Love, loss and peanutbutter sandwiches

Love, loss and peanutbutter sandwiches

A Story by Vonnie15

The first story I ever wrote. One of my personal favourites. A promising writer turned homeless person when he loses that which is most precious to him.


Love, loss and peanut butter sandwiches


“Hurry Tess…we’re going to be late!” James said with a contented sigh. He was used to this already; it was God’s gift to him to let him know that nothing had changed and that life was at present continuing at its comfortable, familiar pace. Tessa spent hours titivating before the parties they attended, ostensibly “making herself beautiful”. As far as James was concerned, however, she was the most beautiful woman alive without the help of any makeup. “Daddy! Oscar made a sneeze. Doggies really are like us!” Nina giggled as she said this and her eyes sparkled. That was one of the things James loved the most about his five-year old daughter: her big blue eyes that sparkled when she smiled. One of the problems of growing older is that you lose the ability to smile with your heart and it stops showing in your eyes. “I love you, Boo, with everything in me,” James said as he whispered a silent thank you to God. “Around the world and back?” Nina asked with a serious voice. James laughed as she wrinkled her nose. “Yes, Sweet heart,” he answered, “Around the world and back again.” That night, James would have a chance to network with a few important people in the publishing industry, which would be vital to the success of his career. Writing was James’s passion in life, coming a close second only to Tessa and Nina. Life was beautiful; he was about half way with his book and it was bound to be a success; and Tess, wow, Tess was an absolute goddess. “Just five more minutes, James!” screamed Tessa from their bedroom. James had heard that one before…


“Now that is what I call a party!” Tessa giggled. James agreed that the night had been a lot of fun and he had spoken to quite a few influential people who felt that his book had incredible potential. “It was fun, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting home; you look incredible in that dress,” James said with a teasing smile. “Oh, Honey! It sounds as if you have some interesting plans, but first we need to pick Nina up from the McNaughtons," Tessa laughed. “Okay, okay, but let’s hurry!” James replied as he squeezed Tessa’s hand.


As usual, Nina hardly stopped talking long enough to catch a breath between everything she wanted to say about her evening. James and Tessa exchanged a smile and listened patiently as Nina rambled on. Finally, she finished relating the events of her evening, but she only took a five-second break before asking, “Can we please stop for ice cream on our way home, Daddy?” “I don’t think that is a good idea, Sweetie,” Tessa said in her responsible voice. “Oh, have a heart, Honey. One little ice cream won’t kill anyone,” James said and after a little debate about healthy eating habits, James won. Unfortunately, he did not have enough time to react to the drunk driver who sped towards them as they turned the corner to the ice cream parlour.


“His vital signs are good, Doctor and it looks as if he is finally coming out of the coma.” “James, can you hear me? My name is Doctor Golding. James?” James could hear an annoying muddle of words coming from the blurry images in front of him. Where the hell was he? Who were these people? Suddenly it all came rushing back to him. He could see the bright lights from the vehicle again; hear Tess screaming next to him. “Where are Tess and Nina? Please ask them to come here; I need to know if they’re okay.” Even in James’s half-sedated state, he could not help but notice the sad look on the young nurse’s face. “Where are they? Do they have any injuries from the accident?” James was starting to get worried. “James, I am sorry to tell you this, but your wife and daughter…they did not make it.” When the doctor said this, James felt like hitting him and telling him that it was all a lie, a sick joke. But deep down, James knew it was true. He could feel the hole in his heart. It felt as if a part of him had died.


James had always had an incredible talent for writing. In primary school, he would produce the most beautifully written stories that far exceeded the expected level of writing at his young age. His mom always stuck his essays against the fridge and then would read them repeatedly. James already knew that he wanted to be a writer one day. He could feel that that was God’s plan for his life. In high school, he was the top English student and his teacher looked forward to reading his essays, short stories and poems. Usually his English teacher enjoyed his work so much that she passed it around the staff room during breaks so that everyone could enjoy it.  At the end of matric, James was given a bursary to study Language and Literature at the University of his choice. Once again, he stunned everyone with his writing. His lecturers could not stop telling him how talented he was.


It was here that he met Tess. He was sitting in the cafeteria eating a peanut butter sandwhich when she walked in. James had never believed in love at first sight or any of those other silly ideas that people had, but when their eyes met he realised that it was time to rethink some of his theories on love. They became inseparable and Tessa became the inspiration for some of his very best short stories and poems, many of which were published in the campus newspaper and other local publications. One day James planned to write a novel. It would be an inspiring book that would warm hearts and make people think about their lives in a different light. His book would be on the best-seller list and he would be able to provide Tessa with everything that she deserved. James could not wait to share his future with her.


