I watched as the homeless man collided with her.
“Spare some change for a cuppa coffee?”
Lois looked at the ragged man, then seemed to melt. “Sure. Wait a minute.”
She opened her pocketbook, rummaged around, and came up with a five dollar bill, which she gave to the man, smiling.
“Ma’am that’s real great of ya… could you maybe stretch it to ten? I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
She paused for a heartbeat, then dug back into her purse. “I… I don’t have another five. How about a couple of singles?”
The man grabbed them from her hand. “Whatever,” he mumbled as he brushed past her into the diner.
She flushed, her expression showing her unhappiness.
Pulling her coat tight, she made her way out into the blizzard, drawing the collar up around her face, then turned to trudge through the drifts.
She turned the corner and almost tripped over a woman sitting on some cardboard.
“Help? Please? Anything?”
She gazed at the woman, then started to stammer, “I… I just gave away the last of my change.”
The woman looked sad. “Please?”
Slowly, Lois removed her woolen scarf and handed it to the woman.
Who stared at it. “Money?”
“I’m really sorry. I don’t have any change to give you.”
The woman gaped at her, then looked at the scarf.
“Here, let me help you,” Lois said, wrapping it around the woman’s neck, then tucked it into her coat.
“Ohhh…real good! Thank you, missus!” she looked up at Lois, “but… money?”
Lois stood, frozen and uncertain. Slowly, she took her purse off her shoulder and opened it, looking to see if she had overlooked something…
Only to have it snatched from her hand by someone who shoved her onto the beggar woman, who cried out.
Lois slowly got off her, searching for whoever had taken her purse but only saw a crowd of dark shapes in the snow moving away from her.
She felt tears gathering in her eyes. “My wallet! My keys!”
Her rooming house landlord was away for the holidays. She knew he would throw her out if she broke in, especially as she was seven weeks behind in her rent.
She had no idea what to do. Virtually all that she had in the world was in that purse or in her room.
It was time for me to take over.
She looked up, tears in her eyes, looking about as sad as I’d ever seen a person be. Her expression changed to puzzlement. “Alex? Is that you?”
I laughed, “Yes, still me, although who knows for how much longer, eh? How are you?”
Her shoulders slumped, “Oh, Alex, I’m…I’m …It’s just that…” and burst into tears.
I wrapped my arms around her. “It’s all right now, kiddo. We’ll figure it out. Come with me.”
I kept one arm around her shoulder, walking her towards home.
We made old-friends small talk until we got to my apartment building. She stopped when I opened the door. “You live here?”
I hesitated. “Yeah, sort of. Come on. Let’s make you some cocoa.”
We took the elevator up, then I unlocked the door.
“Wow! Nice place!”
I smiled, “It took me some time to figure out what this apartment wanted to be.”
Going into the kitchen, I made her that mug of cocoa, with marshmallows, which made her smile, then guided her into the living room. We sat opposite each other, then I decided the time had come.
“Lois, I need you to do me a favor. I’m going away, and I could really use someone to look after my place. Could you do that for me?”
Her face brightened, then clouded over again. “Uh…”
“It would mean a lot to me.”
Finally, she nodded, both reluctant and relieved.
I leaned forward, “Listen, kid, I have something I need to tell you.”
Her face grew anxious. “What?”
“You rescued me during one of the toughest periods of my life. I considered giving up, but you convinced me that things would get better. And they did.
“I would like to repay you in some small way.” I got up, and took an envelope out of my pocket, along with the keys to the condo.
Lois looked into the envelope, then gasped. “Alex, this is real money… I can’t. Really, I’m fine…”
I interrupted her. “Lois, I know you’ve had a run of bad luck. I know how hard things are. Please…let me help you, the way you’ve helped so many other people.”
I stood, looking at her, willing her to accept.
Finally, she exhaled and look down. “It is true things have been bad, but…”
“No buts. Please let me help.”
Finally, not looking at me, she nodded, and mumbled, “Thank you, Alex.”
I exhaled, relieved. “Now, why don’t you have a nap? You look exhausted.”
With some coaxing, I helped her get comfortable on top of the bed, covered her with a blanket, then turned out the light and closed the door.
I set out the letter I had prepared, telling her where to go for a job interview – one I knew was perfect for her, and where I had already spoken to the owner – then telling her not to expect to see me soon as I had to leave, and asking her to take care of my condo.
I heard a sound and turned. “Time?” I asked.
Exhaling, I looked up and smiled. “Thank you for letting me do this. It was something I always meant to do, but thought there would be more… well, anyway. Thank you.”
He looked at me. “You know you won’t remember this as you are already dead.”
I shrugged, “It doesn’t matter. Lois has been helping people all her life, and it was time someone helped her. Thank you for letting it be me.”
St. Michael smiled and held out His hand. He was pleased that although Alex wouldn’t be able to tell St. Peter, He would.