It’s a Bitter Winter, Chapter 4

“I can’t understand why you aren’t more enthusiastic,” cried Alison as she switched off the news on Breakfast TV. “Come on, Lee. Hospitality restrictions’ll be lifted in a fortnight’s time. Aren’t you fed up of being broke? If I’d been you, I’d have already been knocking at the door of every restaurant in town.”

“Okay, okay” replied Lee, “it’s just…well, I’m not sure I want to go back to that sort of work. Anyway, it’s my delivery day. I need to be off to your mum and dad’s now to pick up the car, so I’m back in time to take the kids to school.”

As Lee strode purposefully out of the door, Alison burst into tears. She’d just inspected her wardrobe to choose an outfit for work, noticing how few of her clothes still looked new. Almost every garment was now showing frayed cuffs, faded colours or had lost its shape. The High Street was open again but she could only afford to visit the charity shops.


 Later, on his round, Lee arrived at Leroy and Valerie’s house to find them both in tears. A packed suitcase was sitting by the door. Leroy explained that they’d had to accept she now needed hospice care. An ambulance would soon be arriving. 

But through her sobs, Valerie smiled at Lee and slowly mouthed her words. “My body may be broken with Motor Neurone Disease, but I’m looking forward to Jesus raising me up when he comes back in glory!” There was even a look of triumph in her eyes.

“And how’s he going to do that?” asked Lee, unable to hide his scepticism. It was Leroy who replied.

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and he got a whole new physical body. That’s what he promises for those who believe in him. And there’ll be lots to do in God’s new world, re-making it his way.” Noticing Lee’s obvious doubt, he continued, “Look into it, Lee. You’ll find Jesus’ resurrection is one of the hardest events to explain away. And it completely changes the way we live on earth.”

“Yes,” added Valerie, “We know it’s true because our new life with the risen Jesus has started already, here in this world!”

At that point the ambulance arrived. Lee said goodbye so they could share their last moments together. 300 yards up the road he stopped and sat still, moved beyond words by their faith and courage.


Lee arrived home with the children in tow, to find that Alison had just got in from work. Before even seeing her, he knew something was wrong. Sure enough, he found her sitting on their bed, surrounded by printed sheets that he’d placed in a pile the previous night. Youth worker. Probation officer. Mental health coordinator. Area Manager – the Trussell Trust. Diploma in Social Care…

“Lee, I just can’t go on like this!” she wailed, “I need you to get a proper job. And quickly!”

“But whoever I talk to tells me I’d be good at caring for people. That’s why I got Dean to help me fix the laptop, so I could go on the internet to work out what I wanted. Please, Alison – I need to grab this chance to make a new start,” he appealed.

At that moment, Alison’s eyes fixed onto Lee’s opened Mark’s Gospel. “What’s got into you? It’s that stupid booklet, isn’t it!” she screamed, grabbing it and tearing it in two. “How dare you!” he yelled. Seeing the leering grin on her face, Lee completely lost control. He lashed out, his fist crunching into Alison’s jaw.

“Right, that does it! I’m off to my parents, and mark my words, it’s for good.” She summoned a taxi, bundled some belongings into a case, grabbed the children, slammed the door, and was gone.

Utterly distraught, Lee went out to buy the largest bunch of flowers his tiny budget could afford and made his way to his in-laws. His father-in-law opened the door and gazed at Lee with a sense of sadness. He called Alison, who cried in a loud voice,

“Tell Lee to go away and give his flowers to that Mrs Murgatroyd. I’m seeing a solicitor tomorrow.” Lee headed home, and watched TV until 1 a.m. He could think of only one thing to do next.  

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