Snow whirled across the windshield. Beyond the fervent wipers, churning flurries thickened the air. Lanes blurred together. The white glare ached on Amber’s bleary eyes.
Her chin drooped. Register buttons. Impatient customers. Talvert smacking the counter. The day drifted through her thoughts like a nightmare.
The car skidded, fishtailed a bit. She stiffened. Clamped onto the steering wheel and peeled her eyes wide until turning into her driveway.
The engine sputtered to a halt. Her car door creaked as she heaved herself out. Raw winds whipped at her hair. She gathered her purse and the door bludgeoned her shoulder. With a primal growl, Amber shoved the squeaky panel away. Slammed it shut. Her handbag strap slipped to her elbow. She snatched it into place. Grabbed her throbbing shoulder. Trudged through the snow-quilted walk toward her stoop.
With each step, pain needled through the numbness of her soles. She closed her eyes against a damp gust as she neared the stoop. Her toe stubbed at a solid object. A half-buried trash bag peeked from the drift against her front steps. She tugged the weighty sack out by its drawstring handles. A sheet of notebook paper fluttered from a safety pin attached to the top.
Blue marker announced in all capital letters, “NOT TRASH!”
Amber lugged the package inside with a huff. Shoved it in the corner beside the pile of canned goods. Her numb fingers trembled as she locked the door and tacked a coverlet over the frame. Despite her blanketed windows, a bitter chill pervaded the bungalow. Cold enough to keep herself wrapped in her coat. She gazed at her sodden boots. Sitting on the nearby bench, she peeled the winter-slushed duds from her feet. Nine hours of retail work had weighed on her ankles and arches, swelling them to fill the extra wide cavity. Amber dropped her boots onto the tattered welcome mat.
A kick jolted the inner wall of her abdomen. An eddy of nausea and emptiness swirled in her gut. Cradling her expectant belly, she stood and hobbled to the kitchen. Stared at the lonely jar of pickles in her pantry. A can of soup guarded the shelf below it. The pile of canned goods rested near the front door, right where she left them two days ago. About twenty paces away. A cramp seized her left ankle. She grabbed the soup.
In two minutes, she hobbled with her meal to the living room. Coat buttons clicked against the edge of her tray. She settled into her armchair and makeshift bed. Propped her feet on the ottoman. Her hands hung limp at her sides, almost too tired to eat. Acid churned in her gut. With a sigh, she lifted the spoon.
Three bites into her meal, a knock erupted at the front door. Amber shook her weary head. Not this time, kid.
Rapping persisted. She continued eating.
“Mrs. Werschall? Ma’am, you have to come!” The pounding knocked a corner of the coverlet from the door frame.
Amber’s womb thumped at the tray, sloshing her soup over the side of the bowl. She set the tray on the ottoman. Grumbling, she shuffled to answer the door.
“What is so urgent?” She thrust her head out and narrowed the opening to minimize the draft. “Somebody die?”
Glistening frost clung to Angela’s cap and shoulders as she shook her head. In the streetlamp’s glow, she glittered like a sappy ornament. “Not yet. At least, I hope not.”
Amber shifted on her throbbing feet. “I’ve had a very long day, so…”
“Right, I’ll get to the point.” She raised a finger. Reaching into a totebag, she pulled out a stack of envelopes. “I’m collecting Christmas cards for people in the hospital.”
Nostrils flaring, her fingers curled against the door’s edge. “Are you serious?”
“Yes. They’ll really appreciate it.”
Her lips tightened into a flat line against her teeth as she spoke. “Do I look like I have Christmas or birthday or any kind of cards here?”
“I have extra.” She extended a handful of blank envelopes. “You can make them birthday cards, too, if you want. Great idea. Didn’t even think of that.”
Another kick jolted her. Amber took a deep breath. Her lashes fluttered as she exhaled. “Look. I’m not in the mood to bring cheer for my own birthday. Or Christmas. If you want to enjoy your little charity project, it’s best if you hit up the other neighbors.”
“It’s your birthday?” She tilted her head.
“Tomorrow. But that’s not the point.” Rolling her eyes, she sighed. “Skip my door from now on. Stopping at my house won’t do any good because I’ve got nothing to offer. Agreed?”
“You don’t have to write cards.” Angela shrugged and stuffed the cards into her bag. “But I don’t agree.”
As the child walked back toward the sidewalk, Amber leaned out of her front door. “You mean you’re going to keep pestering me. Why?”
A glitz of snowy dust sprayed from her head as she looked over her shoulder. “You’re wrong. Everyone’s got something to offer.”
The lamppost flickered off a moment, and Angela vanished into the winter night.
****TO BE CONTINUED****
“Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer
in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them”
(1 Corinthians 7:17).