It is strange how life can change in the blink of an eye; you think that life is finally turning out as planned and then suddenly, it slaps you in the face and you fall back to reality. This was one of the things James was thinking about as he drank down his eighth beer for the night. He asked for a whiskey and burped. At that point, a man carrying a Bible walked into the bar and started preaching about God’s great love for sinners. Well, what the heck did he know? He did not have his wife and child stolen from him by the so-called ‘God of love’. Pathetic.


James had come a long way from how things used to be six months ago. When Tessa and Nina died, he promised himself that he would never let anyone read his writing again. Tessa had always said that his talent for entertaining others with his stories was a gift from God and he refused to take anything from that God anymore. When Tessa and Nina died, other things also changed in his life. James found a new love: alcohol. The number of times he passed out in bars in the last six months was uncountable.  James was now officially out of money. His medical bills and the funeral had been very expensive, especially for someone who had lost all motivation and decided to quit their job. Once James started drinking his savings away, there was just no hope of getting out of his deep financial debt anymore. Soon he started developing his skills at pick pocketing as a means of supporting his love for Old Brown Sherry.      “The most important thing in life is to work hard for what you want,” James said to Nina. He continued, “You should never expect to simply receive things if you aren’t willing to work for it.” “What if you can’t find a job though, Daddy, and you need to take things just to live through each day?” asked Nina innocently. “You mean steal from other people who worked hard to get the things they have? No Nina, stealing is never alright. God gave each of us the ability to work. People who live on the streets and don’t have any money or food are only there because they are lazy,” James said with strong conviction.       “Survival of the fittest,” he thought to himself aloud.


James had been kicked out of his apartment two weeks earlier and had taken up residence on a bench in the park. “Home, sweet freaken home,” James said as he sat down on his bench. He hated feeling so sober. This used to be their favourite park. He and Tessa would bring little Nina there for a picnic every second Sunday after the morning church service.    “Do ants have families too, Daddy?” Nina asked one Sunday morning. “Of course they do, Boo. There’s nothing more important than family,” James answered.      In his mind he could still hear Nina’s giggle and it tore him up inside. James used to consider it unmanly to cry, but his self-respect died right along with his family and he did not think twice about openly weeping when the hurt got too bad and he did not have money for a drink, which would numb the pain.  


James hated the way that people hurried past him without looking him in the eye. Either this or they simply gave him an absolute look of disgust. He never begged for money, he refused to beg, but people tended to assume that he would ask them for something. It angered James that some of those people called themselves Christians. He saw them coming out of church on Sunday mornings and then watched as they hurried past him without even a second thought. The rest of the world had written him off, he was no longer considered part of the human population. It did not bug him anymore though and he did not care what those hypocrites thought of him. His thoughts were interrupted when a woman walked past with her daughter. James could not help but notice the little girl’s bouncy blond hair that reminded him so much of Nina.       Nina had the same beautiful hair as her mother. Nina was lying next to James with her little head on his chest and her hair tickled his nose. Nina giggled hysterically as if this was the funniest thing ever. “What do you want me to be when I grow up, Daddy?” Nina enquired curiously. “I want you to be something that will make you happy for the rest of your life, Boo,” James replied. Nina suddenly looked very distressed as she quietly asked, “But, what if I just want to stay with you and mommy forever, what if I don’t want to grow up?” James looked at her lovingly as he said, “Well, if that’s what you really want, it’s fine with me, Boo. I would love to keep you here in my arms forever.”



Amy got so annoyed when street people asked her for money. She worked hard to get to where she was now and she struggled to feel pity for those lazy beggars. “ If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” “Yes, Lord I know, but sometimes I just don’t understand why I should feed people who aren’t willing to work “But everything comes from God.” Amy felt a little guilty now.” Forgive me, Father. Teach me to truly care about street people.” Amy felt a sense of peace as she walked into the coffee shop across from the local park.


One could see that this 30 year old was a successful woman who knew what she wanted in life. Being an only-child who was orphaned at the age of 12, Amy knew what it meant to be alone and to work hard for every little thing. Amy had spent many lonely years drifting from foster family to foster family, never truly feeling at home.  She had weaknesses, just like everyone else, but still had a close relationship with God, which had helped her through many lonely years. Amy generally felt very blessed and she thanked God every day for the things she had. If only He would finally bring her someone to love; but for now that would have to wait while she got on with the important things in life.


As Amy walked past the park, she saw the homeless man again. She watched as he scribbled something on a scrap of newspaper and then started weeping. She saw him weeping often. Amy had not cried since the day her parents died. Go to him, my child. Amy did not want to go anywhere near him. He looked dirty, as if he had not showered in weeks. He was probably a lazy drug addict or something too. She ignored God’s voice and walked away, feeling surprisingly guilty.


