Tilly picked up the envelope reluctantly, turning it over in her hands. A letter opener lay on her small work space. She was loathe to use it; loathe to slit the envelope; loathe to extract the folded paper.
It was a cold, wet winter’s day. A fitful wind flung handfuls of sleet across the porch and against the windows. Tilly shivered, cold despite the layers of clothing, and thought of pouring herself another cup of hot tea. Her doorbell tinkled and she wondered who had braved the inclement weather to come calling. But perhaps it was another of the incessant representatives offering better deals or collecting funds for one charity or another.
It was Tilly’s daughter and son in law. They left their wet shoes in the entry and Paul hung the raincoats in the laundry to drip.
“Brrr, Mum, this place is an icebox! Don’t you have a heater or something?”
Tilly shook her head, tears flooding her eyes.
“I do, Desi, yes, but with costs going up all the time I can’t afford to use it very often. But I’ll get it for you, and I’ll make a pot of tea.”
She lay the envelope down and hurried into the kitchen. Idly, Paul picked it up and turned it over. He was about to replace it on the table when he noticed the company logo. Frowning, he ran his finger under the flap and took out the folded account, scanned it and returned it to the envelope.
Tilly placed a small blower heater close to Desi’s chair and returned to the kitchen for a tray of tea and scones.
“I am so sorry,” she apologised, pouring tea and passing the cups, “if I had known you were coming I would have been better prepared.”
“Well, I’m glad you weren’t!” Paul came across to stand over her. “If you had been we wouldn’t have known anything about your difficulties. We didn’t realise ...”
Tilly interrupted him. “Paul, I don’t want to worry you and Desi. I know that things are not easy for you two either, and you have your son and his family with you since his employer bankrupted, and they lost their home. There are just so many people in his position at present and jobs are so hard to find. I’ll manage; I just have to be careful.”
Paul swallowed. He picked up the envelope and took out the account. His face was grim. “And how are you going to manage this?” The question was almost brutal.
Tilly winced. “I hadn’t looked at it, Paul, so I don’t know how much it is. I’m afraid it is probably a bit high – you know Dad was in such pain during those final weeks and he needed the warmth so badly. I won’t need to use as much electricity now, and I’ll manage somehow.”
Paul returned the account to the envelope, took out his wallet and added some notes.
“I’m sure you’ll manage somehow, but that is not how it will be. You are part of our responsibility in the Lord. You know – ‘honour your father and your mother’? The apostle, my namesake, had a great deal to say about the affairs of this world – most of them as shocking as your electricity account – and by comparison about the affairs of the kingdom. And so, Tilly-Mum, we are here to discuss by which ways and means we can help each other in these days when there are constant crises in housing, medical care, and personal safety; and we all face the daily rising cost of living. What do you say?”
Tilly smiled at his comically raised eyebrow. Suddenly the room was warmer and not because of the small heater.
“Well,” her reply was considered, “the treasurer says that in some areas the cost of living has gone down – but then I won’t be buying another house, or electrical equipment, or even a new wardrobe of clothing, so I don’t suppose that will benefit me. But what about Donnie and his family?”
“The Donnie family will be moving interstate. He has been offered an interesting position, with housing, and there is a school nearby. The only drawback is that it is a trial position for six months. But against that are Donnie’s capacity for work and the Lord’s capacity for provision.”
“Oh, how lovely!” Tilly reclaimed the teacups and poured again. “Okay then, let’s talk!”
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