This is the second part of a two part story, go check out Otin for his amazing set up, then come back.
Snowflakes drift on the breeze, winking out of existence as they kiss the dark brown surface of the coffee. Staring into it long enough, he sees their reflection, feels the warmth of their skin leaking into his fingers, until all heat is gone and it becomes as bitter cold as his heart. Crushing the cup, its contents join the slick coat of grime earned from nights in the street. Stringy hair slides with gravity as he hangs his head. Tonight, he would find some way to get another bottle, just to get rid of the eyes. And tomorrow, he will find another cup of coffee, waiting on him when he wakes beside the dumpster.
I don’t need your charity, eyes still pinched closed, his limbs wrapped tight around his body for warmth.
Don’t thank me it is my mom. She sends me over with the cup every day.
Her voice pierces the thin veil of insanity he has draped over himself to keep people at arms length. So young, like his Chelsea. Sunlight burns causing his vision to swim, shadows taking form, first the eyes…
Chelsea, air croaks from his throat.
No, I am Margaret, she smiles, enjoy the coffee. Mom says come into the shop if you’d like something to eat.
No one is more surprised than Dan, a week later, when he walks into the shop, perfumed by tangy alcohol laced perspiration, cheeks pink from scrubbing them with snow. That first day Anne sat silent as he eats ravenously whatever they put in front of him. Thanking her and disappeared out the door, but only after promising to return. Over the next week, Dan begins to talk as Anne just listens, tears dripping softly to her blouse as he recounts the last year of his life.
Why do you even care? contempt rides his words.
You know, I was there that day in church a few weeks ago. It was like you were giving voice to my heart.
I don’t understand.
Margaret, my daughter, is dying of leukemia.
I…I am so sorry, his lungs go flat as all air leaves them.
Don’t be. At first, we had many of the same questions when we first found out. God became an easy target for our pain. The reality is, the disease saved our family. It brought us closer together than we ever were.
Why does God allow this to happen?
We may never know that answer. Faith does not take away the trials or the pain, or even the questions.
For several weeks they talk over coffee, or share lunch together. The bottle that once medicated his ragged soul is replaced with some sense of meaning. As Christmas approaches, Dan finds himself consoling Anne as she sobs, overwhelmed with Margaret’s fading health and the thought that this would be their last together. They would argue and laugh all afternoon if the traffic of the shop would let them. Their eyes still haunt him, but he does not carry it alone.
Dan, I don’t know if I could have made it through these weeks without you to talk with.
I understand. I don’t have much, but these last couple weeks have given back a little of everything I lost. Thank you, Anne.
See you tomorrow Dan, a smile plays at her lips as she watches him retreat into the night, turning the lights out.
Frigid wind cuts through his coat, forcing Dan to shove his hands deep in the pockets seeking some fragment of warmth. His fingers curl around the crisp edges of a piece of paper, questioning its purpose. Pausing under a street lamp, he reads:
Its not your fault. I used to think that about my disease, that it was something to punish me or my family. It pushed me further and further away from them, it made me hate them, and myself. You have so much life left to live, don’t let that go. Thanks for being there for mom. ~Margaret
Warm wet trails burn his cheeks, the words breaking the clot of anger in his heart. Pulling out his photo album, he stares into their eyes, imagining the words coming from Chelsea…this time I’ll steer the right direction…he answers…God don’t let me lose another…
Not quite faith, but maybe a start.