When Laura opted to work extra hours to make ends meet, her boss handed her a bonus and a promotion, thanks to an unexpected group of visitors.

Laura Maxwell was always running. Running behind her three kids to get ready for school. Running to take out the trash just while the garbage truck was just leaving. And running to the bus stop to hop on to the bus just in time. Then at the Rainbow Children’s hospital, she was running from ward to ward, doctor to doctor, with file after file.

You would think that being an experienced nurse would warrant some extra perks during lunchtime, at least. But Laura didn’t even remember the last time she had her lunch sitting down.

“Slow down, Laura, or your feet might catch fire!” her mother kept saying. Laura’s mother, Denise, was the most recent addition to the household. Laura had no option but to bring her in from the village after Denise had yet another fall, injuring her knee again.

Laura had been on her toes since the day her husband Shane passed away. It had been five months since the morning she last kissed his face before leaving for work and since he pulled her back one last time into his warm, bear-like embrace before letting her go. Now, for some reason, Laura was always cold.

She would have worked herself to the point of collapse if she didn’t have the kids and her mother to look after. In this constant sense of rush and urgency that was Laura’s life, there were moments when her three children and ailing mom would slow her down and remind her that she was human.

Arthur, Haley, and Rachel were still toddlers. But they had their ways of knowing if their mama had a good day at work – she would always bring donuts from the cafeteria. Lately, those occasions had become rare, and the children were sad about both the lack of donuts and the stressed life of their mother.

But one day, when the power was out, and Laura hadn’t come home even after 8 p.m., the children got really worried. Grandma Denise was fast asleep in her room, as was evident from the loud rhythmic snoring.

“Should we wake Grandma?” Three-year-old Rachel sounded worried as she asked.

“No, no, we should call Mom’s friend at work,” five-year-old Haley said, searching through the contacts on the cell phone meant for home.

The three children huddled around the phone as they heard the dial tone. But after three rings, the phone went blank. “Oh no! The battery is dead!” Rachel jumped with anxiety. “What do we do now?”

“We wait. Don’t worry; Mom will be here soon,” Arthur, the eldest one, tried to reassure his siblings. “Why don’t we all get inside and find some more candles in the meantime?”

After what seemed like forever, Laura walked through the door with heavy footsteps. She dropped her bag on the floor with a thud and saw it had woken up Arthur, who was sleeping on the couch.

“Shh! Everybody else is asleep inside.” Arthur got up and walked to his mother.

“Here, let me help you with that bag. What happened, Mom? Why did you get so late?”

“I’m so sorry, kiddo. This is how it’s going to be for a while now. You know how I was looking for a second job to pay for Grandma’s surgery?”

Arthur had brought her a glass of water. “Yeah, Mom. Did you find one?”

“No, even better. I asked my boss Abby Barker for extra work at the hospital. I had to push her a bit.” Laura took a sip to calm her dry throat. “But she finally agreed to let me work four extra hours on weekdays. And I get that much extra pay! Isn’t that great news?”

Arthur knew that was not really great news. He knew his mother would only speak good things and leave out the bad. Just like she left out how much more overworked she would end up being.

As he set a plate of dinner for his mother, Arthur thought to himself, ‘This means that Mom will be even more exhausted. She will spend even less time with Grandma and us. She will have no free time at all!’

He decided he would share his opinion while his mother ate. Just as he brought the plate of food out to the hall, he found that Laura had already fallen asleep on the couch.

Looking at her lying there, tired and exhausted, Arthur made a decision.

The following day was Thursday, which was the one day when Laura did not have to go to work. ‘This is perfect,’ Arthur thought to himself.

“Mom, I’m taking Haley and Rachel to the park. You sleep in and rest. I’ll wake you up when we’re back in an hour.”

“Thanks, sweetie,” Laura kissed Arthur softly and went right back to sleep.

Arthur briefly stopped by Denise’s room. “Go, kiddo, you got this. I’ll hold down the fort.”

Minutes later, Arthur and his siblings were on the bus, traveling to Laura’s office with a mission. ‘Mission: Free Mommy,’ they called it.

“We would like to speak to Mrs. Abby Barker, please,” Haley said, trying to sound as grown-up as she could.

“And we won’t take no for an answer!” Rachel jumped in, adding an unnecessary note of aggression.

The receptionist made a brief nervous phone call and guided the trio to an office.

“Hello, I’m Mrs. Abby Barker. How can I help you darlings today?”

The kids were taken aback by the niceness in Mrs. Barker’s voice. They had imagined her to be an evil woman who was heartless and demanding towards the poor employees. Laura never indicated it, but Arthur had read some of the messages from other employees on the online group chat.

“She’s truly heartless.”

“How can she ask us to pull a double shift again?”

“She clearly has her favorites and treats the rest of us like trash.”

But when the woman was face-to-face with him, Arthur could see that she was almost inspiring.

She spoke with a stern but courteous tone. She asked one of the employees about their daughter’s health. Everything in her office was neatly organized, and the kids were immediately offered a plate of donuts.

“Why have you been overworking our mother?” Rachel asked with the same aggression that had terrorized the receptionist.



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