother regularly.
After six months of observing Alberta and her work, Mr. Gilbert offered to bring her mother over so that doctors could examine her and make the right diagnosis. Berta was thrilled. Her dream was about to come true, and soon her beloved mother was really by her side. After the doctor’s examination and treatment, she was feeling much better. Alberta’s life finally had a white streak – a good job, kind and nice people around her. Alberta was grateful to the Almighty for granting her such prosperity and tranquility. That was all she wanted.
And then, something happened that no one expected. Mr. Gilbert disappeared unexpectedly. His car was found in the river; apparently, he had an accident and flew off the bridge at full speed. His body couldn’t be found, and everyone assumed he drowned. Everything changed; complete joy left the house. The children sat in their room, huddled in a small, constantly crying bundle. Without their dad, they became orphans instantly.
Alberta and Mr. Halston knew that Susan didn’t need them, but neither the old man nor the girl could imagine that Robert’s wife would decide to send the children to an orphanage. Mr. Halston, “We can’t allow this to happen!” Alberta cried. “How can we let her take away their home, even if she doesn’t love them? And Mr. Gilbert might still be found.”
She decided to talk to Susan, but she was categorical. “I don’t care what happens to these children. They were never mine, and their arrival in this house ruined our entire life with Robert. It was his obsession with a big family. I could never understand why he needed it. If you like, take them to yourself. I don’t care if they live with you or in an orphanage.”
“I’m sorry, Susan, it’s not my business, but would you still allow the children to stay in the house, at least for their father’s sake? You loved him once. If you lost your mind, don’t push your luck. Otherwise, you’ll be kicked out of here, and you won’t even have time to pack your things. I am now the mistress of this house, and I repeat for the last time: I don’t need children here.”
With trembling hands, feeling like a thief, Alberta collected the children’s belongings in large bags. Children pressed against her and looked at her with frightened eyes. “Don’t be afraid,” the girl said confidently, although she was scared to death. “Now I will be your mother and won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“Where are we going?” asked Tommy with a trembling voice. He was the bravest of the boys, while Ben and James were sniffling and swallowing their tears.
“Mr. Halston will shelter us for now. My mother already lives with him; I’ll introduce you to her. She’s very kind and can make delicious flatbread with goat cheese. You’ll definitely like her. We’ll all be pleased together, you’ll see.”
Alberta tried to convince the children, but inside, she was gripped with fear. Hard times had fallen on everyone. Mr. Houston and Alberta had gone to work for new employers to feed the five children. Elizabeth looked after the children and did everything she could to make sure the orphaned children didn’t get too sad and cried less often. The operation on her thyroid gland, which was paid for by Mr. Gilbert when he was alive, allowed Elizabeth to get back on her feet in time. And now she was happy to be able to help the daughter and five children of her missing benefactor.
But the world is not without good people, and Alberta encountered them no less often than bad and evil people. So when she tried to obtain guardianship over the children, indifferent and heartless people wanted to take the children away and send them to an orphanage.
At this time, Mr. Halston’s nephew, Gordon, appeared in their lives. He held a high post in the police force, had many acquaintances in the guardianship authorities and in other social services. Learning their story, he began to think about how to help Alberta.
Meanwhile, one day, Alberta sang at one
of the local cafes. After finishing her performance, she heard a warm applause. Looking around, she saw an elderly man, who, wiping away a tear, approached her and said, “You know, my dear, I heard your performance. It touched my soul deeply. I am a lonely person, and I have no close relatives. I would be happy if you would agree to be my daughter and accept my modest inheritance.”
Alberta looked at the kind, sad eyes of the elderly man and remembered her own troubles and sufferings. She thought about the five children, for whom she had become a mother. She remembered her mother’s words about how she brought joy to everyone around her. She thought about the difficulties and trials that had befallen her in the big city, and about the wealth of the soul that she had acquired, becoming not only stronger but also kinder. And she realized that happiness is not measured in material wealth, but in the ability to bring joy to others.
“Thank you for your kind offer, but I already have a father and a mother. They are not connected to me by blood, but by the warmth of the soul. And I have five wonderful children who need my care and love. I can’t leave them, especially in such a difficult situation. Thank you for your understanding.”
The old man smiled, his eyes glistening with tears of admiration. “You are a truly remarkable person. Your words have touched my heart even more than your singing. If you ever need help or support, don’t hesitate to contact me. And may God bless you and your children.”
As Alberta walked away from the cafe, she felt a lightness in her heart. Despite all the hardships and challenges she had faced, she had found her purpose and her family. And as she looked ahead, she saw a future filled with hope, love, and the laughter of the children she had come to care for as her own.
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