An elderly widow, whose life lost meaning after her husband’s death, found herself in a difficult situation when one day she helped a homeless man in the park and realized that he looked a lot like her late husband.
Marla liked the weather to be pleasantly cool. The breeze gently fluttered her silvery hair as she drank hot tea on the balcony, watching the family playing in the front yard.
On weekends, most families did this. They would get together and spend time together. But Marla wasn’t familiar with that feeling. How could she? Life had not given her a chance to be a mother, and the husband she thought she loved had caused her nothing but misery in the last days of his life.
Marla hated Ethan in the last days of his life. He was constantly irritated and complaining. It was not her fault that she could not conceive a child. But he seemed to resent her.
Things got so bad between them, she even considered divorcing him. But he died of a heart attack, sleeping peacefully one night, and she never had a chance.
Widowed and alone in her huge house, Marla wondered if she had ever loved Ethan. She couldn’t remember shedding tears when he was buried or when she saw him on his deathbed.
He wasn’t a good husband, she knew, but he wasn’t the worst either. They had married young, at 18, promising to be together until death. They kept their promise; Ethan did.
And Marla was sure that even though he was not the best husband for her, he never cheated on her. He yelled at her and argued with her, but he never cheated on her. She appreciated that. She was grateful to have had a faithful partner all her life.
Marla finished her tea. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she did not realise it. She slowly rose from her seat and went into the house, but she did not brew a second cup as she usually did.
She went to her room, grabbed a book and her handbag, and headed to her favourite place, the park. After Ethan’s death, Marla found that time spent surrounded by nature brought her healing. It relieved her of the traumatic memories of widowhood and childlessness.
Sometimes watching the children play reminded her of her own childhood, and a smile would come to her lips when she saw them mischievous. But this day was different.
As Marla sat on a bench, she saw something that demanded action from her. It was a boy, dressed in shaggy clothes, who was trying to steal a sandwich from a family who was having a picnic in the park. He calmly took the sandwich from the unguarded basket with a long hook.
“Are you sure this is the right thing to do, boy?” – she asked, touching his shoulder from behind and he flinched, turning to her.
“Please, please don’t tell them…,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I haven’t eaten for days. My parents haven’t eaten either. I… I need this sandwich!”
His thinness and the dark bags under his eyes told her he wasn’t lying. Marla’s heart began to race, and she pulled a hundred-dollar note from her handbag.
“Work hard if you don’t want to starve. Stealing is no way to achieve that,” she said, and the boy nodded appreciatively, accepting the money.
“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll never forget this. Do you come here often?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Enjoy the good food tonight. And I hope I never see you steal again.”
“I won’t again,” he said and disappeared.
Marla went back to reading, but could not concentrate. She felt sorry for the poor boy and decided to find him and help his family by taking him to a nearby restaurant. Finally, she spotted the boy near the bench.
“Oh, there you are!” – she said, panting. “Where are your parents?” – she asked. “I thought I’d offer you some food…”
“Really? Thank you! I’ll call them…” The boy rushed to call his parents while Marla waited on the bench.
Soon a tall man and a short woman approached her and stood behind the boy.
Marla’s eyes widened in bewilderment and she stared at the man. “You… You look like my late husband!” – she exclaimed, and the man’s smile faded.
“That’s funny. People have nothing in common with a homeless person like me. It’s strange that you think so.”
“Oh no…,” Marla added in horror. “You do look like him! How is that possible?”
She took her phone out of her handbag and showed the homeless person a picture of her husband. The poor man was speechless.
“He… he really looks like me,” he finally managed to say. “But how is that possible?” – Marla asked.
“My mother abandoned me when I was a baby,” explained the homeless person. “And I grew up in an orphanage. Things didn’t work out the way I hoped, so I had to live on the street with my family.”
“I don’t have the faintest idea about my father. At least, I don’t want to know anything about him. He left my mother pregnant, that’s all I know about him and I hate that. My mother died years ago.”
“But I want to know,” Marla said with tears in her eyes. “I want to know if my husband cheated on me! Son, would you agree to a DNA test? I know it all sounds crazy, but I don’t know… By the way, my name is Marla. Does that mean anything to you? Maybe you know me?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the homeless person said. “I don’t know anything about my childhood except that I was abandoned and I don’t know you. But you’ve helped me, so I can’t refuse you a test. My name is Peter.”
Marla welcomed Peter’s family into her home and offered them food and shelter. Her heart shook at the thought of taking the test, even though she herself had offered to take it. However, she needed to know the truth.
The next day, Marla took samples for an ancestral DNA test. Ethan’s brother was helping them. She knew that Ethan had already done this once before with the same company she had submitted the samples to. He said he was interested in finding his parents. She wondered if he was trying to find Peter.
A week later the results came in, and the words they contained shocked Marla. She flopped down on the sofa and looked so frightened that Peter was worried about her. It had been proven that Peter was Ethan’s biological son.
“Mrs. Simpson, I’m sorry,” he said, taking her hands. “We shouldn’t have met. I’m so sorry…”
Marla shook her head and wiped away her tears. “It’s not your fault, Peter,” she said. “How can I blame you? It was my husband who should have apologised. He should have told me, at least.”
“I still think we should go,” Peter said. “You were kind enough to help us. We will always be grateful for your help.”
“NO!” – Marla said, jumping to her feet. “You’re not leaving. You have become to me the family I never had. I know we are bound by the man who cheated on both of us, but you are my family now and I will not leave my family alone. You, your wife and your son will stay with me….”.
Marla was offended. She really was. But was it all Peter’s fault? Was it his fault? Was it Ethan? Perhaps it had been. But Ethan was gone, and there was no reason to dwell on the past.
To put it another way, Marla had adopted Peter and his family. Now her empty house was filled with joy, and she never sat alone on the balcony again, wishing she had a family because she had found one in Peter.