Serendipity, Frozen, Nutmeg
Daisy’s nose was red and running. A strand of curly brown hair escaped the hood of her coat and snagged on her woolen scarf. Soon she would be home to her flat and inside where it was warm. Brrr! It was a cold day in January. Her fingers were red and stiff and her toes ached inside her boots. Just a bit further. On days like these she really loved those old hot water radiators her in her flat , even if they were cranky and noisy all night. It was well worth it when the temperatures dipped below freezing. She saw her building up ahead and quickened her step.
There was a man sitting on the step nearby, he tipped his scraggly hat to her and smiled. It was a goofy kind of grin and she could not help smiling back. Pity but won’t he be cold tonight, she thought absently.
“Go inside! It’s too cold out here!” She called to him but he only shivered and rubbed his hands in reply. Maybe she would spare him a hot cup of coffee, it wouldn’t hurt anything. Really he should get to a shelter, he could die of exposure or lose a toe to frostbite or something. Daisy ran up the steps to her building and let herself into her flat. She filled the kettle and turned it on.
I‘ll take some coffee out in a minute, she thought. Right now she had to get her dinner ready. She’d met Richard in class and he’d asked her out. After a month of enjoyable dates she was now cooking dinner. He seemed like such a nice guy, she was impressed by his knowledge in class and the way people flocked to him. She had to admit she found it flattering to have his attention. Well, who knew where it would all lead, right now she was just enjoying his company, a lot. The menu? Her mum’s roast dinner with a nice pumpkin cheesecake for dessert (Richard, she had found, had a fondness for pumpkin). The chicken was cooking merrily in the oven and she’d just now come from getting fresh ingredients for the cheesecake. Daisy pulled a bowl from the cupboard and started setting everything out. She ran down the list, pulling things out and setting them on the counter.
“Brown sugar, white sugar, canned pumpkin.” She checked the spices in the cupboard. “Cinnamon, ginger and mace…mace?” Daisy moved a few things aside looking for the mace. Her search quickly became a little more frantic when she realised that she didn’t have any. “Hmmm.” She moved a few more things around and pulled out the tin of nutmeg. “Aha, this will do.” How serendipitous for her to happen to know that mace and nutmeg come from the same tree, and that nutmeg could be substituted here. It’s a little stronger, so I won’t use as much, she thought to herself. I can make this work.
Soon the coffee was ready. I’ll get it in a minute. Right now she had to get that cheesecake into the oven. Then maybe she could find some soup or something to take downstairs to that man out there. A few minutes later, the cheesecake was safely tucked into the oven and she was on her way out the door with a mug of coffee and a hot bowl of soup. She poked her head outside and nearly turned around again. She hadn’t put her coat on and it was freezing out there! Well nothing for it, just take it to him and then run back inside. The homeless man looked up when she came up the path toward him.
“It’s not much,” she said as she offered the bowl and mug, “but it is hot.” The homeless man looked at her with mistrust as she set the things down beside him. “You can eat, or not,” she said simply. “Right. Well I’m going back inside. You should think about getting to a shelter. There’s one just a few minutes from here.” Her arms crossed and her whole body was shivering.
“Thank you. Skatter says thank you.” The man said a minute later, bobbing his head up and down several times.
“You’re quite welcome,” Daisy replied. “Can you leave the mug on my step?” When he nodded she turned to go.
Daisy watched him as she skittered back up her pathway. She got to the steps and started reaching for the door. One minute she was stepping forward and the next she was flying. She landed hard on her back, half in the muddy snow by the path and half on the path itself. She only knew that she couldn’t seem to inhale and was only dimly aware that it was terribly cold. The light over her steps faded away to nothing.
Skatter watched the woman who had brought him the soup. Help. He should help but you do something and then they want you to go inside and Skatter didn’t go indoors. Ever. Scary, sad, angry voices indoors. But the lady fell down and it was cold. He stood and went over to her.
“Hey. Wake up.” He nudged her foot with his shoe. “Okie-doke?” When she didn’t get up Skatter thought hard about what to do. He could go to the door and knock, but it was a block of flats and no one was going to hear him. What to do? After a minute he took off his coat and covered her with it, tucking it up under her chin carefully. “Nice lady. Wake up?” He shook her arm gently. Skatter knew he needed to get help for her. A man was walking up to the building, he would ask him.
