Me & My Muse is not quite back yet, but don’t worry. Here is a wonderful story for you all to read while you’re waiting. It’s a story that I wrote eight years ago back in 2013. It’s called “Blessings”, and it’s about a man named Thomas trying to raise Peyton, his five-year old daughter as a line cook at the Steak N’ Bake.
Everything changes when Thomas begins to receive more than what he bargained for. What did he receive? Read the story, and be blessed!
So pull up a chair and begin reading. Warm yourself by the fire. And remember. You are always welcome at the estate.
Now for the story. Enjoy!
Thomas Miller wiped the sweat off his brow, his eyes probing the entire kitchen. Every cook was busy, preparing the numerous dishes that were asked of them. On top of this, various new orders filled the kitchen. The time was 6:24 p.m. The orders were coming in faster than what they could manage. It was crunch time.
“You’re all doing good!” Thomas shouted, above the various kitchen sounds. The sounds of steak sizzling on a hot grill. The clinging and clanging of various pans as the cooks prepared the other side dishes. Then there was the noise of the pastry chefs on the other side of the kitchen. Altogether, it was the sound of business. A well-oiled machine guaranteeing another profitable night.
Thomas repeated himself, and raised his voice. “You’re all doing good, but I need you to PICK IT UP!” he barked at all the cooks. “I’m finishing up the food for table 12. Where is everyone else?!”
“Chill out, Tom!” one of the cooks shouted. “We’re all filling the orders as fast as we can! I’m working on table 4. It’s a party of ten people, and they all ordered the steak! Take it easy, man!”
Thomas sighed, shaking his head. “You all can work faster!” he said, challenging them. “I know it! Table 12 is for a party of 16 people, and I just finished it. Let’s finish these orders, so we can get to the new ones!”
The same cook shrugged his shoulders and flipped over the steak that he was working on. “Again Tom, please chill.” The cook then grabbed the steak with a pair of tongs and plopped it on the plate. “Porterhouse is done. This one just needs the sides.”
Thomas grabbed some new cuts of steak and brought them near the grill. “Steve,” he said to the cook, “You wouldn’t be doing this if the head honcho was here. Now, I need you and everyone else to pick up the pace. We just got three new orders. All of them are New York strips for table 7.”
“The head honcho is here,” a voice announced.
Thomas turned around and gasped. Near the door to the kitchen, there stood the manager of Steak N’ Bake, with a slight frown on his face. “Chris! I was just motiva….”
“I know what you were trying to do,” Chris interrupted. “They are all doing a good job, and you really need to have more confidence in them. See? They just finished 3 more tables and are ready for the next orders.”
Thomas nodded. “I just wanted them to be at their best, like you told me. ‘Lead by example, do your best’….”
Chris smiled. “They are, Tom. You need to trust them a little more and not be so critical. Fridays are always busy, but you need to relax. Now, how many hours have you worked this week?”
Thomas scratched his hair and let out a nervous laugh. “More than 40. I had to cover some extra shifts, due to this crazy flu epidemic….”
Chris retrieved the schedule book and grinned. “That would explain your behavior. You’re usually not like this. Uptight and nervous. That’s not the Tom I know.”
Thomas adjusted his “Steak N’ Bake” cap. “What else can I do?” he said with a sigh. “I can’t control when people get sick!”
Chris nodded, while he leafed through the schedule book. “Ah!” he shouted. “Here we go! You work until 10. Why don’t you go early? I’m sure you want to see your daughter. How is she, by the way?”
Thomas smiled. “Oh, Peyton? She’s doing fine. My usual sitter is watching her right now.”
Chris closed the schedule book and walked over to the oven. “You can leave early, Tom. I can take it from here. Relax and take it easy.”
While Chris was talking to Thomas, a woman with a pastry chef’s hat walked over to him. “All of my chefs are keeping up with the desserts,” she told him. “They’re doing a splendid job.”
“Very good, Laura!” Chris said, praising her.
Thomas nodded, and took his time card. He punched out and grabbed his winter coat.
“Oh.” Laura gasped. “Are you leaving?”
“He’s filled in for a few sick people this week, so he’s already over the max hours,” Chris told her. “Plus, I want him to recharge. Working that many hours can drain anyone.”
Laura nodded. “My chefs haven’t missed any days.” She then turned to Thomas. “Bye Tom! Enjoy your Friday night with your daughter!”
“Or what’s left of it,” Thomas quietly said under his breath as he looked at his watch. The time was now 6:38 p.m. A little more than an hour before Peyton’s bedtime.
Thomas left the kitchen and approached the entrance of the restaurant.
“Bye Tom!” the hostesses shouted as he left Steak N’ Bake.
Thomas was hit with a sudden burst of cold air. He stepped gingerly toward his car, through the snow and ice that blanketed the parking lot. Upon inspecting his Toyota, there was a thin layer of snow on the windshield.
Thomas sighed, taking off his work hat and starting the ignition. He loosened the wipers and then re-entered his car. He then activated the wipers, which swept off the new snow.
After a couple miles, Thomas turned down a couple more streets, which led to the Golden Meadows trailer park. The sign sat prominently in the front, cracked and worn. The visibility of the sign faded as the new snow began to cover it.
“More like Broken Meadows….” he quietly said with a sigh.
Thomas drove down, through the rows of trailers. Some of the trailers looked like junkyards, with all the trash that sat around it. Others were nicely kept, with snow laden lawn ornaments, resembling gnomes. A couple trailers, despite it being a couple weeks after New Year’s, still had their Christmas lights up.
He pulled his car up to his trailer, which was all decorated with Christmas lights (his trailer was unfortunately one of them). A green car was parked next to him. It belonged to the babysitter, who was watching his daughter.
Thomas got out of his car and entered the trailer. The babysitter was sitting in the reclining chair, which sat beside the window in the tiny living room. When she saw Thomas, she smiled and looked up. “Peyton!” she called out. “Your daddy’s home. Wanna say hi?”
Peyton, who was watching a movie, looked up from the television screen. “Okay.” she said in agreement as she got to her feet. “Daddy!”
Thomas ran toward Peyton, arms wide open. He then tightly embraced her and scooped her up. “Peyton! How’s my peanut doing tonight?”
“Fine, daddy.” Peyton answered. “Stephanie played dolls with me and we put on makeup. We then had sloppy joes and we watched a movie….” Peyton glanced at the screen. “It’s almost over.” She then glanced at her father, giving him a curious look. “Daddy, why are you home so early?”
At this, Thomas sighed. “Daddy was working too much, so they sent daddy home early. But isn’t that great? I get to see you before your bedtime!” He then turned to Stephanie. “She wasn’t too much trouble for you, was she?”
Stephanie smiled. “Not at all. She minds pretty well. We both had a blast….” Stephanie then stood up and got her purple winter coat. “Just give me $40, and that should cover it for tonight.”
Thomas gasped. “Are you sure? I usually pay you 70….”
Stephanie nodded, and shoved her hand at him. “Just 40.” she insisted. “You came home early, and you mentioned how you were behind on your rent. I don’t want you to lose this place. Just accept my offer….okay?” At that moment, some text message alert sounded on her cell phone, but she ignored it.
Thomas nodded in reluctance. “Okay. 40 it is….” He opened up his wallet and paid the babysitter.
Stephanie smiled. “Thank you. For Peyton, it’s worth every penny. She is a wonderful girl, and I enjoy spending every minute with her. I’ll see you Monday!”
Thomas nodded, as Stephanie approached the door. “You’re welcome, Stephanie. I’ll see you later! Stay warm!”
Stephanie nodded, and exited the trailer.
With Stephanie gone, Thomas carefully surveyed the living room. Everything was picked up. There was not a single thing lying on the floor. He then checked the kitchen. All the dishes were washed and put away. The left-over sloppy joe meat sat in the fridge, in a bowl covered in saran wrap.
Right then, Thomas had a sudden urge to go. As he walked toward the bathroom, Peyton grabbed his arm and shook her head.
“No daddy,” she told him. “You can’t go in there.”
Thomas frowned. “Why can’t I?”
Peyton placed her hands in the pockets of her pink corduroy pants. “The toilet’s backed up.”
Thomas scowled. “Again? That’s the second time this week!”
Peyton then opened the door pointed to a small bucket inside the bathroom. “She had me use that.” she said, holding the bucket. “She then dumped it out when I was done.”
Thomas then began to shake and squirm. “Let daddy use the bathroom, okay honey?!”
Peyton nodded, and left the bathroom.
Thomas shut the door and used the bathroom. Of course he didn’t use the toilet, since it would overflow if he used it.
After he did his business, he washed his hands and opened the door. He clenched his fist and scowled. “We’re calling a plumber tomorrow,” he told Peyton. “There is no way that I’m dealing with this all weekend.”
Peyton nodded, with a disdainful look on her face. “I don’t like the bucket, daddy….”
Thomas nodded. “Neither do I. We’ll take care of it tomorrow, okay?” Thomas patted Peyton’s face and hugged her. “Come on. We need to get you ready for bed.”
Peyton looked at the clock and frowned. “But daddyyyyyy,” she sighed. “It’s too earlyyyyyy….”
Thomas looked at the clock, which said 7:25. “Daddy wants a little alone time tonight, okay? Let’s get ready, peanut.”
Peyton frowned. “Okaaaaay….” she reluctantly sighed.
Thomas nodded and smiled. “That’s my peanut.” he told her.
Thomas took Peyton into her bedroom. He got out her pajamas and she put them on. They were pink pajamas, with cute little cat patterns on them.
Once Peyton had her pajamas on, he took her into the bathroom to brush her teeth. He made sure that she brushed everywhere. If there was one spot that she missed, he made her brush her teeth again until she got it.
Before Thomas left the bathroom, he noticed that Peyton had an uncomfortable look on her face.
“Do you have to go potty?” he asked her.
Peyton cringed. “Yes daddy. But I don’t want to use the bucket.”
Thomas sighed. “You have to, honey. Use it for tonight. Do it for daddy. The plumber will fix the toilet tomorrow, alright?”
Peyton winced and nodded. “Okay daddy!”
Thomas left the bathroom and closed the door. “When you’re done, I’ll be in your room to tuck you in, okay?!” he called to her.
“Okay daddy!” Peyton shouted.
Thomas entered Peyton’s room and sighed. A broken toilet was the last thing that he needed right now. Why does this have to happen? He thought. I’m already behind on my rent. I can’t afford to pay a plumber….
Peyton entered the room, with a much more pleasant look on her face. “I’m all done, daddy.”
Thomas nodded. “Okay, my peanut. Daddy’s going to tuck you in now.”
Peyton plopped on her bed and crawled underneath the covers. Thomas then tucked in the covers around Peyton’s bed. After that, he kneeled down and gave Peyton a kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight, my peanut.” he told her.
Peyton wrapped her arms around the covers. “Good night, daddy….”
