Marlene Halley walked home from school every day, passing the same corner. This wasn’t her true home, as she was an orphan who had been placed in foster care after her parents’ death. It was tough for her, as her foster parents were nice but had three other children to take care of. Marlene often felt lonely, but that changed when she met Brad.
She noticed Brad sitting on the corner of her street, looking unkempt and sad. His clothes were tattered, and his hair and beard were unkempt. But it was the sadness in his eyes that caught her attention. Marlene recognized it because she had seen the same lost and bewildered look in her own reflection many times before.
One day, Marlene mustered up the courage to speak to Brad. “Hello,” she said. “Is your heart broken as well?”
Brad, who had been staring at the ground, looked up at Marlene. “My heart is broken?” he asked. “You know what, you are right!”
Marlene sat down beside Brad. “I know because I feel the same,” she shared. “I can see in your eyes that you’re struggling, just like me.”
Brad covered his face with his hands and Marlene noticed his shoulders shaking, it looked like the man was crying. She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to upset you…”
“It’s okay,” Brad replied. “Sometimes crying is good for the soul. It helps to clear out the negative emotions. I call them cobwebs of my heart.”
“Cobwebs?” asked Marlene. “It sounds like you keep spiders in your heart? Yuck! I don’t really like spiders!”
“Well,” the man said. “When your heart is broken, the cobwebs could be the only thing that keeps the pieces together. And besides, spiders aren’t that bad.”
Marlene giggled. “Eensy, Weensy spiders?” she asked. “No, thank you!”
“My name is Brad, by the way,” the man said. “It’s been two years since I first appeared at this corner, believe it or not, no one ever cared if I was sad or not.”
“Don’t sweat..” Marlene said. “People are just too scared to deal with someones unhappiness. I think, they are afraid, that they may catch it, like the flu.”
“What about you, what makes you unhappy?” Brad asked Marlene. So the little girl told him, what happened to her parents, and how she was left all by herself, and how lonely she felt in a foster family.
“But why do you sit here?” she asked Brad.
He turned his face away, ashamed. “I ask people to give me some money…” he said. “When I get enough, I go and buy food.”
“Are you hungry?” Marlene asked. “I have something in my bag” She reached into her school bag and pulled out a huge sandwich with the filling coming out of the sides.
Brad was grateful and finished off the food in a minute, he thought it was the most delicious sandwich he had ever tried. “Well, I’m the one who made it,” Marlene said proudly. “It’s my secret recipe. I put mayo on top of peanut butter!”
That was the start of a sweet friendship between Marlene and Brad. She was looking forward to the end of the classes and rushed to Brad’s corner. They would chat and tell each other little secrets, and Marlene would always bring a sandwich for her friend.
That was all until one day she came to the usual spot and didn’t find Brad. She ran to the nearby café and asked the waiter, “Did you see my friend, Brad?”
The waiter said, “You are talking about the homeless guy from the corner, right?”
“Yes,” Marlene said. “That’s Brad.”
“Then you must be Marlene?” the waiter asked. “He asked me to give you a note.”
Marlene was shaking when she was trying to unfold a greasy piece of paper. Finally she was reading the letter: “Dear Marlene, thank you for your kind heart and all your sandwiches! You made me feel alive, and now I have to leave you. But I promise you, we will meet again some day soon. Take care! ”
Marlene was consumed with sadness and loneliness. Every time she passed by the corner where her friend Brad used to be, she couldn’t help but cry. Her foster mother scolded her for it, asking why she cried so much. Marlene replied that Brad, her only friend, was gone and she didn’t think she would ever see him again.
But Marlene was surprised when 18 months later, Brad returned. She saw a fancy car parked outside her foster parents’ house and when she walked in, there he was.
Brad looked different, with a smooth face and nicely cut hair, but Marlene recognized him immediately by his kind, sad eyes. She ran to him and asked why he had left.
“I’m sorry Marlene, you see, I had to go”, Brad explained that a few years ago, he was happy, painting pictures that people wanted to buy, and he and his wife were expecting a baby, but when his wife went into labor, something went wrong, and that day he lost both of them. “A part of my soul died too that day. I couldn’t hold a brush in my hand anymore”.
“I thought my life was over, and it was until I met you. You gave me the reason to fight and and the reason to live again”.
“I wanted to give something back to you. So I found my old friend, who keeps an art gallery and begged him to give me some work. With my first money I bought 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 agreed to put them in his gallery. People loved my work. They bought everything!”
“Then I had a show…Well, we will have time for the whole story later, the important thing is, I got myself a house 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 pressed Marlene to his heart and said, “It will be alright, Marlene, from this day on, we will never part again. Now you are my family!”