Sitting back in her armchair, with hands that never stopped shaking, Mary opened the envelopes of the three letters the postman had just put through the door.
The first was an electric bill she would have to go to the post office to pay off. The second was a junk letter about signing up for a credit card and the third was a charity circular which as well as wanting her to send money for homeless people, contained a Christmas card and gift sticker labels.
Mary looked at the Christmas card, it was a drawing of a brass band playing in the snow next to a town centre war memorial. She smiled and opened the card. It was blank inside.
Putting the other letters aside, Mary got up and placed the card with the handful of others on the window sill, next to the little Christmas tree who’s fibre optic lights changed colour and give little magic to the cold room.
Going back to her chair, Mary pulled a blanket she had knitted over her knees and dozed in front the TV. She was not interested in watching much now, it was mostly the background noise and the sound of voices that made her keep the TV on all the time.
The doorbell rang around lunchtime, breaking into a dream Mary had been having about being a little girl lost in a snowy countryside. Mary stirred, heard the door unlock and open.
A voice called out, ‘Mary? it’s only me, nurse Sandra. Sorry I’m late. It’s terrible weather out and Mr Lambrook fell this morning! Such a fuss! Are you okay?’
‘Hello, I’m fine thanks,’ Mary answered.
Sandra appeared in the doorway, rain dripping off the hem of her health visitor’s blue and white dress. Her dyed bright red hair was tied back into a bun and her face was blotchy red with cold and rushing about.
‘How about I make us a cup of tea and some soup?’ Sandra asked.
‘That would be lovely.’
Watching the lunchtime news they ate and drink, making light comments on the daily events. Then Sandra ran some health checks on ninety-three year old Mary, asked some basic questions and made a few notes.
Waiting for Mary to come back from the bathroom, Sandra noticed the new Christmas card and realised she had received the same one yesterday. Getting up, she left her notebook on the chair and went to the windowsill. Picking up the card, she opened it and saw it was blank.
Placing it back, Sandra looked in the other cards and found that all ten were blank. A few had come from charity letters, one from a high street shop valuing a loyal customer, another a craft magazine sample and two others from packs of cards that donated money to charity when brought.
Sandra felt a wave a sadness. Had no one sent Mary a real Christmas card this year and when was the last time anyone had?
Hearing the toilet flush, Sandra returned to the other armchair and took up her notebook once again. She wanted to write her finding down and suggested Mary was lonely. Sandra knew not much would come of that though, other then another push to get Mary to move into a care home. Mary had repeatedly refused, she wanted to die in the house she had been born in, like her mother before her.
‘Did you manage okay?’ Sandra asked as Mary shuffled into the room.
‘Yes,’ Mary answered though she seem out of breath.
‘Right. I’ve just a few more things and then I have to go.’
They finished up, said their goodbyes and Sandra went out to her little blue car. Sitting there, Sandra looked at the closing door of Mary’s house and wished she could do something to help the old woman.
Well…maybe there was….
The next day, the postman dropped more letters through Mary’s door. Mary hobbled from the kitchen were she had been cleaning up milk she had spilt. Collecting the letters, she went back into the kitchen where it was warmer and opened the envelopes.
There was a Christmas card and inside was writing.
Mary read the words, tears coming to her eyes. Sandra had sent her a card.
Abandoning the other letters, Mary took the card and moving the blank charity one, placed Sandra’s next to the flashing tree.
All day, Mary’s eyes kept going to the Christmas card and she found herself constantly smiling.