One Day On A Bus Bench

A Fictional Story
Written July 29th, 2010

She sat alone on that park bench seemingly waiting for the bus.
But one bus came.
And another.
And still another, and yet she still sat.
From the window where I stood sipping my cup of coffee (the second pot of the day), I wondered what she was waiting for.
I set my coffee down, and began my next task on my to-do list. Grabbing the broom, I first swept the floor, then mopped.
I walked past the window again, and curiosity made me take a glance.
Why I was surprised that she hadn’t moved I’m not sure.
I heard Joey, my sixteen-month-old son, waking up from his morning nap.
After changing him, cuddling him, feeding him, I slung him onto my hip, grabbed my keys, my purse, my grocery list and made my way to my silver 2007 Toyota RAV4.
After buckling him in the SUV, I was about to climb inside, but first, I looked over my shoulder.
She looked to be about my age, twenty-nine, or maybe a few years older, but only if you looked really close. At first glance I had thought she was, maybe, forty-something.
Her clothes looked thin from many, many washes; she wore no makeup, but had on a red baseball cap. From what team, I wouldn’t know.
Her tennis shoes looked like they might have once been white. I wondered if the bags that sat near her were all she owned.
She looked off in the distance oblivious to me, staring at nothing in particular.
I got behind the steering wheel and put on my brand new Alfred Sung sunglasses and smoothed the wrinkles out of my blouse.
On the radio, song after song played, I could hear Joey in the backseat talking gibberish, but I could only think of the woman on the bench.
In the produce section I thought of her.
In the bakery, I thought of her.
In the soup isle, the pasta isle, the meat section, and the frozen food section I thought of her.
I was so distracted by her I accidently hit a gentleman in the ankles with my cart. I couldn’t even look at him as I apologized, and could only thank the Lord that he had work boots on, and not sandals like I was wearing.
I got to the check out, and didn’t even hear the cashier ask me if I wanted bags. I was still thinking of her, as I went and picked up some boxes to put my groceries in. After all, I had no bags.
I put all my groceries in the SUV, buckled Joey in his seat, got behind the wheel, and reached for my purse for my sunglasses. But my purse wasn’t there. I sighed, unbuckled myself, then Joey, locked up the SUV and headed back inside.
I reached the cashier and thanked her for holding my purse.
When I was finally on the road – with my purse this time and wearing my sunglasses – I began to pray, wondering what had taken me so long to do so in the first place.
I prayed for the woman I had seen all the way home. And when I reached my driveway, to my surprise, there she sat, in the same spot.
I brought Joey inside, placed him in his highchair with juice and some crackers and began unloading my groceries.
I heard the Lord say, “invite her to lunch”.
I froze.
What if she’s crazy?
What if she doesn’t leave?
What if she steals something?
Then I heard the Lord say, “If I ask you to have her for lunch, don’t you know that I will be there? Don’t you know that I love her as much as I love you?”
Then I thought to myself, well, maybe she’ll say no.
So I picked Joey up, a very wet Joey as he had more apple juice on his shirt than had probably made it to his belly, and walked across the street.
I sat on the bench, and tried talking to her.
“Hi, my name is Maddy, this is my son Joey. I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been sitting here all day.”
At that moment, still as she stared off in the distance, I saw tears form in her eyes.
I tried to smile, although my heart was breaking.
“Well, Joey and I were wondering if you would like to join us for lunch. My husband is at work all day, and the house is kind of lonely.”
She didn’t say anything, but I saw her chin quiver.
“Do you have any plans for lunch?” I asked.
I saw a small shake of her head; if I had blinked I might have missed it.
“Well, come on inside, then, I hope you like chicken wraps, because that’s what we’re having! You aren’t a vegetarian, are you?” I asked, as I helped her with one of her bags.
“No, I’m not,” she said quietly, and I saw the beginnings of a smile there.
We had lunch that day, and by the end of the meal we were laughing and joking with one another. Even while Joey had his afternoon nap, and she (Lia) helped me with the dishes.
She looked to be about my size, so I went to my room and found some things I thought she might like. I handed them to her.
“I wondered if you might let me use your bath?” she said very hesitantly, looking like a child, and not a grown woman.
I smiled, and led her that way.
I did some laundry while she got fixed up, and when she emerged she looked like a different person.
That’s when I realized I knew her.
We had been good friends as kids when she had moved to the other side of town in grade three, but I knew her as “Amelia”. We didn’t see much of each other much after that.
It’s been three years since that day we had lunch together. Lia and I became really good friends. Best friends, in fact.
I found out in that time that she had been evicted from her apartment after losing her job; that she had turned to drugs, but was trying to get clean when I found her that day on the bench.
All day she had sat and prayed for God to rescue her, not even sure that He existed.
She didn’t tell me all that until months after that first day. After she had lived with my husband and I for three months, once we had found her a job and an apartment.
“I don’t know what would have happened if God hadn’t sent you,” she told me one day.
And I couldn’t help but wonder, what would have happened if I hadn’t listened?
But instead of dwelling on that possibility, Lia and I started volunteering at a shelter for women. We’ve been doing it for two years, and Lia is now the director of the second home they are starting in another part of town.
This is what I was thinking of as I watched her walk down the aisle and marry one of my husband’s best friends. With tears brimming, I stood my post as her maid of honor.
I caught her eye for a second, and winked.
A beautiful bride.
Completely restored.