A young orphaned girl who shares her food with a homeless beggar on the street near her house is stunned when he returns to adopt her.
Marlene Halley walked home from school every day past the same corner. It wasn’t her real home. Marlene was an orphan, and after her parents’ death, she’d been placed in foster care.
It was hard. It wasn’t that her foster parents weren’t nice, because they were. It was just that they had three other kids to care for. Sometimes Marlene felt very alone, until she met Brad.
Marlene noticed Brad sitting on the corner of her street. He was wearing ragged clothes, and his hair and beard were shaggy and matted but his eyes were very sad.
She knew what that sadness was. She’d seen that same lost, bewildered look in her own mirror a thousand times.
One day, Marlene plucked up her courage and talked to the man. “Hello,” she said. “Do you have a broken heart too?”
The man had been looking down, but he raised his head to stare at Marlene. “A broken heart?” he asked. “Yes, yes… But how do you know?”
Marlene sat down next to the man. “I know because mine is broken too,” she explained. “I can see in your eyes that you can’t go home, just like me.”
The man raised his hands to cover his face, and Marlene saw that his shoulders were shaking as if he were crying. She touched him gently. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to make you cry…”
“It’s OK,” the man said. “You know, sometimes crying is good for you. Cleans out the cobwebs from the heart.”
“Cobwebs?” asked Marlene. “You have SPIDERS in your heart? Yuck! I hate spiders!”
“Well,” the man said. “When your heart breaks, sometimes the cobwebs are all that keeps it together. And besides, I like spiders.”
Marlene giggled. “Eensy, Weensy spiders?” she asked. “No, thank you!”
“I’m Brad,” the man said. “I’ve been sitting in this corner for two years and no one has ever asked me…or noticed that I was sad.”
“I know…” Marlene said. “I think people get scared when they see that someone is not happy. They think sadness is catching, like the flu.”
“So why are you sad?” Brad asked Marlene. So the little girl told him all about her parents, and how she was all alone in the world, and how lonely she was.
“But why do you sit here?” she asked Brad.
He turned his face away, ashamed. “I wait for people to give me money…” he said. “So I can buy food.”
“Are you hungry?” Marlene asked. “I’ve got food!” She reached into her school bag and took out a squishy sandwich with the filling coming out of the sides.
Brad accepted the sandwich and told Marlene it was delicious. “I made it myself,” Marlene said proudly. “It’s my own special recipe. Peanut butter and mayo!”
From then on, not a day went by that Marlene didn’t stop by on her way home to bring Brad a sandwich, and to have a chat with her friend. She just couldn’t imagine her day without Brad anymore.
But then one day, when she got to the corner, he just wasn’t there! She ran to the nearby café and asked the waiter, “Did you see my friend, Brad?”
The waiter said, “You mean the homeless guy who sits on that corner?”
“Yes,” Marlene said. “That’s Brad.”
“Are you Marlene?” the waiter asked. “He left a letter for you.”
He handed Marlene a creased piece of paper. Marlene unfolded it and read: “Dear Marlene, I’m sorry, but I had to go away to mend my heart. I promise that I will be back one day soon. Your friend, Brad.”
Marlene was very sad, and very lonely again. Every time she walked past Brad’s corner, she cried, which meant she cried just about every day.
Marlene’s foster mom scolded her, “Stop crying! You’ll wash the blue right out of your eyes. Why do you cry so much, anyway?”
“My only friend is gone,” Marlene said. “And I don’t think I’ll ever see him again. My mom and dad said they’d come back, but they never did. I don’t think Brad will come back either.”
But Marlene was wrong because eighteen months later, Brad came back. Marlene saw a big fancy car parked outside her foster parents’ door, and when she walked in, Brad was there!
He looked very different. His face was smooth and his hair was cut and he was wearing very nice clothes. But despite the differences, Marlene knew him straight away because he still had the same kind, sad eyes.
“Brad!” she cried and ran to hug him. “Why did you go away?”
“You know,” Brad said. “A few years ago, I was a happy man. I painted pictures that people wanted to buy, and my wife and I were going to have a baby.
“But when the time came for our baby to be born, something went very wrong. My wife and the baby died, and I think part of me died too. I couldn’t paint anymore.
“So I just gave up on life, and on myself — until I met you, Marlene. When you gave me those peanut butter and mayo sandwiches, you did more than feed my body, you fed my soul.
“I decided I wanted to give you something, too. So I went to a friend who owns an art gallery and I begged for work so I could buy canvases and paints, and I started painting again.
“When my friend saw my new work, he was very excited. He said my painting was even better than before, and he put them in his gallery. And you know what? People started buying them!
“Then I had a show…Well, to make a long story short, I got myself a house and some clothes, and I went to Child Services. I qualified as a foster parent.
“I want to ask you if you want to be my little girl, Marlene. If you do, they say that in a year’s time, I can adopt you, and we can be a family!”
Marlene started to cry so hard that Brad grew alarmed. “My mommy and daddy said they’d come back and they didn’t,” she sobbed. “You promised, and you came back, you really came back!”
Brad gave Marlene a big hug and said, “Marlene, I promise you that from now on, I’ll never go away again. We are going to be a family!”
What can we learn from this story?
We have to look past appearances to see into someone’s heart. Marlene saw that Brad was sad and lonely, and started talking to him, while most people simply walked on by.
Love gives us the courage to put aside our sorrows and live again. Marlene inspired Brad to start painting again and take back his life.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.
If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a formerly homeless artist who adopts the little girl he first met four years before in the cemetery where her parents were buried.
This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only.