This flash fiction appeared in Splickety’s Lightning Blog on December 7, 2015.
The year I told my deceitful husband to leave, my oldest, Nathan, was at that tender age, right before manhood. One day, as I drove him and the others home from school, I asked him why he was wearing a t-shirt in December.
He gave me the exasperated look of a thirteen-year-old. “Mom. Because I don’t have anything else.”
I stared through the van’s windshield, careful to keep all of us—the four children and myself—as safe as possible. Was it true? I thought about the pile of laundry in the basement and tried to remember if I had seen any sweatshirts or sweaters, or even a coat for him lately, or had it all passed down to his younger brother, drooping over his bony little shoulders like a scarecrow.
We didn’t live paycheck to paycheck. We lived much more frugally than that. My paychecks stretched until they were practically see-through, where a five-pound bag of flour could feed five hungry mouths on pancakes and biscuits and homemade pizza crust for a week.
In those days, sacks of food mysteriously appeared on my doorstep.
There were gaps, though. Somehow, the paychecks never took into consideration a growing teenager’s wardrobe needs.
I peeked over at Nathan, shaggy dark blond hair flopping across his forehead, slender arms and legs poking out like one of those wooden dolls that dance on a string.
Gangly and handsome, fearful and eager all at the same time. Learning the hard way that life doesn’t always wrap up with a happy scene at the end of a Christmas movie.
So I prayed, Lord, please do something.
Before I could get Hannah out of her car seat and the other three in the house, the phone in the kitchen started ringing. Stumbling over each other as we piled through the doorway, I grabbed it on the last jangle.
“You have to come over!” My neighbor’s voice burst through the handset. “Right now!”
Reluctantly, I dragged myself over to the other side of the laurel hedge. I was pretty sure that she was the reason grocery bags ended up on my kitchen door.
Her brown eyes gleamed as she opened the door. It was the kind of place where my kids could drop by anytime for an ice cream bar, whether she was home or not.
“Come on in.” She smiled. “Look what my boss gave me!”
I stared at three grocery sacks of clothes. Boys’ clothes. I pulled them out, one by one. They were from Nordstrom’s and Gap. Almost new. Nathan’s size. Nathan’s colors. Warm but teenage cool.
“She insisted I take them,” my neighbor said. “Her son outgrew everything and she wants me to find someone who can use them.”
Her eyes sparkled.
When I showed them to Nathan, he tried them on—the flannel shirts, the jeans, the coat—everything fit perfectly. I hadn’t seen him smile like that in a long time.
Miracles really do happen.
That Christmas we received our own happy ending, just like the movies.