The man was dressed nicely in a big coat and shiny, pointy shoes. Cold shoes, not boots, Skatter thought, shivering.
“Help lady,” he said through chattering teeth to the man as he approached on the walk. The lady had fallen across the bottom of the steps and was in the way. “Fall down.” He pantomimed hitting his head. “Help?” Skatter wasn’t the smartest man ever, but his meaning was perfectly clear.
Richard came up the walk and grimaced in distaste. He saw the bum with his drunk woman sprawled all over the pavement. The homeless guy was moving toward him.
“Get away from me you idiot.” Richard said angrily. ‘Move your rubbish too!” While going around he managed to step on the woman’s hand. Richard felt the drunk woman’s fingers underfoot and ground his heel down “by accident.” Teach them to pass out right in front of the door! He kicked her arm out of his way. When he got up to this girl’s flat, what was her name? Daisy or Petunia or some stupid flower name. When he got up there he was going to tell her to call someone. Really, he wouldn’t come here again if he had to pass that every time he did. There ought to be a law!
Daisy rolled onto her side, tears frozen on her eyelashes. She couldn’t believe what Richard had just done. Her hand hurt terribly, her head too. The ground was hard and so very cold. She managed to sit up with Skatter’s help.
“Lady okay now? Okay?” He patted her shoulder and head like she was a puppy.
“I’m okay,” she managed in return. Daisy took a deep breath and got to her feet. She was so cold she could hardly feel her feet so it was a bit difficult but she finally made it up the steps. Once at the top it took her a few tries to get the door to the building open. She turned around before she went inside and gave Skatter his coat.
“Mister you have to come inside,” she said. “You’ll freeze if you don’t.” Skatter only shook his head and mumbled.
“Fire under the bridge. Hot fire. Keep w-warm.” Shivering, he pointed back to the city.
“Go then, go get warm!” She said, and then added, “thank you for the coat.” Skatter nodded rapidly and smiled his silly grin as he turned away. Daisy stepped into her building and shut the door behind her. It was not as cold as the outdoors but she still needed to get to her flat and get warm. Hugging herself, she headed up the stairs.
Reaching her floor, she paused on the landing. Through the small window in the door she could see Richard pacing outside her flat. She suddenly found herself so angry she could just kill him. Just as quickly the anger disappeared and sadness replaced it. What a sorry existence he must live, and how lonely he must be.
She reached out with her good hand and opened the hallway door. She walked up to Richard and got the keys out of her pocket.
“Where on earth have you been?” He asked, quite angry. “I’ve been waiting ages!”
“Would you help me please,” Daisy asked him. “I can’t get the key in the door, my hand is hurt.”
“Really,” he said. “What happened?”
“I trusted someone.” She said, suddenly tired. Richard looked puzzled as he unlocked the door for her.
“What’s that?” He asked.
“My hand hurts because you just walked on it. I fell down on my steps and must have passed out. That homeless man covered me with his coat, Richard. He at least, was trying to help.” She held up her arm. “Look at the bruises you left on my arm and hand.”
Richard had the good grace to be embarrassed.
“I thought you were a vagrant. A drunk.”
“That gives you the right to do this to someone?” She held up her hand again then shook her head. “Richard, you are a bully. You are no longer invited for dinner, or anything else for that matter. I would like you to leave.”
“Oh look Daisy, I’m sorry, okay? Really I am. Don’t be angry…” She shut the door in his face. “Oh fine. Fine!” He stalked off. She heard the door slam at the end of the hall.
Daisy went to the bedroom and tore through her wardrobe. Gloves…yes. Scarf…wasn’t there a bigger one? Yessss. Hat, hat – there it is. She gathered these things and flew back down the stairs; pausing only long enough to put her coat on this time. She stepped back outside the door and looked around.
“Skatter!” She called, but he had gone. Daisy looked down at the hat, gloves and scarf in her hands. She would try to find Skatter and give him these things tomorrow…and if not him, there might be someone else who could use them. She might have an extra blanket upstairs, and she could ask her neighbors too. With a dawning sense of purpose, Daisy headed back to her flat. Tomorrow would be a busy day.