Saturday Rewrite: Special Delivery

The Jones family were sad and frustrated that Christmas Eve. Sniping at one another, no one in a festive mood, it felt like it had been a bad year without much in the way of accomplishment. Exam results had been poorer than expected. Pay rises for the parents had not materialised. Mrs Jones had not been as careful with money as she might have been, and Mr Jones couldn’t shake a cold he’d picked up when working late in a damp dark house. Daughter Mel had lost her job and son Dom had left his new iPhone on a bus when he gave up his seat one day. The budget was tight and Christmas was all but cancelled.
There was a knock at the door.
A tall man in a sharp suit stood there. A stranger with a severe face and dark eyes.
‘Good evening. May I come in?’
They stare at him. ‘Do we know you?’ asked Mr Jones.
The stranger grimaced. ‘Yes and no,’ he said. ‘But you will want to hear my news I’m sure. I can tell you on the doorstep, but the rain is lashing down out here. And I’m getting soaked.’
They exchanged glances, stepped back and let him inside. Didn’t offer him a drink though.
‘Do you remember,’ the stranger said, as they led him into the lounge, ‘back in late March, you stopped in the rain to talk to a young homeless guy, sitting on the pavement?’
Mrs Jones thought about it. ‘Maybe… it’s a while ago.’
‘It is. You gave them fifty pounds.’
‘Well… I can’t really remember… I mean I had to press him, he didn’t want to take it… how do you know that?’
The man shrugged a little.
‘Dominic,’ he turned to the teenage son, tall, stooped a little in a disappointed kind of way. ‘Am I not right in saying that in…’ he pulled out a notebook now, ‘in June, you gave up your seat on the bus for a woman who was looking ill?’
The boy shrugged, looked a little embarrassed. ‘Might have done,’ he said.
‘Oh I think you did. She really needed it.’
He turned to the daughter. She was standing with her arms folded, leaning away from him.
‘Melissa, I believe that in September you lost your Saturday job.’
‘How d’you know all this?’ she asked, her penetrating green eyes studying him carefully.
‘You were three hours late,’ the stranger said.
‘I was doing something,’ she complained, ‘I forgot about the time…’
‘I know, you were helping a pregnant woman get an ambulance. She needed urgent treatment.’
‘Where’s all this going?’ asked Mrs Jones.
The stranger’s face softened and his whole demeanour seemed to change. He turned to the father.
‘Mr Jones, you delivered a baby last month.’
‘I deliver lots of babies, it’s my job.’
‘But not always in a damp squat.’
He shivered. ‘No, I just happened to be in the right place, I have a lingering cold to prove it…’
‘That baby is doing fine. But if you hadn’t helped with the birth, and Melissa, if you hadn’t called that ambulance when you did, and Dominic if you hadn’t given up your seat for a weakened, malnourished pregnant mother… I doubt my grandson would ever have survived. You may not have realised it but you each helped to give him life. You see my daughter ran away from home at the beginning of this year, a family fallout that had been brewing for a while. She ended up sleeping in a damp squat, with a man who took advantage of her. She grew ill and depressed, stopped looking after herself, stopped eating. Then when she discovered she was pregnant she lost all hope. She was planning on killing herself. She was going to do it early in the pregnancy, but something stopped her.’
He paused, swallowed hard for a moment, sniffed. The family looked at the stranger and waited.
‘You see, a kind woman sat down next to her and took an interest in her, talked to her in the rain for an hour, and gave her some hope. Mrs Jones that wasn’t a young man you stopped to help, it was my daughter. Dishevelled, lost, pregnant and broken-hearted.’ The stranger stood. ‘You’ve saved two lives this year, and lifted my wife and I out of despair. I wasn’t sure you knew that so I just wanted to thank you.’
And with that he handed them a photograph of a new baby, and saw himself out.

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