Thomas left the room and closed the door. He then entered the living room and turned off the DVD player. He sat down on the recliner and watched TV for a while.
When it was a commercial, he got up and walked over to the fridge. He grabbed a can of Budweiser and sat back down with it. He cracked open the can and began sipping it.
Thomas glanced at a nicely framed picture of a woman on the coffee table. Her smile was sweet and innocent. It was also genuine. Genuine in such a way that you would know that the smile wasn’t fake. She meant it. “Julie,” he quietly sighed. “Why did you have to go?”
Thomas started to tear up. A tear began to roll down his cheek. “Julie,” he weeped. “I raised her right, didn’t I? This is the way that you would’ve wanted it done, isn’t it?” Thomas took another sip of his beer and sat the can on the coffee table.
The door suddenly opened and Peyton walked out into the living room. “Daddy….” she said. “I can’t sleep.” Peyton then noticed the half drank can of Budweiser on the coffee table. “Why are you drinking the yucky beer?”
Thomas wiped off his tears. He didn’t want Peyton to see any of them. After that, he sighed and put the can in the fridge. Ever since Peyton was three, Thomas has tried not to drink when Peyton was awake. This lesson was learned the hard way when he left a partially drank can in the living room. When he entered the living room, he saw Peyton drinking the can, and spitting it out afterwards. “Daddy,” she told him. “This apple juice is yucky.”
Thomas grabbed the can and scolded Peyton. “Peyton!” he shouted. “That ‘yucky apple juice’ is beer. Don’t drink any more of it. It’s daddy’s, okay?”
Peyton nodded, and gave him a disgusted look. “Why does daddy drink yucky beer?”
Thomas took all his cans of beer and poured them down the sink. “Daddy doesn’t drink yucky beer,” he told her. “Not anymore.”
And to this day, Thomas has tried to do his drinking while Peyton was asleep. Since then, Peyton has caught him a couple times.
Thomas sighed. “The beer isn’t yucky to daddy. Daddy likes the taste.” Thomas sat down on the couch and had Peyton sit on his lap. “Now, why can’t you sleep?”
“I was thinking about mommies,” she told him. “At school, everyone was talking about their mommies and daddies. Why don’t I have a mommy?”
Thomas fought back the tears and stared into his daughter’s eyes. “You did have a mommy,” he told her. “When you were just a baby, she used to hold you. She loved you very much and you meant everything to her.”
Peyton frowned, looking at her father. “Where is she?”
Thomas couldn’t hold it back any longer. “She is not here anymore,” he said, as his eyes began to tear up.
“Can’t we go visit her?” Peyton asked him.
Thomas shook his head. “We can’t,” he said, weeping. “Mommy got really really sick and fell asleep.”
Peyton gasped. “But daddy,” she said. “Can’t we wake her up?”
“No. Mommy fell into a very deep sleep. With that kind of sleep, she will never ever wake up.”
Peyton then hugged Thomas. “Don’t cry, daddy. Please. Don’t cry….”
“Daddy is sad that mommy is not here,” he told her. “Daddy loved mommy very much. But mommy got sick, and she fell into a deep sleep.”
Peyton tried to cheer Thomas up. “Can Stephanie be my mommy?”
Thomas’s eyes lit up. “The babysitter? Why do you ask?”
“I asked her, daddy. I asked her if she could be my mommy. She said yes. I told her that I didn’t have one….”
Thomas nodded. “She can be your mommy then.” He then walked Peyton back to her room. “Think you can sleep now?”
Peyton yawned. “I feel tired, daddy.”
“That’s my peanut. Good night, honey.”
Thomas kissed Peyton goodnight again on the cheek and tucked her in again. He then closed the door and sat down on the recliner in the living room. He reached for the can of beer on the coffee table only to realize that it wasn’t there. The fridge…. he whispered, a little frustrated.
He grabbed the beer in the fridge, sat back down in the recliner and finished it. Then, he quietly placed the can in a paper grocery bag, which was filled with empty cans. This bag sat in the kitchen, near the trash bin.
With his beer gone, Thomas got ready for bed. He brushed his teeth and then entered his bedroom. He then stripped down to just his underwear and a T-shirt. Thomas didn’t like pajamas, and he didn’t feel comfortable wearing them.
Before shutting off the light, he saw the picture of him with his wife. They were both smiling. It reminded him of better days. Days much better than the ones he must deal with now. Then the pain was too much, so he looked away.
“All at once.” he sniffed. “First, my wife. Then my job. Finally, my beautiful house!”
Thomas was upset. He looked up at the ceiling and pointed his finger. “God,” he called. “At least if there is one, why did you take all of them? You could’ve at least taken my daughter Peyton, too! At least then, she wouldn’t have to grow up in this dumpy trailer…..”
Thomas was silent for a couple minutes. After that, he spread his hands out at the ceiling. “Why?” he finally said. “Why did you do this? You took everything in my life that mattered to me. Why don’t you just take everything else, until there’s nothing but the clothes on my back?”
Thomas turned off the lights and got into bed. “Is there really a God?” he cried. “Are you really there? If so, then prove it!”
Thomas turned his face over, pressing it on his pillow and wept bitterly. His crying slowly faded and he fell asleep.
Thomas woke up to notice the glint of the sun in his eyes. The sunlight leaked through his tattered curtains, shining down on his bed. He then sat up and looked at the clock. 8:39 a.m. The alarm was turned off, since he doesn’t like to use the alarm on the weekends. This is especially the case when he has the day off. But with those kinds of days being so rare, he just wanted to take advantage of not having to wake up to that infernal buzzing sound.
After looking at the clock, he sat up and sighed. He couldn’t hear Peyton yet. Time to do my work out, he said to himself. Might as well, since she’s not up yet….
Thomas laid down on his back, sliding his feet under the bed. After that, he did 50 sit-ups. After the 50 sit-ups, he got on his stomach and did 50 push-ups. He then did 50 squat thrusts and 50 jumping jacks.
To finish the workout, he bundled up, putting on his winter coat and his snow pants. His thermal underwear was underneath, so he wouldn’t have to worry about getting cold. Very quietly, he opened the door and exited the trailer. He then ran four laps around the trailer park. With it being winter, he had to adjust his pace, especially since he almost slipped on the ice a couple times.
With that, the workout was now done. Thomas walked toward the trailer, panting and opened it. Once inside, he looked around. Still not a sound from Peyton. “Peanut’s quite the sleeper,” he whispered. “She’ll sleep all day if I let her….”
Thomas approached the door to Peyton’s room. Time to wake her up….As he was about to reach for the doorknob, something hit him. “The mail!” he whispered. “I forgot to get that after my workout….” He made his way back to the living room. “I’ll wake her up after I get the mail….”
With his coat hanging over his back, Thomas zipped it back up and left the trailer. Next to his parked car was the mailbox. He opened it up and pulled out the contents. Another notice from his landlord, some junk mail about winning a new car and a folded piece of paper.
Thomas took the three items back into the trailer and sat them down on the table in the kitchen. He opened up the envelope containing the notice and slammed it on the table. “I get paid next week!” he growled. “Can’t you wait until then?”
He then looked at the new car offer. Shaking his head, he threw that in the trash. “Junk,” he said in a disgusted tone.
His attention was now directed to the folded piece of paper. It was not in an envelope and it had no address on it. It was almost like someone just stuck it in his mailbox. On the one side of the paper were the words “To Thomas,”. After reading those words, he unfolded the piece of paper. A few 20 dollar bills were sitting on the note, with a couple falling on the floor. Thomas gathered the two 20’s that fell on the floor and counted them all. Altogether, there were seven 20’s. “$140….” Thomas gasped. “Where did this come from?” He then read the message.
This is for the plumber. I thought this might help.
Thomas sat the note down and shook his head in disbelief. “Who is this ‘anonymous’?” Thomas said, still shocked. “I guess that doesn’t matter. Time to call that plumber.”
After bunching all the 20’s together, Thomas called the plumber and set up the appointment. He would be coming out around noon. He hung up the phone and quietly entered the bathroom. He took a quick shower, combed his hair and got dressed. He then quietly opened the door to Peyton’s room.
Sure enough, Peyton was still lying in her bed peacefully, sound asleep.
Thomas shook his head. “You’re getting up, peanut.” Right then, he scooped up Peyton and lifted her up above his shoulders. “Up we go, my sweet little peanut.”
“Whoa!” Peyton shouted as she was lifted up. She then giggled and held on tight. “Good morning, daddy!”
“Good morning, Peyton.” Thomas said, smiling. “I had to get you up. I wouldn’t want you to miss SMILEY FACE PANCAKES!”
Peyton’s face lit up. “Smiley face pancakes? Yay! You’re the best daddy in the world!” Suddenly, Peyton’s smile faded. When Thomas saw this, he sat her down. After that, Peyton pressed her hands below her stomach. “Daddy, I gotta go potty!” At that, Peyton dashed out of her room and made a beeline for the bathroom.
Thomas left Peyton’s room and began preparing the pancakes. While he was doing this, Peyton entered the kitchen.
“The bucket’s almost full.” she told him.
“I’ll take care of it after breakfast, honey.” Thomas told her. “Go watch your cartoons. I’ll let you know when the pancakes are ready.”
Peyton nodded, and merrily skipped into the living room. She grabbed the remote and turned on the TV.
Thomas made the pancakes. They were a little smaller than the ones he would make for himself, since he was making them for Peyton. After the batter solidified, he flipped them, each one turning out golden brown. For him, making the perfect pancake was easy.
After the other sides were done, Thomas placed the three pancakes on a plate. He squirted whipped cream for the eyes, used a strawberry for the nose and blueberries for the mouth. When he was done, he had three smiling pancakes for Peyton.
“Peyton!” Thomas called. “The smiley face pancakes are ready!”
Peyton ran to the kitchen and smiled. “Yay!” she shouted. After looking at the pancakes, she frowned. “Where is the daddy pancake?” she asked him.
“Daddy needs to make one still,” he told her.
Whenever Thomas made smiley face pancakes, he always made a larger version for himself, which he called the “daddy pancake”. In knowing how important this was for Peyton, he made the “daddy pancake”, sat down at the table and ate it with her.
After breakfast, Thomas had Peyton watch more cartoons while he cleaned up the dishes from breakfast.
When he finished clean up, he took the bucket out of the trailer, went out to the back and dumped it. He then placed it back inside the bathroom.
A couple hours later, the plumber arrived. After looking at the clog in the toilet, he was able to quickly fix it. After an hour of work, the toilet was working again.
The plumber then made out the bill. “That will be $139.81,” he told him.
Thomas got out the wad of 20’s he had in his pocket. He gave the plumber the money. The plumber in turn, gave him a funny look.
“What’s wrong?” Thomas asked him.
“I don’t have any change.” The plumber said, with an embarrassed smile.
