This week's writing prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "soothe". This is my story...
Libby fed the last few pieces of kindling into the old woodstove, barely enough to warm a small corner of the room in the ramshackle house where she was living with her two small children. It had been snowing all day, and the night promised to be bitter cold. She had gathered what quilts they had and wrapped the children in them, now they huddled together on a broken down sofa pulled up close to the stove.
"Mommy, I'm hungry" whimpered little Sally. "When are we going to eat?" her five-year-old brother Sam chimed in. The weight of the world sat on Libby's shoulders, and she fought to hold back tears. She didn't want to worry the children, she didn't want them to know how bad it was. Things had been really hard since her husband Randy left them. He had walked out the door one night a few months back after they'd quarrelled about his drinking, and she hadn't seen him since.
Libby had no fancy education or formal training, she'd been working as a motel maid from the time Sam was born to help make ends meet. Now she was really struggling to do it on her own. She got a welfare check for basic necessities but it never stretched far enough. By the last few days of the month things were always pretty grim, and this month had been the worst yet.
The old house had an oil furnace, but Libby couldn't afford the minimum delivery of fuel oil and the tank had had finally run out. On Monday she would make the rounds of charities to see if she could find heating assistance somewhere, but that wasn't going to keep them warm thru the long weekend, and they had nowhere else to go.
The lack of food was even more critical. Libby knew she could get buy a day or two without eating, she'd done it before to make sure the kids had something on their plates; but she'd fed them the last peanut butter sandwiches at lunchtime, and there wasn't even a can of beans left in the house. The neighbors on their rundown street weren't any better off than she was, she knew there was no point going around to ask. It was now long past suppertime, but there wouldn't be any supper tonight. Libby felt like a failure. The two people she loved most in the whole world were depending on her and she had let them down.
As she sat there trying to find words to soothe her children, the doorbell chimed in the hall. "Oh God," Libby thought. Mr. Thomas the landlord had already been by twice in the past few days. She was a month behind on rent and he said he was sorry but he was going to have to evict her on the first if she couldn't come up with at least something by the end of the week. It was business he said, he had to pay for building maintenance and make a living too. Libby noticed that he had avoided looking at the children when he told her.
For a moment she thought about not answering the door, but what good was it going to do? She new he'd just staple an eviction notice to the door frame, that was all that the law required. She might as well try pleading one more time for a few days mercy, what did she have to lose?
Heart pounding, Libby rose and walked slowly toward the door. When she opened it no one was standing there. Puzzled, she pushed the door open wider to look across the porch. There at her feet sat two big cardboard boxes, one packed with cereal, canned goods, and fruit. The other held milk, bread, eggs, ground beef and chicken. Her children hadn't seen milk or meat in several days! Next to the boxes was a large bundle of fire wood; an envelope with her name was tucked underneath the twine.
As Libby opened the envelope with trembling hands, a hundred dollar bill and a small sheet of paper fell to the floor. Near shock, she bent to pick it up. In beautiful flowing script the note said "Dear Libby, I know you are struggling, and I thought this might help. Have faith, things are going to get easier for you soon. Stay strong." That was all, no signature, no clue to who their benefactor might be.
Tears flooded Libby's eyes. No one had ever done anything nice for her, and she didn't know anyone who might. As her children sorted thru the bounty, squealing with delight when they discovered a bag of frosted animal crackers, Libby turned to look out the door. Maybe someone was out there waiting and watching. She wanted to tell them how much this meant and how close she'd been to giving up tonight.
What Libby saw amazed her and she stared at the ground trying to comprehend. The snow that had fallen lay thick on the porch and walkway, shimmering in the moonlight... but there was not a single footprint to be found.
Note: If you enjoy participating in Sunday Scribblings, consider joining me for "Two Shoes Tuesday" beginning this week. Read more about it here!