I was approaching the main campus. As I walked I noticed a colonial house to my right. It had a long porch with steps leading up to it. There was a swing to the right and two rocking chairs to the left of the steps. A long concrete driveway to the right of the house stretched up to a detached garage. I stopped to allow a Chevy Impala to turn into the driveway. An elderly woman got out of from the driver’s side. She had a cane in one hand and took a while to come out. She opened the trunk and looked inside and then looked at the steps. I knew she was contemplating how to take the groceries inside.
“Do you need any help, Madam,” I asked timidly.
“Oh, hi there. You a student at the university?”
Her tone was friendly and reminded me of my grandma.
She looked at me from head to toe.
“Well, you look like a nice fella. Sure, if you don’t mind doing so. I was going to call Andy next door, but since you’re here.”
“No problem.” I guessed Andy mowed her lawn or something in summer or helped her out otherwise.
I picked up two of the grocery bags, one in each hand, and waited for her to walk up the steps slowly and unlock the door. As I followed her to the kitchen she said to leave the bags on the breakfast table.
“I’ll put them in later, let them be here for now,” she said. She sat on the chair and took a long breath.
I went outside and brought the remaining two bags.
“You take care. I’ll be leaving now,” I said as I waited by the kitchen door.
“Well, don’t leave yet. You’ve been such a nice boy. Take a seat. I’ll fix you some hot chocolate.”
“I don’t want to bother you, Ma’m. I should be going.”
“Oh, no, no bother at all. It’s so cold outside and looks like you’ve been walking. I can see from your red cheeks. Sit.”
The hot drink really perked me up.
“So, are you a new student here?” she asked.
I told her that I was from out-of-town and my unsuccessful efforts to look for a room.
“You know, you remind me of my youngest son Tommy, so much,” she said in her soft voice talking a sip from her drink and looking at the table top dreamily.
“Yes,” she continued. “It’s been a year and half. He’s all the way to the other side of the world serving his draft in this damn war.”
I could see tears swelling up in her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She recounted that her husband of thirty-five years passed away two-year ago from complications of prostate cancer. Her elder daughter was living in Illinois and her other son was working in San Diego.
“They are living their own lives, you know.”
She kept quiet for a few minutes, and then looked out the kitchen window.
She turned to me and continued, “You know, I’ll let you stay in Tommy’s room until you find a permanent place or longer if you wish. You’ve been so good.”
“That’s nice of you, M’am? I don’t even know your name.” I said.
“Abigail. Most people call me Abi.”
“Thank you for your offer, Abi,” I hesitated to call her by her name. I was used to address elderly people as Mr. or Mrs. “But I can’t live like a free loader.”
“No, don’t think of it that way. Look, I’m staying here alone. You can help with some household chores when needed.”
“What would I owe you?”
“Look. When Tommy left for war I was renting his room. I did it for a year and then stopped. This is a university town. We trust people. What can you afford?”
“What if I pay you fifteen dollars a month and I’ll still help you when you need it.”
“Oh, my! You’re so gracious. That’s a deal. Go get your stuff and God bless you.”
I raised my fingers to the sky as I looked up and then touched my heart stepping down the stoop outside. I was happy the way everything turned out. I was relieved and smiling as I reached Owen’s dorm.