Thomas let out a weak laugh. “No change? That’s okay. Just keep it.”
The plumber nodded. “You’re all set, then. Have a nice day.”
Thomas led the plumber to the door and he exited the trailer. With the plumber gone, his attention went to the bill that the plumber gave him. After looking at the bill, he remembered the note that he received this morning. He ran and got the note. It was still sitting on the kitchen table. He unfolded the note and quietly read it again:
This is for the plumber. I thought this might help.
Thomas sat there, staring at the note. His eyes misted up and he shook his head. “Who is this….?” he wondered. “….How did they know the right amount….?
While Thomas was looking at the note, Peyton came into the living room, holding a juice box. A curious expression came over her face. “What are you doing, daddy?”
Thomas smiled, and hugged Peyton. “I’m looking at this note, peanut. Daddy is very surprised at this note.”
Peyton gave Thomas a brief stare. More confusion. “Why?”
Thomas showed Peyton the note. “I know that you can’t read all of this yet, since you’re not old enough,” he told her. “But some strange person left it. Their name is anonymous.”
Peyton took a sip out of her juice box, looking all the more curious. “What does a-na-na-mus mean?”
“It means that person doesn’t want to give me their name….” he told her. “Whoever they are, they gave daddy enough money to pay for the plumber.”
Peyton beamed. “I want to see a-na-na-mus, daddy!”
Thomas nodded. “So do I, peanut. So do I.”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Thomas looked through the window. The landlord, he sighed. He then turned to Peyton. “Go watch some more cartoons. We will do something special later, okay?”
Peyton nodded. “Okay!”
Peyton ran into the living room while Thomas opened up the door. A man with a blue polo shirt was standing there, holding a slip of paper.
“Thomas Miller, right?” he questioned him.
The man with the blue polo shirt handed him the slip of paper. “Your rent is overdue. If you don’t pay it in two days, you’re being evicted. This is your final warning. Do I make myself clear?”
Thomas nodded. “I don’t get paid until Friday!” he sighed. “Can’t you wait until then?”
“I’ve given you enough extra time,” he told him. “I don’t need any more excuses. The rent is due Monday, or you’re leaving. Good day to you, Mr. Miller.”
“Good day?” Thomas scoffed. “I think you just ruined it!”
The man ignored Thomas and left, walking off into the distance.
Thomas closed the door. “It’s cold out there! Is he really going to throw me out there in the snow?” In trying to get his mind off of the landlord, Thomas opened his wallet. $10 was in it. Just enough money to buy himself and Peyton an ice cream cone. But not nearly enough to pay for the rent.
Peyton looked up from the television screen. “Who was that?”
Thomas faked a smile. “It was just the landlord, honey.”
A look of disdain filled Peyton’s face. “I don’t like him, daddy!” she shouted. “He’s mean!” Then she continued watching her cartoons.
Thomas got his coat on. He was determined to get the blue-poloed man out of his head. “Turn the TV off and get your coat on, Peyton,” he told her.
“Where are we going, daddy?” she asked him.
“We’re getting some ice cream!” he said. “Get your shoes and coat on and let’s go!”
Peyton turned off the TV. She then put on her slip-on shoes and zipped up her coat.
Thomas then opened the back door and sat Peyton in her car seat. Strapping her in, he got in the front and took off.
Going a short distance from the trailer park, he stopped at the Sweet Spoon, a small ice cream shop that is locally known for their ice cream sundaes.
Once in the shop, he ordered two ice cream cones, each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. He gave Peyton hers and they both sat down at a table that faced a window.
Peyton began licking the ice cream. She then smiled. “I like ice cream.” She then noticed that Thomas hasn’t touched his cone yet. “Why aren’t you eating yours, daddy?”
Thomas sighed and began eating the ice cream off his cone. “I’m sorry, peanut.” he told her. “Daddy was just thinking.”
“What were you thinking about, daddy?”
Thomas lied. He didn’t want to talk anymore about the landlord, especially around his daughter. “Daddy was thinking that we just had dessert first! We’ll have lunch when we get home, honey.” Thomas finished the ice cream off his cone and ate the cone whole. He then waited for Peyton to finish hers.
After Peyton was done, he took her back to the trailer park. He made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the two of them and they ate them together. Since the sandwiches were on paper plates, clean-up was a breeze.
For the rest of the day, Thomas played with Peyton. They played house, using Peyton’s dollhouse. Thomas played with the daddy doll and Peyton played with the mommy doll. At one point, Thomas almost forgot about the landlord. He suddenly remembered when he had to make dinner.
To resolve dinner, he made sloppy joes, using the leftover meat that Stephanie had in the fridge.
After dinner, Thomas let Peyton play a little while he did the dishes. After dinner, Thomas told Peyton a story. After the story, he got her ready for bed. He then tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.
Being troubled by the whole incident with the landlord, Thomas went to bed early himself. “What am I going to do tomorrow?” he said, sighing. With all the worrying, his sleep was intermittent. He didn’t get much sleep that night.
Thomas woke up. The time was 7:48 a.m. As he lay there, he felt a headache. The headache worsened by the minute. Finally, Thomas couldn’t stand it. He pressed his hands over his temples and groaned. “Okay, I’m up!” he cried.
After he got up, he immediately went to the bathroom and got some aspirin. Using the glass near the sink, he took the aspirin and drank the whole glass of water.
He then went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Since it was a Sunday, he took the day off from working out. Before he did anything, he noticed the folded slip of paper that was still sitting on the kitchen table. “The mail!” he said, gasping.
While the mail didn’t come on Sunday, curiosity got the best of him. He put on his coat, slipped on some shoes and quietly left the trailer.
In checking the mailbox, sure enough, there was another folded piece of paper. Just like the first one, it was folded neatly in thirds. He grabbed the piece of paper out of the mailbox and carefully looked around. “Where is this ‘anonymous”?” he wondered. Shrugging his shoulders, he quickly went back inside the trailer, since it was very chilly outside.
Thomas hung up his coat and took off his shoes. He then entered the kitchen and unfolded the piece of paper. A new message was written, in the same thick and bold font as before:
Don’t worry about the rent. For today, be watchful and observant. Someone will need your help. Find that person and help them.
Thomas sat the note next to the first one and let out a nervous laugh. “Don’t worry?” he scoffed. “I owe $307 in rent tomorrow! This was due more than a week ago! If I stop worrying, I will lose this place….”
Just then, the door to Peyton’s room burst open.
“I gotta pee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e…..!” Peyton shouted, hands beneath her stomach as she made a beeline for the bathroom. She quickly entered, and shut the door behind her.
About a minute or two later, the bathroom door opened. Peyton walked back to her bedroom and closed the door.
Thomas smiled. “I guess I’ll use this time to make breakfast….
While Peyton was still sleeping, Thomas made a pot of oatmeal. He then served the oatmeal, adding some diced apples and raisins to it.
“Peyton!” he called. “Breakfast is ready!”
Peyton didn’t answer.
“Come on!” he called again. “Don’t want your breakfast to get cold!”
Still no answer from Peyton.
At this, Thomas sighed. He marched over to Peyton’s room and opened the door. Peyton was still sound asleep. He shook his head, and scooped Peyton out of her bed.
“No daddy….” she said, yawning. “I wanna sleep longer…..”
“But Peyton, honey!” he pleaded. “Your oatmeal will get cold…..”
“I don’t caaaaaare…..” she told him. “I wanna sleeeeeeeep….”
Thomas sighed. “Very well….” He placed Peyton back into her bed and left the room.
“Daddy!” she shouted. “Tuck me in!”
Thomas turned around and shook his head. “Daddy only does that at night. Tuck yourself in.”
“Okaaaaaay….” Peyton sighed reluctantly, grabbing the covers and pulling them over her face.
“Since you don’t want your oatmeal, I’ll put it in the fridge. Okay, peanut?”
Peyton nodded from underneath the covers. “Mmkmm,” she said, her voice all muffled from the covers.
Thomas closed the door. Since Peyton didn’t want to have breakfast with him, he ate it alone. He ate his oatmeal and placed Peyton’s in the fridge. He then cleaned up and got ready.
A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. Thomas opened it. Standing there was a slightly younger man, wearing a red winter coat and a woven snow cap. “We need your help,” he pleaded. “There’s an old man that drove into the snow bank. We need your help getting him out.”
Thomas nodded and looked back at Peyton’s room. She’ll be fine…. he thought. Then he faced the younger man again. “I’ll be right over.”
The man smiled. “Thank you very much!” he said in a grateful tone.
Thomas got his coat on and slipped on his boots. He put his snow cap on and his gloves. He took his keys with him and left the trailer.
Next to his trailer, he used one of his keys to unlock a padlock to a tiny shed. He opened the door and pulled out a snow shovel. Grabbing the snow shovel, he followed the younger man, who was standing there, waiting for him.
He followed the younger man to a trailer that was just down the street. Right next to the trailer was a car, stuck in the snow bank. A younger woman, a middle-aged woman and an older man were all standing there, holding snow shovels.
“We have been digging by the tires,” the younger man told Thomas. “Let’s keep digging and then try to push him out.”
Thomas nodded. They dug, going around the rear tires and the front tires. After that, they tried pushing him out. The tires spun, digging him into the snow again. After a couple more times of digging and pushing, the car was still stuck.
With their original plan failing, they decided to dig through the snow bank, all the way out to the road. After 20 minutes of all of them digging, a nice trench was dug out. They then tried pushing again, the car then started moving, steadily inching its way through the trench and out to the road. The car was finally free.
“Thank you all very much,” the old man said. “So that you don’t get stuck like me, drive carefully. The roads are a little bit icy.”
Thomas nodded, and held out his hand to shake the old man. “I definitely will be careful. You’re welcome.” The old man shook his hand, and Thomas waved goodbye to everyone.
As he made his way back with his snow shovel, Thomas looked at his watch. 3:22 p.m. The whole thing took about an hour. Taking the snow shovel, he put it back in the shed and closed the door, locking it with the padlock. He then looked at the trailer and sighed. “Peyton better be up, or I’m getting her up….”
Thomas entered the trailer. In the living room, there sat Peyton on the couch, in her pajamas, eating her cold oatmeal and watching cartoons.
Thomas was a little upset. “Peanut,” he told her. “It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and you’re still in your pajamas. When did you get up?”
“I just got up,” Peyton said, smiling. “Not too long ago.”
“That’s just great,” Thomas said, sighing. “You’re not going to want to go to sleep tonight.”
Peyton shook her head. “Yes I will,” she said, yawning.
“You need a shower,” he told her. “After daddy showers, I want you to take a shower, okay?”
Peyton’s eyes were glued to the TV.
“Peyton?” Thomas said, growing more impatient.
Peyton looked up from the TV. “What, daddy?”
“You’re showering after daddy, okay?”
“Okay! You could’ve waited until a commercial….”