God’s prompting persisted for two weeks. Eventually Amy could not take it anymore. “Fine, Lord I will go to him. Please give me the words to say.” As she walked slowly towards the man, she could smell alcohol and it took a lot of praying and self-control to stop herself from running in the opposite direction. Amy looked around to make sure no one was watching as she walked towards the homeless man. When she sat down next to him, he stopped writing on his scrap of paper just long enough to glance at her for a second. Amy could not help but notice that he had nice eyes. “Hi,” Amy said with as friendly a smile as possible. Nothing. No greeting or smile of acknowledgement.  After a while of excruciating silence and one-way conversation on her part, Amy walked away and planned never to come back. But God had other plans. Amy ended up sitting in silence next to the man every day for the next two weeks.



On the fifteenth day that the annoying woman returned to the park, she had a peanut butter sandwich with her. As she sat down next to him, she immediately offered him half of her lunch. James just gently shook his head.    “I made you a peanut butter sandwich, daddy!” Nina giggled as he stared at the little peanut butter fingerprints that were all over the kitchen. He almost got angry, but when Nina smiled at him, James just said, “Thank you Boo, I love peanut butter.”      “On second thought…” he said quietly, “Yes please, I love peanut butter. My name is James by the way.” This was the start of a very strange friendship.



Amy arrived at the park every day with a peanut butter sandwich, and their conversations increased by about one sentence per day. Slowly but surely the highly successful woman and the homeless man became friends, and Amy realised that James was a very intelligent man with a beautifully gentle spirit. They spoke about many things, except about Tessa and Nina. When Amy asked James about his scribbles on the scraps of paper and newspaper, he also refused to discuss this.  Amy decided to respect his privacy until he was ready to open up. Their friendship kept getting stronger. Amy no longer felt embarrassed about the looks that people gave them, even though she could just imagine what a strange sight the two of them were, sitting on the bench and eating peanut butter sandwiches!


When Amy woke up one morning, she almost laughed aloud at the idea that had popped into her head. It had been about two months since they had become friends, and God was telling her to give James a home. She could just imagine the neighbours’ reaction to a street person moving in with her! The strange thing, however, was that she did not care at all what they would have to say about it.



James had stopped drinking quite so much. Alcohol was no longer his only friend. Amy had appeared out of nowhere and treated him as an actual human being. He could see her walking towards him and he smiled and waved at her. James caught himself thinking that she was actually very pretty and immediately reprimanded himself for betraying Tessa. “Hi, Jamesie boy. I have a bit of a crazy idea, but it could be really fun.” Amy looked a little nervous and James waited anxiously to hear her idea. “I want you to move in with me,” she said and James almost laughed until he realised that Amy was being serious.     It was a sunny day when James and Tessa moved into their first apartment. They had just returned from their honeymoon and Tessa could not stop talking about all the ideas she had for their new home.  He loved watching Tess get all excited and carried away with her ideas.  James felt so blessed to be able to call her his wife. “…I think we should get purple curtains for our bedroom.  And when we start thinking about changing the spare bedroom into a baby room, we should make the whole room a pretty pastel green,” Tessa said excitedly. Baby room? Now that sounded really nice. James had always wanted lots of kids.  The day his daughter was born was one of the happiest days in his whole life. They named her Nina after James’s grandmother. James couldn’t wait until they could take Nina to the park for a picnic for the first time.  He was finally a dad.      “Why would you want to do that, Amy? I have nothing, I am nothing. People will think you’re crazy.” James said softly, to which Amy answered, “I don’t care what people think. You are my friend and I know that there is a lot more to you than that which meets the eye and I really want to give you a home. God has blessed me with many things and now I want to bless you. Please, James. Let me do this, for my sake, not just yours.”   



James moved in the next day. Amy had bought him a few new items of clothing and while he was in the shower, Amy threw away his filthy “homeless person” clothing. That part of his life was over. Amy’s heart skipped a beat when James stepped into the living room. He was wearing a new blue shirt and pair of jeans and he had just shaved.  James cleaned up very nicely. Amy cleared her throat and went to the kitchen to make them some coffee. “I want to show you something.” James said as he followed her into the kitchen with a few scraps of paper. “You once asked me to show you what I wrote. I’m ready to show you,” he said shyly. When Amy read the stories and poems and other bits and pieces he had written she was carried away to another world. James had such a talent for writing, Amy was speechless. When she could speak again she said, “It’s incredible, I’ve never read something quite so good. You should have been a writer.” With this last statement, James finally let all his defences down and he spent the rest of the afternoon telling Amy about his incomplete manuscript, about Tessa and his little girl and about his lost  faith. Amy cried for the first time in eighteen years.



