It’s a Bitter Winter, Chapter 2

“Hello Lee. That didn’t take you long, did it?” asked Alison as Lee let himself into the flat.

“Oh ‘eck, no! I’m only halfway through my deliveries; there’s twelve of ‘em altogether.” he replied. “I ate the sandwiches you made me and drank the water. But no-one warned me how badly your bladder swells up when you’ve been driving. There’s no trees to hide behind, and I couldn’t wait, so here I am!”  Alison thanked him for putting him so clearly in the picture about his personal information.

Suitably relieved, Lee continued, “They’ve given me an ‘easy round’ since it’s my first day. Only it’s not easy. I thought I knew Fairtown, but there are little blocks like ours all over the place, and they’re like rabbit warrens with the numbers all arranged to confuse you. And you’ve got to be an escape artist to turn the car round in some of those narrow blocked-off streets.

Despite his complaints. Alison detected a sense that Lee was enjoying his new challenge. There was a spring in his step today, one that had been missing for far too long.

Lee’s later visits took him to the older part of Fairtown. He had a large delivery for Yasmin. She lived on the eigthth floor of Brighton Towers. He had to park his heavy box on the floor before pressing the bell to be let inside. Altogether there were four more doors to open, but a kind young woman opened the first two for him, to let him into the lift. The door to Flat 47 was opened by a nervous little girl aged about 6, behind which three more pairs of dark chestnut eyes stared out at him. The pervading odour told Lee they’d had curry for lunch. An anxious lady wearing a red hijab asked the child who was there. On seeing the box of food, her face relaxed as she gazed in tearful relief. Lee had often waxed on about how we shouldn’t let any more refugees onto our shores. But he couldn’t stop a tear or two trickling down his cheeks as he made his way back to the car.

The next call was to a couple who lived on the old thoroughfare going north, in a rickety terraced house, in front of which lay a small yard. They’d obviously made an effort with a few pots, window boxes and hanging baskets, and in the window, he could see a carved wooden fish symbol and above it a cross on which was embroidered, ‘Faith, Hope, Love’. “Huh..one of that lot,” thought Lee as he pounded the knocker.

The door was opened by Leroy, a West Indian who looked to be in his late 50’s. Looking beyond him, the first thing Lee noticed was the colour. The whole house seemed full of light, with extravagant shades of wallpaper, curtains and framed artwork. Many slogans from the bible had been displayed around the hall and front room, and over the stairway were the words, “He will never fail you nor forsake you.” And then he noticed the wheelchair…

Mrs. Murgatroyd was the last on his list, an elderly lady who lived in a tiny bungalow. Using her frame, she shuffled along the hall and slowly opened the door. Lee asked her to move to one side as he stepped past her, placing her bag of food in the kitchen. Her eyes twinkled as she thanked him profusely.

Over the weeks that followed, Lee was often assigned this same round. The refugee children greeted him with mischievous grins. Leroy and his wife Valerie always had a smile for him. He was sad to find out she was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. Did she think God had failed her or forsaken her, as Lee would have assumed? Apparently, they hadn’t drawn this most obvious of conclusions…

  One afternoon, Lee was running ahead of schedule. Mrs Murgatroyd seemed especially chatty. She asked him if he was looking for a job. He ended up spilling out more of his frustrations than he’d intended. She cocked her head on one side and said,

“Young man, can I pray for you? You seem so earnest. And I’ve saved this for you…” She held out a Gospel of Mark to him.

“No thanks…Nice of you to offer, but I don’t believe in that sort of thing.” He excused himself, went on his way home and considered it no further. And that was that, until the next week…  

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