Thomas took a shower, and then left the bathroom. “Your turn, Peyton….” he told her.
Peyton nodded, and entered her room. She got her clothes and entered the bathroom.
“Daddy will check to see if you’re clean.” he told her.
“Okay daddy!” Peyton closed the door.
Thomas picked up Peyton’s empty bowl and placed it in the kitchen. He then washed the bowl.
After Peyton’s shower, he checked. She was all clean.
For the rest of the day, Thomas just watched movies with Peyton. He then made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and they ate.
After that, he played dolls with Peyton for a short while and got her ready for bed. Peyton wasn’t tired, but he got her ready for bed anyway.
After he tucked Peyton in and kissed her goodnight, he got ready for bed. Tomorrow, he worked at the Steak N’ Bake from noon to 8:00. With this situation, he would have Stephanie pick Peyton up after school. Even though the school bus would drop her off near his trailer, he figured that it would be better this way.
Thomas thought about the two notes. Who sent them? Thinking of today’s note made him worry about the rent again. “Don’t worry?” he sighed. “They’re evicting me tomorrow….”
Despite the worrying, a calm peace protected Thomas and he fell asleep.
Thomas woke to the alarm clock. The time was 6:00 a.m. The school bus picks Peyton up at 7:50. He let Peyton sleep until 6:30.
Thomas immediately got up and ran out to the living room. He put his coat on and slipped on his shoes. He then exited the trailer and checked the mailbox.
While the mail didn’t come yet, another folded piece of paper was inside. Thomas grabbed the paper and closed the mailbox.
Taking the paper, Thomas went back inside. He threw off his shoes and sat his coat on the chair. He unfolded the paper and read the new message:
The rent is all paid for. Please stop worrying and have a nice day.
Thomas shook his head. “Where’s the check? Where’s the money? Where’s the receipt? This is not paid for! This anonymous guy is clearly mistaken!” Thomas sat the paper on the table. Opening the fridge, he got out the leftover oatmeal and began heating it up.
When it was ready, he looked at the clock. 6:34 a.m. Time to get Peyton up. Thomas got Peyton up and she ate her oatmeal.
“I’m tired, daddy….” Peyton said, as she ate her oatmeal.
“It’s okay, peanut.” he told her. “You can sleep on the bus. We got to get you ready!”
Thomas got Peyton into the bathroom and had her shower. After she was all dressed, he made sure that Peyton had everything ready for kindergarten. Her backpack was all packed and he made a lunch for her, which he placed in a paper sack.
After finally getting Peyton out to the bus, Thomas went back inside. He let out a deep sigh. The landlord could be coming any minute….
Sure enough, he did. At around a quarter after eight, the man knocked on his door. Thomas cringed and opened it.
The landlord stood there. He was wearing a winter coat that was zipped open, revealing his red polo shirt. “Thomas Miller?” he asked.
“Yes?” Thomas choked. He was not looking forward to this at all.
The landlord gave Thomas a puzzled look. “There’s been a mistake, Mr. Miller. Our records show that you overpaid the rent for this month. Here’s $20. That should make up for the difference.”
Thomas was shocked. “O-overpaid?” he stuttered. “Are you sure about this?”
The landlord lowered his head and nodded. “Mr. Miller, the records that I keep are very accurate. As of this morning, I discovered that you overpaid for this month. Now are you going to debate with me about this some more? Just take what I owe you and have a nice day.” The landlord placed the money in Thomas’s hand and left.
Right after the landlord left, Thomas shook his head. He was on the verge of tears. He KNEW that he was overdue on the rent. How then, was it already paid for?
Thomas looked at the piece of paper that he received that day. “All paid for….?” he gasped. “But how?” Thomas then smiled. “I guess that doesn’t matter. Somehow, the rent got paid for. I wish I could meet this Anonymous guy so I can thank him….”
Thomas did his work out and then took a shower after coming inside. He remembered the mail this time. There was no new piece of paper, since he already got the one for that day. After the shower, he had lunch and got ready for work.
Over the next few days, Thomas started his day by checking the mailbox for new messages. Each day, he found a new message. On Tuesday, it said that the one he loved was sick, and to care for that person. Sure enough, Peyton came down with the flu that day, and Thomas used his usual remedies to help her get better. On Wednesday, it said to take it easy on his coworkers. Thomas remembered this and followed that advice, as that was the same advice that his boss gave him. On Thursday, it told him to smile even when the weather isn’t smiling. When Thomas saw the snow storm, he knew what it meant, and smiled. On Friday, it said to love those who hurt him. This definitely made sense when Thomas had to deal with a complaint at the Steak N’ Bake. Every day, it was a new message, and all of the messages were signed by “Anonymous”.
That Friday, Thomas left work, took his paycheck, deposited it at the ATM and went home.
The next day, there was another new message that Thomas found in the mailbox. This one in particular caught his attention. It read:
Be careful out there on the roads. They are covered in ice.
Thomas wrote the current date on the top of the paper and put it with the others. Since finding the notes, Thomas has dated every single one he found, with the date he found each one.
That Saturday, Thomas worked from 11:00 to 6:00. With this kind of set up, he had Stephanie, the babysitter watch Peyton. Stephanie would then drop Peyton off at the Steak N’ Bake after work, since Thomas was planning on having dinner with her. Every now and then, he would take Peyton out to dinner as a treat. Stephanie didn’t mind the extra driving, since the trailer park was just a few miles away from the restaurant.
The time was now 5:57 p.m. Looking at the clock, Thomas smiled. He only had two more tables to go.
“You’re doing good, everyone!” he shouted. “Keep the steaks coming and try to keep up the pace. Check for doneness. We got a complaint yesterday because someone overcooked a steak.”
One of the line cook’s faces turned red. “That was me, Tom!” he said in an embarrassed tone. “That was a big table. Normally, my steaks turn out pretty good.”
“Check it, serve it.” He told the line cook. “Wait longer if they want it well done. You’ll get it, Eugene….” Thomas smiled, and finished his last two tables.
“6:01,” Thomas said, looking at the clock. “The captain’s leaving the ship, but Chris will be here to handle the dinner rush. He knows a thing or two about cooking steaks!”
Everyone laughed at Thomas’s joke.
“Hey Chris!” One of the line cooks shouted. “Do you know how to cook a steak?”
“No, Jimmy!” Chris jokingly said in a sarcastic manner. “I forgot. That’s why I’m wearing this manager pin. What do you think? Come on!” Chris gave Jimmy a playful shove in the arm.
Chris then turned to Thomas. “Since your promotion to head cook, you’re doing a good job. Just remember to have fun with them. A smile increases morale. For the newer faces, just remember. You used to be where they were. They all know how to cook a steak. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, and neither would you.”
Thomas nervously glanced at the clock. 6:05. “Thank you, Chris. I’m still a little new at head cook, but I think I’m starting to get it down.”
When Chris noticed Thomas looking at the clock, he smiled. “That’s right. You told me that you’re having dinner with your daughter. I don’t want to keep you from that. Have a good night. I’ll see you Monday.”
Thomas nodded and turned back facing the grill. “Keep up the good work!” he shouted at all the line cooks.
“Sure thing, Tom!” some of them shouted back. The rest were too busy to talk to him. Thomas turned around and left the kitchen.
After leaving, he looked around the restaurant for the booth that Stephanie and Peyton was sitting at. He found them sitting at a booth that was near the entrance to the restaurant.
When Stephanie saw Thomas, she got all excited and told Peyton. “Look!” she said, pointing at Thomas. “It’s your daddy!”
Peyton looked up and saw her father standing there. Then, she ran towards him. Thomas picked her up and hugged her.
“Oh, my peanut!” He shouted. “How is my peanut tonight? Did you have fun with Stephanie?”
“We had a lot of fun, daddy.” she told him. “We drew funny pictures, watched movies, played dollhouse….”
Stephanie smiled. “We did,” she told him. “Just give me another 20 for now. As often as I’ve been watching her, it doesn’t make sense to charge any more.”
Thomas handed her a 20 and she placed it inside her purse.
“Well, I gotta get going.” she told him, as she put her coat on. “There’s a winter festival tonight.”
“Bye mommy!” Peyton shouted.
Stephanie laughed weakly. “Yeah. She calls me that sometimes.” She then turned to face Peyton. “Bye, Peyton!” Stephanie grabbed her purse and left the restaurant.
Thomas sat Peyton down on her booster seat. “So, what are you going to get?”
“The same thing I always get.” she plainly answered.
“The chicken nuggets and fries?” he asked her. “Just get the applesauce too, okay honey….?”
Peyton nodded, as she continued coloring the paper placemat with a green crayon.
Moments later, the waitress was there to take their order. She smiled when she saw Thomas with his daughter.
“So, is Peyton getting her ‘usual’?” she asked him.
Thomas nodded. “It’s the only thing she gets. I guess that doesn’t matter just as long as she’s happy, right?”
The waitress nodded. “Yes. It’s been a while since you guys ate here. I believe the last time was before you were promoted, a little more than a month ago….” She then began writing Thomas’s order. “So, will it be the New York Strip for you tonight?”
Thomas nodded. “Yes. With a loaded baked potato and a cup of your clam chowder.”
The waitress nodded. “I figured you would get that, so I already had it written down. And that will be a water for you and an apple juice for Peyton, right? I’ll turn the order in and I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
The waitress turned in the order slip and got their drinks.
A little later, the food came. Both Thomas and Peyton ate. Peyton shared with Thomas everything she did with Stephanie and Thomas shared a little bit about his day.
After they ate their dinner, Thomas got some strawberry shortcake for dessert. It was Peyton’s favorite, so they shared one serving together.
Thomas then thanked the waitress, paid the bill and left with Peyton.
As they left the restaurant, torrents of freezing rain were hitting the parking lot. They both carefully walked to the car, Peyton holding Thomas’s hand.
When Thomas opened the door, he slipped backwards and fell on his butt.
Peyton laughed when she saw this. “Daddy fell!” she squealed, laughing.
“That’s not funny,” Thomas said, as he got up. “Here. Let daddy strap you in your car seat.”
Thomas put Peyton into her car seat and strapped her in. After that, he got into the front seat and started up the car. He had to wait for the windshield to defrost, since it was frozen from the freezing rain.
After the windshield was defrosted, Thomas carefully drove out of the parking lot and out of the restaurant.
After that, everything suddenly happened quickly. Thomas could hear it. The sound of the brakes. And then, the sound of glass breaking. And then, screaming. And then, crying. When Thomas’s mind finally caught up to the present, he found himself sitting there, his daughter Peyton crying in the background. His Toyota Camry has crashed into the passenger side of a car a little smaller than his. A white compact car, with the passenger door smashed in.