The next Sunday morning Amy convinced James to go to church with her.  James could not understand why he was feeling so nervous. Those church folk did not understand what his life had been like, God had stopped loving him almost a year ago: the day He let Tess and Nina die.  James only agreed to go to church because it meant so much to Amy, and he kind of owed her one. “Just five more minutes, James!” Amy shouted from her bedroom, and James felt a deep sadness go through him at hearing Tess’ familiar words.   He used to love watching her carefully put on her make-up and slowly brush her hair. “I’m almost done, Honey,” she would say and James would just smile as she re-applied her lipstick. Wow, what did he do to deserve such an amazing wife? She was breathtakingly beautiful and an incredible mother.      How long would it be until it stopped hurting so much?


When they arrived at church, James was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere in the church building. He suddenly felt a weird, yet oddly familiar stirring in his heart. The church service began and James hoped it would be over soon.


That Sunday’s message title was: “God’s on OUR side”. James found the pastor’s words strangely comforting and the things he said actually made sense. God does not MAKE bad things happen. We live in a fallen world and bad things are, unfortunately a part of life. Whether you have God in your life or not, bad things are going to happen, the difference is in how you handle it when it does. When the pastor read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God,” James could feel the tears run down his face as all the bitterness melted from his heart. It was on that day that James forgave the drunk driver, forgave himself and recommitted his life to his Heavenly Father.


When James and Amy got home after church, he felt lighter than he had in almost a year. He wanted to write again. He wanted to finish his novel.  When he told Amy this, her answer came as a huge surprise, “I’ve never actually discussed my job in detail with you, but I’m a publisher and I know all the right people to get your book into every bookshop in the country.”



For the next few weeks, James spent every minute of the day working on his book. He was so busy that Amy started missing his company. She smiled to herself as she thought of how excited he was about the Lord and about his writing; actually about life in general. James filled her previously empty house with energy and warmth. He filled her previously lonely heart with happiness and warmth too. It scared Amy to realise that she was starting to fall in love with James. She knew that he did not need complications or distractions in his life right now.



After weeks of writing, the day had finally arrived. When Amy got home from work, James rushed down the stairs to show her the finished manuscript. Amy gave him a huge hug and once again, he reprimanded himself for enjoying Amy’s closeness. Amy smelt nice, almost like strawberries on a summer day.    Tessa always smelt like cake batter. James loved coming home to find Tess and Nina in the kitchen. Tessa was always busy baking cupcakes, angel cake and apple pie for her customers. That day she was making a chocolate cream tart for someone’s engagement party. Tessa was good at what she did and her customers always came back for more of her delicious baking.    It was not right to replace Tessa. No one could ever take the space in his heart that belonged to Tess. But maybe there was a different space that could belong to someone new…not yet though, it was not the right time.


It was quite a process to get his book published and to get it to the right people, but Amy always knew exactly what needed to be done. James really enjoyed seeing a different side of Amy and he loved working with her on his book. They had signed some contracts for his book that afternoon and things were finally going to start happening. James and Amy decided to celebrate that night.  He could sense that Amy was thinking very deeply and that she had something she wanted to say, but he waited patiently and decided not to push her.



Eventually Amy could not avoid what she wanted to say any longer. “James, I realise that you’ve suffered a lot in the past and that Tessa will always have a special place in your heart, but I want you to know that I’ve fallen in love with you.” For a second James looked shocked and seemed unsure about what he should say. He then took her hand and said, “I feel so honoured and blessed that a woman like you would feel anything for me, and I definitely have strong feelings for you too. But as you said, Tessa has a special place in my heart and to a certain extent, I think she always will.  “Tessa Montgomery, you are my soul mate and my best friend. I promise to love you in sickness, health and old age and to never stop thinking that you are the most beautiful woman alive.” “James Duncan, you are the sprinkles on my cake, the missing puzzle piece of my heart. I promise to stick by you till the day I die and I promise to tell you that I love you every day until then.” “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.”    “ I believe that one day I will be able to give my heart to someone else again, but I’m not completely ready to let go of her yet. I care about you a great deal, but it wouldn’t be fair to you if I could not give you my whole heart. You deserve more than that, Amy.” “I know without a doubt that God specially sent you to me, James. You were the answer to my prayers. I will wait for you as long as necessary,” she replied.  “But Amy, you’ve done so much for me already. You believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself and you gave me a home when I was dirty and smelled of alcohol!” said James with just the hint of a smile. To this Amy replied, “I may have given you a home, James, but you… you made me feel at home for the first time in my life.”



Amy had been right about his book, and so had those other publishers all those months ago. His novel was an absolute hit and everyone wanted to have a copy of it. His life was once again overflowing with blessings and he was humbled by God’s grace. James decided that it was time for a new book, one based on his life. A book about love and loss, suffering and picking up the pieces of a broken life with God’s help.




*******THE END*******



© 2009 Vonnie15

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Added on June 29, 2009



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01:26... darkness surrounds me...the sound of my room mate's invasive snoring and the sound of my keyboard my only company. That's what I do. I love to write. I need to write. It keeps me sane, I thin.. more..

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A Story by Vonnie15