Finally having the time to think, Thomas was able to piece together the whole scenario. As he was driving along, he saw a car spinning out of control in the distance. At that very moment, he began to gently apply the brakes. On a normal road, he would stop in time. But this road was covered in ice, with the relentlessly persistent freezing rain continuing to fall. Instead of braking, Thomas’s car slid along the icy road. The other car continued spinning further into the lane, while Thomas continued to brake. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to stop completely, and Thomas’s car collided directly into the passenger door of the slightly smaller white car.
Peyton continued crying. “Daaaaaddy!” she wailed. “I’m scared!”
Thomas reached into the back of the seat, attempting to hug Peyton. With the seat harness in the way, the best he could manage was hugging the seat.
“It will be okay,” he told her. “Daddy’s a little scared, too. It’s okay. None of us got hurt, right?”
At that point, Thomas turned his attention to the car that he hit. He just wanted to know if they were okay. Was anyone hurt there? Who did he hit?
Finally, Thomas couldn’t take it anymore, so he unbuckled his seat belt. “Daddy’s going to talk to the people in the other car.” he told her. “You wait here, peanut.”
Peyton, who stopped crying, nodded. She was still a little scared, but she knew that she would be okay with daddy around. “Okay daddy….”
Thomas crawled over to the passenger side and opened the door. Because this happened right in the middle of a right lane on a five-lane road, he made sure that he got out on the right side. He closed the door, and glanced at the front of the car. The hood was dented, with one of the headlights smashed. After that, he walked along the shoulder. The cold rain splashed on his winter coat, as he carefully walked over to the other car. He almost slipped a couple times, but he managed to regain his footing. Numerous cars began to cautiously maneuver around the scene of the accident.
As he approached the white car, a woman began to get out of her car. Upon looking at the car, Thomas saw that it was a Honda.
When the woman saw Thomas, she sighed. To Thomas, she looked greatly distressed.
“I’m sorry!” the woman shouted.
Thomas couldn’t believe it. Sorry? He thought. I should be the one who’s sorry….
The icy rain continued to fall as Thomas carefully inched his way toward the white Honda. But he wasn’t careful enough. Despite his determined effort to maintain his balance, he slipped and fell on the icy road.
The woman gasped. “Are you okay?” The woman asked him.
Thomas sat up, and looked for something for him to hang on to, so that he could regain his balance. Being close enough to her car, he clutched the bumper and carefully stood back up.
“I’m okay,” Thomas said with a groan.
The woman frowned. “Are you sure?” she asked him. “It seemed like you fell pretty hard.”
Thomas nodded. “I can walk, so I’m fine. I may be sore, but I’ll be okay….”
As he stood there, he glanced at the woman. He noticed her long and smooth hazelnut hair. She was wearing a green winter coat with a blue and yellow striped scarf.
The woman glanced at Thomas, letting out a deep sigh. “Once again, I’m sorry.” She then gave a quick glance inside the car. “No one got hurt.”
“Same here.” Thomas told her. “But why are you apologizing? I hit you.”
The woman nodded. “I know that,” she said. “But it was my fault. When I turned, I lost control of the vehicle. Because I lost control, you hit me. It was my fault.” The woman then placed her hands over her eyes and began to weep.
Thomas sighed. “It’s okay.” he told her. “No one got hurt, right?”
The woman nodded, and began to shiver. “Right. I’m getting cold, so I’m going back in. Sorry again for the accident. I turned too quickly and….” The woman stopped talking mid-sentence and blushed, when she saw Thomas standing there, nodding in agreement. “It’s okay? Good. You have a nice evening. Well, at least try to!” The woman opened the door and carefully stepped back inside.
Thomas carefully made his way back to his car. As he was doing so, a police car carefully pulled up in front of the white Honda. When Thomas was about to open his door, a police officer stepped outside and walked over to the woman’s car. The woman rolled her window down and began talking to him.
While this was happening, Thomas got inside his car and waited. Peyton was sitting there in her car seat, and her mood was not very pleasant.
“I wanna go home, daddy!” she wailed.
Thomas leaned over his seat and tried calming Peyton down. “We will soon, honey.” he told her. “Daddy has to talk to the police officer first.”
Peyton wiped a tear away from her eyes. “Why?”
“If daddy leaves, daddy will get in trouble,” he told her. “Daddy’s going to be good by staying here and talking to the nice policeman.”
Moments passed. Finally, the police officer walked over to the Toyota Camry. Thomas rolled his window down.
Thomas spent the next few minutes talking with the police officer. He asked questions pertaining to how the accident happened and Thomas answered them to the best of his ability.
After obtaining all the information he needed, he put his sheet of paper away. “Mr. Miller,” he told him. “You’re clear. From what you told me, you did everything you could to prevent the accident, but you couldn’t. The woman, however, failed to execute a right turn properly. This caused her to lose control of her vehicle and what led you to hit her. I will be filling out an accident report and you can pick it up at the Greenville Police Department in a few days. Just call the number and give them your name. Have a good evening, and drive safe.”
The police officer walked away, got back in his car and drove off.
Thomas drove back to the trailer park and parked his car. He took Peyton inside and got her ready for bed.
After he got Peyton to bed, he grabbed all the dated messages from the kitchen and took them to his bedroom. He looked at the one from that day.
Be careful out there on the roads. They are covered in ice.
Thomas sighed. “I guess I wasn’t careful,” he said, frustrated. “What was that supposed to mean? Oh well….At least the insurance will pick this one up….”
As Thomas was getting ready for bed, he couldn’t help but think of that woman. Who was she? Why did she have to cause the accident? Couldn’t she have been more careful? Thomas brushed his teeth, thinking about these questions.
Still flooded with these thoughts, he got into his bed and fell asleep.
The next couple days passed. In that time, Thomas was receiving those daily messages from “Anonymous”. On Sunday, it said that someone else needed his help. This time, it wasn’t a car stuck in the snow, but a car with a flat tire. Thomas went and helped the younger man, who was on his way to the store to get some medicine for his sick wife. With his wife ill, he had his baby daughter in the car with him. With the tire fixed, Thomas shook hands with the younger man. He thanked Thomas. Thomas in turn, nodded. “I hope your wife feels better.” he told him.
On Monday, Anonymous wanted Thomas to “carry the extra weight”, whatever that meant. A couple of hours before he left for work at the Steak N’ Bake, his boss Chris called him. He told Thomas that he was sick with the flu, and for that day, he wanted Thomas to run the restaurant in his place. Thomas agreed, shrugging his shoulders. Thomas quietly thought – I’m glad I’m not sick with the flu. Being down one person, Thomas had to work extra hard that day. Challenging as it was, he made it through the dinner shift and came home late, around 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday then came. Thomas woke up and made breakfast for himself and Peyton. He then made Peyton’s lunch, got Peyton up and ready, and walked her to the school bus. After she got on the bus, Thomas made a quick stride over to the mailbox. He took the message out and entered the house. The other mail did not come yet. He would get that later on.
Thomas took the message to the living room and he opened it. It read:
Look in your cupboard. Are you missing anything?
Thomas looked inside his cupboard. All he found inside was a nearly empty bag of barbeque potato chips and a nearly empty package of chocolate chip cookies. Just one cookie was left.
In addition to the cupboard, Thomas looked inside his refrigerator. A nearly empty gallon of milk and a 12 pack of Budweiser with just one can left.
Thinking about the message that he just read, Thomas smiled, nodding matter-of-factly. Time to make a list. Thomas got out a notepad and a pen, writing down everything that he could think of. More cereal. More milk. More cookies. More chips. And of course, more apple juice. “Peyton finished off the last juice box the other day….” he whispered.
After a few minutes, Thomas had a list. Fortunately, he just got paid, so the timing was perfect. Thomas grabbed the list, bundled up and left the trailer. He drove off in his still damaged Toyota Camry. “I still gotta get that thing fixed,” he sighed. Then it hit him. “The accident report!” he gasped.
Instead of heading to the supermarket, he first stopped at the Greenville Police Department and picked up the accident report. He then stopped at a Toyota dealership and dropped off the damaged car. The repair technician said that the car would be repaired by the weekend. In the meantime, Thomas rented a slightly newer Toyota Camry. Unlike his red one, it was blue. It’s just a rental, so it will do for now. Thomas got in the blue rental Toyota Camry and took off.
Thomas arrived at the supermarket and entered. With Peyton at school and having the whole day off, this was the perfect time to get all his shopping done. He grabbed a shopping cart and wheeled it all the way to the back of the store.
He started with the milk. From here, he went from aisle to aisle, placing various items in his cart.
When he got to the cereal aisle, he shot a double take. In that aisle was a woman that looked familiar. It couldn’t be. “Just a coincidence….” he quietly said.
The woman turned back and looked at him. “I’m sorry…..” she told him. “I didn’t get that. Did you just say something?” The woman looked at him again and gasped. “Wait a second! Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Thomas studied the woman carefully. She was wearing a green winter coat and a blue and yellow scarf. “Wait! You are….”
“Yes.” the woman said. “I remember. You were the one that hit me. I’m really sorry that I caused you all that trouble.”
Thomas nodded. “It’s okay. It seems like we’re both covered….”
Suddenly, Thomas was at a loss for words. This usually doesn’t happen to him. There was just something about this woman that he found….attractive. “W-what’s your n-name?” he finally said.
The woman humored him. “M-my n-name is Mary,” she said, playfully teasing him. “What’s yours?”
His confidence increased. “I’m Thomas.” he told her. “I work as a head cook at the Steak N’ Bake.”
Mary nodded, looking very interested. “You are? Wow…. I work as a desk clerk for Dr. Maxwell. He’s a local dentist in my area.”
“Where do you live?”
“Sherman Valley. How about you?”
“I live right here in Greenville.”
Mary nodded. “That’s right. We don’t have a Steak N’ Bake in Sherman Valley. It’s just a small town, but I like it there.”
“I know. I’ve heard of it.”
Mary ran her hand through her hair, holding the shopping list in the other. “That’s why I’m here. This supermarket has a lot better variety than the dinky grocery store where I live. Better sales, too.”
Thomas glanced at her shopping cart. In it was a pack of Pampers Easy-Ups. “Training pants,” he whispered, smiling. Then he said louder: “You have a boy?”
Mary smiled and nodded, with a proud and joyful grin. “Um, yes. How did you know I had a boy?”
Thomas smiled, and pointed at her cart. “The training pants. They have a picture of a boy on them.”
Mary frowned. “What’s with the smiling? Billy only wears them at night! I’m sure you never had to toilet train a kid before. Do you have any kids?”
Thomas nodded. “One. Her name is Peyton, and she’s five. And I resent your remark! I toilet trained her well, all by myself!”
Mary gasped. “I’m very sorry.” she told him. “I overreacted a little bit. Billy just turned three in November. He’s a little younger than your kid.”
Thomas wagged his finger over at the empty child seat on the cart. “So, where is Billy?”
“I didn’t bring him,” she told him. “My sister is watching Billy right now, so I can get my shopping done. When I have him with me, I can’t get a thing done….”
Thomas laughed. “I don’t blame you. Peyton’s the same way. I usually shop here when my babysitter’s watching her. Since I have the day off, I don’t have to do that.”
Mary glanced at the empty child seat in Thomas’s cart. “So, is Peyton in kindergarten?”
“Yes she is,” he said.
A curious expression came over Mary’s face. “You mentioned a babysitter. Why isn’t your wife watching her?”
“My wife….” Thomas gasped. Tears began to stream down his face, but he tried to blink them away.
Mary cupped her hand over her mouth, gasping. “What happened? Was it a divorce?”
“No,” Thomas sobbed. “She died of breast cancer, okay?” He was now upset. “So is your husband working? Is that why your sister’s watching him?”
Mary shook her head. She reached into her purse and pulled out a tissue. Her eyes were starting to fill with tears, and she wiped them. “No. He died on the battlefield.”
Thomas was shocked. He ran over to Mary and embraced her. “Here,” he told her. “I know what it’s like to lose someone.”
Mary wiped more tears from her eyes, and looked up at Thomas. “I know,” she told him. “But I know he’s in a better place.”
“Where, heaven?” Thomas sighed. “Do you really believe that?”
Mary nodded. “Yes.” Mary unzipped her coat, revealing her cross necklace that she wore around her neck. “I believe in Jesus Christ and I’m not ashamed to tell you that.”
Thomas was now a little nervous. The woman was beautiful, but to him, she was acting a little crazy. “Well, I’m not religious.” he told her.
“Neither am I,” Mary argued. “I didn’t do anything to earn my salvation. That’s what religion is. Jesus paid the ultimate price for me, and for you. That is not religion. That is love. That is grace.”
“That is enough,” Thomas told her. “Stop preaching to me. Both my mom and dad did this enough. I don’t need to hear it from you.”
“I’m sorry,” Mary said, as she quietly wheeled her shopping cart away.
Thomas sighed, and turned back to his shopping cart. He pushed his cart forward and continued his shopping.
As he was approaching the self-checkout, there was Mary, scanning all her items.
When Mary saw him, she smiled. Thomas, however, sighed. He didn’t want to say a word to her.
Mary handed him a scrap of paper. “You are invited to come to my church on Sunday,” she told him. You don’t have to come, but the invitation is open if you want to accept it.” And with that, she scanned the rest of her items, paid for them and left.
Thomas held the scrap of paper in his hands. He was thinking about throwing it on the ground, but he decided to hang on to it.
But after he paid for his groceries and left the store, he changed his mind. That woman’s a religious nut. He threw the scrap of paper out in the parking lot. He then loaded his groceries into the trunk of his rental Camry and left the supermarket.
For the rest of the day, Thomas just kept thinking about Mary. He didn’t want to, but the thoughts about her remained. She was a crazy religious fanatic, and he didn’t want anything to do with her. But the thoughts persisted. They persisted when he was putting the groceries away, when he was doing his workout, when he was enjoying his beer, when Peyton came home, when he made dinner and finally, when he put Peyton to bed. The thoughts about Mary did not go away.
Throughout the day, Peyton noticed this. “What’s wrong, daddy?” she asked, as she was being tucked into her bed.
“It’s nothing, honey.” he lied. Peyton wouldn’t understand anything that he’s going through.
But that answer wasn’t enough for Peyton. “But you look different, daddy.” she said, her voice lowering. “You’re not smiling as much.”
Thomas kneeled down next to Peyton and sighed. “It’s a complicated adult thing, peanut,” he told her. “Daddy doesn’t want to talk about it, okay? Sleep well, my princess.” With that, he kissed Peyton on the cheek, and they rubbed their noses together. “Good night, Peyton.”
“Good night, daddy,” Peyton replied.
Thomas got ready and crawled into bed. When he closed his eyes, he could still see the image of Mary burned into his mind. At certain times, he could hear her speaking. The words that she kept repeating was “I’m sorry.” Over and over, these words echoed in his mind.
The very next day, Thomas woke up and got his coat on. It was another work day, so Stephanie had to watch Peyton again. On his trip out to the mailbox, there was another message. Thomas grabbed it and entered the trailer.
Thomas sat down in the living room and wrote the current date on the message: 1/23/2013. After that, he read the message. It read:
Apologize to the one that you have wronged.
Thomas gasped. He was beyond the point of being shocked now. Thomas was scared. “Who is this ‘Anonymous’?” he shouted.
After that, Thomas read the note again. How did they find out about Mary? Was this person in the supermarket yesterday? Thomas couldn’t figure it out. “It has to be someone….” Thomas said in a frustrated tone.
Throughout the rest of the day, Thomas was bothered by the note. From that point on, he made it a point to look behind himself, everywhere he was in public. In his determination to find “Anonymous”, paranoia was starting to get to him. He looked back when he took Peyton to the bus stop. He looked back when he left for the Steak N’ Bake and when he arrived. He even did this while he was at work.
“What are you doing, Thomas?” Chris asked him, while Thomas was cooking a steak.
Thomas turned the steak over, and explained the whole story to Chris.
Chris laughed. “Nobody’s watching you, Thomas. As for this ‘Anonymous’, I don’t know who it is. Maybe you’re not supposed to know. Did you ever think of that?”
Thomas nodded, as he began plating the steak. “I guess you’re right, but it’s really starting to bother me.”
Chris sighed. “Don’t let it. Maybe this ‘Anonymous’ wants to help.”
Thomas shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, by invading my privacy. I hope I find them soon….”
When Thomas left the Steak N’ Bake, he looked behind him. He then drove home.
The next day, Thomas checked his mailbox again, finding the usual message. He took it inside, dated it and read the message:
Stop worrying about who’s watching you. Watch other people instead, and tend to their needs.
This only increased Thomas’s frustration. How is this happening? Someone is watching me, but where are they? Do they go into hiding? Is it a master spy? That message only made Thomas worry more instead of less.
The next day, Thomas looked at the next message. It read:
I will say it again. Stop worrying about the one who is watching. Instead, watch others and be a blessing in their lives.
After this, Thomas stopped worrying, but not completely. After all, “Anonymous” did pay for the plumber and his rent somehow. But regardless, Thomas was still curious about who the sender of the message was.
On Saturday, Thomas read the next message from his usual trip to the mailbox. It read:
Go to this church tomorrow morning at 10:30.
Sherman Valley Community Church
3409 S. Abbott Street
Sherman Valley, IL 62246
Don’t forget to apologize.
Thomas gasped. This was the exact same information that was on the invitation that Mary gave him on Tuesday. The same invitation that Thomas threw in the parking lot. Somehow, “Anonymous” was able to reproduce every detail.
“Mary….” Thomas gasped, remembering what she said about the invitation. Instead of placing the slip of paper with the others, he folded it and placed it in his pocket.
A little later after breakfast, Thomas found Peyton sitting there, with all the pieces of paper lying on the floor. He forgot to put them away!
“What is a-na-na mus, daddy?” Peyton asked, picking up one of the pieces.
Thomas nervously grabbed all the pieces of paper and piled them together. “ ’Anonymous’ is….” Thomas paused. “ Daddy already told you the other day! ‘Anonymous ‘ is a new friend that keeps bothering daddy. They don’t ever let daddy know who they are. They just keep bothering daddy. And daddy wants to know….who they are.”
“Maybe a-na-na mus is invisdable,” Peyton told him.
Thomas shook his head. “ ‘Anonymous’ is visible, honey. They’re just very good at hiding.”
Peyton’s face lit up. “Hide and go seek? I wanna play with a-na-na mus!”
Thomas sighed. “I don’t. The game has ended, and they still haven’t gone out of hiding.”
After putting the paper away, he put a movie on for Peyton, just as Stephanie arrived.
“Daddy’s going to work.” he told Peyton. “Be good for Stephanie, okay?”
Peyton smiled and nodded. “I’ll be good for mommy!”
“She’s not your mommy.” Thomas argued.
“She said I could call her that!” Peyton argued back.
Thomas sighed and left for the Steak N’ Bake. While Thomas planned on going to work, he actually left a little early so that he could pick up his Toyota Camry. He dropped off the rental at the dealership and picked up his car. The hood and headlight was all fixed – Good as new. And with the dealership billing the insurance company, Thomas didn’t have to pay a dime. Thomas drove out of the dealership and made his way to the Steak N’ Bake.
After work, Thomas came home. Peyton was already in bed, and Stephanie was sitting on the couch.
“I already put her in bed, since she was getting tired.” Stephanie explained. “Also, there is something that is really starting to bother me.”
Thomas frowned and scratched his head. “What is it?”
Stephanie looked uncomfortable. “Your daughter is starting to get attached to me. She keeps calling me ‘mommy’ and she wants me to live here. I can’t. And…..” Stephanie started to cry. “I can’t watch her anymore. She’s a real fun kid to watch, but she really wants me to serve a role that I can’t provide for her. What she needs is a real mother. I can’t serve that role.”
Thomas nodded. “I understand. I’m also starting to understand why Peyton is doing this. Peyton doesn’t have a mother to look up to. At school, she hears about mothers that other kids have. Peyton doesn’t remember Julie, since she died when she was so young. To Peyton, you’re the mother, since she doesn’t understand what a mother looks like.”
Stephanie nodded. “I know,” she said, wiping some of her tears away with a tissue. “And I want Peyton to have a real mother. One that can satisfy her every need. I’m just her babysitter, and I can’t fulfill that duty anymore. It’s for her good, okay? If you have to tell her, just say that I left and I’m not coming back. It was a pleasure watching her. Just give me $70, and that should cover it.”
Thomas sighed, and hugged Stephanie. “Thank you for watching my kid,” he said, handing her the money.
“You’re welcome,” Stephanie said, smiling. “It’s going to be sad leaving her. But I can remember all the fun times I had with her….”
Thomas nodded, as Stephanie grabbed her coat. “Yeah. My Peanut is special. Farewell, Stephanie!”
“Bye!” Stephanie said, quietly. She waved and left the trailer.
Thomas slapped his hand onto his temples and shook his head. “I just lost the best babysitter I will probably ever have,” he sighed.
He then walked over to Peyton’s room and opened the door.
“Peyton?” he whispered. “We’re going to church tomorrow. I know that daddy never goes to church, but there’s this woman that daddy wants to talk to….”
“Okay daddy….” Peyton said, half asleep.
I’ll wake her in the morning, Thomas whispered to himself as he left her room.
The next morning, Thomas’s alarm went off. It was 9:00 a.m. Thomas sprang out of bed and ran into Peyton’s room. He shook her awake.
“Daddy, I’m tired….” Peyton complained.
“You can sleep in the car,” Thomas told her. “Let’s get ready for church, okay?”
Thomas got himself and Peyton ready for church. Thomas wasn’t really thrilled about going. He was only going so that he could talk to Mary. He was also going because “Anonymous” said so.
Since Thomas never went to church, he didn’t really have any dress clothes to choose from. The only thing he had was a nice tuxedo that he wore on the day he married Julie. “Not the tux,” he weeped. “I’ll just wear the dress shirt with the pants.”
For Peyton, he found a cute pink dress for her to wear. Despite the fact that she last wore this dress when she was four, she could still fit into it.
After they were both ready, Thomas strapped Peyton into her car seat and they drove off. The time was 10:08 a.m. Sherman Valley was about 15 miles away. From there, he didn’t know exactly where the church was.
When he got to Sherman Valley, he looked at the road that he was on. It was Abbott Street. Moments later, he spotted the church, which was on the left hand side of the road. He turned in and parked in the parking lot.
“Wake up, Peyton!” he shouted. “We’re here!”
Thomas unstrapped Peyton and led her by the hand into the church.
Just as they entered the door, Mary was standing there with Billy. She was wearing black tights, a red miniskirt and a black twill shirt, with black stilettos to match. Her hazelnut hair was neatly combed and she smelled strongly of perfume. The same cross necklace that she wore the other day was hanging around her neck. Billy wore a red button-up shirt with khakis and a pair of brown oxfords.
When Mary saw Thomas, she gasped. “You actually came!” she gasped. “I didn’t think you would. I was actually praying that you would, and here you are!”
“I’m sorry,” Thomas told her.
Mary frowned. “Sorry about what?” she raised her finger and shook it at Thomas. “Oh right! You mean the other day? Don’t worry about that. I forgive you.”
Mary led Thomas and Peyton through the hallway of the church. “Is that your girl?” she asked, looking at Peyton.
Thomas nodded. “Yes.” Then he looked at Peyton. “Peyton, this is my friend Mary. Say ‘Hi, Mary!’ “
“Hi, Mary!” Peyton repeated. “Are you a-na-na mus?”
“What?” Mary said, frowning.
“I’ll explain later,” Thomas told her. He then looked past Mary and saw Billy. “That’s your boy, Billy, right?”
Mary picked up Billy and stood next to Thomas with him. “Yup! Say hi, Billy!”
Billy looked scared.
Mary smiled. “He’s a little shy. He’s not once he gets to know you. Here. Let’s drop the kids off at Sunday school. I’ll show you where Peyton goes, since she’s a little older.”
Mary dropped Billy off at the same room she does weekly. “Bye Billy! Be good for mommy!”
With Billy dropped off, she guided Thomas to another room, with kids that were around Peyton’s age. Mary introduced Thomas and Peyton to the teachers. “He’s new here,” she explained. “He just came to visit.”
With Peyton dropped off, Thomas followed Mary into the sanctuary.
The service lasted about an hour. It started with worship music. After that came the offering and the sermon. The sermon was about being a blessing to other people. Something that really shocked Thomas.
“That was in one of the messages,” he whispered as the service ended.
When the service was over, Mary guided Thomas back to the rooms their kids were in. They picked up both Peyton and Billy. She then introduced Thomas to a few of her friends.
“So Mary, will you be joining us for lunch today?” a woman about her age asked her.
Thomas spoke up. “I actually would like to tell her something.” he said.
Mary nodded. “As much as I would like to, Andrea, I’m actually going to pass. I’m going to spend a little time with my new friend.” Mary then turned to Thomas. “Every week, this church prepares lunch for everyone, and we all eat together. I usually go, but I’ll make an exception this week.”
Mary said bye to all her friends and she left with Billy, following Thomas and Peyton.
“So, where do you want to go?” Mary asked Thomas.
“Let’s go to my house,” Thomas told her. “It’s a little bit of a drive for you, but it’s not too far.”
Mary nodded. “Sure. Why don’t you give me the directions, and I’ll meet you there. I would like to get out of my church clothes first.”
Thomas nodded, and waved good-bye to her. “I’ll see you in a little bit,” he told her. Thomas took Peyton and they drove home.
Once at home, Thomas made Peyton a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. An hour later, a white Honda parked next to Thomas’s Toyota Camry. The passenger door was fixed. It looked brand new. Mary exited her car and approached the door to the trailer. Thomas opened it.
“Sorry for the wait.” Mary told him. “I had to put Billy down for a nap. My sister is watching him back at home.”
Thomas nodded, pointing at the door to Peyton’s bedroom. “Same here,” he told her. In fact, I just got Peyton in her bedroom.
Mary took off her coat. Thomas took it and placed the coat on a chair. “Isn’t Peyton a little old for naps?”
Thomas shook his head. “My Peyton will sleep all day if you let her. Besides, she gets cranky when she doesn’t have her nap.”
Changing the subject, Thomas pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket. “Now,” he began. “I need your help.” Thomas got out the rest of the slips of paper, and laid them all out before Mary. “Every day, I have been receiving these notes from someone named “Anonymous”. Now I have tried to find out who they are, but I can’t. I’m thinking that it’s a spy, but I can’t find them yet.”
Mary scratched her head. “Interesting,” she said with a smile. “When did you start receiving the notes?”
Thomas thought about it, and then found the first note. It was the one with the earliest date – 1/12/2013. “Right here,” he told her. “They gave me $140 to pay for the plumber. Now that’s the weird thing. I saved the receipt from the plumber. It came to $139.81. How did they know the right amount to pay me?”
Mary was puzzled. “I don’t know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “Did you ever receive these notes from ‘Anonymous’ before then?”
“No,” Thomas answered. “I’ve never received any before until then.”
Mary sat there, thinking. After a while, her face lit up. “While we don’t know who it is,” she told him. “We do know that whoever it was wanted to help you. Can I look at these other notes?”
“Go ahead.” Thomas told her. “Look at all of them if you want.”
Mary grabbed the small stack of notes and piled them in front of her. After a few minutes, she read them all. “These notes,” she said. “They’re written in large bold letters. Did you receive any notes on Friday?”
“I have a couple notes from Friday….”
“No. I mean Friday, the eleventh?”
“I already told you. My first note was on that Saturday!”
“Exactly. You didn’t receive a note on that Friday. What can you remember doing that day?”
Thomas scowled. “What does that have to do with any of these notes?”
Mary took one of the notes from her lap and sat it on the floor with the others. “Think about it. Can you remember anything from that day?”
Thomas sighed. “Mary, I don’t know why anything would….” Mary was sitting there, looking impatient. “Okay, I’ll think about it.”
Thomas closed his eyes and thought hard about what he did on that night. Suddenly it returned. All the frustration from that night. Losing his wife, job and house all in a short period of time. If there was anyone to blame, he blamed God for it all.
Then it hit him. “That’s it!” he cried. “I can remember everything from that night.”
Mary cast an interested stare at him. “What can you remember?”
“Mary,” he told her. “I don’t know if I ever told anyone this. Maybe just a couple people at work….”
“I lost everything. Almost four years ago, my wife died to breast cancer. Two months later, I lost my job as executive. The entire company went bankrupt. And then….” Thomas began to sob. “And then, when my daughter turned two, I lost my house. It was a beautiful house, Mary. But I was running out of money so I had to sell it. I lost my wife, my job and my house. I lost everything.”
“You didn’t lose everything,” Mary argued. “You still have Peyton. You still have your cook job.”
“Yeah,” Thomas sighed. “A job that doesn’t pay diddly-squat. For the past three years, I’ve been raising Peyton in a dumpy trailer. I don’t want that for her. She deserves much better….”
“But you have that job, this trailer and your daughter,” she told him. “This is what God gave you.”
Thomas was angry. “What he gave me?” he shouted. “I can remember that night now! I asked God to prove to me if he was real or not! What did he do? Tell me! What did he do?”
“He gave you all those messages,” Mary said, wiping away a tear. “Do you want to know who I think “Anonymous” is? I think he’s an angel. An angel sent from God to point you in the right direction.”
Thomas shook his head. “An angel?”
“Think about it.” Mary told him. “How about the car accident that happened? None of us got hurt. I believe that this was God’s way of bringing me into your life.”
“Don’t think you’re the only one with problems, Thomas. Since my husband died, I have been very lonely. Every day, I have been praying for a husband. Do you think I get mad at God and blame him? No. I patiently wait for him to reveal his will to me. I don’t make a lot of money, and I rely on my sister a lot to care for my kid. But none of this has made me any weaker. It has made me into a stronger person.”
“You challenged God, Thomas. You wanted him to prove that he was real. And he has done so with all those messages. All the gifts that you have received. And now, he has done so with me. Now whether or not you want to believe that is your choice. God has given you a lot of blessings, Thomas, and now he wants you to be one.”
Thomas was now in tears. “I don’t know what to say,” he sobbed. “I didn’t know that the answer was staring me right in the face. And now, today, I have 16 answers. I didn’t expect them to come in this way.”
“God never acts in the way you expect him to,” Mary told him. “Up to this point, he has been very patient with you. Please don’t shun that gift.”
Thomas rubbed his eyes and his temples. “I don’t know how he could be patient with me, Mary. I would think that God would’ve been done with me by now.”
Mary clasped her hands together and rested them in her lap. “But he’s not, Thomas. He’s far from done.” She then gave Thomas a fixed stare. “Now Thomas, do you think that God is real?”
Thomas glanced at all the messages that were heaped in the middle of the room. He then looked at Mary. And, shedding a tear, he nodded. “Yes Mary, he is. And it took me until now to realize that.”
Mary’s face then changed. It began with serious, but was then set on fire. The flames of passion engulfed it and she smiled. “Thomas,” she said in a faint voice. “I….have something to tell you. You know how I have told you that I have been praying for a husband?”
Thomas stared at Mary. The radiance emanating from her smile has set him on end. “Yes. You told me that.”
“Well,” she said, opening up her hands. “I think you are the answer to those prayers. I mean, we both lost our loved ones, right? This is way more than a coincidence.” Then Mary snapped out of it, as if she were fighting a spell. “But I want to be sure. Is this love for real? I hardly know you, so I don’t want to take anything too quickly. Let’s just start by you coming to my church again next week. I don’t think that we’re ready to date yet.”
Thomas nodded. “I agree. I’m still trying to make sense of all of this. I don’t feel like I really like you, yet. Also, it’s going to be very hard for any woman to take Julie’s place….”
Mary nodded, and stood up. “Well, I need to get going. Think about the sermon that you listened to, okay? Be a blessing. That’s what God wants you to be. Also, I feel like God is telling me to be patient with all of this. Song of Songs, right?”
“Song of what?” Thomas sighed.
Mary’s face reddened. “Oh, that’s right!” Mary gasped. “It’s a book in the Bible. I don’t know how much of the Bible you’ve read.”
“Very little,” Thomas answered.
Mary nodded, as she grabbed her coat. “Well, I’ll get you a Bible then. I’ll see you next week! Sherman Valley Community Church, okay? Bye Thomas!”
“Bye!” Thomas replied.
Mary opened the door and left the house.
After Mary left, Thomas went out to the mailbox and found another message. He took the message inside and read it. It read:
Do you know who I am?
Thomas tearfully nodded. “Yes I do. I get it.” Thomas dated the note, placed it with the others and put them away.
After that, Thomas looked at the time and gasped. “Peyton!” he shouted.
He ran inside the bedroom. While he expected Peyton to be sound asleep, like she usually was, she wasn’t. She was wide awake.
“Who were you talking to, daddy?” she asked him. “Were you talking to mommy?”
Thomas sighed. “Stephanie left. She’s not going to be watching you anymore. She wants you to have a real mommy.”
Peyton was heartbroken. “Why? Why can’t she be my mommy, daddy?”
“Peyton,” Thomas said. “You are in elementary school. Stephanie is in high school. Stephanie is about to go to college and get married. She will be a mommy, but not yours. She wants you to have a real one. A special one.”
Peyton frowned. “Then who were you talking to, daddy?”
Thomas smiled. “Remember Mary? She was the one you met this morning at church. She had that little boy with her named Billy.”
Peyton smiled again. “Can she be my mommy?”
Thomas blushed. “We’ll see, honey. I just met her, so daddy doesn’t know if he likes her yet.” Thomas looked at the clock. It was 2:36 p.m. “Do you still need time to rest? I don’t want to disturb any more of your nap.” Thomas was about to leave the room, when Peyton sat up.
“Wait!” Peyton shouted.
Thomas turned and approached her bed. “What is it, peanut?”
“Who is God?” she asked him.
Thomas gasped. “God is someone who is really important that you should always listen to, honey. Now, how long did you hear us talk?”
“When you started shouting.” Peyton told him. “You woke me up.”
“Well, daddy’s sorry. I’ll let you sleep then. Have a nice nap, peanut!”
Peyton nodded, and Thomas left Peyton’s room, closing the door behind him.
One week passed. Thomas still didn’t consider himself religious, but he was a little more curious about God, and who he was. With that, the messages continued. Most of them suggested listening to Mary. While they all didn’t say this verbatim, they each did in a different way.
Thomas once again went with Peyton to the Sherman Valley Community Church. Mary was in the lobby with Billy, this time waiting for his arrival.
Mary smiled when she saw Thomas with Peyton. “You’re a little late. Hurry! Let’s get the kids to their classrooms.”
Thomas bashfully smiled. “Peyton was the one that held me up this morning.” he told her. “I’m sorry….”
After the kids were dropped off, Thomas entered the sanctuary for another sermon with Mary. Thomas got more into it this time. The music was nothing like what he experienced in the past. When his parents took him to church as a kid, the music was played on an organ. Sometimes, it was played on a piano. They all sang from hymnals. That was not the case at this church.
Unlike the church that Thomas went to as a kid, the music was modern, with a full band playing on a stage. All the words were displayed on a projection screen. There was no hymnal to be found anywhere.
After the worship music and the offering was a sermon. The pastor talked about John 3 & 4. He compared and contrasted the story with Jesus teaching Nicodemus and the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. He went into great detail with each story, and explained everything very well. That was the whole sermon.
When the sermon was over, Thomas followed Mary to the classrooms to pick the kids up. This time, Thomas stayed with Mary to have lunch at the church.
During lunch, Mary handed Thomas a bible. She called it “spiritual nourishment”, and that he could have it after his “physical nourishment”. Thomas and Peyton ate the food. It was chili with an assortment of fruit and vegetables. After the meal, Thomas took the bible and thanked Mary. For a meeting time, they both agreed to meet at Sherman Valley Community Church next week. Same time, same place.
Back at home, Thomas opened up the bible. This was the first time that Thomas has opened a bible in more than 20 years. In the front was some lined paper, with a note from Mary. In the note, she gave him a bunch of passages to look at. They were mainly from Romans and the four gospels.
Thomas turned the page to Romans and began reading. For the next three hours, he just kept reading. He spent so much time reading that Peyton was starting to notice.
Peyton entered the room to find Thomas, sitting at the table with the bible open. “What are you reading, daddy?” she asked him.
“Daddy is reading an important book,” he told her.
Peyton glanced at the book and frowned. “There’s no pictures,” she said, pouting. “Where are the pictures, daddy?”
Thomas smiled. “There aren’t any, peanut. That’s why daddy is using his imagination. There are plenty of pictures when daddy does this.”
Peyton imitated the pose that Thomas was showing her. “Oh. Okay daddy!” Peyton skipped off into the living room, and continued watching her cartoons.
After finishing Romans, Thomas got to the gospels. He started with John, but stopped when he got to the third and fourth chapter. He again saw the same words that he heard in the sermon: “You must be born again”. Thomas reread that passage over and over again. After that he began to cry.
Thomas thought about his upbringing and his recent encounter with God. He was actually angry at him, and blamed him for the loss of all the things that were most dear to him: his wife Julie, his position as executive for a large technical firm and his wonderful house. All of these were things that he worked hard for. Julie was his high school sweetheart. And just like that, she was gone. Thomas not only blamed God, but wanted him to prove that he was real. In so many ways, Thomas hoped that he wasn’t real. But every single time since that night, this never turned out to be the case. Thomas now saw himself as the horrible person. He blamed himself, hoping that God wasn’t angry at him.
Then there were the daily messages from “Anonymous”. He teared up just thinking about them. For each day that these messages were sent, God was reaching out to Thomas. And he ignored that! He wanted to try to find a different way. Another method to explain the mysterious notes. They couldn’t be from him, could they? But they were, and he knew it. Deep down he did, but he just didn’t want to admit it.
And then, the tears came out. All the tears that should’ve come out before were coming out. Every tear that was not shed during this whole experience was there. Every tear was accounted for, and each went to their assigned places.
Thomas then closed his eyes and said a quiet prayer. He heard himself say the words “born again” and “I will follow”. He meant it.
All of a sudden, Thomas was overcome with peace. It was a peace that Thomas couldn’t explain. A peace that Thomas never felt before. Upon feeling this, Thomas smiled, and wiped away the tears. He was a new person.
The next day, Thomas checked his mailbox for a message. He found one and took it inside. It read:
This is my last message to you. Welcome, Thomas. We will meet again. Don’t forget to talk to me. Read that book.
Thomas nodded, dated the message and placed it with the others. Altogether, there were 24 messages, all addressed to Thomas. 24 reminders to Thomas of who he was dealing with. 24 blessings, just for him. On some of those days, the blessing was himself. A blessing that needed to be shared with those who needed it.
On one of those days, that blessing was Mary. A blessing that happened in an unexpected way. Since then, Thomas has started to become good friends with her, and looked forward to seeing her every Sunday.
On the very next Sunday, Thomas told Mary everything. He had a lot of questions for her, and she answered them after the service. They mostly pertained to the bible. One of them pertained to a method of contacting her. He asked for her phone number, and she gave it to him. Thomas , in turn, gave her his number. When Mary told him about her Facebook, Thomas frowned. Thomas didn’t own a computer, but was now definitely planning on saving up for one.
After that, the phone conversations began. Thomas called Mary every day. Sometimes, Mary called first. It was usually in the evening, since they had the most time to talk, and both of their kids were in bed during that time. In these conversations, Thomas wanted be with Mary more. He wanted to go further than the friendship that they were having. Mary agreed. This began their “meetings”.
The so-called “meetings” were arranged by either Thomas or Mary, and they involved meeting at a fun place. The coffee shop, the library, the movie theater, and of course, Mary’s church.
Eventually, Thomas didn’t like the name “meetings” anymore, and wanted to call them dates. They both agreed on this during one dinner at Thomas’s work — the Steak N’ Bake. They both sat in a private and secluded part of the restaurant. With it being a Monday night, they had the place to themselves.
“Another one of our ‘meetings’, huh?” Thomas said, giving her a playful smile. “I think we should call them something else.”
Mary nodded, and reached for Thomas’s hands. “Should we call them ‘dates’ then?” she said, smiling.
“Yes,” Thomas told her. “Dates would do just fine.” And with that, he leaned forward and kissed her.
Mary blushed. “This is real love. I know it is.”
Thomas frowned. “Why would it not be?”
Mary stared at Thomas matter-of-factly. “You remember, don’t you? 1 Corinthians 13….”
“Love is patient, love is kind,” Thomas recited.
Mary gave him a nod of approval. “It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….” she continued. After she finished reciting, she kissed him.
After that, Thomas laughed. “You’re right! It is love. Real love. Genuine love….”
During that spring, Thomas and Mary started dating very frequently. They dated every weekend on Saturday, going to church on Sunday. From the night that Thomas got saved, he learned so much from Mary. From the books that she recommended and the book that brought him on the road to salvation.
In mid April, Chris, Thomas’s boss at the Steak N’ Bake was promoted to higher management. As a result, Thomas was trained to be the new store manager. Granted, this was a lot more responsibility for Thomas, but the higher salary was rewarding.
Towards the end of spring, Thomas proposed to Mary. Using the money that he got from his promotion, he bought her a nice engagement ring. In presenting her the ring, he got down on his knees and asked her the question. “Mary,” he asked her. “Will you marry me?”
Mary stood there, awestruck. She took the ring from him and kissed him. And, shedding a tear of joy, she nodded. “Yes,” she told him. “I will marry you.”
From that day, the wedding was planned for August 24, 2013.
In the midst of all the wedding planning, Thomas was trying to find them a new place to live. He decided on an apartment. But with all the planning divided between the wedding and apartment hunting, he was not able to find anything. Even after months of searching, he was not able to find anything.
The wedding came, and both Thomas and Mary got married. They exchanged their vows, their rings and their kisses.
A couple weeks later, the newlywed couple searched for an apartment together. They found just the right one. A three bedroom unit in a different community. One that Thomas thought was a lot better than Golden Meadows. Both Thomas and Mary sold their houses and moved in. Thomas sold his trailer and Mary sold her 2 bedroom shack.
In addition to selling the house, Mary quit her job, so that she could focus on raising Peyton and Billy.
After the happily married new couple moved into their new apartment, Thomas noticed a box that he forgot to unpack. It sat in the corner of the kitchen, near the kitchen table. Thomas opened it. The 24 “blessings” were inside.
Thomas found the one that referred to the car accident and quietly read it to himself. If not for that accident, he would’ve never met Mary. It was that blessing, and all those other blessings that changed Thomas’s life forever.
Thomas looked at the part that read “signed, Anonymous” and laughed. “I guess you’re not ‘Anonymous’ anymore,” he said with a smile.
Looking at the other notes, he nodded. “This is all the proof I need.” Then he shook his head. “No. Your Word is….”
Thomas gathered his 24 “blessings” and placed them back in the box. It was now his turn. His turn to be a blessing. To Mary, to Peyton, to Billy and to everyone else who needed it.
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